A group of University students are sponsoring a rally in front of Zimmerman Library today at 11 a.m. against investments by institutions, including UNM, in the World Bank.
UNM student Lulu Strongheart said a variety of local student groups formed the World Bank Bonds Boycott Committee and put together the event in conjunction with an international protest of the World Bank. The groups involved in the People Before Profit parade include the Progressive Student Alliance, UNM Anti Sweatshop Coalition, Rebel Alliance and Sweatshop Free Albuquerque.
The World Bank is an international lending consortium that works with third-world countries. Its mission, according its Web site, is to help develop a world free of poverty. The Web site goes on to say that the consortium emphasizes environmentally-friendly assistance to countries in need.
Strongheart said, despite the World Bank’s lofty mission, it does more harm than good.
“They loan money to mostly third-world countries and impose structural adjustment policies on these countries,” she said. “They require them to cut back in social spending, and they make them raise interest rates, open their markets to foreign investments and implement user fees for basic assessment.”
She said the students participating in the event have launched a campaign in Albuquerque to get UNM to be the first institution in the city to sign a petition agreeing to cut investments in the World Bank.
“We know that 80 percent of investments in the World Bank come from private institutions,” she said. “Because we are students, we just figured UNM would be the best place to start.”
While Strongheart is passionate about her cause, she said it is not a simple one to understand. She and a small group of students met with Julie Weaks, UNM’s interim vice president for business and finance, to talk about the University’s investments.
“We don’t know that UNM is investing in the World Bank because it’s not really easy to see,” she said. “The University may be supporting institutions that support the World Bank. Right now we’re in the early stages of looking into it.”
Strongheart said she was pleased with the meeting and is glad the administration is at least entertaining the idea of signing a petition against investing in the World Bank.
“The amazing thing is that they really have no idea whether they are investing in it either,” she said. “The shocking thing is that they also didn’t know if UNM had a social responsibility clause in their investment policies. Their main concern in the past has been limited to getting the most money from their investments.”
She said the first meeting was just a preliminary discussion and really couldn’t evaluate how successful the students’ campaign will be.
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“Right now they’re trying to figure out whether there will be any financial drawbacks to signing this agreement,” she said of the administration.
Now the group is focusing its efforts on raising the UNM community’s awareness about the impact of the World Bank. Today’s rally will begin at 11 a.m. and will include speakers, puppets, banners, music and radical cheerleaders.
Following the rally, the group plans to march from Zimmerman Library to Scholes Hall at 1 p.m.
“This is a really hot issue nationally, and we’re hoping students take the time to come out and learn more about it,” Strongheart said.