Shared Visions?

Early last spring I received an email from a fellow Reedie, urging me to join in the demonstrations against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during their meetings in Washington, D.C. I declined the invitation, but over the next several days-as the police erected barricades on 19th Street, placed official vehicles and police dogs in front of my office building, and in general created an atmosphere of stillness on previously busy streets around the World Bank and IMF buildings-I reflected on the difference between demonstration in the spring of 2000 and those in which I participated during the 1960s. Then, the objectives were clear and the demonstrators shared common visions: free speech on college campuses, the end of racial segregation, the termination of the war in Vietnam. This past April's demonstration contained a pastiche of visions, ranging from protecting American jobs in the automobile industry to closing the World Bank and the IMF for their policies destructive to the environment.

Photos by Dang Ngo used by permission of Independent Media Center, Washington D.C.
Gazing down on the barricades from the ninth floor in my building, I reflected that it was the first time I found myself inside, instead of outside, the barricades. But I also felt rather sad, because so many of the well-meaning demonstrators seemed poorly informed about the nature of the organizations and of our work.

The work we do in the area of education accounts for nearly 10 percent of all World Bank lending, double that of a decade ago in both share and total amount. Our work in education includes discussions with governments to encourage their more active support of basic education for the poorest, which resulted in the share of our lending for basic education increasing from 27 percent to 44 percent over the 1990s. We support programs to expand early childhood development, emphasize teaching and learning in the classroom, and expand girls' education and women's literacy programs. We work in partnership with others to support programs to inoculate school children against common childhood diseases and to educate their parents and teachers in dealing with HIV and AIDS.

These are areas where the World Bank is working with partners-government, NGOs, foundations, international and bilateral agencies-to place human development at the center of the global agenda. These were the objectives of my generation's demonstrations in the 1960s, although they were largely focused on domestic human development issues. I believe they are also at the heart of the demonstrations against the global institutions, but this heart needs to be better informed about all that we do.

Marlaine Lockheed '64 is sector manager of education in the Middle East and North Africa region of the World Bank.


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