Are you ready to take the fight for climate justice to the World Bank?

This Fall, the World Bank will hold their Annual Meetings in Washington D.C. from October 14th – October 19th. SustainUS is sending a delegation of 12 young people (ages 18-28) from the DMV (Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia metro area) to advocate for climate justice and stand in solidarity with frontline communities in World Bank client countries.

In 1944, 43 countries came together in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to help rebuild European countries and promote international economic cooperation after WWII. Here, was born the World Bank. Later re-purposed to “end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity in a sustainable way”, the Bank has moved far away from this promise. Despite their public recognition of the threats of climate change, the World Bank continues to funnel money into the perpetrators that lie at the root of the crisis – the fossil fuel industry. Instead of financing energy access to the more than 1 billion people around the world who currently don’t have access to electricity and are most vulnerable in the climate crisis (despite having the least historic fossil fuel emissions) the World Bank prioritizes the interests of the polluting elite over those they claim to be serving.

In the three months leading up to the Annual Meetings, this delegation will come together for community building and partner-led trainings on climate justice, storytelling, media engagement, advocacy, and development finance policy. The delegation will build out strategy for the week of the meetings with the Big Shift Global campaign and with youth on the frontlines of the climate crisis in Bank client countries.

As young people in the US, why do we care?

The United States has the most voting power within the World Bank, and US youth have the right and moral responsibility to hold the World Bank accountable to the future it finances and impacts the people around the globe. Though we’ve made progress – in the time since we started organizing, the Bank has agreed to stop financing coal  – the World Bank has refused to fully divest from oil and gas or align its investments with the 1.5°C warming limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Instead, it is implementing a program of massive privatization, disempowering client countries, and building a world in which it will become harder and harder for communities to adpat to the climate crisis.

In its policies, investments, and leadership appointments the Bank has time and again prioritized the interests of the polluting elite over those they claim to be serving. We do this work with a vision of global justice, aware that the current structure of the World Bank perpetuates power structures that benefit the Global North over the Global South, and that the root of the problem goes beyond the climate crisis. 

Who are we?

The SustainUS World Bank Program was founded in the spring of 2017. SustainUS recognized that youth and youth advocates had close to zero presence at the Bank meetings. At that time, the World Bank was still actively funding all fossil fuels, with the exception of direct upstream investments in coal. A pilot delegation attended the 2017 World Bank Spring Meetings and a full delegation attended the 2017 Annual Meetings and 2018 Spring Meetings

We’ve made real progress so far: since we began our advocacy at the World Bank in 2017, the Bank has committed to divest from upstream oil and gas, and last year finally agreed to close a major loophole in coal finance. Unfortunately, the post-2020 climate plan they released in December exposed major contradictions and gaps in their climate policies.

SustainUS worked on the ground all year at the Bank headquarters in DC and on Capitol Hill, fighting for a Bank that will allow me and my generation to have a future. We have been fighting for a Bank that invests in clean, renewable, and democratic energy, rather than one that panders to corporate fossil fuel interests around the world. Our delegation members stood up to challenge Bank officials at an Executive Director Roundtable in April, and took our advocacy a step further later on in the year by meeting with key Senators on the committee that appropriates money to the World Bank.

What are the World Bank Meetings?

The World Bank Group (WBG) is made up of five international finance organizations that leverage over $60 billion in loans and aid annually. The stated mission of the WBG is to “end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity in a sustainable way.” Every fall, the governing body of the World Bank Group holds Annual Meetings to discuss their work on international economic development and finance. The Annual Meetings offer a chance to engage with delegates from 189 member countries as well as the broader general public. Thousands of people attend these meetings, including a substantial number of civil society organizations (CSOs) from around the world. The official governing body meetings are October 13th-15th, but many of these meetings are not open to civil society. Instead, from October 9th-13th a series of panels and roundtables are held to engage civil society and press on the bank’s work.

What are our goals?

This delegation will co-create specific goals as a team, but these are the basics:

  • Make World Bank meetings accessible to young people from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia facing struggles of environmental justice and financialization parallel to global issues of development policy. 
  • Train, educate, and build a community of support among a group of 12 young people from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. Trainings will be facilitated by partners with expertise in climate justice, storytelling, media engagement, advocacy, and development finance policy.
  • Provide resources and support for action on Indigenous People’s Day, which falls on the first day of the Annual Meetings. 
  • Hold the World Bank accountable to passing policies in line with 1.5ºC, including explicit, measurable commitments to stop the financing of all fossil fuels and fossil fuel related industries and scaling up investments in distributed renewable energy. 
  • Expose and educate our generation about the undemocratic, unchecked power of the World Bank and similar multilateral development banks. Tell the story of how these banks could severely inhibit our fight for climate justice by privileging the interests of big-polluters.
  • Work in partnership and support of the Big Shift Global Coalition. 

Who are we looking for?

  • You are a young person who is passionate about justice and the climate crisis. 
  • You currently live commuting distance from Washington D.C. and will be through the end of October. 
  • You are excited to learn more about the World Bank, finance, and how global governance is failing us in the climate crisis. 
  • You are excited about the prospect of growing and learning with a group of similarly committed young people. 
  • You are ready to show up as an advocate, ally, and storyteller for a week of high-level meetings in Washington D.C.

Please note SustainUS is in the process of fundraising for costs such as reimbursing travel and food, as well as need-based stipends.

If you have any questions, please email Beverly Harp (beverly.harp@sustainus.org).