Between Light and Shadow: The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and International Human Rights Law.

Author:Etchichury, Horacio Javier
Position::Book Review
 
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Between Light and Shadow: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and International Human Rights Law, by Mac Darrow Publisher: Hart Publishing (2003) Price: $80.00

Three hundred Venezuelans died in the social unrest stirred by IMF policies in February 1989. Shortly before Argentina's default in 2001, thirty people were killed in the social protests that shook a decade-long neoliberal experiment. A couple of years later, Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was forced to flee the country in the midst of popular uprising triggered by his audacious privatization programs.

This issue is hardly unique to South America. From every corner of the world, a growing resistance to the policies of the IMF and the World Bank has become increasingly visible. Every meeting of these international financial institutions (IFIs) faces relentless protests. Many times, protestors claim human rights should prevail over the IFIs' policies. What do human rights concerns imply for these global governance institutions? In Between Light and Shadow: The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and International Human Rights Law, Mac Darrow analyzes this crucial question.

The author provides a well-documented, exhaustive, and somewhat hopeful account of the troublesome relationship between the IFIs and human rights law. In this publication, his Ph.D. dissertation for the University of Utrecht, Darrow provides an extensive bibliography of over 800 relevant sources and builds his carefully reasoned conclusions on more than 125 interviews with officials, policymakers, diplomats, and experts from the IFIs, UN organizations, NGOs, and universities in the United States and Indonesia.

The author's main thesis is that the IFIs can and should incorporate human rights as a core concern in their activities. Darrow offers some moderate reform proposals for the IFIs and tries to convey a sense of hope for their success. Here, however, the reader may feel Darrow does not present enough reasons to be optimistic. The shadow seems to overcome the light.

The initial chapter describes the evolution of the IFIs since their creation in 1944. While the World Bank initially aimed at fostering development, the IMF supervised international monetary cooperation and exchange stability. In the 1980s, both institutions converged in fostering structural adjustment programs as the best way out of crisis and towards development. Under the intrusive "conditionality" system, countries...

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