Chapter

Chapter 8. Cooperation, communication, and outreach

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
September 2005
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One of the IMF's purposes, stated in its Articles of Agreement, is to “promote international monetary cooperation through a permanent institution which provides the machinery for consultation and collaboration on international monetary problems.”

The IMF promotes international cooperation first and foremost in the course of its work with its members. But it also collaborates with other international organizations that have different mandates and responsibilities, particularly the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United Nations and its specialized agencies, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the Financial Stability Forum, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), regional development banks, international standard setters, and intergovernmental groups.

International cooperation is even more essential in safeguarding the stability of the international monetary system today than it was when the IMF was founded 60 years ago. It is also essential in working to achieve the goals the international community has set for itself in recent years. These include the work to further the agenda of the Doha Round of trade negotiations at the WTO and to help the poorest countries achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals—work that is directly related to the IMF's mandate to facilitate the balanced growth of international trade and to promote the growth of real incomes. The IMF's role in the international monetary system, and its division of labor and collaboration with other organizations, are among the questions being considered in the Fund's current strategic review, discussed in the Overview.

At the same time, the Fund has increasingly recognized the need to communicate effectively with nonofficial groups and the general public to enhance understanding of its work and in recognition of the important role of transparency in ensuring proper accountability. For example, the International Monetary and Financial Committee, in its communiqué of October 2004 (see Appendix IV), called upon the IMF to “strengthen communications to markets and the public of the IMF's policy messages while preserving its role as a candid and confidential advisor.” The IMF's External Relations Department coordinates and largely organizes the Fund's efforts to communicate with nonofficial groups and the public, but the Executive Board, the IMF's senior management team—the Managing Director, First Deputy Managing Director, and two other Deputy Managing Directors—and staff from all departments play important roles. Central to the Fund's communications work in recent years has been its transparency policy, under which it makes public the majority of official policy papers and country documents discussed by the Executive Board (see Annual Report, 2004, page 65).

Cooperation with other international organizations

Cooperation between the IMF and other international organizations continued to be strengthened in FY2005.

Regional representation

The IMF's Offices in Europe (in Paris, Brussels, and Geneva) and its Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (in Tokyo) maintain close ties with other international organizations. Staff in the Paris Office liaise with the Group of Ten (G-10), the OECD, the BIS, and the European Commission. Additionally, they attend, on an ad hoc basis, meetings of organizations such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the European Parliament, and the Council of Europe.

The Office in Geneva reports on the activities of Geneva-based socioeconomic agencies, with particular emphasis on the multilateral trading system and trade-related developments in the European Union, including the WTO, the International Labor Organization, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organization, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

In FY2005, the Offices in Europe contributed to, among other things, the Fund's work on the Doha Round of trade negotiations; the international community's interim assessment of progress toward the Millennium Development Goals; the G-10's work on the financial position of the IMF; and the work in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the role of human rights in development strategies.

The IMF's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is responsible for enhancing surveillance and promoting the IMF's initiatives in Asia, working with regional groups such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Association of South East Asian Nations, the Asia-Europe Meeting, the Pacific Islands Forum, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the South East Asian Central Banks, and the Executives' Meeting of East Asia-Pacific Central Banks. In addition, the Office maintains close contact with the Asian Development Bank, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, and the World Bank's Office in Japan.

World Bank

The strong collaborative relationship between the IMF and the World Bank has existed since their founding at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944. As mandated in their respective Articles of Agreement and in a joint 1989 Concordat, the two institutions play important complementary roles in contributing to global economic stability, growth, and poverty alleviation. Collaboration takes place at all levels, including through regular meetings between the IMF's Managing Director and the Bank's President and joint visits by the two heads to several regions and countries, consultations of senior staff members, joint missions by the staffs, the coordination of policy advice to member countries, and information sharing. High-level coordination of the two institutions also takes place at the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the IMF and the World Bank and twice yearly ministerial meetings. Governors also convene during the semiannual meetings of the Development Committee, which was established in 1974 to advise the Boards of Governors of the IMF and World Bank on critical development issues—including trade and the environment—and on the financial resources required to promote economic development in low-income countries.

The two institutions continued to pursue joint initiatives in FY2005 centering on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aid and aid effectiveness, debt sustainability and debt relief, trade, financial sector reform, and money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism. They worked together toward the common objective of reducing poverty by stimulating economic growth and providing debt relief through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and the Poverty Reduction Strategy process (see Chapter 4). In April 2005, they published the second Bank-Fund Global Monitoring Report, an annual report that assesses progress on policies and actions needed to achieve the MDGs. Bank and Fund staff are also collaborating on enhancing the Fund's General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) to support the compilation of MDG indicators. During the financial year, Fund and Bank staff jointly wrote two papers for the Development Committee on innovative modalities for financing the MDGs and will present a third paper, on international contributions (global taxes), at the September 2005 Annual Meetings.

The IMF and the World Bank have consistently supported the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations following the failure of discussions at the last ministerial meeting of the WTO in Cancún, Mexico, in September 2003. They have also cooperated in monitoring financial system stability, especially through the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP; see Chapter 2), introduced in 1999, which aims to increase the effectiveness of efforts to promote the soundness of financial systems in member countries.

United Nations

The IMF works closely with the United Nations through the Special Representative of the Fund to the UN and through other extensive institutional contacts. The mandate of the Special Representative, who operates out of the Fund Office at the United Nations in New York, is to foster communications and cooperation between the IMF and the UN. The most prominent functions of the UN Office include making the IMF's views known, providing input for the deliberations at the UN on IMF-related issues, keeping the IMF informed of major developments within the UN system, and facilitating cooperation between the two institutions.

During FY2005, the IMF continued to collaborate with the UN, in particular in the follow-up to the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, and in supporting the efforts of member countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. For instance, Deputy Managing Director Agustín Carstens and a number of the Fund's Executive Directors participated in the April 2005 meeting, “Achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration,” of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) with the Bretton Woods institutions, the WTO, and the UN Conference on Trade and Development. UN participants were broadly supportive of the Fund's work in low-income countries, and the President of ECOSOC urged continued cooperation among the UN agencies and the international financial institutions in support of developing countries.

World Trade Organization

Collaboration between the IMF and the WTO takes place formally as well as informally, as outlined in their Cooperation Agreement signed in December 1996. Under the Cooperation Agreement, the Fund has observer status at WTO meetings and regularly attends formal meetings of many WTO bodies. Fund staff contribute to the work of the WTO Working Group on Trade, Debt, and Finance, and regularly participate in meetings of the WTO Committee on Balance of Payments Restrictions and in the WTO-led Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance. The Cooperation Agreement has worked well with respect to the sharing of documents and reciprocal observer status, and has facilitated frequent and productive cooperation at the staff level.

International standard setters

The Fund's work in assessing standards and codes and producing Reports on Standards and Codes (ROSCs) for its members enables it to collaborate with standard setters, providing them with views from the Fund's global membership. Recent examples of this collaboration include

  • following up with the Basel Committee and International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) on the issues raised in the staff paper “Financial Sector Regulation—Issues and Gaps” (see Chapter 2);
  • working with the IAIS to develop methods for assessing the solvency of insurance companies;
  • participating in the Basel Committee initiative to update the Basel Core Principles for Effective Banking Supervi sion (issued in 1997) to reflect subsequent guidance and Basel II developments; and
  • collaborating with the Committee on Payments and Settlement Systems in formulating general guidance for the development of payments systems and principles for pay ments systems for remittances.

International Tax Dialogue

Founded in 2004, the International Tax Dialogue (ITD), a joint initiative of the IMF, the World Bank, and the OECD, is designed to bolster cooperation among tax officials throughout the world. The Fund's involvement reflects its responsibility for promoting sound macroeconomic policies, including in the fiscal area, and the importance of ensuring that tax systems enable revenues to be raised to finance necessary government expenditures in ways that are nondistortive and equitable and that allow untoward deficits to be avoided. The ITD's website (www.itdweb.org) provides information on key issues in tax policy and administration and on tax laws and practices around the world.

In March 2005, the ITD organized its first global conference, which took place in Rome, hosted by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. The conference brought together tax officials from more than 100 countries and international organizations for the discussion of issues related to the value-added tax (VAT), with a particular focus on the need to combat fraud, ease administrative burdens for businesses, and explore means to improve international cooperation.

External communication and outreach

The IMF's external communication activities are of three broad types:

  • Media relations—communicating through the media via articles and letters to the editor as well as briefings, interviews, and other contacts with journalists;
  • Publishing—encompassing both electronic and print products (Box 8.1);
  • Outreach—communicating and meeting with parliamentarians, civil society organizations (CSOs), the private sector, the general public, and, in some cases, officials of government agencies that are not traditionally interlocutors of the Fund.

Outreach to parliamentarians

Outreach to nonofficial groups is an integral part of IMF country work, and the IMF's dialogue with parliamentarians plays a particularly important role in these efforts, given their roles as decision makers and elected representatives. The IMF has expanded its outreach to parliamentarians in recent years, in accordance with the high priority given to this activity by both management and the Executive Board. The objective has been to familiarize parliamentarians with the work of the Fund, learn their views and concerns, and explain the rationale for IMF advice.

IMF staff teams often meet with key parliamentarians during country visits, and resident representatives also do so from time to time. In addition, the IMF has conducted single-country and regional seminars, including capacity-building seminars; participated in workshops/conferences organized by umbrella parliamentary groups; and hosted delegations of parliamentarians visiting Washington, D.C., where the IMF has its headquarters.

Country seminars. Single-country seminars such as those in Tanzania (October 2004), Cambodia (March 2005), Timor-Leste (March 2005), and Mongolia (April 2005) focus on the specific challenges facing a country. Multicountry regional seminars—for example, Joint Vienna Institute seminars (since 1995) and the seminar with the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (January 2005)—help identify common themes and draw policy lessons across a group of countries. Demand is growing for capacity-building seminars for parliamentarians and their staff on macroeconomic policy issues, especially those involving legislative actions.

Participation in workshops/conferences by umbrella parliamentary groups. The IMF has a well-established relationship with the Parliamentary Network on the World Bank, and its management and staff participate in the annual conference, regional events, and field visits. IMF staff have also attended meetings organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, Parliamentarians for Global Action, the Parliamentary Centre, and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Visiting delegations of parliamentarians. The number of parliamentary delegations visiting the IMF has been increasing. Most visits are by delegations from single countries, but many are multicountry. Typically, the staff and Executive Directors' offices work together to organize meetings and briefings, which sometimes include management. For example, the U.K. Treasury Select Committee and the U.K. International Development Committee visit the IMF annually and meet with the Managing Director and senior staff. Also, members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly visited IMF headquarters in early 2005.

Box 8.1Disseminating information: the IMF's publishing operations and website

The IMF publishes a wide variety of material targeted at a broad range of readerships. Many of the Fund's publications are available both in print and on the IMF's website (www.imf.org).

  • In recent years, the IMF has released a growing number of reports and other country documents covering economic and financial developments and trends in member countries. Each report, prepared by a staff team after discussions with officials of the country, is published at the option of the member. This series includes Article IV Reports, Reports Related to Use of IMF Resources, Selected Issues papers, Recent Economic Developments, and Statistical Appendixes.
  • The IMF's Annual Report provides a comprehensive look at the IMF's activities in each financial year and is designed to be used as a reference tool.
  • The Annual Report on Exchange Arrangements and Exchange Restrictions presents information on the exchange and trade systems of the IMF's member countries in a tabular format.
  • The World Economic Outlook and the Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) are the main vehicles through which the IMF publicizes its global surveillance findings and some of its most significant analytical work.
  • The Fund publishes periodical reports on its activities and external developments that influence its activities. In FY2005, it published the 29th edition of Selected Decisions and Selected Documents of the International Monetary Fund and Volume III of Current Developments in Monetary and Financial Law.
  • Staff research on the international monetary system and other topical subjects is published in IMF Staff Papers, a quarterly journal; the quarterly newsletter IMF Research Bulletin; the IMF Working Papers series; the Occasional Papers series; books; and various other publications.
  • The Fund's Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (http://dsbb.imf.org/Applications/web/dsbbhome/) provides links to the data and statistical websites of SDDS subscribers and GDDS participants and presents, in a user-friendly format comparable across countries, comprehensive information on the methods and practices behind the compilation and dissemination of such data.
  • International Financial Statistics (IFS), produced monthly, provides updated financial information from countries around the world; the IMF's Statistics Department also produces a yearbook containing annual data over 12 years for the countries covered in the monthly publication. The IFS database is available online to subscribers. Other statistical publications include the Balance of Payments Statistics Yearbook, Government Finance Statistics Yearbook, and Direction of Trade Statistics (quarterly and yearbook issues).
  • Guides and manuals published by the Fund cover a variety of subjects, such as balance of payments statistics and compi lation, external debt statistics, foreign direct investment trends, and the producer price index.
  • The biweekly newsletter IMF Survey reports on current IMF policies and activi ties, and its annual companion, IMF In Focus, seeks to offer a clear, concise picture of how IMF policies and operations have evolved.
  • Pamphlets such as What Is the IMF? and IMF Technical Assistance are written for the nonspecialist, as are factsheets and issues briefs posted on the IMF's website, which aim to explain key aspects of IMF operations and policies.
  • The quarterly magazine Finance and Development (F&D) and the Economic Issues series (pamphlets on broad economic subjects related to the Fund's areas of expertise) are written in nontechnical language and aimed at disseminating information on topical subjects to nonspecialists.
  • Op-eds in publications worldwide and speeches published on the external website offer broad overviews of the IMF and its policies.
  • An on-line, quarterly Civil Society Newsletter (www.imf.org/external/np/exr/cs/eng/index.asp) covers IMF activities and issues of particular interest to civil society organizations.
  • Videos about the work of the IMF are available to interested media, educational institutions, and social organizations, and are also used in recruitment activities.
  • Educational material is available from the IMF Center and at www.imf.org/econed. The IMF Center hosts a permanent exhibition on the international monetary system and temporary exhibitions on related subjects and is open to the general public daily, from Monday to Friday.

Engaging civil society organizations

The IMF is an important focus of the work of many civil society organizations (CSOs)—nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), labor unions, and faith-based organizations. CSOs have highly diverse interests at both the global and the national levels.

In interactions with CSOs, perennial global issues include the social and environmental implications of IMF advice; poverty reduction; the IMF's approach to human rights; governance and transparency; program conditionality; and the voice and representation of developing countries in the IMF and the World Bank.

Contacts take a wide variety of forms—meetings, seminars, and consultations with IMF management, Executive Directors, and staff at IMF headquarters and worldwide. A series of Civil Society Dialogues, organized in parallel with the Annual and Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, covers a wide range of topics. CSOs are frequently invited to contribute to reviews of the IMF's policies, by attending seminars or by providing comments on papers posted on the external website.

The IMF maintains a dialogue with the international labor movement, represented mainly by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labor (WCL), through workshops, regional seminars, and leadership meetings held in Washington, D.C., often jointly with the World Bank. The IMF and the World Bank agreed with the ICFTU and WCL in 2002 to hold leadership meetings biennially, with staff-level meetings on particular issues to be interspersed between them. The second such leadership meeting, held in October 2004, included about 80 leaders of national and international confederations of unions, representing nearly 200 million workers worldwide.

A highlight of communication with faith-based organizations in recent years has been the dialogue with the World Council of Churches (WCC), the main interdenominational organization of Protestant churches. Founded in 1948, it counts among its membership churches with more than 400 million adherents. The dialogue began with an IMF initiative in 2000, in response to critical public statements by the WCC about the IMF and the World Bank, and has continued since then, focusing mainly on poverty reduction and development issues. In October 2004, following management-level meetings at WCC headquarters, the leaders issued a joint statement in which they concluded that the areas of common ground are large and significant, and that, although there remain significant differences, the three institutions should find more effective ways to work together. The dialogue would continue, and would, in the period ahead, focus on country case studies and specific topics.

At the national level, IMF country teams, resident representatives, and regional offices in Europe and Asia and the Pacific, increasingly recognize the importance of more systematic engagement as a means of, among other things, understanding CSO views and building consensus and ownership of sound policies. In low-income countries, the participatory nature of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper process creates the expectation that governments will consult with civil society, and IMF staff are often invited to participate. According to an internal staff survey in 2002, 69 percent of IMF missions had contacts with labor unions or other labor representatives at least once in the previous two years, for the purposes of hearing the views of labor unions and explaining and discussing IMF policy advice. The IMF, after consultation with CSOs, produced a Guide for Staff Relations with Civil Society Organizations, published on the external website to assist staff—and CSOs—to develop a more productive relationship.

In addition, the IMF established a Civic and Community Relations Office in 1994 to strengthen its outreach and assistance to the Washington, D.C., community, where the IMF's headquarters are located, as well as in communities in developing countries, including through charitable donations (Box 8.2).

Integrating communications and operations

IMF staff have increasingly reached out to diverse interested groups and to the general public when preparing policy proposals and reviewing policy experience. The following are some examples of the IMF's communication and outreach activities during FY2005.

  • The 2004 Biennial Surveillance Review (see Chapter 2) made extensive use of interviews, surveys, and workshops not only with country authorities but also with financial market participants, think tanks, other nongovernmental experts and observers, and the media.
  • An extensive and systematic program of outreach has been undertaken in support of the IMF's efforts to assess and explain its work in low-income countries. During FY2005, IMF staff participated in a variety of activities, including conferences and seminars where IMF policies or initiatives were the focus of discussion. Examples include two IMF-sponsored conferences in Africa on the review of program design and Fund participation in seminars in Accra, Berlin, and Paris on debt sustainability. A recent innovation was the organization of events for CSOs in Washington, D.C., around the time of the October 2004 Annual Meetings.

Box 8.2The IMF Civic and Community Relations Office

The IMF Civic and Community Relations Office coordinates the IMF's efforts to be a good neighbor and responsible civic entity through Civic Program charitable giving, INVOLVE employee volunteerism, and Community Relations local outreach and partnering.

Activities in both the IMF host city of Washington, D.C., and developing countries give priority to nonprofit programs that address urgent social problems and help the neediest become self-sufficient–echoing IMF work to improve lives in member countries. The budget ($703,734 in FY2005) is for humanitarian purposes only and is separate from the financial assistance the IMF provides to member countries.

The IMF Civic Program gives grants and surplus property to charities, guided by an advisory committee of 12 representatives drawn from staff, spouses/partners, retirees, and INVOLVE volunteers. (See guidelines and past recipients at www.imf.org/external/np/cpac/cpindex.htm.)

During FY2005, IMF management presented donations to charities in Angola, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, India, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda. Staff initiated appeals for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami, hurricanes in the Caribbean, and other humanitarian emergencies in Paraguay, Russia, and Sudan, raising $360,000. The IMF matches employee donations to appeals, as well as the annual giving campaign, by 50 percent.

INVOLVE, the acronym for International Volunteer Venture, encourages IMF employees, retirees, families, and friends who join to participate in 65 local projects yearly to clothe and mentor poor children, feed the homeless, and repair homes of the elderly, or participate in the annual, citywide “Help the Homeless Walkathon” and the “D.C. Cares Servathon.”

Community Relations partners with peer organizations and matches local needs with the IMF's ability to help. In FY2005 it provided facilities for meetings of community groups, such as the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust sponsored by the mayor's office. The IMF contributed substantially to local charities, including the D.C. Housing Trust Fund, D.C. Central Kitchen, St. Mary's Court senior citizens home, and adjoining neighborhood beautification programs. Annually, the IMF organizes a popular one-week summer camp for inner-city children.

Surveillance

Outreach is an integral part of the IMF's country and regional surveillance process. While the focus of Article IV consultation missions (see Chapter 1) is on communication between member country officials and staff mission teams, staff teams' statements at the conclusion of Article IV missions, as well as press conferences, press releases, and Public Information Notices (PINs) issued by the Executive Board after its discussions of Article IV consultations are used—with the country's agreement—to publicize and explain the findings of the surveillance and to inform markets. The IMF's Media Briefing Center is used to disseminate, under embargo, web-streamed press briefings to journalists. The IMF's Offices in Europe and Asia maintain relations with local media. Country teams often place op-eds and letters to the editor in local newspapers to explain country-specific and regional issues. In addition, interaction with parliamentarians, the private sector, and CSOs, including labor unions and faith-based organizations, has become more important for improving the IMF's understanding of specific issues as well as for explaining IMF views.

Financial assistance

Outreach is perhaps most important in countries that are using IMF resources. The 2002 Conditionality Guidelines1 indicate that staff should encourage national authorities to broaden the base of support for sound policies to enhance the likelihood of successful program implementation. In low-income countries receiving financial assistance under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, the preparation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper provides a mechanism for public consultation by the authorities.

Mission teams and resident representatives increasingly devote time and resources to outreach as programs evolve. These staff members are in a position not only to explain IMF views and policy advice but also to listen to the concerns of nonofficial groups and to help shape program design in a way that strengthens country ownership.

Standards and codes

The IMF has undertaken a number of initiatives to make member countries aware of international standards and codes and to encourage compliance with them, including by providing technical assistance when needed. Nearly 75 percent of the summary assessments, known as Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSCs), have been published. Documents setting out standards and codes are published on the IMF's external website, and some are also available in print.

The IMF's external website provides a venue for experts outside the institution to contribute to the IMF's work on statistical issues. Drafts of statistical manuals are posted for comment, and the IMF hosts discussions on statistical topics such as the treatment of nonperforming loans and pension schemes in macroeconomic statistics. In recent years, the IMF has stepped up publication and distribution of statistical manuals and guides in multiple languages to promote standardized methodologies and policies. It is a member of, or has observer status in, a number of standard-setting bodies. IMF representatives attend meetings of the Financial Stability Forum and, in October 2004, the Fund was invited to become a full member of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors.

The Fund has continued to strengthen its regional outreach effort, which has been integrated with technical assistance, in data dissemination initiatives. Fund staff conducted several regional outreach seminars and workshops in FY2005 to promote subscription to the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) and participation by countries in the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS).

In 2005, for example, the Fund conducted seminars and workshops on international standards related to anti-money-laundering and combating the financing of terrorism initiatives, as well as on the data template on international reserves.

Conferences on policies and research

The IMF also holds workshops and seminars for officials in member countries to disseminate the results of its research and to seek feedback. Its annual research conference, in November 2004, focused on policies, institutions, and instability. In October 2004, it cohosted, with the Bank Negara Malaysia, a high-level conference in Kuala Lumpur on the Fund's role in supporting financial sector development in Asia, and in December 2004 it cosponsored, with the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), a seminar on trade and regional integration in Africa. And in January 2005, it invited representatives from a wide variety of agencies involved in HIV/AIDS work to a workshop, in an effort to raise their awareness that IMF-supported programs do not specify hard budget ceilings on health care spending and to counter misperceptions that its policy advice hinders the disbursement of funds that are becoming available for combating HIV/AIDS.

Role of IMF management

In early August 2004, at the conclusion of a trip to Africa, Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato affirmed that the IMF was committed to helping the region raise economic growth to attain the UN Millennium Development Goals. During his week-long visit he met with African leaders, parliamentarians, and representatives of civil society to discuss issues ranging from increasing Africa's voice and participation in the IMF to improving governance in the oil sector. On September 8–9, the Managing Director returned to sub-Saharan Africa to attend the African Union's Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Reduction in Africa, held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. In his address to the summit, Mr. de Rato identified three priority areas for the IMF in the region: making IMF financial assistance more flexible and responsive; sharpening the IMF's role in countries that do not need the institution's financial assistance, including through policy advice and technical assistance; and reinforcing the IMF's analysis and assistance in support of Africa's regional integration initiatives. On the sidelines of the summit, the Managing Director met individually with nine heads of state or government to listen firsthand to the challenges they face and their views on what the IMF can do to combat poverty on the continent.

Also in September 2004, Mr. de Rato traveled to Santiago, Chile, to attend the Eleventh Annual Finance Ministers' Meeting of the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Participants, including senior officials from APEC economies, business leaders, and academics, agreed to promote structural reforms in APEC's 21 member economies and, to this end, to set up a steering committee within APEC to formulate structural reform measures and monitor implementation.

IMF management also worked with governments and other international agencies to assess the financing needs for reconstruction in the areas devastated by the December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The IMF offered emergency assistance on the order of $1 billion and sent teams to the region to evaluate financing and support needs in individual countries. The Managing Director toured the worst-hit region of Aceh in northern Sumatra in January 2005. While in Indonesia, Mr. de Rato attended the Special ASEAN Leaders' Meeting on the Aftermath of the Earthquake and Tsunami, and met with regional and international leaders, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, then—World Bank President James Wolfensohn, and Asia Development Bank President Tadao Chino.

The IMF's Deputy Managing Directors also attended many conferences, meetings, and seminars throughout the course of the year. In June 2004, First Deputy Managing Director Anne O. Krueger traveled to Vienna, Austria, to deliver a speech and participate in the conference “60 Years of Bretton Woods: The Governance of the International Financial System—Looking Ahead.” She then traveled to Basel, Switzerland, to attend the 74th Annual General Meeting of the Bank for International Settlements. In November 2004, Ms. Krueger delivered a keynote address at the Bankers' Conference 2004 in New Delhi, India, and in December 2004 she addressed the IMF Seminar on Trade and Regional Integration in Africa, held in Dakar, Senegal. Ms. Krueger also visited Sri Lanka and Maldives, two of the countries hard hit by the tsunami, in January 2005.

In October 2004, Deputy Managing Director Agustín Carstens traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to deliver a speech at the High-Level Conference on Financial Sector Issues in Emerging Markets in Asia and the Role of the IMF. He proceeded to Geneva, Switzerland, to participate in the WTO Council Meeting, and then to Madrid, Spain, to attend the Sixth Annual Conference on Latin American Countries Risk.

In October 2004, Deputy Managing Director Takatoshi Kato traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to participate in a Fund-sponsored seminar, “Growth and Poverty Reduction—Lessons from Africa, China, and India.” In November 2004, he delivered opening remarks at the 2004 APEC Finance and Development Forum in Hainan, China.

Executive Board's evaluation of external communications

In March 2005, the Executive Board discussed a paper prepared by the External Relations Department (EXR) on “Integrating IMF Communications and Operations.”2 The Board discussion was the fourth on the IMF's communications strategy (the first was in 1998). These four discussions have supplemented and reinforced the separate Board reviews and updates of the IMF's transparency policy, which set the guidelines for the types and extent of information that the Fund may release publicly.3

Overall, Executive Directors felt that the IMF continues to pursue a reasonably balanced communications strategy, aimed, first and foremost, at strengthening the global constituency for sound and transparent policies, while enhancing the persuasiveness and thereby the effectiveness of IMF policy advice. The discussion also provided suggestions on various aspects of the IMF's communications strategy, which were to be implemented taking into account the ongoing development of the IMF's medium-term strategy.

Directors agreed that a key medium-term objective of the IMF's communications strategy should be better coordination and integration of communications activities with the IMF's operations, both in country work and in broader policy design and implementation. Directors supported closer collaboration between area departments and EXR in developing and implementing regional and country communications plans. To ensure that such plans are adapted to each country's circumstances and priorities, they should be designed and executed with the support of Directors and national authorities.

Many Directors saw regional offices and resident representative offices as having a crucial supportive role, but stressed the importance for effective communication of close coordination among mission chiefs, department heads, and management. Directors also saw a continuing role for themselves in external communications activities, in their capacity both as officials of the IMF and as country representatives. In this regard, they viewed Directors' group travel as continuing to provide a further vehicle for outreach, both to inform member countries about the IMF and its policies and to listen to the authorities and civil society.

Directors generally agreed that communications planning and activities in the context of IMF-supported country programs remain a particular priority. In this context, communications should continue to focus on the authorities' own efforts, to reinforce country ownership of economic policy programs. Directors recommended that the authorities be consulted closely when planning in-country communications and supported the emphasis on enhancing communication with national parliamentarians whenever judged appropriate by the authorities.

Directors saw considerable scope for the IMF to convey its surveillance findings more widely and effectively. Additional emphasis on communications related to surveillance would, in many cases, need to rely primarily upon area department staff, with support from EXR. A number of Directors pointed to the benefits of making summaries of surveillance analysis and findings, as well as program documentation, available in local languages. They noted the potential benefits and opportunities for wider communication, as well as the additional costs that would be associated with an expansion of non-English materials. In this regard, Directors welcomed the recent formation of a working group of Directors and staff to consider issues related to the publication of material on the IMF's external website in languages in addition to English.

Progress made by the international community toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be a subject of special interest in the period ahead. In this context, the IMF's commitment to helping countries make progress toward the MDGs needs to be emphasized, and clear communications will be key to effective signaling in low-income countries, in line with the IMF's own ongoing deliberations on its role in these countries. At the same time, Directors noted that the IMF is only one among several partners in the achievement of MDGs, and its communications strategy should avoid contributing to excessive expectations.

Directors were of the view that, notwithstanding the major advances made in improving public understanding of IMF policies, the mission of the IMF is still not as readily recognizable or understood as that of some other international organizations. Publishing and outreach activities aimed at explaining the work of the IMF to journalists, parliamentarians, civil society, and the general public will therefore remain of considerable importance. A further area identi fied for strengthening outreach is contacts with the private sector. Directors also noted the important role of the Independent Evaluation Office in the Fund's outreach and communications activities.

2The text of the paper is available at www.imf.org/external/np/exr/docs/2005/020805.htm.
3See Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 03/122, “IMF Reviews the Fund's Transparency Policy-Issues and Next Steps,“www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pn/2003/pn03122.htm.

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