A few short months ago, Kosovar activists sent a strong message to their government -- we don't want your deadly coal plant; we want clean energy and clean air. This week they upped the ante by delivering the message directly to the World Bank in Washington, D.C. While Kosovars have been justifiably frustrated by the Bank's refusal to acknowledge their concerns and end support for the controversial project, it's highly doubtful the Bank missed their message this time. After all, their latest attempt was projected on the side of the World Bank building for the whole world to see during the Bank's annual spring meetings.
The latest salvo in the Kosovars' campaign comes at a time when momentum for change is growing. After activists released these public health ads in February, a media firestorm ensued. The videos went viral with KOSID, the local civil society platform, receiving over 650,000 views on their Facebook page alone. Coverage was so intense the World Bank was forced to respond with an op-ed in the largest paper in the country. Its first sentence started with, "Suppose you win."
But before last night, the protests and furor had occurred in tiny Kosovo, a world away. The World Bank is one of the most powerful institutions in the world, with a veritable army of staff in Washington, D.C. unconcerned with the goings on of a tiny country in Eastern Europe. Now the Kosovars have brought the firestorm to the institution's doors.
The World Bank spring meetings bring together policymakers from all over the world to discuss pressing development issues. It is platforms like this that the World Bank uses to continually discuss the need to address climate change, while doing little to change its own policies regarding fossil fuel finance. Last night the Kosovar's message was not only a black mark on the institutions credibility and standing in the international community, it was a literal mark on the side of Bank's main building.
The affront comes on top of a call from nearly 60 NGOs from around the world to stop funding fossil fuel projects -- or risk losing funds from donor governments. You would think the choice to reject dirty energy projects would be easy, given the rhetoric coming from the Bank and its president, Dr. Kim, on the need to fight climate change. But talk is cheap, and Kosovars are sick of the World Bank talking clean but acting dirty. The good news is that their message has been delivered: You can't talk about climate change and keep funding coal plants. You can bet the World Bank is paying attention.
A special thank you goes to The Illuminator for making this action possible.
Follow Justin Guay on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Guay_JG