What is the Bretton Woods Project?

16 July 2010 | About us


The Bretton Woods Project envisions a global economic system that operates on the primary principles of justice, equity, human rights and environmental sustainability, with international institutions that are democratic, transparent, accountable, and responsive to the poorest and most vulnerable citizens.


The project focuses on the World Bank and the IMF to challenge their power, open policy space, and promote alternative approaches. We do this because these institutions are influential funders, proponents and enforcers of economic and development policies, and global opinion formers.

We serve as an information provider, watchdog, networker and advocate. We provide information for the benefit of civil society groups, official institutions, research institutes, governments and parliaments across the world. The project acts as a network hub in the UK and works with civil society – in Europe and internationally – to change the Bank and the Fund.

Some priority areas include:

  • the roles of the World Bank and IMF
  • conditionality and austerity policies
  • international financial architecture, financial sector
  • environmental impacts and climate change finance
  • infrastructure finance and its social impacts
  • private sector finance and the IFC
  • IFI governance and accountability


Networking and information exchange among the wide range of people and organisations interested in the World Bank and IMF is one of the key functions of the Bretton Woods Project.

In addition to NGOs, academics, parliamentarians, journalists and activists worldwide, the Project facilitates contacts with staff of the Bretton Woods institutions and decision-makers in aid ministries. It is often asked to advise NGOs in Europe, North America and the South on planning meetings, reports and campaigns. Many staff from governmental and intergovernmental organisations also contact the Bretton Woods Project for briefings or to find out about NGOs working on particular issues.

Organisational structure, governance and origins

The Bretton Woods Project was established in 1995 by the Development and Environment Group (DEG), a network of UK-based NGOs, to facilitate monitoring of the social and environmental impacts of World Bank and IMF policies and projects. The Project coordinates and consults with the UK BWI network of over 50 organisations working in development, environment and human rights. The Bretton Woods Project Steering Group, meets on a regular basis to advise and review Project activities. The Project is funded by the NGOs in the UK BWI network, the CS Mott Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Support is received from the European Union for a European civil society project on the impact of debt and international financial institutions on development, and from Oxfam NOVIB for work monitoring the impact of the IMF on developing countries. Under no circumstances should our work be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union or any other funder.

At present, the Bretton Woods Project is an ActionAid-hosted project (Registered charity no. 274467, Registered office: ActionAid, 33-39 Bowling Green Lane, London EC1R 0BJ, UK). For details of activities, support and expenses, please refer to our annual reports.