Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 12:11:58 -0800 (PST)
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 12:32:27 -0600 (CST)
This posting has been forwarded to you as a service of Accion Zapatista de Austin.
Peoples' Global Action against ‘Free’ Trade and the World Trade Organisation
From Chiapas 95, 29 November 1997
From the 18th to the 20th of May 1998, heads of state and ministers from the whole world will meet in Geneva for the 2nd Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the multilateral trade system (GATT and WTO), the main instrument of transnational capital for organising and enforcing global economic governance. This event will, in the words of its organisers, "celebrate the past while preparing the way for the future" of trade liberalisation - i.e., of the destruction of rural societies, dignity in labour, the environment, cultural diversity and self-determination.
>From the 23rd to the 25th of February, peoples' movements from all continents will meet in Geneva to launch a worldwide coordination of resistance against the global market, a new alliance of struggle and mutual support called the Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO (PGA).
The hallmarks of the alliance are:
1. A very clear rejection of the WTO and other trade liberalisation agreements (like APEC, the EU, NAFTA, etc.) as active promoters of a socially and environmentally destructive globalisation
2. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy-maker
3. A call to non-violent civil disobedience and the construction of local alternatives by local people, as answers to the action of governments and corporations
4. An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy These four points will be the basis of the discussions in February, the common positions on which we will construct the platform. They were developed in a discussion process among organisations from all over the world that included an international meeting in August 1997. In the following pages you will find the summary of the results of this discussion If you are interested in the full version, please contact PFE! Aachen, Turmstr. 3, 52072 Aachen, Germany; tel. +49-241-80.37.92, fax +49-241-88.88.394, e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
What is the Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO?
The Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO (PGA) is an evolving coordination, and as such will change with time. Thus what follows is not engraved in stone, it is just the idea of the PGA shared by the organisations working on it right now.
The PGA is an instrument for co-ordination, not an organisation. Its objectives are inspiring the greatest possible number of persons and organisations to act against "free" trade through non-violent civil disobedience and people-oriented constructive actions, offering an instrument for co-ordination and mutual support at global level for those fighting "free" trade and giving more international projection to the struggles against "free" trade and the WTO. The political analysis and call for action of the PGA are reflected in its manifesto, a living document that will be revised every two years.
The PGA has no membership, and it does not and will not have a juridical personality. No organisation or person represents the PGA, nor does the PGA represent any organisation or person.
There will be conferences of the PGA approximately every two years, about three months before the WTO Ministerial Conferences. The functions of these conferences will be updating the manifesto (if necessary), advancing in the process of co-ordination at global level of the resistance against "free" trade, and co-ordinating decentralised actions parallel to the following WTO Ministerial Conference.
These conferences will be convened by a committee conformed by organisations and movements from all continents and representing different sectors of society. The local organisers will be part of the committee. This committee will determine the programme of the conference, take decisions about which organisations can send delegates to the conference and about the use of resources (especially for travel reimbursements), advise the local organisers in technical and organisational questions, decide which publications can be printed under the name of the PGA, and scrutinise the content of the information tools of the PGA (see below). The committee cannot speak in the name of the PGA.
In each conference of the PGA the Convenors' Committee of the next conference will be elected. The Convenors' Committee must change 100% of its membership in each conference.
The PGA has several information tools, including a regular bulletin, a web page and other publications, which are to be done voluntarily by organisations and individuals supportive of the aims of the PGA. Their elaboration will take place in a decentralised and rotative manner. The PGA will not have any ressources. The funds needed to pay the conferences and the information tools will have to be raised in a decentralised way. All the funds raised for the conference will be administered by the Convenors' Committee. The publications will have to be self-financed.
The conferences of the PGA will not include the discussion of the organisational principles in the programme. However, if there is a concrete request, a discussion group on organisational questions will be formed. This discussion group will meet parallel to the programme of the conference, to elaborate concrete modification proposals which shall be voted upon in the plenary.
The PGA hopes that it will inspire the creation of different platforms (both regional and issue-based) against "free" trade and the different institutions that promote it. However, there will be no formal relationship between these platforms and the PGA. The platforms will hence be completely autonomous.
Draft Manifesto of the0 Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO
(To be discussed and amended at the conference in February)
Capitalism inevitably matures into imperialism. This has been the cause of the two world wars. Capitalism must globalise itself through political and economic machinations and in the process brings out the fatal flaws inherent in it.
In its current sense "Globalisation" means further rearranging the international economic order to avert the crisis of capitalism. It means the further dismantling of barriers to the free movement of capital to seek maximum profits even as the great industrial powers exert all efforts to protect their own saturated markets.
The consequences to the peoples of the North and the South are disastrous; falling wages, cut in social services, lack of job security, displacement of peasants, etc. In short, the dominance of international capital on the economies of both the North and the South is tightened further closing the avenue to a development of self-reliant economies.
The newest and perhaps the most important phenomenon in this globalisation process is the emergence of trade agreements as key instruments of economic liberalisation. The World Trade Organisation, which is the organisation of the multilateral trading system has in fact become the main vehicle of choice of transnational capital for organising and enforcing global economic governance.
At the regional level, trade agreements are also proliferating. NAFTA is a prototype of a regional legally-binding agreement involving North and South countries and its model may be extended to South America; APEC is another model with both North and South countries, the European Union is of course the main example of a legally-binding regional agreement among developed countries. Regional trade agreements among developing countries such as ASEAN, SADC and MERCOSUR have also emerged.
However, the WTO is by far the most important institution for evolving and implementing trade agreements. The Uruguay Round vastly expanded the scope of the multilateral trade system so that it no longer deals only with the conduct of the trade in manufactures. Its scope now also covers trade in agriculture; trade and investment in services; and beyond trade issues into intellectual property rights and investment measures. Moreover, the WTO agreements have the most significant implications also for non-economic matters like the services-agreement and the specific agreements on communications and information technology which will have far-reaching effects on the culture of countries around the world.
These vastly increased scope of "trade agreements" through the Uruguay Round and now beyond it to the current negotiations in the WTO has tremendous significance for the shaping of national economic and social policies, for the scope of development options, concerns over equity and marginalisation, and national sovereignty.
As though this was not enough a "new issue" is being promoted by the Northern countries which is termed as the Multilateral Agreement on Investments. The objective is to establish an international agreement that widens the rights of foreign investors far beyond the current position in most countries, and severely curtail the right and powers of governments to regulate the entry, establishment and operations of foreign companies and investors. This initiative is currently also the most important development in attempts to extend the scope of globalisation and liberalisation. Such a push would abolish the power and the legitimate sovereign right of states and peoples to determine their own economic and social policies. This is a precious right which is especially vital for developing countries to protect their domestic sectors comprising local firms, local farms and the public sector which have been weakened through colonialism and which still require a longer period of capacity building.
To further impair the domestic production capacity of Southern countries, the Northern corporate powers are insisting on the reduction also of the powers of states to quantitatively restrict the import of industrially produced goods.
The total impact of all these trade arrangements would result in the marginalisation of traditional producers in all the developing countries and the creation of markets catering to their elite-few, which, in turn would result in wide-spread poverty, hunger and all the possible consequences like child labour, bonded labour, prostitution and other social strifes, ending possibly in the extermination of millions of people around the developing world.
The effects of trade liberalisation are not restricted to the South. Driven by the lure of cheap labour, the appeal of weak or non-existent labour and environmental regulation, the aversion to taxes and the lust for profit, the Northern corporate powers are making use of the increased mobility of goods and services. They are increasingly shifting their capital and activity to developing countries at the cost of the employment of their own nationals, which is already in historic lows due to "rationalisation" technologies. The effects of this process in the North are multiple and deeply interlinked: deconstruction of social services, disappearance of the bargaining power of workers and complete subordination of policy-makers to the will of industrialists. The globalisation of misery also includes the industrialised countries.
In spite of sporadic protests against these developments by affected populations and also by enlightened citizens' groups, corporate powers do not show signs of relenting. This trend, it appears, cannot be modified, as even the "democratically" elected governments of not only the Southern countries but also of most of the Northern countries have been implementing these policies even without a debate with either their own peoples or peoples' representatives. The only alternative left for the people is to just destroy this trend in trade agreements.
Though awareness and also opposition to these dastardly developments by various affected sectors are quite visible around the world, the need for a co-ordination of these protests towards a concerted action to overthrow this new world disorder has become very urgent. Only a global alliance of peoples' movements, which can implement action-oriented alternatives, can defeat this emerging globalised monster. If impoverishment of populations is the agenda of this neo-liberalism, empowerment of the peoples should become the agenda of this global alliance of peoples' actions.
Peoples' control and power over both production and consumption has to be restored, and capitalism's mischief on nature has to be stopped. The revival of traditional knowledge systems and traditional technologies, and the strengthening of traditional local market systems by developing producer-consumer linkages and co-operatives (and developing similar linkages internationally), are the only logical alternatives to the domination of people and nature by transnational capital.
In the context of governments all over the world acting as the creatures and tools of capitalist powers, the only alternative left for the people is to restore for themselves a life with direct democracy. Direct democratic action is hence the only possible way to stop the mischief of capitalism. Democratic action carries with it the essence of non-violent civil disobedience to the unjust system. It also has the essential element of immediacy.
Breaking the unjust system through direct action and strengthening peoples' power is the manifesto of this new global alliance of peoples' movements. Civil disobedience and constructive action must become the hallmarks of this peoples' alliance. This is the call of the Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO.
First Conference of the Peoples' Global Action against "Free" Trade and the WTO, Geneva, 23-25 February 1998
This conference will lay down the definitive basis of the Peoples' Global Action (PGA). Its objectives are discussing and amending the manifesto of the PGA, co-ordinating decentralised protest actions all over the world during the Ministerial Conference of the WTO in May, promoting the creation of local, national, regional and topic-based platforms, and setting up the basis of an information and press network to give more international projection to the work of peoples' movements. As part of this, setting up an ad-hoc office during the WTO Ministerial Conference, with the task of passing on information materials (press releases, photos, video footages if possible) on the protest actions taking place all over the world to the international press accredited in Geneva.
This will not be an open conference for the general public, but a meeting of delegates from all continents to create the PGA. It will hence not be a conference to inform, but to work. The participants will be people active in concrete struggles of resistance against "free" trade. They will not necessarily have to be representatives of popular mass movements (although these will have preference); also representatives of small groups will have a place. If there are male and female applicants from a region, preference will be given to women. A maximum of 50% of the participants will be European, in order to secure a minimal equilibrium between continents.
This conference should be attended only by delegates of organisations that agree with the four points of departure of the PGA (clear rejection of the WTO and other liberalisation fora; confrontational attitude; a call to non-violent civil disobedience and to the construction of local alternatives by local populations; decentralisation and autonomy as organisational principles). In the conference we will discuss changes in the draft of the manifesto in order to improve and complete it, but its four conceptual bases will not be subjects of debate.
This conference is convened by a committee formed by:
Arrival, registration, distribution of lodging, orientation etc. will start on the 18th of February (since there will be activities starting on that date - see below). The accommodation of delegates will take place in squatted and private houses, in order to avoid unnecessary expenses. The conference will take place in a building furnished by the trade unions in the center of Geneva, where lunch will also be served. Below is the provisional programme (a detailed description is available on request).
Monday 23rd February Manifesto Tuesday 24th February Co-ordination of actions Wednesday 25th Feb. Information f Press
09:00 - 10:00 Plenary: Welcome and presentation
20:00 Cultural programme. Meeting of the Convenors' Committee (CC) f group rapporteurs on the manifesto=09Meeting to establish the new CC and the press team to cover the Ministerial Conference, according to the proposals of the groups=09Evening: closing event and party
(1) Topic-related groups: a) peasants; b) indigenous peoples; c) trade unions; d) women; e) youth; f) unemployed; g) migrants; h) environment; =20 i) housing; j) culture; k) health; l) students
(2) The division of the regional groups is not done yet; it will depend on the amount of Southern delegates present at the conference (which will depend on the amount of funds that we can raise for travel expenses) The Europeans assume the responsibility of co-ordinating the fund-raising, but they expect the collaboration of other continents in the efforts to finance the conference. We expect to use a great percentage of the funds raised to finance travel expenses, since there will be no lodging expenses and the building where the conference will take place will be very cheap. We will only finance the trips of participants from the South and from Central and Eastern Europe (ex-socialist countries).
The rule that limits the participation of Europeans to a maximum of 50% of the total means a serious commitment to get funds for the travel expenses of participants in the South and the East, since if we do not obtain these funds, we will not reach the amount of participants that we want to have in the conference. The biggest plenary room available has space for about 600 persons, which means that if we want to fill it up, we need to obtain funds for 300 tickets.
There will be a participation fee that will cover the expenses related to the participation in the conference (food, previous communication with the participants, etc.) and the preparatory costs. This fee will be the same for the whole world, but it will be a fee in ECOs, a (non-existent) equitable currency with an exchange rate that compensates for the differences in the costs of living and in the average purchasing power of different countries. It will be low enough to facilitate participation by everybody.
Events around the First Conference of the PGA
There will be several other events before and after the First Conference of the PGA (23-25 February 1998). All these events will be open for all kinds of public, while the conference (due to place restrictions) will only be open to delegates. These events will be:
(1) A number of information and discussion roundtables on different topics from the 18th to the 21st of February. In these roundtables, groups of about 50 to 100 people will exchange information and discuss the topics on which they work. The roundtables will be organised in a decentralised way, by groups interested in the issue from all over the world, in cooperation with groups from Geneva (which will help with the logistics). An indicative list of topics is given below. However, the roundtables will only take place if there is enough preparatory work, which will not be done by the Convenors' Committee. This means that the existence of the roundtables will depend on the willingness of organisations from different countries to participate in their preparation. So if your organisation is interested in one of these topics, please help us preparing the roundtable. Contact Play Fair Europe! Aachen (Turmstr. 3, 52072 Aachen, Germany; tel. +49-241-80.37.92, fax 88.88.394, e-mail email@example.com) to find out which organisations are working on the preparation of each roundtable.
The roundtables that will probably take place are:
Culture: the loss of diversity; globalisation of disinformation; alienated culture. Fighting back
Economy: mobility of goods and capital; livelihoods; labour; unionism; unemployment; exclusion...
Environment: consumerism, commons, health....
Food production: agriculture, peasantry, fisherfolk, biotechnology, etc.
Human Rights: political, economic, social and cultural Indigenous Peoples: original nations, tribal organisations, and other traditional communities
Politics: accumulation of power by transnational capital; civil participation; forms of struggle
This list of roundtables is not closed, it is possible to propose new topics to the convenors' committee (through Play Fair Europe! Aachen). The precise topics, scope and programme of each roundtable will be defined by the groups and persons organising them, but should include some focus on the impact of "free" trade on the subject. More general presentations of the subject in the evenings for the general public and other delegates should also be planned as part of all roundtables.
(2) A one-day seminar on the World Trade Organisation on Sunday the 22nd of February, most probably at the University of Geneva. It will be targetted to the participants of the 1st Conference of the PGA and to the general public
(3) The same roundtables that meet on 18-21 February will meet again on the 26th of February (right after the 1st Conference of the PGA) to have a one-day co-ordination and planning session on their topic. The aim of this one-day session will be to create topic-based platforms for coordination and action of the same kind as the PGA, but on more specific issues.
(4) Finally, on the 27th of February there will be a European meeting to launch a Europe-wide movement of civil disobedience against =AB free =BB tr= ade.
If you are interested, please contact PFE! Aachen.
Publications and information tools
The two main information tools of the PGA are a monthly bulletin and a web page containing a database on “free” trade and popular resistance movements. Both instruments will be accessible via internet and through a decentralised information distribution network, composed of persons and groups with access to internet which take the responsibility of sending the information to those who cannot access the internet and collecting subscription fees. We are still in the process of forming such a decentralised network; if you are interested, please contact PFE! Aachen. We will also print a small booklet with concrete examples of the effect of "free" trade on people and nature. This booklet will also give concrete examples of actions that everybody can take against trade liberalisation. Please get in touch with PFE! Aachen if you have any suggestions for case studies or want to help with the project.
The Convenors' Committee can allow any organisation to print other publications and leaflets with more specific information (e.g. on the WTO and the peasantry, the WTO and indigenous peoples, etc.) in the name of the PGA, if the committee agrees that the contents of this publication are conform with the political line of the PGA manifesto.