The OWINFS Statement of Political Unity
STOP CORPORATE GLOBALIZATION:
ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE!
A Statement of Unity from
the OUR WORLD IS NOT FOR SALE Network:
INTRODUCTION: OUR CHALLENGE
“Our World Is Not for Sale” is a worldwide network of organizations; activists and social movements committed to challenging trade and investment agreements that advance the interests of the world’s most powerful corporations at the expense of people and the environment.
Against this process of corporate-led globalization, we pose the vision of a global economy that is built on principles of economic justice, ecological sustainability, and democratic accountability, one that asserts the interests of people over corporations. This is an economy built around the interests of the real producers and consumers, such as workers, peasants, family farmers, fishers, small and medium sized producers, and around the needs of those marginalized by the current system, such as women and indigenous people.
We believe that a just system must protect, not undermine, cultural, biological, economic and social diversity; put the emphasis on the development of healthy local economies and trade; secure internationally recognized environmental, cultural, social and labour rights; support the sovereignty and self-determination of peoples; and protect national and sub-national democratic decision-making processes.
Democracy is not simply a matter of holding elections. Democracy means not being on the receiving end of a top-down, one-size-fits-all set of values, priorities, and policies that are imposed through multilateral bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO). Democracy means not being subjected to non-transparent and non-accountable decision-making, such as the WTO’s dispute settlement processes. Democracy means people taking control over forces directly impacting their lives.
When the WTO was established in 1995, its preamble stated that its purpose was to bring about greater prosperity, increase employment, reduce poverty, diminish inequality, and promote sustainable development around the world through greater “free trade”. Ten years later it is clear that the WTO has not delivered on these goals and has had exactly the opposite results.
The WTO trade regime has counteracted measures that would promote development, alleviate poverty, and help ensure human and ecological survival, both locally and globally. Under the guise of “free trade”, WTO rules are used to force open new markets and bring them under the control of transnational corporations.
Furthermore, the big trading powers have used the WTO to advance and consolidate transnational corporate control of economic and social activities in areas beyond trade, including development, investment, competition, intellectual property rights, the provision of social services, environmental protection and government procurement.
Large-scale liberalization in these areas will force developing countries to relinquish many of the economic development tools that industrialized countries used to build their economies and create jobs. Furthermore, existing provisions of the WTO, as well as ones currently being negotiated, would effectively ‘lock in’ the “structural adjustment programs” of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Moreover, in advancing the interests of the big trading powers, the methods of governance and decision-making that are used in the WTO are notorious for their reliance on threat, deception, manipulation and lack of transparency in an undemocratic and non-inclusive process.
It is the destructive social, political, and environmental consequences of the pro-corporate, neo-liberal model of globalization that has elicited rising resistance from a broad range of civil society organizations and social movements around the world, including at WTO summits in Seattle, Doha, Cancun and Hong Kong.
Our World is not for Sale is part of this global resistance.
Ten years after the founding of the WTO, it has become clear to us that the possibilities of the WTO moving in the direction of positive reforms are minimal, if not absent. Change is absolutely necessary. At the moment we have a system where:
livelihoods are being destroyed, human rights ignored, public health endangered, the environment plundered and democratic systems eroded;
local economies are being undermined, with workers, peasants, family farmers, fishers, consumers, women and indigenous peoples being especially disadvantaged and exploited;
governments’ ability to guarantee access to the essentials of life, promote health, safety and food sovereignty, and protect cultural and biological diversity is being undermined and sometimes eliminated.
Around the world, the negative results of the current global economic system are propelling democratic movements - acting via the ballot box and in the streets - to demand change. Elected officials in many countries have lost faith in the current system of global economic governance. Increasingly, a number of economists and technocrats who created and espoused this system are beginning to question it, as its results prove quite the opposite of those promised. All this is taking place in the context of growing inequality both between and within nations and a resurgence of militarism.
The efforts of the WTO to forcibly liberalize global trade in a manner that harms economic justice, social well-being, gender equity and ecological sustainability, must be resisted. Its power and authority must be rolled back from many areas where it has been imposed, including agriculture, services, and intellectual property rights.
At the same time, we must devise new institutions to facilitate trade, production and distribution for the common good if we are to avoid the growing prospect of social and ecological catastrophe.
The current trade regime, which includes the WTO, as well as regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements, must give way to a new, socially just and ecologically sustainable trading framework for the 21st Century.
Since 1998, members of the OWINFS network have combined to share analysis, develop strategies and coordinate actions internationally in order to promote the development of alternative, just and sustainable economies.
We are committed to developing a new, democratically accountable trading system that advances economic justice, social well-being, gender equity and ecological sustainability, and that provides decent jobs and necessary goods and services for all people.
We support the development of vibrant local economies and the rights of workers, peasants, migrants, family farmers, consumers, women, and indigenous people. We believe that the self-determination of people must not be subordinated to international commercial commitments. Among other things, this requires that decision-making processes and enforcement at all levels of governance are democratic, transparent and inclusive.
We recognize that a socially just international trading system must give priority to the rights and welfare of the workers, peasants, migrants, fishers, and family farmers who produce our goods, services, and food.
We call on governments and multilateral agencies to halt their attacks on basic workers rights, the reversal of the gains of workers’ struggles, the undermining of job security and the race-to-the-bottom in wages and to strengthen workers’ rights worldwide.
We oppose trade liberalisation agreements and negotiations that encourage taking away access to natural resources from those indigenous and local communities that depend on them for their livelihoods and giving such access instead to corporations.
Other fundamental human rights must also be respected, promoted and realized, starting with the self-determination of indigenous peoples and the provision of basic social needs and services, including education, food security and sovereignty, universal access to clean water for human use and public health.
Likewise, ecological integrity must be a goal of a transformed global trading system. This means, among other things, that corporate trade and investment must be regulated to reverse global warming; multilateral environmental accords must have precedence over trade agreements; environmental standards must not be pulled downward by trade accords; and the right of people to reject genetically modified organisms, to preserve old growth forests and farmers’ diverse seed stocks, and promote animal welfare, must be respected.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
Asserting People’s Right to Choose: Self-determination, Democracy and Development
We reassert the fundamentalright of countries to develop economic and industrial policies that foster genuine economic development, create decent jobs and protect livelihoods, and enhance the environment. All countries, and especially poorer countries, must have the right to use policy options (such as local content policies) to increase the capacity of their own productive sectors, particularly small and medium enterprises. Countriesmust also preserve their ability (“policy space”) to shape economic social and environmental development strategies that serve the most vulnerable of their people. The drive for “coherence” among the international institutions has become a means to deny that policy space: the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and some individual donor countries force governments to implement neo-liberal policies and the WTO and other trade and investment agreements lock these policies in.Therefore:
Our World Is Not For Sale demands an end to the secretive and coercive practices that have become the hallmark of trade negotiations, especially at the WTO, where a few powerful governments, often acting on behalf of their corporate elites, are able to coerce weaker governments to achieve their goals.
The dismantling of tariffs and other trade measures must not be allowed to put local economies, especially those of poorer countries and/or poor economic sectors, at the mercy of transnational corporations, and threaten local economic development, labour laws and standards, public and consumer health and safety, and the environment.
“Free trade” negotiations in the WTO and elsewhere cannot be allowed to continue operating as a Trojan Horse to secure pro-corporate rules on investment, competition, government procurement, market access, agricultural production, domestic regulation of services and intellectual property rights. Neither can the current power dynamics, in which the rich industrialised countries force their economic agenda on poorer countries, be allowed to continue.
The use of structural adjustment and debt conditionality to force trade liberalization in third world countries and elsewhere must end. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the regional development banks need to write off all the debts owed to them by developing/transition countries so those countries can reallocate these funds to meet the urgent needs of their people.
Advancing the Primacy of Social Rights and the Environment
We believe that protecting and advancing social rights, meeting basic needs, and protecting our environment are essential to life. It is unacceptable that these can be undermined by WTO and other ‘trade’ agreement rules.Therefore:
Any trade and investment agreements must not have primacy over, or undermine, international agreements which promote social, economic and environmental justice, including but not limited to:
the International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (covering the four core labour standards);
the Convention on Biodiversity and its Biosafety Protocol, and other multilateral environmental agreements;
the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and its associated conventions: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
the anticipated United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and
the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
Governments must retain the sovereign right to determine how to regulate services in ways that meet the needs of their people, economy and society, and that honour their other international and constitutional obligations, including to women, indigenous peoples, the young, the elderly and the poor.
The right of governments to adopt the precautionary principle to protect public health, the environment, and agriculture from unknown risks must take precedence over any trade agreements and provisions.
Tariff reductions that harm the environment or sustainable development by increasing inappropriate trade in natural resources and other environmentally sensitive goods should not be undertaken.
The undermining of the United Nations by the pro-corporate Bretton Woods institutions, the WTO, and the big powers must be stopped, and the UN system of agreements and agencies must be strengthened
Protecting Essential Services
We endorse the fundamental principle that no trade or investment agreement should infringe on the sovereignty of governments to guarantee access to the essentials of life, to promote the health and well being of their people, and to protect the environment,Therefore:
Countries should not be pressured to accede to trade rules that diminish this ability, whether through the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) or through regional or bilateral agreements.
Sectors directly relating to such essentials, including health, education, cultural/audio-visual, social assistance, water and energy services, must be explicitly excluded from all trade and investment agreements.
Rules concerning Domestic Regulation, Subsidies and Government Procurement of services by their very nature impinge on this ability and should not be included in trade and investment agreements.
Countries are facing enormous pressure to subject their essential services to GATS rules which have the effect of promoting privatization. Further, when commitments made under these rules are adopted by countries that have been or are being subjected to deregulation and privatization of their essential services through "structural adjustment" requirements, the GATS rules serve to lock in privatization. In this way GATS promotes the opening up of local markets to transnational corporations and the advancement of the neo-liberal economic model.Therefore:
These “structural adjustment” requirements must be rolled back, not locked in, and must not be a condition for countries receiving new loans or grants, nor should countries be pressured to subject their essential services to GATS rules.
Defending Knowledge, Culture and Life Forms as the Essence of Civilization
We see knowledge, culture and education as the driving forces of civilization. These forces cannot be reduced to tradeable commodities or private property.
There is no basis for inclusion of such intellectual property claims in a trade agreement. Moreover, all nations have the responsibility and obligation to protect the public health and wellbeing of their people. Current intellectual property rules in trade pacts, such as the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), obstruct people’s access to essential medicines, seeds and vital necessities, while leading to private appropriation of life forms and traditional knowledge and the destruction of biodiversity.Furthermore, they keep poorer countries from increasing their levels of social and economic welfare and defending their unique identity and heritage.Therefore,
Governments must retain their unfettered right to limit patent protection in order to protect the public interest in these areas, especially in relation to medicines, seeds and life forms.
The patenting of life forms, including microorganisms, must be prohibited in all national and international regimes.
Genuine cultural diversity must be defended against the homogenizing impact of global markets and monopolies over knowledge, technology and telecommunications.
Preserving and Advancing Food Sovereignty and Food Security
We affirm that the right to food is a basic human right.The WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) subordinates this right to corporate profitability.The food system promoted by the WTO is built on industrialized and capital-intensive, export-driven agriculture that is furthering corporate concentration along the food chain and undermining the livelihoods, rights, health and living and working conditions of agricultural and food workers and thus further undermining food security.
Moreover, it fails torecognize that farming is a way of life and an important basis of community and culture. Thus, its policies and those of other trade agreements foster further concentration and increase of power of transnational corporations and cause the expulsion of millions of peasants and family farmers from the land and production, in Northern and Southern countries. Since the introduction of “structural adjustment programs” and the establishment of theWTO, many peasants, family farmers, and agricultural workers have been displaced from the land and experienced hunger, with many driven into suicide, owing to import liberalization via tariff reductions, the abolition of quantitative restrictions and inequitable national agricultural policies.At the same timemany subsidies going to agribusiness, including export-oriented industrial farming, have been increased rather than reduced.
While these rules allow increasingly powerful agribusiness trading companies to push down the commodity prices paid to farmers worldwide, the concentration of food distribution and processing under the WTO’s agriculture and service sector rules has led to increased food prices for consumers. Therefore:
To avoid further escalation in hunger, displacement and death, action must be taken immediately to curtail agricultural, trade and investment policies that encourage chronic overproduction and to ban the dumping of agricultural commodities onto world markets below the cost of production by global food corporations and others involved in global agricultural trade. Direct and indirect export subsidies that lead to dumping must be banned. Countries should retain and reassert their sovereign rights to protect their agricultural markets and sectors from dumping in order to implement measures that can effectively and actively support peasant- and family farmer-based sustainable production.
Measures must be taken to promote and protect peoples´ food sovereignty (the right of peoples and communities to define their own food and agricultural policies, as well as the right to produce their basic foods in a manner that respects cultural and productive diversity and supports peasant- and family farmer-based sustainable production) and food safety and security (both for consumers and producers).
Measures that only concern production for domestic consumption and do not contribute to increased exports to international markets should be exempted from any international trade agreement. The trading system must not undermine the livelihood of peasants, family farmers, agricultural workers, artisan fishers, and indigenous peoples.
We believe that the development of food sovereignty, food security and peasant- and family farmer-based sustainable agriculture requires governments to acknowledge the flaws in the “free market” principles that underpin perceived comparative advantage, export-led agricultural development and “structural adjustment” policies; and replace those policies with ones that prioritize and protect local, subsistence and sustainable production, including use of import controls and regulation that ensure more equitable sustainable production methods.
Various agreements will be required to ensure these objectives. These could include a convention on food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, and a declaration on the rights of peasants and family farmers. Ultimately, the WTO and other "free trade” agreements, with their current focus on trade liberalization at all costs, are not appropriate places for such rules; therefore, alternative spaces to discuss these rules have to be strengthened.
Stopping Corporate Globalization and Promoting Trade Justice
The WTO’s trade rules, and those of many other regional trade agreements now in existence and being negotiated, promote the power of corporations in the global economy by providing new investor, intellectual property and other rights. At the same time, they lock in neo-liberal policies of privatization and deregulation. All this is done under the guise of “free trade“. This imbalance in power promotes the economic self-interest of a few global economic giants, often with devastating effects on local economies, particularly in developing countries.
Such corporate power is being ratcheted up through regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements. Their powerful rules promote corporate rights and pose a serious threat to local democratic authority. Under some accords, in fact, foreign corporations can now sue national governments for "lost profits" if any law or regulation in the country reduces their present or future profitability. Environmental, labour, and social rights all become secondary to the right to corporate profits. This trend must be reversed.
Having successfully thwarted the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which would have enshrined such corporate rights, we call for an end to the corporate strategy of promoting the rapid and reckless expansion of regional and bilateral trade and investment agreements that attempt to reinforce the faltering WTO. We also call for an end to trade rules that guarantee a foreign investor's right to profit by exposing domestic regulatory policies to investor challenges and demands for compensation from public funds.
To begin moving toward a just trading system, we call on governments to negotiate a legally binding agreement to ensure that corporations are held democratically accountable for their conduct with regard to their social, economic and environmental impacts, including the role that some play in supporting repressive political regimes and marketing of weapons. This should be done through the UN and other appropriate bodies,with full participation of civil society.
Further we call on civil society organizations and movements to initiate a global civil society dialogue on developing an alternative, just and sustainable trading framework to replace the neo-liberal model, one that genuinely promotes pro-people and rights-based sustainable development and that puts communities first.
We are committed to an ecologically sustainable, socially just and democratically accountable trade system. Thus, as a first step, we demand that our governments implement the changes listed in this document in order to constrain and roll back the power and authority of the WTO, and to turn trade around and create a just system. We commit ourselves to mobilize people within our home countries, regionally, and globally to fight for these demands and to defy the unjust policies of the WTO and the broader multilateral trading system.
The choice before us is stark: either we accept the current corporate-centered global order and forfeit the welfare of succeeding generations and the future of the planet itself, or we take up the difficult challenge of moving toward a new system that puts at its heart the interests of people, communities, and the environment.