The World Trade Organization has been one of the most decisive and influen tial organizations in realizing neoliberal restructuring of the world’s economy. In its ten years of existence, the WTO has resulted in the wide scale removal of protective barriers to international trade such as import bans, import quotas, tariffs and so on. It has also brought more and more countries into this regime of international trade as well as subject heretofore protected or unaffected sectors in various degrees such as agriculture, services, government procurement, investment, and so on, as well as open up various concerns to support trade enhancement such as patents customs procedures, and so on.
WTO has been very instrumental for the big capitalist countries and transnational corporations to exploit and plunder poor countries in Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world. In effect, these poor countries have been suffering from the negative effects of these free market policies under the WTO. Their skewed, maldeveloped industrial sectors have been unable to weather the onslaught of cheaper industrial exports by global monopoly corporations from the industrialized countries. The process of deindustrialization manifested in most developing countries has no other implication but the failure of domestic businesses and massive loss of jobs and livelihood.
On the tenth year of WTO, the WSCF AP joined the global community in protesting for the respect in the dignity of life against the onslaught of the WTO. The WSCF AP entered into many activities and become co-organizers of three different programs held in Hong Kong from December 8 to 18 alongside with the 6th Ministerial Conference of the WTO.
Indeed, faith and action altogether can move mountains. The Conference of the church-based organizations on “Globalizing Economic Justice and Social Sustainability” was held from 9-11 December 2005 at the YMCA Youth Camp, Wu Kai Sha, Hong Kong. The Conference is a platform for faith communities to critique its role, to reflect on the economic justice aspect of the WTO and to search for alternatives towards social sustainability.
On the 1st day of the conference, we were surprised to see some 200 people gathering for two days to critique and continuously call for the junking of the World Trade Organization. We thought that it would be hard for us to get across our messages and positions on the WTO, and make the whole body understand the experiences of each community, country and region.
But they proved us wrong. Because as the program started, the diversity of the delegates itself—coming from different faiths, traditions and country experiences—showed the imperative of uniting all the peoples of the world against all forms of injustice and oppression especially through the WTO.
We can consider that the first one is the most organized of the three conferences, with the most effective speakers, if not all. It was helpful to use their experiences in their contexts to show the ill effects of globalization and the WTO to poor and rich countries as well. They also stressed the role of the church and faith believers in challenging the institutions which promote and pursue the interests of the empire.
After panel discussions, smaller groups were able to talk about more particular commonalities and differences, as well as draft out a particular plan of action for the various sectors of society and their concerns. In our youth workshop, for example, we were able to zero in some serious concerns of the youth—the commercialization of education, the promotion of a culture and education not reflective of their experiences and situations, and increasing migration, resulting to “broken” families and communities.
The discussion in the workshops, however, were not brought to the plenary. The focus on education, should have been discussed at the conference, not only in the end. We further understood that many of our youth today are being taken away from our families and communities due to economic, socio-political, cultural reasons, and sometimes, because of the church itself. Thus, it is imperative to know and understand the youth issues in relation to globalization.
We must admit too, that we did not participate very well in some parts of the three-day conference. Sometimes, we lost focus of what should we push in the meeting, that is, the role of the WTO in the worsening crisis of education in the world.
According to the organizers, this was the first time that a huge number of church people came together for an issue not internal to the churches. This advances further our call for us—faith believers and church people and most especially the youth—in all our vitality and spirituality, to finally junk the WTO and all the evils it represents.
We wished the migrants’ discussion was discussed further in the meeting. we also wished we had more workshops to attend to, and not only one. With this, we can clarify more issues and concerns with people attending the workshops not only once, and enrich the lessons and sharing of experiences that we already had in the last workshops.
To sum it up, the conference echoed strongly the call of the oppressed peoples of the world—JUNK WTO! From a unified stand, we look forward to continue to raise awareness, organize more venues of unity and action, and continue to work for social justice and fulfill life in all its fullness.
In order to significantly influence the trade policy agenda and transform unjust trade relations, church-based and feminist movements joined efforts last December 12-14 at YMCA Youth Camp, Wu Kai Sha, Hong Kong in a conference entitled, Ecumenical Women’s Forum on Life-Promoting Trade.
In a globalize age, rapid change and intellectual encounters and realities that cannot be avoided. Economic and cultural globalization brings new ideas, technological advancements and improved communications systems from the west to other parts of the world. The positive effect of tripling the world’s per capita income since 1945, cutting the number of the world’s people in poverty in half and possibly facilitating disarmament in various subordinated groups.
On the other hand, this has provided opportunities for global organization. This may free one from local forms of dominance and oppression/provide the tools for a different kind of identity formation. Therefore, globalization also perpetuates poverty, widen marital inequalities, fragment communities, marginalize subordinated groups and increase ecological degradation.
The opening of domestic markets to imports and the promotion of certain exports have hampered social welfare. Millions of people around the world are being affected by economic globalization and this has resulted in restructuring of national and global economies. It is argued that the effects are that it has benefited only certain countries and groups in societies and greatly affected social welfare of the others.
Some issues raised on the topic of forging linkages between women and advocating trade justice by churchwomen, women working for economic justice in their communities and feminist economists from all major continents and regions have come to consensus that women’s perspectives on the global economy have enriched the groundwork for defining alternatives to economic globalization. Far from being solely victims and objects of development agenda, women work for herself and her family, and also claim motherhood as a life-giving quality and thus often have been at the forefront of community struggles for basic needs such as water, food, land, livelihood, education and health services. There are also agreements that trade policies are not value-neutral, nor are they gender neutral. Consequently, stakes for women are particularly high.
During the exchange of stories of women’s experiences with WTO policies, there was sharing of experiences of food insecurity, displacement and losses in livelihood, especially in the rural sectors. In countries like Philippines, Taiwan, Uganda, Canada, Brazil, Cuba and India wage inequality, hazardous working conditions and increasing care-giving workloads were also highlighted through small group discussions, presentations and speakers different regions. The shrinking access to basic services such as water was clearly illustrated especially by Elizabeth Peredo Beltran, who shared with us – Women and the Defense of Water, the Case of Cochabamba (Bolivia), in 2000.
Using bible studies, story-telling, rethinking, envisioning and working together, the challenges to our faith and our lives is that it is our duty as people of faith to critically assess the impact of WTO-initiated AOA and GATS upon lives of people and the web of life of the world as a whole. It is also an obligation for the sake of the present well as for the future generations.
It is argued that WTO is:
The following are women’s strategies of resistance and alternatives to WTO policies:
With the theme “EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT AND CULTURE”, the WSCF AP, together with IMCS, ASA and ILPS-Youth formed the ISYNOW and organized mass education, mobilization, solidarity action and protests last December 15-17, 2005.
The idea is to gather and mobilize the youth so as to register the youth disgust on the worsening condition of education, employment and culture under the neoliberal policies of globalization and WTO.
The ISYNOW-organized conference discussed the overall impact of the WTO on the various sectors—farmers, workers, indigenous peoples, among others—which the youth also need to be aware of and act on. There were two opportunities to workshop our experiences—firstly based on our home countries and secondly based on a specific global issue. After these workshops each groups presented a synthesis of their discussion to the body of the conference.
The group’s overall impression of the conference was that the issues discussed were interesting and important but the organization of the conference needed improvement. This prevented the participants from being able to fully discuss and gain understanding on the thematic issues of the conference.