Student Empowerment for Transformation (SET)
“Searching for Alternatives in the midst of Globalisation”
June 16-30, 2002
This year’s SET programme explored issues surrounding alternatives to globalisation. “Searching for Alternatives in the midst of Globalisation” focused on the need to seek to critique the true meaning of globalisation and find for ourselves viable alternatives in our respective social, political and economic orders. This workshop was held at the University of Philippines, Los Baños in the Philippines from 16 to 30 June 2002. Delegates from 12 SCM member movements in the Asia-Pacific Region attended. The student delegates came from SCMs being: Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand. Also in attendance were: 2 resource speakers, 4 Filipino host committee members, 2 WSCF AP staff members and 2 Standing Committee members.
Keynote Address on Globalisation
The programme started with a keynote address by Antonio Tuhan, a senior friend of SCM Philippines and is currently working in a local NGO. Antonio shared that globalisation/neo-liberalism gives precedence to the corporations, privatisation, deregulation and foreign investors. Corporations need the trade barrier to be broken down and neo-liberalism has been used to force open markets. Much of what we hear about globalisation is myth, because it comes from advertisements or propaganda that have an intended message. Globalisation consists of 3 main elements that are Liberalisation, Deregulation and Privatisation.
- Removing import bans, reducing tariffs, removing tariffs, and removing quality restrictions.
- Governments impose structural adjustment programmes on imposition from the WTO and imports are allowed to develop export/market access.
- Corporations get the opportunity to export and dump excess product, and expand their profits. Local production is marginalised leading to unemployment and poverty.
- Removing financial restrictions, which are aimed at ensuring that the flow of money is beneficial to the big corporations. These do not automatically lead to foreign investments.
- All investors should be given freedom, rights and protection. Natural resources, indigenous peoples, culture, schools, hospitals, basic industries, social protection and the environment become commodities to be exploited and are not protected. Public utilities are monopoly.
- Government down sizes and off load public utilities to private corporations.
The delegates were divided into 4 groups in the exposure. The four places for exposure were:
- Happy Hollow in Benguet, Baguio – the indigenous community of Igorot people were fighting against relocation from their ancestral lands as the Government alleged that they did not have title to their lands and had sold their land to developers who were now going to use the land for tourist sites;
- Mont Alban outside of Manila – land grabbing for so-called `forestation’ was occurring at Mont Alban. This was linked to a new dam which was proposed in the area. Many welfare services were lacking including fresh water, electricity and schools;
- Smoky Mountain, a community living amongst the garbage of Manila – the people stayed in very small and basic houses with no proper sanitary facilities. There was no water, only a bucket of water for washing. The place was full of garbage and the residents risked their lives to scavenge things like recyclable plastics, glasses and metals, often in hazardous circumstances;
- Vital Organic Farm and Mushroom Farm in Benguet, outside Baguio City – the Vital Farmers grew Chinese vegetables solely for the Chinese restaurant market in Manila. They did this because they could get a better price for their product, however they themselves did not have a good or balanced diet and they struggled to survive.
A synthesis session of the Forum can be summarised as follows:
The Dominant Features of Globalisation in the Region are:
- Selling of Public Assets, Privatisation – even in the more developed countries such as New Zealand, costs are rising in health care, education and services. The effect is that some people cannot go to the university now, and the education curriculum has been changed to suit the needs of the market economy, i.e. there are no more social sciences and subjects on humanities are devalued. Education is now geared towards technology. The interests of profit serve the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Trans-National Corporations’ (TNCs) interests, and these are even supported by the governments and the judiciary.
- Job Layoffs and Unemployment
- Destruction of Culture, Westernisation of Culture
- Police/Use of Force to Stop People’s Protests – police should protect the rights of people, but in fact do not.
The Bible Study was led by Norma Dollaya, from Kasim Bayan which is a collective for women. She challenged the delegates in the reason for a need to have an alternative society. Norma presented biblical verses from
- Deut 15: 7-11, Leviticus 25: 1-17 on The Jubilee: An Alternative Legislation;
- Deut 5:15, Deut 24:19-22 on Alternative Community by Remembering;
- Acts 4:32-35, Gal 3:28 on Alternative Community by Commitment.
The students came up with the following action plans for themselves as well as their own SCMs:
- Think more carefully, pay more attention when using products or going to fast-food places such as McDonald’s
- Wear/use local products where possible and be proud of your own culture and revive local crafts
- Share with family and friends and groups about our feelings and experiences
- Organise local community in university
- Research issues of globalisation, put information on websites (each SCM website, and invite other SCM members to contribute and reflect)
- Study Communism/Socialism more deeply to understand other options than the current dominant ideology of capitalism
- Research where things come from
National SCM Level:
- Start a workshop in each country’s SCM, e.g. Summer Seminar or a local version of SET that always include a study on local history
- Study Groups in local units: connect with other groups which are concerned with similar issues, e.g. urban poor, women, children
- Organise groups to live with farmers, urban poor, indigenous people, refugees, factory workers etc. to understand more about issues affecting them
- Provide training for SCMers for becoming a community organiser
- Write to newspapers, other media, or SCM publications on globalisation
- Act creatively, e.g. meet in McDonald’s for meeting regarding globalisation without eating anything
- Develop solidarity links between Asia-Pacific countries, e.g. Australia/Philippines
Recommendations to WSCF AP:
- Encourage SCMs to discuss the issue through internet/website/email
- Ask participants to write reflection after the programme
- Request IRO to make a website on issues of globalisation
- Organise International Level SET Programme
- Organise Sub Regional SET Programme
- Organise more comprehensive exposure programme
- Organise Internship Programme
- Send Open Letter to IMF/WTO
- Facilitate links between countries including exchanges
- Make the SCM an example of an alternative community, e.g. by group decision making, supporter of local products, critical of the hegemonic attitudes of the big corporations etc.