WSCF AP is currently engaged in the preparation for three WTO-related events which will all take place in December in Hong Kong. These events are; the Ecumenical Conference on Globalising Economic Justice and Social Sustainability (8-12 December); Ecumenical Women’s Forum in Life-Promoting Trade (12-14 December.); and the International Student and Youth Network Forum on Higher Education (14-17 December). All these events are organised by several organizations, in which WSCF is just one among a consortium of groups that have signified to co-host these events.
The ecumenically-initiated conference will be held on 8-12 December 2005 in Hong Kong where the 6th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will be hosted (December 13-18, 2005). 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 justice and sustainability.
For a copy of the conference brochure and other questions, please send your inquiries to WSCF AP office.
The International Student & Youth Network on WTO (ISYNOW) that include Asian Students Association (ASA), Ecumenical Asia-Pacific Students and Youth Network (EASYNet), and the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS)—Students and Youth Commission was established with an aim to organize the youth and students to take an active role to derail the WTO. With the principle that Education is a Right not a Commodity, we need to be united and critically evaluate and challenge our national education policy, while at the global level to stand firm with other sectors to resist the neo-liberal policies. Students and youth around the world need to be united to critically evaluate and challenge their national education policy, while at the global level to stand firm with others to block the profit-hungry capitalist educators. Hence, to respond to the various critical issues concerning education, the ISYNOW has decided to hold an International Student and Youth Conference on Education and Employment from 13-15 December in Hong Kong. This conference aims to gather students and youths from all over the world to share and act in solidarity against the oppressions that they experience in the current education policies and structures.
The WTO (in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) has been pushing for aggressive trade liberalisation in developing countries on the grounds of improving efficiency and strengthening economic growth. To a large extent, poor women in the South have experienced food insecurity, displacement and losses in livelihood especially in the rural sector; continuing wage inequality, informalisation and hazardous working conditions in manufacturing industries; shrinking access to basic services such as water, health and education; and increasing care-giving workloads.
Two critical WTO agreements—where the stakes for women are particularly high—will dominate the December trade talks in Hong Kong: the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA); and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Women are very concerned about the negative effects of the AOA on ecological sustainability and on their capacities to nourish and feed their families and communities. On GATS, women are alarmed by rules that require governments to expand private ownership of basic services such as water provision, the liberalisation of financial services as well as rules that affect the rights of migrant workers. The latter is particularly significant since Hong Kong, the venue of the WTO ministerial meeting, receives many women migrant workers.
In order to significantly influence the trade policy agenda and transform unjust trade relations, church-based and feminist movements must join efforts. At an ecumenical women’s consultation on economic globalisation organised by the World Council of Churches in Manila in August 2004, churchwomen in solidarity with feminist economists committed to vigilantly monitor trade policies and to challenge the WTO at its forthcoming ministerial. In examining trade policies, churches and women are asking: Are they fair to all concerned? Are they friendly to the environment? Do they support just relationships and uplift the impoverished? Do they affirm life and human dignity? Together, churches and women are proposing creative and practical ways of moving towards a global trading system that prioritises caring and provisioning for life over and beyond profit.