STOP WTO ROUNDS
The Historic Significance of Seattle
This has reference to the letter by Nitya Nanda of Consumer Unity and Trust
" It is in nobody's interest to repeat the Seattle like situation. At
a time when many of the Northern countries have shown their willingness to address
the concerns of the poor countries, talking about postponing the ministerial
is not desirable keeping in view the interest of the poor countries. WTO should
go ahead whether it is Qatar or Quebec! "
It is misleading to suggest that a new round is beneficial to the 3rd world
because Northern countries are addressing their concerns. If this was the case
then TRIPS review and the Agricultural Review would not be getting blocked by
the north. While the rhetoric has shifted since Seattle the reality of globalisation
and Trade tactics is that out farmers are being wiped out and are being pushed
to suicides, to vacate markets for Cargil's and Monsanto's and their coercive
The growing malnutrition as a result of genocidal trade liberalisation policies,
is a clear indicator that the cost of globalisation are being bourne by the
poor who are paying with their very lives.
Anyone calling for a new round and for expansion of the free trade agenda
is calling for more starvation, more displacement, more suicides and more unemployment
in the Third World. North and South, we need to continue the Seattle process,
no matter where the decision making apparatus of Globalisation moves.
The Historic Significance of Seattle
by Vandana Shiva
The failure of the W.T.O Ministerial meeting in Seattle was a historic watershed,
in more than one way. Firstly, it has demonstrated that globalisation is not
an inevitable phenomena which must be accepted at all costs but a political
project which can be responded to politically.
50,000 citizens from all walks of life and all parts of the world were responding
politically when they protested peacefully on the streets of Seattle for four
days to ensure that there would be no new round of trade negotiations for accelerating
and expanding the process of globalisation.
Trade Ministers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean were responding
politically when they refused to join hands to provide support to a "contrived"
consensus since they had been excluded from the negotiations being undertaken
in the "green room" process behind closed doors. As long as the conditions
of transparency, openness and participation were not ensured, developing countries
would not be party to a consensus. This is a new context and will make bulldozing
of decisions difficult in future trade negotiations.
The rebellion on the streets and the rebellion within the W.T.O. negotiations
has started a new democracy movement - with citizens from across the world and
the governments of the South refusing to be bullied and excluded from decisions
in which they have a rightful share.
Seattle had been chosen by the U.S to host the Third Ministerial conference
because it is the home of Boeing and Microsoft, and symbolises the corporate
power which W.T.O rules are designed to protect and expand.
Yet the corporations were staying in the background, and proponents of free-trade
and W.T.O were going out of their way to say that W.T.O was a "member driven"
institution controlled by governments who made democratic decisions. The refusal
of Third World Governments to rubber-stamp decisions from which they had been
excluded has brought into the open and confirmed the non-transparent and anti-democratic
processes by which W.T.O rules have been imposed on the Third World and has
confirmed the claims of the critics.
W.T.O has earned itself names such as World Tyranny Organisation because it
enforces tyrannical anti-people, anti-nature decisions to enable corporations
to steal the world's harvests through secretive, undemocratic structures and
processes. The W.T.O institutionalises forced trade not free trade, and beyond
a point, coercion and the rule of force cannot continue.
The W.T.O tyranny was apparent in Seattle both on the streets and inside the
Washington State Convention centre where the negotiations were taking place.
Non violent protestors including young people and old women, labour activists
and environmental activists and even local residents were brutally beaten up,
sprayed with tear gas, and arrested in hundreds. The intolerance of democratic
dissent, which is a hallmark of dictatorship, was unleashed in full force in
Seattle. While the trees and stores were lit up for Christmas festivity, the
streets were barricaded and blocked by the police, turning the city into a war
The media has referred to the protestors as "power mongers" and
"special interest" groups. Globalisers, such as Scott Miller of the
U.S. Alliance for Trade Expansion said that the protestors were acting out of
fear and ignorance.
The thousands of youth, farmers, workers and environmentalists who marched
the streets of Seattle in peace and solidarity were not acting out of ignorance
and fear, they were outraged because they know how undemocratic the W.T.O is,
how destructive its social and ecological impacts are, and how the rules of
the W.T.O are driven by the objectives of establishing corporate control over
every dimension of our lives - our food, our health, our environment, our work
and our future.
When labour joins hands with environmentalists, when farmers from the North
and farmers from the South make a common commitment to say "no" to
genetically engineered crops, they are not acting in their special interests.
They are defending the common interests and common rights of all people, everywhere.
The divide and rule policy, which has attempted to put consumers against farmers,
the North against the South, labour against environmentalists had failed.
In their diversity, citizens were united across sectors and regions.
While the broad based citizens campaigns stopped a new Millennium Round of
W.T.O from being launched in Seattle, they did launch their own millennium round
of democratisation of the global economy.
The real Millennium Round for the W.T.O is the beginning of a new democratic
debate about the future of the earth and the future of it's people. The centralized,
undemocratic rules and structures of the W.T.O that are establishing global
corporate rule based on monopolies and monocultures need to give way to an earth
democracy supported by decentralisation and diversity. The rights of all species
and the rights of all people must come before the rights of corporations to
make limitless profits through limitless destruction.
Free trade is not leading to freedom. It is leading to slavery. Diverse life
forms are being enslaved through patents on life, farmers are being enslaved
into high-tech slavery, and countries are being enslaved into debt and dependence
and destruction of their domestic economies.
We want a new millennium based on economic democracy not economic totalitarianism.
The future is possible for humans and other species only if the principles of
competition, organised greed, commodification of all life, monocultures, monopolies
and centralised global corporate control of our daily lives enshrined in the
W.T.O are replaced by the principles of protection of people and nature, the
obligation of giving and sharing diversity, and the decentralisation and self-organisation
enshrined in our diverse cultures and national constitutions.
A new threshold was crossed in Seattle - a watershed towards the creation
of a global citizen-based and citizen-driven democratic order. The future of
the World Trade Organisation will be shaped far more by what happened on the
streets of Seattle and in the non-governmental (NGO) organisation events than
by what happened in the Washington State Convention Centre.
The rules set by the secretive World Trade Organisation violate principles
of human rights and ecological survival. They violate rules of justice and sustainability.
They are rules of warfare against the people and the planet. Changing these
rules is the most important democratic and human rights struggle of our times.
It is a matter of survival.
Citizens went to Seattle with the slogan " No new round, turnaround".
They have been sucessful in blocking a new round. The next challenge is to turn
the rules of globalisation and free trade around, and make trade subservient
to higher values of the protection of the earth and peoples livelihoods.
The citizens' Seattle round of the democratisation of the food system synthesised
common concerns of people from across the world to ensure that the way we produce,
distribite, process and consume food is sustainable and equitable. In the Third
World and the industrialised world, common principles have started to emerge
from peoples practises to ensure safe and healthy food supply. These principles
enable us to shift to nature-centred and people-centred food systems.
1. Diversity rather than monocultures to ensure higher output per acre.
2. Decentralisation and localisation in place of centralisation and globalisation.
3. Ecological processes instead of industrial processes of farming.
4. Food rights and food security rather than free-trade as the basis of distribution.
5. Democratic control rather than corporate control of the food system.
6. Patent-free and genetic engineering free farming to ensure the respect
and protection of all species and the integrity of ecosystems and cultures.
This involves excluding life forms from TRIPS and Biosafety from W.T.O rules
of free trade.
7. Cultural diversity in place of the global monoculture of fast foods and
industrial food chains.
8. Small farms and small farmers in place of corporate farms and absentee
land owners. This involves protection of existing small farms and land reforms
to redistribite land.
9. Fair trade, not free trade, to ensure farmers and producers get a fair
return. Trade as a means rather than end, with global trade subservient to values
of ecological sustainability, health and social justice.
Against all odds, millions of people from across the world have been putting these principles into practice. The post Seattle challenge is to change the global trade rules and national food and agricultural policies so that these practices can be nurtured and spread and ecological agriculture, which protects small farms and peasant livelihoods, and produces safe food, is not marginalised and criminalised. The time has come to reclaim the stolen harvest and celebrate the growing and giving of good food as the highest gift and the most revolutionary act.
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE)
A-60 Hauz Khas
New Delhi - 110 016
Tel: +91 11 696 8077
Fax: +91 11 685 6795
firstname.lastname@example.org (Diverse Women for Diversity)
(Published on the internet by Matthias Reichl 02.09.2001)