Published on Thursday, June 27, 2002 by OneWorld.net
Anti-Globalization Activists Prep U.S. Public for Upcoming Summit
by Jeffrey Allen
International activist leaders Wednesday called for a national campaign in the United States against policies advanced by the administration of President George W. Bush which help strengthen the global position of multinational corporations.
At a public briefing held in Washington D.C., the 12 leaders sought to raise awareness of the consequences of what many activists call "corporate-led globalization" and to urge U.S. policymakers to reconsider their current approach to globalization before this summer's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.
"We feel that this is emergency time," said John Cavanagh, director of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies and vice-president of the International Forum on Globalization, which organized the briefing. "There are six weeks left to put pressure on the U.S. government to change its positions, or we may face a very negative outcome in Johannesburg."
The speakers highlighted a range of contentious issues behind U.S. policy, but focused principally on unfair trade with developing nations, lack of corporate accountability, and routes to economic growth for impoverished countries which have a damaging impact on the environment.
Arguing that corporations have too much control over governments and the lives of ordinary people, Brent Blackwelder, leader of the environmental alliance Friends of the Earth, pointed out that the majority of the 100 largest economies in the world belong to corporations, not governments.
The Bush administration has advanced an environmental policy model that does not bind corporations to meeting particular targets but rather relies on corporations to voluntarily agree to reduce the environmental harm that they do, said Blackwelder.
"The whole push for voluntary codes of conduct has got to be put in the context of a large number of unethical actors," he said, referring to such notorious companies as WorldCom, Enron, and LGB Energy, which exempted its CEO from dismissal for any felonies arising from an environmental violation.
In a political and economic system dominated by corporate greed and corruption, Blackwelder continued, voluntary codes will penalize only those who follow "an upright path," while helping those who scheme and defraud to become even more powerful. "The only answer is a binding code of conduct," he argued.
The Johannesburg summit, also known as Rio+10, is intended to be an assessment of where the world stands in terms of development and environmental progress 10 years after the groundbreaking "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Activists claim that the pledges made by industrial nations at that conference to promote the economic development of the world's poorer nations and to pursue environmentally sustainable practices have been largely disregarded.
Martin Khor, founder and director of the Malaysian-based Third World Network said that the international community has gone backwards since Rio, largely because the U.S. has been blocking the changes required in social, economic, and international governance systems.
Khor cited the need for an international mechanism to prevent the collapse of commodity prices which has devastated the economies of developing nations. Over the past 20 years, Africa has lost about 30 to 40 percent of its income as a result of declining commodity prices, he said.
Developing countries also require cancellation of their debt to Western donors, reform of World Trade Organization rules and accessible, low-cost medications to fight diseases, according to Khor.
"The U.S. is the main country blocking these proposals," Khor charged, warning, "If, when they resume talks in Johannesburg, they are unable to resolve these development issues then the entire summit will collapse. This would jeopardize the state of international relations that we have today."
Other speakers, representing a range of organizations, included Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Indigenous Peoples' International Centre for Policy Research and Education in the Philippines, and Phineas Malepele of the Anti-Privatization Forum in South Africa.
Copyright 2002 OneWorld.net