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Multilateral Organizations and the WTO: Seeing Protest as a Possibility A brief overview . Kimberly Blum. Multilateral Organizations.
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Multilateral Organizations and the WTO: Seeing Protest as a PossibilityA brief overview Kimberly Blum
Multilateral Organizations MLOs, in contrast to unilateral or bilateral organizations, are formed between 3 or more nations to work on issues that relate to all of the countries in the organization. Examples of MLOs: European Union; OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development); OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries); ARPEL (Latin American Oil Companies); UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization); Greenpeace International; CDB (Caribbean Development Bank); CABEI (Central American Bank for Economic Integration); OAS (Organization of American States); PAHO (Pan American Health Organization); G-77 (Group of 77); The World Bank; African Development Bank Group; Central Bank of West African States; Ecowas Fund (Fund for Cooperation, Compensation and Development); Organization of African Unity; ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Networks); World Trade Organization; UNCSD (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ); etc. https://www.geni.org/globalenergy/library/organizations/index.shtml
World Trade Organization • Established in 1995, as successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, 1947) • 159 members (currently) • The only international organization dealing with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function (according to its own mission statement) is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible. • At the heart of the system are the WTO’s “agreements”, negotiated and signed by a large majority of the world’s trading nations, and ratified in their parliaments. These agreements are/become the legal ground rules for international commerce. • The WTO states that its goal is to improve the welfare of the peoples of the member countries through ensuring open foreign markets to member nations. • Over ¾ of WTO members are developing or least-developed countries. http://www.wto.org/index.htm
The WTO Has 4 Major Areas of Activity: • Trade Negotiations – requires agreement from all WTO members who must reach consensus through rounds of negotiations • Implementation and Monitoring – councils and committees seek to ensure proper implementation of agreements • Dispute Settlement – if members believe their rights are being infringed upon regarding the trade agreements, they can bring their grievances to the Dispute Settlement Body • Building Trade Capacity – training courses are organized for official from developing countries, and extra time is given for developing nations to implement agreements http://www.wto.org/index.htm
Despite these main objectives and aims to include all member nations in the decision-making process, delegates from the world’s poorest nations often feel they have little ability to resist the policies to which they are opposed. http://scienceblogs.com/primatediaries/2009/12/01/the-battle-in-seattle-and-the/
Critics of the WTO (from many disparate organizations and interest-groups) perceive it to be corporate-led and cite the corporate domination of the organization and the lack of accountability, which renders the current model of free trade as unfair. • An example of opposition protest related to developing nations and themes of global social justice occurred at the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Seattle 1999. There were many differences in the perspectives of developing and industrialized nations on the current reality of free trade and how it affects developing nations. Major protests against the WTO occurred in the streets of Seattle, which resulted in a failure and breakdown of the trade talks, without adopting any resolutions. Some developing countries felt sidelined, and one delegate was even physically barred from a meeting. http://www.globalissues.org/article/46/wto-protests-in-seattle-1999
WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 “Battle in Seattle” An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 protestors took to the streets in Seattle. Despite the disparate backgrounds and agendas of the protestors (from both developed and developing nations), a major common point and theme was advocacy for fairer trade practices globally. http://www.globalissues.org/article/46/wto-protests-in-seattle-1999
Economics is typically viewed as the bottom line with corporations and with global trade between nations. However, advocating for social justice alongside global development requires respect for human dignity and environmental stewardship as paramount concepts, in keeping with Catholic Social Teaching as well as the Millennium Development Goals. content.lib.washington.edu
There was a great diversity of people and approaches that came together in opposition to the WTO and not all of them agreed with one another. Some were there for environmental justice, some sought to draw attention to how WTO policies hurt workers domestically, while others were highlighting the injustice internationally and wanted to support the delegates from the Global South. Environmental Groups Labor and Worker’s Rights Organizations http://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/Exhibits/WTO/default.htm
According to anthropologist Marc Edelman from an issue of Dialectical Anthropology: “The commonality of views and objectives between the anti-WTO demonstrators, on the one hand, and many developing-country WTO delegations, on the other hand, was ultimately the most significant ingredient in the success of the N30 protests and the failure of the Millennium Round of trade negotiations. Certainly the demonstrators physically prevented many delegates from reaching the meeting site and police violence against peaceful protestors cast the WTO in an unfavorable light. But more importantly, developing-country delegates felt empowered and validated by the viewpoints and activities of the protestors and decided, in many cases, that scuttling the negotiations would be the best outcome, especially given the arrogance and intransigence of the more powerful players in the WTO. The voices and actions of the protestors from the Global South played a major role in influencing these developing-country delegates, something which would have been far more difficult, and most likely impossible, if the “street heat” had come only from masses of disaffected white Americans.” Edelman, M. (2009). Peasant-farmer movements, third world peoples, and the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization, 1999 Dialectical Anthropology, 33 (2), 109-128