SECTION 9: DEVELOPING STRATEGIES AND TOOLS - REGIONAL LEVEL
MODULE 26 (continued)
MULTILATERAL TRADE AND INVESTMENT
AGREEMENTS AND ESC RIGHTS
New Forms of Social Action
Taking international human rights instruments as their point of departure, several international NGOs have mobilized at local, national, and international levels to promote ESC rights in the context of economic globalization.20 Recent years have also witnessed some remarkable CSO initiatives, surmounting cultural, thematic and language barriers, building solidarity and successfully taking on powerful global institutions in the process. These include:
The coalition in opposition to the MAI
This is the global coalition that developed to counter the MAI. Over 650 CSOs and NGOs from 70 countries joined to steer a global campaign, using a variety of instruments, media, advocacy, alternative investment policies and treaties, and a range of collectively agreed upon strategies. The "anti-MAI coalition consists of environmental, development, human rights and church-based CSOs and NGOs, as well as local governments and parliamentarians. While the MAI was being debated at the OECD, the coalition also sponsored national anti-MAI campaigns from more than half the OECD member countries and from a number of developing nations.
The coalitions strength was acknowledged in the report (the Lalumière Report) prepared for the French government that led to its decision to withdraw from the MAI negotiations.21 The report refers to the surprise felt by the OECD member governments at the "scale, strength and the speed with which the opposition appeared and developed and goes on to say:
The Lalumière report points to the Internet as a major source of power for the MAI opposition. The coalitions members used e-mail to its maximum effect from the beginning of their campaign. They used e-mail listserves and websites, created and maintained by NGOs, to maintain contact and share strategies, and to inform millions of people worldwide about the MAI negotiations. Drafts of the text were circulated via the Internet, enabling large numbers of diverse groups to engage in critiques and analyses, which were then redistributed.
The coalition is still vigilant, as the main provisions pushing financial liberalization are emerging at regional and international economic forums and treaty-making processes such as the IMF, FTAA, and WTO.
Peoples Global Action
Another example of spirited global opposition to economic globalization is that of the Peoples Global Action (PGA).22 Over 300 representatives of peoples movements from 70 countries met in February 1998 in Geneva to initiate an international popular movement against various aspects of globalization. Uniquely, the PGA is primarily composed of social movements and peoples organizations such as the National Alliance of Peoples Movements (India), the National Zapatista Liberation Front (Mexico), the Landless Peasant Movement (Brazil), the Peasant Movement of the Philippines, and the Canadian Postal Union.
This meeting resulted in a peoples manifesto against global "corporate rule which argues that
During the second ministerial meeting of the WTO in May 1998, the PGA launched a series of coordinated protest actions across the world, including demonstrations in Geneva. The resulting negative publicity has caused much concern within the WTO. In May 1999 the PGA organized an InterContinental Caravan, which brought 500 Indian peasant farmers to Europe to protest before national parliaments, as well as before the WTO and multinational companies and banks that are pushing for global free-market policies. The PGA planned protest actions across the globe to coincide with the WTO Ministerial Conference held in Seattle, Washington, in the United States in November/December 1999.
International NGO Committee on Human Rights in Trade and Investment
Also worthy of mention is an alliance of development and human rights NGOs that formed the International NGO Committee on Human Rights in Trade and Investment (INCHRITI) in May 1998,24 with the express goal of ensuring that human rights are no longer ignored in international economic policy and practice.
Excerpts from INCHRITIs policy statement were quoted above. That statement also stresses the need for
and goes on to observe that
INCHRITI was instrumental in convincing the UN Sub-Commission to adopt the resolution on trade, investment and financial policy alluded to earlier. In a press release on 21 October 1998, the NGO Committee stated:
In August 1999 INCHRITI successfully advocated for the adoption of a path-breaking resolution on trade and human rights by the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.25
During the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle, INCHRITI organized a day-long teach-in and a panel debate on the WTO and human rights. It also released a book on human rights directions for the WTO.26
The Seattle event was a watershed for civil society actions building upon the alliances that were forged in the campaign against the MAI. Seattle saw a broad spectrum of civil society groups accept and adopt the language and principles of human rights as a counterbalance to neoliberal economics. It marked the emergence of a coordinated NGO effort to use human rights principles and instruments both to assess the impact of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations and as a framework to guide efforts to reform the global trading regime.27
The principal message of such groups is that a reformed international economic architecture must necessarily be built upon the foundation of explicit recognition of obligations stemming from the key human rights principles relating to self-determination, participation, non-discrimination, an adequate standard of living, food, housing, work and education as well as the specific rights of women, indigenous people and children.28
Although human rights offer a framework of principles on which to base opposition to the challenges posed by economic globalization, significant obstacles remain.
Recasting the role of the state
Advocates of globalization, pushing for increased privatization and commodification of all spheres of life, have maintained that the welfare state is not economically viable and that states need to "harmonize their economic priorities with their "dependency-creating social responsibilities. Such visions have contributed significantly to states desperate search for better "economic indicators that are divorced from better "social indicators. In addition, the proponents of economic globalization also argue that the state can no longer (in fact, need no longer) play a proactive role in terms of guaranteeing the ESC rights of its citizens; the private sector (national and international) along with a vibrant NGO sector (primarily development and humanitarian agencies) can well handle these tasks.
However, with the onset of economic globalization, much concern has been expressed by CSOs and NGOs about the withering away of the state. Advocates of a strong state fear the bargaining away of state sovereignty under multilateral trade, investment, finance and intellectual-property agreements, and under the regimes of structural adjustment and debt repayment. There are also cases of politicians and right-wing ideologues (often belonging to CSOs) using economic globalization as a scapegoat for all ills, or whipping up anti-imperialist sentiments and appealing to religious or ethnic identities to create a base for nationalistic policies on the economy, immigration and other matters.
It is critical to keep in mind that the struggle around globalization is not limited to blunting or reforming the forces of economic globalization, but also pertains to the recognition of existing violations of ESC rights and the need to improve the conditions in which a significant part of humanity lives.29 The fundamental priority is to halt the worsening conditions that are directly linked to the growing disparity of wealth, whether due to the forces of economic globalization or to socially unjust policies at national levels.
Recently, the very voices that have in the past ardently advocated a "reduced role for the state are now, in a dramatic overturn, calling urgently for it to recast its critical "regulatory role. These voices now want the state to be the arbiter, the protecting guardian for the social sectors against the ravages that are being wrought by an increasingly unbridled global economic system. They include well-known economists like Jagdish Bhagwati and Joseph Stiglitz, prominent businesspeople such as George Soros, and influential media organs including The Financial Times and The Economist. What is needed, then, is to strengthen the state to stand up to the forces of globalization by reasserting its transformative role: not only to regulate but also to guarantee conditions for the sustenance and development of conditions that allow for the realization of human rights for all its residents.
What should the role of the state be? And how should CSOs respond to state violations of human rights? Once again, existing human rights instruments offer the most precise and sensitive framework, obliging the state "first and foremost to promote the human rights of the vulnerable sections of society and not to take any retrogressive steps (through policies, programs and laws) that would further dispossess these groups or marginalize other sectors. States have legal obligations to respect, promote, and protect human rights. If they were to fulfill these obligations, then much of what passes as the global economic regime would be in violation of human rights. While the states transformative role is being reasserted by CSOs and within parts of the UN system, it is also important to find ways and means to sustain and increase the space for human rights and development groups to collaborate with its more progressive elements. This is perhaps the most promising means by which to strengthen the state, both to stand up to the deleterious forces of globalization, and to take advantage of the positive social benefits that can accrue from interacting with global institutions, legitimized by reference to international treaties, norms and standards.
The need for a revitalized United Nations
If the international economic institutions are to be more accountable, then the United Nations has to play a central role and devise ways to create democratic structures (that include the participation of CSOs and NGOs) which will lead to the development of new multilateral treaties on trade, investment and finance. This role is crucial, because all these issues have an impact on the social sphere.
The perspective and specific duties required to perform this role are already contained in numerous international human rights instruments that, in the rush to push the "market solution, have been cast aside. Valuable provisions and guidance are offered not only in the international Covenants and Conventions, but also, for example, in the Declaration of Social Progress and Development, the Declaration and Programme of Action of a New International Economic Order, and the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States.
Various efforts were made in the 1980s to promote social justice in the process of economic liberalization and the growth of transnational corporations by agencies such as the UN Centre on Transnational Corporations (UNCTC) and the UN Fund for Economic Development (UNFED), and such initiatives as the New International Information Order (NIIO) and the New International Economic Order (NIEO). However, these valuable efforts were systematically undermined by the proponents of wholesale liberalization.
Subsequently, the UN has taken the lead in cautioning against unbridled liberalization and in highlighting the need to define the obligations of states and equip them to meet their commitments. For instance, the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (PoA) confirmed that the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms is the first responsibility of governments, and that the human person is the central subject of development. Similarly, the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration and PoA recommended that states should intervene in markets to prevent or counteract market failure, promote stability and long-term investment, ensure fair competition and ethical conduct, and harmonize economic and social development.
The development of a principled leadership within the UN is vital to counter three obstacles to the implementation human rights within the present context:
To regain this leadership role it is imperative that the UN be part of the evolution of collaborative efforts with coalition of CSOs. Such an initiative in one main area has already been taken by an alliance of CSOs including INCHRITI and the Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC). This has led to the drafting of a Citizens Compact on the UN and Corporations that calls upon the UN not to subordinate its mission and values to commercial trade, investment and finance.31
Women and economic globalization
Perhaps the most neglected aspect of the social dimensions of trade, investment, and financial policies and programs is their impact on women.
The principal and lasting impacts of a liberalized economy include ever fewer controls protecting job security (for men as well as women), routine reductions in social expenditures, uncontrolled food prices due to the emphasis on agricultural export and the lack of protection for local food production and food security regimes, the absence of safety nets to prevent people from having to take up casual labor and carry out multiple jobs, and the failure to protect access to land and credit. All these trends have an adverse impact on women. For example, a recent study of women workers in the electronics industry in India reveals their gradual displacement from secure jobs:
Lacking opportunities for education and training, women are less well equipped than men to deal with the challenges and complexities of international trade. Their traditional reproductive and child-rearing responsibilities reduce the time they can devote to earning a living. The result is a reduction in household spending on education and health care. The stress on "cash crops for an export economy confines their access to land to marginal areas, which in turn curtails womens capacity to carry out subsistence agriculture and crop production for local markets. Combined with the fact that credit and extension services favor men, all these factors present obstacles to the productive role that women can play.
A study from Ghana presented at the parallel NGO Forum to the 1998 WTO Ministerial Conference concluded:
Economic globalization has certainly brought about opportunities in the form of greater labor mobility. This has allowed some women to choose between agriculture labor and paid employment, and some studies suggest that women may sometimes prefer independent wage employment to the oppressive social structures and isolation in which they live as well as the arduous, often erratic agricultural labor on which they depend. Of course, the objective working conditions are exploitative, as the jobs are generally insecure, badly paid, and part-time, denying employees their trade union rights, and exposing women to sexual harassment and other threats.
Given the global economic scenario, without changes that are sensitive to womens needs, the long-term prospects are bleak, because capital always seeks to reduce labor costs and to avoid stringent environmental and human rights standards. This approach is all too evident, for example, in the proliferating export processing zones (EPZs) that characterize economic globalization worldwide, and whose principal work force are young women.
A major reason for the failure of the global financial architecture in achieving even a modicum of social progress for vulnerable social sectors has been its failure to take into account or even acknowledge the role that women play in everyday development activities. It is critical, therefore, that all attempts to blunt the impact of economic globalization and to offer alternative economic or legal frameworks recognize and develop benchmarks to assess to what extent womens role is being taken into account in "designing development. The few groups that have taken on the task of disaggregating the impact of economic globalization and its associated processes have offered a number of recommendations that are useful starting points for further advocacy work to ensure gender-sensitive policymaking within the global trade, investment, and finance bodies (see below).
Opportunities and challenges facing CSOs
Only recently has it become clear that economic globalization offers opportunities to CSOs. International campaigns for limits to economic globalization, such as the anti-MAI and Jubilee 2000 debt campaigns, have opened up the possibility for creating alliances across national boundaries. These alliances are based on common values and objectives as well as a common perception of the power of solidarity to halt, or at least gain time through delaying, potentially harmful international economic initiatives stemming from the economic institutions that drive globalization.
One clear advantage of such collectivities is that they are informally linked and nonhierarchical, and are organized around multiple focal points, each with its own program, structured around national campaigns, yet all coalescing into a formidable whole. The transnational solidarity created by the collective opposition to economic globalization is bringing multiple benefits. Formerly diffused initiatives have joined together to promote common causes, and local struggles have gained the confidence that comes from the knowledge of support from other CSO and NGO sources. Activists should now look to develop strategies to counter local violations of ESC rights. The horizontal and vertical solidarity that has been built from these transnational initiatives needs now to be harnessed to promote local change.
This creation of new political spaces, carved out by cross-border, transnational initiatives, nevertheless raises a number of questions that need deep reflection and action. What is needed to sustain these collective transnational actions, campaigns and movements (processes)? What are the limits of such initiatives? The human rights regime provides a sufficient approach and a set of organizing and intertwined principles to gain and sustain social justice, equality and democracy. What steps are necessary to move towards a wider adoption of this approach and to enhance its effectiveness? Can these forces continue to show positive results in the face of the simultaneous phenomena of fragmentation (often at the local levels) and integration inherent in globalizing processes? Can these collectivities, which work from a basis of a multicentric world, constructively rival the traditional state-centric global system? What are the preconditions for these processes to reinforce local solidarities to counter local violations of ESC rights stemming from exclusion, discrimination and dispossession?
A cursory overview of the national and international actions taken to date by CSOs in confronting globalization, and a review of the opportunities and challenges in terms of existing and potential multilateral instruments within the economic globalization mold, reveal actions and directions that must be pursued by CSOs if they are to remain relevant and true to the task of both countering and offering alternatives to the forces of economic globalization:
CSOs and NGOs need to know about and deal with the processes and institutions that are driving economic globalization-for example, the forces of financial liberalization-and seek relevant information from and collaborate with CSOs that are dealing with hitherto low-profile institutions such as the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) and the International Organization of Securities Commission (IOSCO).34
North-South barriers need to be broken down. The consequences of economic globalization show clearly that everyone is in the same boat and that transnational alliances are of benefit to all CSOs. If anything, there is a need for far greater knowledge in the Third World countries of the scale of poverty, material and cultural, existing and growing in the First and Second worlds.
Case study and analysis
Given the paucity of case studies which examine the impact of economic globalization on human rights and on the environment, there is an urgent need to develop appropriate methodology and research plans; search for available data, case studies and legal materials; analyze and compile data into succinct case studies on the specific, verifiable effects of trade and investment treaties; and prepare and disseminate materials in plain language as well as technical publications. Such work needs to focus in particular on hitherto neglected issues such as the impact of economic globalization on women as well as on children, indigenous peoples and poor peasant farmers. There is a need for disaggregated data from reviews of trade policy and rules, without which it is difficult fully to assess the different impacts of economic globalization on women and men.
It is also important to collaborate, for instance in joint research activities, with "progressive UN institutions that are seeking to counter economic globalization-United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), International Labour Organization (ILO)-and to suggest how the UN could play a more active role on economic issues, including through the formation of democratic and representative bodies to examine issues and draft instruments likely to have an impact on millions of impoverished people around the world.
Join alliances in solidarity work
One useful lesson from work done thus far is that it is important to keep breaking down the North-South barriers. This is critical to the formation of a global civil society. Essentially, CSOs, particularly those working at the local level, must break loose from the isolationism that can mar local efforts and join national and transnational efforts to hold economic globalization accountable to peoples processes. Joining active global coalitions, such as the anti-MAI coalition or the International NGO Committee on Trade and Investment, will bolster their strength and contribute to the growth of a movement towards the creation of a global civil society.
Social activists also need platforms where "horizontal exchange can take place. For example, it is far easier to get information on what struggles are being waged against the WTO in industrialized countries than to get this information from countries in the South. This illustrates the need within the South for more information-exchange, strategy sharing, and solidarity building.
Workers for human rights need to learn from, test and develop further alternatives. It is important, for example, to learn about, publicize and develop campaigns premised on valuable ideas such as the Tobin tax35 and the alternative agreement on investment proposed by some of the groups that are part of the global anti-MAI campaign.
Some groups are also proposing alternative means of judging the human rights and environmental impact of economic globalization forces such as TNCs. (See Module 25 for more information on TNCs and ESC rights.) Joining these forces and participating in efforts such as peoples tribunals like the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, and the tribunal on TNCs and human rights currently being planned, is a way to increase the accountability of the proponents of globalization.
In some countries, such as India, groups like Social Watch are proposing alternative economic surveys and alternative indicators and benchmarks to assess the state of the worlds people. Social activists need to learn from, contribute to, and attempt similar exercises, particularly at national levels. (See Module 19 for more information on human rights benchmarks.)
Advocacy, intelligence and gaining new allies
Advocacy work aimed at global economic institutions, such as the WTO, NAFTA, and IMF, is critical to making these institutions democratic and sensitive to human rights, development and environmental concerns. Use should be made of the space available for CSO participation within the new mandate of the UN Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
It is also important to call for the development of in-house capacity in gender analysis and to stress the need to mainstream gender analysis in all sectors within the purview of the IMF, WTO and NAFTA. In the case of the latter two, it is equally vital to call for womens participation in all negotiations and dispute resolution mechanisms, and more generally, to assist in tracking MAI-like provisions in emerging multilateral and regional economic instruments.
All advocacy work needs to push organizations such as the WTO to adopt human rights and environmental instruments as the basis of their work, and to respect the obligations placed upon states by these regimes.
It is also necessary for CSOs to make alliances with the new converts, such as the economists and media cited earlier, which until recently were in favor of reducing the role of the state and are now calling for it to play a regulatory role.
The role of the state
In addition to the points made on this earlier, there is a need to push states to act in accordance with their human rights obligations. Specifically, governments should be called on to explain the adoption of any new obligations, such as many instruments that drive economic globalization, if they conflict with their existing ones.
At the national level, governments and multilateral institutions should be called on to ensure that technical assistance is gender-sensitive and that it promotes the upgrading of technology and skills, including opportunities to acquire new skills, for women as well as for men. Governments must also ensure the adequate flow of information and technological transfer between the North and the South, and between men and women, and must ensure that women have access to land and credit.36 To this can be added the need for women to have access and inheritance rights to housing and land.
The developing global economy urgently needs to be informed and guided by the principles and the imperatives inherent in the international human rights regime. Conditions need to be created for the harmonization of international trade, investment and financial regimes with existing human rights obligations. This would ultimately lead to the establishment of an integrated international agenda, which would cover not merely agreements, policies and practices in international trade and investment, but also (more importantly) international obligations and standards relating to human rights, environmental protection and sustainable development. Focusing merely on the former will only undermine the far more basic obligations underscored by the latter.
In order for this to happen, it is again the task of CSOs to hold international and regional economic actors accountable for respecting human rights as the primary basis for global economic policies and programs. By establishing such an overarching framework, national governments can also be pushed in the same direction. Engagement in social action for achieving just and humane development involves such an all-encompassing approach, particularly keeping in mind the well-being of the deprived and the oppressed.
The struggle in which the marginalized and oppressed people and communities across the world are engaged is for the sovereignty (self-determination) of people and communities, beyond national borders, against the forces of economic globalization, using as their principal basis international instruments concerning human rights, the environment and development. If economic globalization signifies a breaking down of national borders and controls, then the answer that is being given by civil society is also transnational, and inspired by fundamental human values based on the belief in solidarity and comradeship that is missing in the technology-driven, hierarchy-based system of economic globalization.
The overriding challenge is to find ways of getting people to mobilize politically so that the ownership of the existing instruments and of the process of refining and developing them is democratized, and the states and the international economic agents and forums are held accountable for our human rights and our fundamental freedoms.
Author: The author of this module is Miloon Kothari.
19. UN Doc. E/C.12/1999/9 (26 November 1999).
20. Two examples will serve as illustration:
21. Lalumière Report, October 1998. Report commissioned by the French government and prepared, after consultation with negotiators of the MAI and civil society representatives, by Member of the European Parliament Catherine Lalumière, Inspector General for Finance Jean-Pierre Landua, and Advisor at the Court of Auditors Emmanuel Glimet.
information for the Peoples Global Action
is as follows:
23. Peoples Global Action Manifesto, Peoples Global Action (PGA), February 1998.
24. The NGO Committee includes Habitat International Coalition, the Peoples Decade on Human Rights Education, Lutheran World Federation, the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defence of Womens Rights, Youth for Unity of Voluntary Action, the Centre for Equality in Rights and Accommodation, and the Mazingira Institute. Contact information for INCHRITI is: c/o HIC, Secretariat, B-28 Nizamuddin East, New Delhi-110 013, India; E-mail: email@example.com
25. Note 18 above.
26. See M. Mehra, ed. Human Rights and Economic Globalisation: Directions for the WTO (London: Global Publications Foundation and International NGO Committee on Human Rights in Trade and Investment, November 1999).
27. For a discussion on the benefits from the Seattle event for CSOs, see Miloon Kothari and Peter Prove, "The WTOs 3rd Ministerial Conference: Negative Impressions Mask Positive Developments in Seattle, Human Rights Tribune, 6, no. 4 (December 1999).
28. Space does not permit a summary of other initiatives against economic globalization. Over the past two years, however, it is clear that at national, regional, and international levels numerous initiatives have been taken which point towards a nascent movement of counterglobalization led by CSOs and NGOs. See, for example, the work of the Third World Network (Malaysia), Public Citizens Centre (USA), Polaris Institute (Canada), Focus on the Global South (Thailand), Informal Working Group on Gender and Trade (Sweden), National Alliance of Peoples Movements (India), ATAC (France), and the Jubilee 2000 Debt Campaign (UK), among many others.
29. See, for example, HDR 1997, note 3 above, which calculates a series of measures, comprising the Human Poverty Index, against which countries are annually ranked. They include the prevalence of illiteracy, life expectancy, degree of malnourishment, and access to health services and safe water. In 1996 over one billion people fell below this index, a figure reflecting a deteriorating position in thirty countries.
30. For an up-to-date survey of the emerging partnerships between the UN and TNCs, see Miloon Kothari and Peter Prove, "The UN and Big Business: In Whose Interest? in Human Rights Tribune 6, no. 3 (September 1999).
32. Amrita Chachchi, "The New Labour Market, quoted in Bharat Dogra, "Women Are Shouldering the Burden of Liberalisation in India, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS), 7 December 1998.
33. Informal Working Group on Gender and Trade, "The Need for a Gender Analysis of the WTO: Ghana Case Study, leaflet distributed during the WTO Ministerial Conference, Geneva 1998.
34. For a useful discussion on this issue and other ideas for action from CSOs, see Kavaljit Singh, "New Challenges for Peoples Movement, Mainstream, 12 December 1998.
35. The Tobin tax is named after the economist and Nobel Prize laureate, James Tobin. He proposed a low-rate uniform tax on transboundary financial transactions. This tax on short-term speculative investment flows could, if applied, raise several hundred billion dollars a year that could be used for development purposes.
36. Trade Myths and Gender Reality: Trade Liberalisation and Womens Lives, ed. Angela Hale. (Uppsala: Global Publications Foundation and International Coalition for Development Action, 1998)