In my upcoming presentation at Witt, I only have time to talk about eight of the antiglobalization activists who spoke at the International Forum on Globalization teach-in November 24-25, 1999 in the Seattle symphony hall. Maria Galaradin of TUC Radio recorded all the presentations and has many of them archived at http://www.tucradio.org/ifg.html
Vendana Shiva – Indian physicist activist who alerted the world to the direct responsibility of Monsanto and Cargill for thousands of farmer suicides in India, related to pressure placed on India to “corporatize” traditional farming methods – aka the “Green Revolution.” Pressured by government and lured by the promise of higher crop yields, farmers borrowed money to pay for expensive fertilizers. The promise of higher yields and incomes proved to be pure hype. Rather than lose their farms to the banks, many committed suicide by drinking the pesticides. She also spoke about the shameless efforts by Monsanto to patent exclusive rights to genetic material of traditional Indian plants – for example Bashmati rice – claiming that they had that had “discovered” it.
It was also from Vendana Shiva that I first learned about the concept of the Commons and the Enclosure Act – how worldwide private individuals and corporations have systemically robbed the public of land, water and other resources that throughout history were always publicly and communally owned.
Maude Barlow – founder and National Chairman of the Council of Canadians and international expert on water privatization. At present, six multinational companies are seeking private control of all the world’s public water systems (Veolia, Bechtel, Suez, United Utilities, WRE and Bouyges). The IMF and World Bank help them along by making loans contingent on countries’ willingness to privatize their public water systems. Countries and cities that try to stop water privatization efforts can be taken to the WTO for interfering with these multinational corporations ability to do business.
Bolivia was recently forced to privatize their public water system in Cochabamba. Bechtel, the company that “bought” Cochabamba’s water rights, also claimed ownership over the rainwater people collected from their roofs and began charging them for it. This led to a popular uprising, in which the Bolivian people overturned their government.
In South Africa, the 2nd largest multinational water company Suez still forces many poor residents to pre-pay their water use with coin operated meters. A few hears ago a woman lost her ten year old daughter when the family’s shack caught fire and she had no money for the water meter.
In New Zealand, the National and Act party are attempting to privatize Auckland’s public water supply. Veolia (formerly called Vivendi) owns United Water, the company that wants to buy it.
Kevin Danaher and Medea Benjamin – founded the California-based Global Exchange in 1988, to investigate and expose fashion labels, like Nike, Addidas, the Gap, Target, Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney, using third world sweatshops to produce to produce their high-priced shoes garments. It was largely thanks to their work and the work of the National Labor Committee that American college students became involved in anti-sweatshop movement and pressured their universities not to purchase clothing produced in sweatshops.
Jose Bove – French farmer and cheese maker who acquired international fame for dismantling a local MacDonald’s franchise, after punitive US tariffs on Roquefort cheese destroyed his livelihood (by making the cost of the cheese prohibitive for American consumers). Because the European Union refused to comply with a WTO order to end their ban on imported US beef treated with growth hormone, the WTO allowed the US to enact punitive tariffs on Roquefort cheese and other European products.
Tete Hormeku – activist from Ghana who explained how US agribusiness was using the WTO and “dumping” to destroy local African farmers.
Martin Khor – Malaysian economist and activist who first alerted world to efforts by the European Commission to incorporate a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) to the WTO treaty. The effort failed, owing to the collapse of the Doha round. The MAI would have allowed corporations to establish themselves, without restriction, with 100% equity in all sectors (except security) in any WTO country. National laws favoring local businesses would be deemed anticompetitive and thus would be canceled. As in the case of dumping, enactment of MAI would have been disastrous to local development, as well as accelerating the transfer of millions of dollars of wealth (in the form of profits and dividends) to the industrial north.
Monday Owens Wiwa – brother of Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Sero Wiwa, who led a non-violent campaign against Shell Oil and the Nigerian government to end massive environmental degradation of the Orgoni homeland and Niger Delta. Ken Sero Wiwa was arrested by Nigeria’s military government in 1995, tried via a military tribunal, and hanged.
Susan George – American expatriate living in Paris, who is the foremost international expert on the suffocating effect of sovereign debt on the third world.
To be continued.