Fwd [GLW}: Conference discusses global action
alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Aug 6 06:52:33 MDT 2000
The following article is from the current issue of Green Left Weekly
Conference discusses global action
By Chris Slee
MELBOURNE -- More than 200 people attended the Global Action Conference,
jointly sponsored by Friends of the Earth and Green Left Weekly, held at
Melbourne University on July 29. The conference comprised three plenary
sessions and 11 workshops.
In the first plenary, entitled Beyond Seattle -- confronting the global
market and its plunder, Democratic Socialist Party member Dick Nichols
spoke on the economics of corporate globalisation.
Nichols described the renewed dominance of finance capital and the growth
of global oligopolies. Neo-liberal policies are adopted by governments
trying to attract transnational corporations (TNCs) to their countries,
leading to an "auction of favours" to the TNCs.
Nichols pointed out that Third World countries have suffered most under
neo-liberalism, and called for international solidarity amongst workers and
environmental campaigners, including campaigns for the cancellation of the
Third World debt.
FOE member Damian Sullivan spoke of the growing gap between rich and poor,
both within and between nations, and quoted Indian activist Vandana Shiva,
who said that the environment movement must be a movement for justice.
Sullivan said that despite the "media hype" about Seattle, the impetus for
resistance had come from the poor countries (often referred to as the
"South") and cited examples of struggles in Korea, Argentina, Mexico and
Reihana Mohideen from the Socialist Party of Labor in the Philippines
examined the Third World debt, which now exceeds US$2 trillion. It is
caused mainly by unequal exchange -- the poor countries get low prices for
their exports while paying high prices for imports.
She called for the cancellation of the debt, which has been "paid for
several times over" by the people of the Third World.
Mohideen expressed concern about proposals to insert "social clauses" in
international trade agreements. Such proposals are hypocritical coming from
imperialist countries whose TNCs are among the worst violators of human and
labour rights and the environment. They would give the World Trade
Organisation more power to "micro-manage" Third World countries.
She said that institutions such as the WTO and the International Monetary
Fund can not be reformed and must be abolished.
In the second plenary, on "Northern and Southern perspectives on fighting
corporate globalisation", Arun Pradhan of the DSP quoted Filipino activist
Walden Bello, who said that neo-liberalism is about "the re-subordination
of the Third World". Many of the gains of national liberation movements
have been reversed, but Pradhan noted a new rise in struggles over the past
Nancy Iglesias from the Cuban Women's Federation spoke of the worsening
conditions in the Third World and the need for more "South-South
She outlined Cuba's achievements in advancing health and education for its
people, despite the country's poverty and the US blockade. She contrasted
this with other Third World countries where cuts to health and education
had resulted in declining literacy and worsening health.
Iglesias also described Cuba's assistance to other Third World countries.
For example, Cuba has 1800 doctors working overseas -- an example of the
"globalisation of solidarity". Iglesias received the biggest applause of
FOE member Lee Tan spoke of popular struggles against TNCs in India,
Sarawak and Papua New Guinea. She said that non-government organisations in
the South could be an inspiration for people in the North.
In the final plenary, Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Leigh Hubbard
spoke of the need for international solidarity amongst unions and the
environment movement, citing the example of the campaign against Rio Tinto,
in which 13 unions combined with indigenous groups and environmental
movements to demand changes to the company's practices.
Jorge Jorquera of the DSP said, "The empire is not invincible". Even
Francis Fukuyama, who coined the phrase "the end of history", is now
talking about the revival of socialism. The popular uprising in Ecuador and
the fall of Suharto are examples of the new upsurge of struggle. Jorquera
urged listeners to become active and join organisations such as FOE and the
Sarajini Krishnapillai spoke about the work of FOE, which has groups in 61
countries campaigning around human and social concerns.
One of the most interesting workshops was that on "Workers' rights, jobs
and the environment".
Yorick Piper, the assistant secretary of the CFMEU Forestry Division,
pointed out that timber workers and environmentalists are fighting a common
enemy -- the multinational timber companies. He said: We spend too much
time fighting each other, and called for mutual respect: We can protect
both jobs and the environment.
There was general agreement with this sentiment, but differences on how to
do it. Piper argued that if too many restrictions are put on logging in
Australia, the companies will increase their use of timber imported from
Third World countries where logging is less regulated. He also argued that
the environment movement has focused too much on logging in Victoria while
ignoring the much greater damage from land clearing in Queensland.
Others were not convinced by these arguments. Tim Gooden, a member of the
DSP and the CFMEU, said that bad practices in Victoria can not be excused
by pointing to even worse practices elsewhere. Gooden argued for the timber
industry to be nationalised and run in a sustainable manner.
Participants agreed that the current lawsuit by some environmentalists
against the CFMEU would only exacerbate the conflict between timber workers
and the environment movement, and prevent the attainment of unity around a
campaign for a sustainable timber industry.
There were also workshops on protectionism; debt and poverty; parliament,
mass action and social change; what role for the market; women in the
global marketplace; Indonesia and East Timor; Latin America; population,
immigration and racism; indigenous struggles; and globalising the green
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