DON'T STRENGTHEN THE WTO BY ADMITTING
By Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, and Bama Athreya
It is unfortunate that the first major post-Seattle legislative battle
is over China and the WTO. The Seattle protests offered a stinging critique of the WTO and
strong arguments for its downsizing or elimination, and opened up space for a debate on
which rules and institutions should replace it. The current congressional debate over
China and the WTO is not about these issues, but rather over the conditions that should
accompany China's joining a deeply flawed institution.
There are good reasons to oppose China's entry into the WTO, and to oppose the current
framework for granting permanent normal trading relations (PNTR) with the United States.
However, these reasons do not include the singling-out of China on its human rights
record. The challenge for the post-Seattle coalition of citizen organizations is to
conduct the China debate in a way which builds upon the North-South and cross-sectoral
alliances that were strengthened in the Seattle and Washington protests. Many Southern
groups are rightly alarmed by the hyperbolic "China-bashing" that some opponents
of PNTR have used. The tactic of singling out China as the great rogue nation on a range
of issues weakens the strong North-South alliances that are critical to shifting the
direction of the global economy. There are strong "internationalist" reasons to
oppose the China deal, and we urge education and advocacy to center on these arguments.
The Larger Context
Since his first run for the presidency in 1992, Bill Clinton has paid
lip service to the concerns raised by labor unions, environmental groups, and others over
the social impacts of free trade. But while spouting touching rhetoric about "putting
a human face on globalization," he has continued to pursue new trade deals that
expand the power of global corporations, to the detriment of workers and communities
throughout the world.
The Clinton Administration's trade agreement with China, announced shortly before the WTO
Ministerial in Seattle in December 1999, is one such deal. This agreement exclusively
addresses market access issues, while ignoring the potential impact on employment,
environment, and democracy. The skepticism about whether the United States is pursuing a
social agenda in good faith is greatly enhanced by the U.S. announcement of an agreement
between the United States and China to permit China's entry to the WTO. From the
perspective of advocates for a WTO social agenda in trade agreements, the key question is
how the United States could manage to reach agreement on a complex series of issues paving
the way for China to join the WTO--including issues of intellectual rights protection,
textile quotas, and investment barriers--but somehow manage to come up short on securing
agreement to begin a meaningful process on social standards?
Indeed, insiders to the negotiations confirm that neither labor rights nor human rights
were even mentioned in the context of the negotiations. Some within the administration
have argued that such issues are best left to an agreement dedicated to these subjects,
and have made much of a long-stalled bilateral dialogue on human rights. In reality,
throughout 1999, the relationship between the United States and China was negatively
affected by a number of factors, including the U.S. bombing of a Chinese embassy in
Bosnia. One of the only venues for exchange was the trade talks, and the U.S. government
did not hesitate to use this venue to bring up a number of bilateral concerns. Why not,
then, labor or human rights? The subject of labor rights should have been particularly
germane to the discussion, as the administration had recently announced its support for a
working group on labor within the WTO. The fact that China opposes such a working group,
and that the United States did nothing to secure any change in China's position on this
issue, suggests that the United States is not serious about WTO reform. Advocates of
alternatives to the current free trade agenda must make serious concern and discussion of
social issues a precondition to individual bilateral country negotiations.
We do not support the permanent normalization of trade relations with China at this time
for the same reasons that we do not support any efforts to strengthen the current trade
and investment institutions without explicitly addressing social and environmental
concerns. The massive protests in Seattle against the WTO, as well as recent protests
against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC, have only
underscored the widespread public rejection of the trade and investment liberalization
Rather than expanding the free trade agenda, now is the time to put the brakes on these
policies so that the world can pursue a serious discussion about new rules for the global
economy that will reduce inequality and promote enhanced protection of labor and human
rights and environmental standards. Thus, we oppose not only the current China deal, but
also the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, the Caribbean Basin Initiative, fast track
trade negotiating authority, and the extension of NAFTA into a hemispheric agreement to be
called the Free Trade Area of the Americas (due to be completed in 2005). However, we
strongly support the need to develop alternatives to these proposals to ensure that the
benefits of global trade are broadly shared by the world's citizens; thus we were
encouraged by the alternative trade bill for Africa, Jesse Jackson Jr.'s HOPE bill. For
us, the China-related legislation is one more battle in the long fight FOR new rules to
guide the process of globalization that place the concerns of workers and communities at
the center. It is not a battle AGAINST China.
There are specific implications of the current China deal that are of particular concern.
1. WTO membership limits a country's ability to set domestic economic and social policy.
In China's case, workers have even more to lose from a reduced government role in the
economy than those in most countries. Currently, more than 100 million Chinese work in
state-owned enterprises. China's entry into the WTO will speed up privatization, resulting
in millions of layoffs. Free market reforms, including cuts in subsidies for state-owned
enterprises, have already caused millions of layoffs, provoking an explosion of protests
in many cities. Entry into the WTO is expected to accelerate job loss, including one
million layoffs in the textile industry and six million in the auto industry.
2. In the agriculture sector, the impacts will be even more severe. Peasant farmers now
make up more than 80 percent of the country's population. As a result of subsidy cuts and
trade liberalization, it will be very difficult for China's small-scale farming to survive
competition with global agribusiness corporations. Even the Chinese government concedes
that an estimated 10 million peasants will lose their livelihoods once the country joins
the WTO. A preview of what could come can be seen in the tragic situation of farmers in
Mexico. Since the passage of the NAFTA, hundreds of thousands of Mexican peasants have
lost their land due to drastic cuts in subsidies and a flood of cheap imports from the
American grain belt.
3. On top of unemployment fears, Chinese workers will face an erosion of social welfare
programs. Tariffs collected on imports have been a major source of the revenues used to
support China's social welfare system. WTO membership will reduce these revenues, likely
leading to soaring costs for health care and other services. According to the Asia Pacific
Center for Justice and Peace, "China used to be able to say with some validity that
while their system did not protect individual liberties, it did provide for social and
economic rights better than a free market economy such as the United States. Now,
increasingly, the Chinese system combines the worst features of capitalism and
4. Foreign direct investment in China to date has resulted in no increased protections for
human rights, nor specifically for workers' rights. In fact it is likely that such
investment has led to the rise of new types of rights abuses in China. U.S. and other
foreign direct investment in China has expanded dramatically since 1990, principally in
the light manufacturing industries of south China, but this investment has led to new
types of rights violations. Certain types of rights abuses, such as arbitrary detention,
lack of due process, torture, and arbitrary application of the death penalty have remained
chronic in China. Other rights violations, notably abuses of workers in these new
enterprises, have been on the rise; these abuses include excessive overtime, arbitrary
fines and other punishments, and exposure to hazardous chemicals and workplace conditions.
These problems are exacerbated by China's unique system of internal migration controls,
which bond the worker to the factory by giving the employer control over his or her
residence permit. Far from enjoying newfound economic freedom, millions of Chinese workers
now find themselves working as bonded laborers for foreign enterprises.
The Clinton Response
The Clinton administration argues that these types of abuses will be
remedied by "constructive engagement" with China through the country's
membership in a "rules-based" trading system. In reality, there is nothing to
suggest that China's entry into the WTO will translate into greater respect for human
rights. This is not simply due to recalcitrance on the part of China itself; China's major
diplomatic partners, including the United States, must share the blame. A bilateral
"dialogue" on human rights virtually ground to a halt last year. A longstanding
memorandum of understanding on prison labor has never been implemented. When the U.S.
government fails to take seriously its commitment to engaging China on any issue other
than trade, why should we expect the Chinese government to respond differently?
We have welcomed the vigorous debate around the upcoming congressional vote on PNTR, to
the extent that it has provided another opportunity to examine the free trade model.
However, we are alarmed at a number of statements and arguments by some of these critics
that are reminiscent of some of the worst "China-bashing" of the past 100 years.
In particular, some in the Pentagon, Congress, and the conservative think tank arena,
desperately in search of new enemies in the aftermath of the Cold War, are painting an
inaccurate picture of China as the great new military threat to U.S. interests in Asia.
There is ample evidence that China remains militarily weak and poses no threat (See James
H. Nolt's FPIF policy brief on U.S.-China-Taiwan Military Relations at
http://www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org/briefs/vol5/v5n11china.html). We would urge the
AFL-CIO and other progressive allies who oppose PNTR with China to speak out actively
against this attempted launching of a new cold war with China. This is a vital issue for
the months and years to come.
Alternatives to "China-Bashing"
We offer caution to those who are painting China as the worst abuser of
human rights in the world. While acknowledging that China has been a systematic violator
of worker rights and of many political and civil rights, we must also give China credit
for respecting many economic and social rights. And, overall, there are countries with
records as poor as China's on human and worker rights that are already WTO members. Of
course, the U.S. record on many of these rights is far from perfect.
The real problem is the U.S. government. By bilaterally negotiating the deal that becomes
the key step for China joining a multilateral agency, the United States once again
demonstrated the 800-pound gorilla approach that has proved to be a major constraint to
healthy international cooperation on serious policy issues. As long as the United States
insists on attempting to call the shots in every international institution, it will be
impossible to overcome the justifiable suspicions of governments and activists around the
world that any new international mechanisms to strengthen enforcement of worker rights and
environmental standards will only be manipulated by the U.S. government to serve its own
Thus, instead of arguing that China should be singled out, we support the proposals of the
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) concerning the development of a
mechanism that would provide incentives for all nations to adhere to international labor
standards. We acknowledge the criticisms of many that such a mechanism should not be
placed in the current undemocratic WTO with its free trade mandate. However, we support
calls for a more democratic global trade and investment regime that would be geared toward
promoting sustainable societies and dignified work. In such an institution, China and all
nations would undergo a review every several years on whether they are taking steps to
respect core rights, with any nation that fails to meet the criteria facing the same
sanctions. (The ICFTU recommends that the International Labor Organization (ILO) be
responsible for carrying out the review). Furthermore, the labor and human rights
standards that all countries must respect should be drawn from the core conventions of the
ILO and from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
(Sarah Anderson is the Director of the Global Economy Program and John Cavanagh is
the Director of the Institute for Policy Studies. Bama Athreya is the Director of Asia
Programs at the International Labor Rights Fund.)
NGOs call on the UN to withdraw
endorsement of "A Better World for All" document
Geneva, 28th June 2000
NGOs, peoples organisations and movements, organised in
caucuses, are outraged about the document released on Monday 26th of June at the United
Nations General Assembly Special Session on the Social Summit + 5, called A Better World
A Better World for All was released as a joint document produced by the OECD, IMF, World
Bank and the United Nations. It is based on the seven pledges made by the OECD member
countries in "Shaping the 21st Century", released in 1996. Although these
pledges were said to be extracted from the UN Conferences and the Social Summit, they were
only a small selection. The goal to reduce the proportion of people living in poverty by
half between 1990 and 2015 was introduced as a new goal by the OECD. With the increased
emphasis given by industrialised countries on the targets formulated by the OECD, this new
target has been elevated to being the principal target. The IMF presented it as the
principal target last year.
We have always welcomed specific objectives and time-bound targets. But we have also
recognised that these objectives need to be agreed in an inclusive process of
negotiations, with transparent procedures. While the OECD represents only the northern
countries, the same as those who are the majority shareholders of the World Bank and the
IMF, the UN represents the nations of the world on an equal basis. It provides the
principal forum for reaching political consensus in a participatory process that includes
both the North and the South. It therefore allows for joint decisions on how to address
common problems based on shared responsibility, mutual commitment and national ownership
of governance. Rather than imposing policies through conditionality, as the IMF and World
Bank do, the strength of the UN is its ability to promote national responsibility in a
shared international framework.
This document has been presented as a new consensus between the United Nations, the OECD,
the IMF and the World Bank. By doing so, it reinforced the perspectives from the North and
disempowered the South. It undermined the very concept of political inclusiveness that
defines the UN.
In the timing of its release this document is particularly damaging. At the moment when
UNGASS was in the final phase of negotiating very complex issues, this document advocates
a partisan vision forward. This biased message was emphasised by the Secretary General in
his opening statements, both at the General Assembly and at the Geneva 2000 forum. This
pre-empted the negotiations in the UNGASS and devalued its very process.
Secretary General Surrenders To Bretton Woods
The UN Charter clearly made a distinction between the UN and its specialised agencies,
including the Bretton Woods institutions. By doing so it separated the political process
from the executive responsibility with the objective to enhance the political
accountability of national governments to their citizens. We, therefore, take issue with
the equal status given by the signatories of the report between the United Nations, as
represented by the Secretary General, and the World Bank, IMF and OECD.
Patronising The Poor - Ignoring Poverty In The North
We are also appalled by the content of the report. In Copenhagen we made headway in
changing the notion of "the poor" as "victims of poverty" into
"people living in poverty" who are "citizens universally entitled to
development who should fully enjoy economic, social cultural, civil and political
rights". A Better World for All carries the image of poor people who need help and
will be grateful when assisted. The promotion of this image does not empower people living
in poverty to demand their rights. A Better World for All portrays poverty as a problem
only in the South. No statistics are provided of poverty in the North. In dealing with
global poverty the document totally ignores the persistence of poverty in the North. The
images show exactly the real nature of the new consensus: the North identifying the
problems of the South and providing the solutions for the South.
The importance of Copenhagen was the recognition that social development can only be
achieved in an enabling economic and political environment. Clearly A Better World for All
has weakened the political environment. While it pays lip service to the need to
"empower poor people" it belittles them. While it speaks of the importance of
"inclusive democracy" it undermines it. The introduction of the concept of
"pro-poor growth" places the responsibility of coming out of poverty on the
backs of the poor, particularly in the South.
A Better World for All is also regressing on the notions developed in Copenhagen on the
enabling economic environment. It fails to recognise the role that the International
Financial Institutions (IFIs) played in demanding economic policies that generated
poverty. The very policies of the Bretton Woods institutions focused on export-led growth
and, with disregard of wealth distribution and environmental sustainability, have been an
obstacle for national governments to develop social policies. Globalisation has failed to
respect workers' rights, including the principles contained in the ILO Declaration on
Fundamental Principles and Rights of Work; and to provide decent work for the majority of
the worlds people. This has had devastating consequences for workers and people in
general, especially for women and children. Rather than recognising how to contribute to
improve the economic environment, A Better World for All proposes that poverty eradication
can be achieved by further opening up of the markets of developing countries. It is indeed
evident from the recent financial crises in the East-Asian region and elsewhere, stemming
largely from rapid financial liberalisation, that these policies are not sustainable.
IFIs Deepen Poverty
Without changing the substance of their policies, the Bretton Woods Institutions have been
attempting to put the macro-economic policies that are advocated into a framework of
poverty eradication. Within this global plan, the IMF changed the name of the Enhanced
Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) into the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility
(PRGF). The World Bank and the IMF expect that the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers will
become a key instrument for countries' relations with the donor community. These plans
would also provide a basis for Bank and Fund concessional lending to support the country
as well as debt relief under the HIPC Initiative.
The PRSP emphasises - correctly - that national governments are responsible for social
development. However, the policies of the Bretton Woods institutions developed to reduce
poverty have not resolved the fundamental contradiction between Structural Adjustment
Policies, prescribed by the Washington policy-makers to national governments, with Social
Development. Whilst the PRSP is an attempt to foster social development, macro-economic
conditions by the IFIs for loans and debt relief have not changed. These conditions -
which include administrative and fiscal reform in the context of austerity programmes as
well as measures for further liberalisation of trade and finance - have destroyed local
productive capacity, increased unemployment and degraded the quality of public social
services. Globalisation and the neo-liberal system are simply not compatible with Social
Within the PRSP there is no offer to respond to the adverse effects of Structural
Adjustment nor are there any arrangements for adequate and additional means for investment
in social sectors. It is almost inevitable that the PRSP be an opportunity for donors to
impose additional conditionality on national governments. This will make national
governments responsible for social development without being in control of the means or
resources to implement policies that foster Social Development.
Bretton Woods For All?
We believe that the release of this document raises the stakes of the outcome of UNGASS.
The outcome is no longer just credible on a set of new initiatives to rectify the lack of
implementation that all can observe. It particularly demands that the wealthy nations
demonstrate their commitment to the Copenhagen goals and the UN system as a whole by
putting in place measures that honours their pledges in 1995.
We therefore call upon all Member States:
To demonstrate the commitment to the UNGASS Social development + 5
process in analysing the root-causes of poverty and gender inequality within the current
macro-economic framework of globalisation in the South and in the North.
To make a commitment to reversing the current decline in ODA and
establish a timetable in which the UN target of 0.7% of GNP will be met by 2005. Meeting
this long-standing commitment is crucial to re-building confidence between developing and
industrialised countries and to provide necessary resources for reaching social
To implement the immediate and full cancellation of the debt of the
developing countries to release resources for investment in social development. The burden
of debt is an obstacle to the right to development. Full debt cancellation for developing
countries would demonstrate political commitment for social development and would be an
appropriate response to the many civil society campaigns.
To introduce a Currency Transfer Tax (CTT) to counter the instability
of global capital transactions and to mobilise further resources for social development. A
CTT would be an effective means to counter the excessive volatility of short-term capital
transactions. It could potentially provide additional resources for social development.
The goals of Copenhagen cannot be achieved if developing countries are
marginalised in the decision-making process in the international institutions. They should
not and will not accept this. While much responsibility for achieving social development
and the eradication of poverty must be taken nationally, this cannot succeed without an
international enabling environment, which includes the provision of adequate resources.
NGOs Call For 2005 Summit
The Copenhagen Summit brought together the largest gathering of world leaders in history.
The importance of the Summit must be demonstrated by concrete results that can be
monitored. It is therefore imperative that in 2005, the mid-point between the historic
Summit and the date set for achieving many of the critical targets should be marked by
another gathering of meeting of world leaders. This is the best way to re-assert the
centrality of the Copenhagen commitments at the beginning of the new Millennium, and to
ensure that they receive the political attention that they deserve.
NGOs Call On Member States To Reject Document
NGOs call on Members of the United Nations to disassociate themselves from the document.
The content of this document does not reflect the spirit, opinion and positions of the
United Nations as a whole, nor that of civil society. Additionally the UN Agencies have
published documents which proclaim a different vision and propose policies which
contradict the A Better World for All document. NGOs at this conference have pledged to
continue to intensify a global campaign against the vision portrayed in this partisan
Letter to James Wolfensohn from the
Assembly of the Poor
What follows is the text of the letter to James Wolfensohn from the
Assembly of the Poor and other villagers whose livelihoods and lives have been threatened
by the World Bank-sponsored Pak Mun Dam on the Mun River in Thailand. This letter was
delivered to a World Bank official on Wednesday, June 14, and portions of it were read
over a bullhorn outside the World Bank.
June 5, 2000
Mr. James Wolfensohn
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Dear Mr. Wolfensohn,
We, the villagers affected by the Pak Mun Dam and Assembly of the Poor, write to you from
the fenced off car park and area around the crest of the Pak Mun dam. One thousand of us
have been living here since May 15, 2000 to demand the dam's flood gates be opened
permanently to allow fish migrating out of the Mekong to pass through to spawn upstream.
Ten years ago the World Bank and EGAT destroyed our livelihoods through the construction
of the Pak Mun dam. We were promised a better way of life but instead our fisheries were
decimated and our communities destroyed. Over the past ten years we have learnt that
compensation will not solve our problems and will only cause new problems. We believe that
the only way forward for our communities is for the dam to be decommissioned and the river
The World Commission on Dams (WCD) Summary for Forum: March 24, 2000, found that "the
actual [fish] catch in the reservoir and to a lesser extent also the river reach
immediately upstream of the reservoir is 60% to 80% less than in the pre-dam era. The
unexpected impacts of Pak Mun dam included dramatic decrease in fish species, fish
abundance and productivity; lower fishing income for the households and changes in fishing
occupation, fishing pattern, food expense, and the resultant social, economic and
political consequences. The Pak Mun dam has affected aquatic biodiversity and relative
abundance of fish populations up and down stream of the dam. The head pond has inundated
and destroyed significant spawning habitat habitats such as rapids."
The Summary for Forum also said "it is now clear that the fish ladder is not
accommodating seasonal fish migration from the Mekong River into Mun/Chi Watershed. The
Pak Mun dam, with only 136 MW installed capacity, de facto seals off a catchment area of
117,000 square km. Fish migration only takes place in flood period, usual in August and
September, when the flood gates are sometimes open. However the peak fish migration period
is from May to June, at the start of rainy season. Of the 265 species record in the Mun
watershed before 1994, 77 species were migratory. Furthermore 35 species depended on rapid
habitat by the Pak Mun reservoir. The latest survey after dam construction record only 96
species upstream of the dam. There has been an apparent impact on 169 fish species."
According to the Summary Report, the 136 MW Pak Mun scheme was designed to operate as
peaking plant, using the storage of the reservoir for daily operation. During wet months
Pak Mun cannot turbine the whole daily in flow in the 4 hours peak demand period and must
generate power in off-peak hours as well. When the water levels in the Mekong are very
high, the power plant will be shutdown for lack of generating head.
Inspection of Pak Mun's monthly energy generation value indicate that in April and May,
which are the most critical month in terms of power system demand and hydro availability,
not more than about 5 GWh is produced. If this output is spread evenly over the 4 hours
peaking period, the equivalent capacity is about 40 MW.
The WCD report said that the economic rate of return of the dam is between 4.6 to 5.6%,
less than the projected 12%.
Moreover, the WCD found that the actual irrigations benefit are zero.
Therefore, we call on the World Bank to take responsibility for the destruction you have
caused to our lives and to the ecology and fisheries of the Mun River. We demand the World
Bank work with the Thai government to decommission Pak Mun dam by opening the flood gates
permanently and restoring the Mun River.
Affected villagers by Pak Mun Dam and Assembly of the Poor
AUNG SAN SUU KYI TO WOMEN OF BURMA :
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF.
June 19, 2000
Bangkok, Mon:- Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the women of Burma to
work together for the improvement of the country with the reminder "Women should not
underestimate their strength and power".
In a bilingual video message to mark Women of Burma Day which also falls on her birthday
June 19, the pro-democracy leader said: "The struggle for democracy is not slowing
down - it is continuing strongly because of these women. Our party members have been
arrested especially after the formation of the CRPP in 1998. The relatives of those who
were or are arrested support us in many ways. We understand that this is the strength and
power of our women. Women should not underestimate their strength and power.
"Not long ago, I met with a lady whose son was arrested and another lady whose
daughter was also arrested. Both of these ladies have a very similar attitude. They
believe that what their children believe in is right and will support them with whatever
it takes. One mother told her daughter "Do not resign from the NLD because of
Ms Suu Kyi commented further: "I have noticed that among our colleagues, it is those
with the staunchest wives who are able to do the best work. It's the wife who decides how
effectively and how freely the husband can work in the political field. It is the wife who
is prepared to sacrifice her own comfort or her beliefs who is best able to help her
husband do his work. Women are very important in our movement.
"We find that it is the woman who sometimes have a better understanding of why we are
struggling for democracy because she strips away all the political jargon and gets down to
basic facts. What women want is a safer, better life for their children, for their
families. On the surface, this seems narrow and this seems selfish but it's not like that.
That is just on the surface. If you probe deeper, you find that there are wells of
understanding and empathy. Women can empathize with the fate of mothers whose children are
in prison, of wives who have lost their husbands, of women who are struggling to feed
families, of the housewife who goes to the bazaar daily with her heart pounding in case
prices have gone up again."
The Nobel Laureate also emphasised the role of women in work to improve ethnic relations
in Burma: "To have peace and unity in our country, women need to lead the way. Women
can work a lot more for understanding, unity and loving kindness amongst the ethnic
people. Women have more understanding towards each other. Whether it is a Mon mother,
Karen mother, Burman mother or Chin mother, they all would worry for their children and so
they understand each other. From this basic understanding, we have to build up unity as a
whole in our country.
"Therefore, I want our women to be more active and strong. If we all do what we can
to get democracy, we will be able to quickly attain our goal. Our goal is to have security
and peace for people of Burma. Therefore, I would like to request all women of Burma to
work together for this goal."
Ms Suu Kyi also used the occasion to thank women supporters from all over the world :
"I would like to use this occasion especially to thank our friends, our woman friends
from all over the world who have helped us. It is amazing how many women from different
countries have taken up the cause of democracy in Burma."
Groups around the world have organised events to commemorate Women of Burma Day including
in such countries as Thailand, Philippines, India, Japan, Australia, USA, UK and South
THAI WOMEN POLITICIANS SUPPORT WOMEN OF
Bangkok, Mon - Three activist women writers from Burma were overwhelmed
by the goodwill and support of Thai women politicians at an informal meeting held in
Bangkok this afternoon to mark Women of Burma Day. Women of Burma Day falls on June 19,
which is also the birthday of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The politicians at the ceremony were Mrs. Mukda Phonesombat (MP, Khon Khaen), Senator
Maleerat Keawka (Sakon-nakorn), Senator Malinee Sukaveiworakit (Nakornsawan), Senator
Prateep Ungsongtham Hata (Bangkok), Senator Samruey Kaevatana (Ayutthaya) and Senator
Tuenjai Deetes (Chiangrai). They expressed strong support for the work of women activists
striving for democracy using non-violent means. They also presented a birthday card to
Aung San Suu Kyi to the activists.
Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, Senator Tuenjai Deetes said that there was great
spiritual and moral support for the cause led by Ms Suu Kyi. "We are especially
concerned about the situation of the ethnic nationality women. We also realise that what
happens in Burma affects the people in Thailand."
The writers, all of whom fled Burma due to military harassment and attack, presented the
politicians with flowers and copies of the book "Burma ~ More Women's Voices".
The book, produced to mark Women of Burma Day 2000, features contributions by the women.
Ms July who wrote " A Family Tragedy" said: "I had not imagined that there
was so much support for the women in Burma. It was a wonderful surprise." Ms Phyu Lay
who wrote of her year-long trek evading military attack in the jungles of Burma said:
"I was so happy to meet them and see their support and interest." Ms Ying Cherry
who wrote an article on national reconciliation in Burma was inspired by the women's
achievements in politics. "I hope that our women will get the same chances when Burma
The event was also attended by pro-democracy activists from Forum-Asia, Thai Action
Committee for Democracy in Burma, Asian Network for Free Elections and Altsean-Burma.
World Bank 'broke own rules' on loan
The World Bank broke seven of 10 of its own regulations when it
examined and decided to back a controversial loan to resettle some 60,000 Chinese farmers
in traditional Tibetan lands, the Financial Times reported on Monday citing a report
prepared for the bank. The US$160 million (HK$1.25 billion) loan has come under fire from
both the United Tibetan exile groups, who say the resettlement plan is tantamount to
''cultural genocide,'' and the United States, which has been urging China to withdraw the
The report, compiled by three independent development specialists at the request of the
World Bank's Board of Executive Directors, found repeated instances where the bank's
operational policies and procedures were not followed, according to the newspaper, which
said it had obtained a copy. The specialists found that key population groups due to be
resettled were not properly consulted, alternative investment and project alternatives
were not considered and compared, and the project was not properly classified. It also
concluded that the bank's environmental assessments and the standard of maps, charts and
references were inadequate, and that the bank did not properly comply with its own rules
when assessing the impact the project would have on indigenous communities in the area,
the article said.
The investigators also concluded that information was not disclosed in accordance with
bank rules, the Financial Times said.
Human rights activists said there was now enough evidence in the public domain for the
project to be cancelled outright. "It's really hard to see how the bank is going to
fix this project," John Ackerly, president of the International Campaign for Tibet,
said. "After so many bungles, there's no way they could go on with it without
severely damaging the credibility of the bank."
World Bank officials were not immediately available to comment. Bank President Wolfensohn,
in a confidential June 21 letter to directors accompanying the report, said the so-called
China Western Poverty Reduction Project was too political for the bank's managers to be
The newspaper said Mr Wolfensohn had wanted to release the scathing report, commissioned
in order to respond to criticisms by the International Campaign for Tibet, one of the
largest pro-Tibetan groups, in the interest of improving transparency - but the bank's 24
executive directors opposed the release. Publication plans were abruptly cancelled after
an emergency board meeting decided that publication would go against bank rules, the paper
"Mr Wolfensohn's personal view is that the report should be released, but the board
considered it and felt there were not enough grounds for making an exception to normal
bank procedure," the article quoted Sven Sandstrom, the World Bank's managing
director, as saying.
The World Bank staff initially appeared unaware of the political implications when it
began assessing the project. The bank's board approved the loan last year against the
wishes of the US and Germany, two of the institution's top three shareholders, but
financing was delayed until the specialists investigated objections to the project.
Mr Wolfensohn has accepted some of the criticisms and proposed putting the project on hold
for at least a year while further studies were carried out, including the commissioning of
a higher-level environmental analysis, the upgrading of social assessments and the
provision of better maps and documentation, according to the newspaper report.
Thailand - Peoples' Assembly
Against the IMF/World Bank
Below is a a copy of the unity statement adopted April's People's
Assembly Against IMF-WB and Imperialist Globalization held in Washington, DC. the folks at
the People's Assembly would like to ask your organization, network, friends, supporters of
the Peoples Assembly to sign on to the Unity Statement and show both support for the
Peoples Assembly and opposition to the IMF-World Bank and current globalization policies.
You can use your individual names and organizations. You may send your
"signatures" to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Peoples' Assembly Against the IMF/World Bank
We, the Peoples' Assembly Against the IMF/World Bank, are firmly united in the task of
exposing and opposing the International Monetary Fund/World Bank and advancing the
people's resistance to imperialist globalization.
Imperialist globalization must be unmasked and fully discredited. It is monopoly
capitalism masquerading as a new and wonderful product of the electronic age. It ravages
the environment, devastates countries and subjugates entire peoples with unequaled
ferocity and ruthlessness.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) are tools of imperialist
globalization. They are instruments of multinational corporations (MNCs) and imperialist
states for dictating financial and monetary policy on client states. In the end, the
IMF/WB cannot be reformed, but must be dismantled. US imperialism controls the IMF/WB
contrary to the official propaganda that member states enjoy decision-making powers.
Imperialist states, led by the United States, and acting as protectors and promoters of
the super-profits of giant monopoly firms, are intensifying the exploitation and
oppression of all peoples around the world. They are the masterminds of increased worker
exploitation, the perpetrators who violate peasants' and workers' rights leaving them
landless and in feudal and semi-feudal bondage, the chief instigators of human rights
violations, and the biggest plunderers and polluters of the environment.
Imperialist globalization is not inevitable. It is not unstoppable. We have proven this
time and time again in tactical battles against the neoliberal policies of liberalization,
deregulation and privatization against the debt trap and in the recent highly successful
anti-MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments) Campaign. The peoples of the world
were successful in launching massive protests and shutting down the World Trade
Organization (WTO) in Seattle, Washington last December 1999.
While we struggle for reforms and try to achieve palpable gains on immediate issues, we
make sure that we are not distracted from the overall struggle against the main enemy of
the world's peoples today -- imperialism -- specifically the No. 1 imperialist power, the
We vow to close ranks to confront the imperialist monster that has taken away our land,
jobs and livelihood and has further displaced, commodified and turned women into
modern-day slaves. We denounce imperialist globalization that has impoverished us and left
us hungry, sick, without decent housing, and has stolen our youth's future.
We commit ourselves to bring down this system which is bringing genocidal wars of
imperialist intervention and domination upon the peoples of the world. We demand an end to
the economic blockade of Cuba, the ongoing bombing of Iraq and the use of the United
Nations sanctions to bring sovereign countries to heel.
We firm up our resolve to promote and develop the anti-imperialist and democratic struggle
of the workers and oppressed peoples against the inhumane policies and acts of the MNCs,
their governments and international instruments such as the IMF, World Bank, World Trade
Organization and military alliances.
We support the calls of the International League of Peoples' Struggles which will be
founded at the end of the year 2000.
Finally, we stand ready to fight for the following:
National and social liberation from imperialism and all reaction and
resistance to foreign aggression and intervention;
Human rights in he civil, political, economic, social and cultural
fields against state violence national oppression, class exploitation, fascism, racism and
The cause of peace against wars of aggression and against nuclear and
Independent trade union and workers' and toilers' rights and
reduction of working hours at full pay against mass unemployment and decreasing wage
Rights of peasants, farm workers and fisherfolk against feudal and
semifeudal exploitation and oppression;
The rights of women and rights against all forms of sexual
discrimination, exploitation and violence;
The rights of the youth to education and employment;
Children's rights against child labor and other forms of
Rights of indigenous peoples oppressed nations and nationalities
against chauvinism and racism;
The rights of teachers, researchers and other educational personnel;
The right of the people to health care and the rights of health
The rights, welfare and release of political prisoners;
Rights and welfare of displaced persons, refugees and migrant
Environmental protection against plunder and pollution; and
The right to safe and health food free from genetic manipulation.