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Resisting the World Trade Organisation (WTO): Important African Continental meeting in August

21.07.2003

"TAKING THE SPIRIT OF SEATTLE TO CANCUN ! ”

This is the topic of an important African Continental meeting to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa during the month of August. Organised by the Africa Trade Network(ATN) and the Southern African Peoples’ Solidarity Network(SAPSN) this meeting will unite various peoples’ organisation of Africa. Lalit militants active in social movements will be participating in this crucial meeting being held just one month before the WTO meeting in Mexico.

Here is an extract of the document being circulated by ATN/SAPSN explaining the reasons of this important African meeting:

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Over the past five years, in the run-up to and since the famous events around the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle in December 1999, African peoples and civil society organisations have been stimulated to become more engaged in questioning the role of the WTO. These and many other peoples organisations, especially in the South are more informed on the negative impact of the WTO’s agreements against the human rights and development needs of their peoples, communities, and countries; and have undertaken a diverse range of activities against the WTO and to stop the further expansion of its neo-liberal agenda. These and similar organisations throughout the world are more aware and more active against the undermining by the WTO of their democratic rights to decide the policies and responsibilities of their elected governments.

A further set of challenges now face peoples organisations in Africa and throughout the world as the WTO - driven above all by the governments of the most powerful and richest industrialised countries, and ‘their’ transnational corporations - is being geared up for its Fifth WTO Ministerial meeting, to take place in Cancun, Mexico, 10-14 September 2003. This meeting is being designed, on the one hand, to deepen many existing WTO agreements within the ‘built-in-agenda’ that has been carried forward over the past decade. But is intended also to widen the coverage and powers of this central institution of an emerging system of remote, inaccessible and undemocratic ‘global government’.


As with the international campaign against new imperialist wars of aggression, there is also growing public awareness of the more hidden but permanent dangers posed by the WTO against peoples’ sovereignty and democratic rights. They are joining together in the international peoples movement against this ‘legalised’ instrument of imperial domination and re-colonisation. Diverse campaigns are underway in many countries to build up mass mobilisations towards- and against - Cancun. Many developing country governments have expressed their own dissatisfaction with the outrageously biased and undemocratic processes within the WTO. And the more determined governments in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are resisting being steam-rolled into accepting the aims and agenda of the major powers. On the other hand, governments in the South are coming under enormous financial, economic and political pressures from the major powers. Many governments are also very vulnerable to the skilful tactics that stronger governments, especially the EU and the US, may yet contrive separately or together; and governmental resistance in the South may weaken or be out-manoeuvred, as they were in Doha.

The Africa Trade Network (ATN) - drawing together developmental, environmental, Human rights and other NGOs, trade union and other labour bodies, women’s networks, faith-based and community-based organisations, grassroots social movements, and many others across the continent – has been actively engaged over recent years in spreading in-depth and up-to-date information on the WTO and other related trade agreements affecting Africa. ATN member organisations have also been actively engaged in encouraging joint positions and actions by peoples organisations within their respective countries and sub-regions, at international gatherings such as the World Social Forum, and within/around and against the WTO meetings (most effectively in Seattle). Thus, it is in this tradition that AIDC as a member organisation of the Southern African Peoples Solidarity Network (SAPSN) and the ATN, and in co-operation with the Third World Network Africa (TWN-Africa) as the secretariat of the ATN, have undertaken to organise a continental in-gathering of African organisations in Johannesburg, South Africa, under the umbrella of the ATN in the lead up to Cancun.

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(Extract of the document being circulated by ATN/SASPN)