Making Globalization a Local Issue
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MAKING GLOBALIZATION A LOCAL ISSUE
Neil Watkins is coordinator of the World Bank Bonds Boycott
campaign with the Center for Economic Justice.
This commentary was produced by Sharon Basco.
The Quebec City mobilization of demonstrators against the
proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas was the latest in a
growing protest movement calling for human and environmental
rights to take precedence over corporate rights.
Many people first heard about the growing resistance to
corporate-led globalization in November 1999, at the time of
the protests against the World Trade Organization's meeting
in Seattle. But what is behind this new ascendance of
activism and fervor for street protest?
More and more people -- especially young people -- are
learning about the effects of "free trade" policies on
people and the planet -- and they are taking action. As
corporations gain power in our increasingly globalized
economy, working people, the natural environment, and the
poor are losing out -- both in our own country and around
International institutions and treaties like the FTAA, the
WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank are pushing a "global race
to the bottom" wherein corporations scour the world, looking
to invest in countries with the lowest wages and most
limited consumer and environmental protections.
But there's hope that such a scenario can be avoided. Since
Seattle, protests against harmful global economic policies
have popped up in every corner of the globe -- from
Washington, D.C., to Chiang Mai, from Davos to Prague, and
in Quebec City. But in addition to these raucous
international demonstrations, activists are increasingly
acting locally to stop the harmful aspects of globalization.
One campaign which makes economic globalization a local
issue -- the World Bank Bonds Boycott -- is picking up
steam. Modeled on and led by veterans of the anti-apartheid
movement, the boycott is based on a surprising fact -- that
the World Bank raises nearly all its money by issuing bonds.
World Bank bonds are bought by institutional investors like
city or state pension funds, trade union pension funds,
university endowments, and others. This gives us a powerful
tool to exert influence over the policies of one of the
major institutions that promotes an unsustainable model of
globalization. Community activists, students, and working
people across the country are spreading the campaign.
In just the past few months, the growing campaign to
pressure the World Bank by committing not to buy World Bank
bonds has encompassed city councils including San
Francisco's, unions such as the Communications Workers of
America and United University Professions, religious
communities including the Marianist Brothers, and socially
responsible investors like Calvert Group. This boycott
challenges the World Bank to drop its harmful lending
practices known as "structural adjustment" and to cancel
debts owed to it by poor countries -- or face a growing
grassroots mobilization not seen since the movement to end
South Africa's apartheid system.
The boycott is just one element of a growing movement. It
includes popular protests and other powerful strategies by
grassroots organizations in developing countries, as well as
mobilizations like the one in Quebec City. The challenge to
corporate globalization is far from over. In fact, it has
only just begun.
This is Neil Watkins for TomPaine.com.
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