In 1999, anti-globalization protests rocked the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations in Seattle and gave birth to a new era of the global justice movement. At every turn the WTO has faced major protest from outside the negotiations and dissent from inside, from Seattle to Doha to Cancun to Hong Kong and now this week in Bali, Indonesia. As the 9th ministerial meeting of the WTO opens in Bali today, December 3, the feeling in the streets of Bali this week is one of urgency, powerful resistance, and increasing unity across social movements, sectors and borders.
Over the past 14 years since the historic failure of the 1999 WTO meetings in Seattle, movements have sharpened, grown and matured. Grassroots Global Justice Alliance traces some of our own roots to the momentum that grew during and after the Battle of Seattle in organized communities of color, educating each other about the WTO and protesting the neoliberal trade model. The social movements from across Latin America and the Caribbean Islands have deepened their alignment through the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América—ALBA). Now in Bali, the social movements of Asia have declared a new hemispheric alliance: Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA), including grassroots organizations from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Bangladesh, and Cambodia uniting in a shared commitment to building an alternative economy that places people and nature at the center.
Movements are getting stronger and tighter, and building bottom up grassroots power, fundamentally changing the conditions in which the WTO operates—there is a strong clarity coming from global movements calling for a complete end to the WTO and its neoliberal policies. At the same time, there is increasing urgency in the global justice movement—our planet’s survival is at stake. From Superstorm Sandy in New York to the Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines, extreme weather events across the world are becoming more and more commonplace.
The climate crisis is at a boiling point, and the planet cannot sustain the drive toward endless trade, over-production and consumption that is the heart of what the WTO aims to protect. “The world is living a very crucial moment because transnational corporations all over the world want to increase their profit,” says Pablo Solon, Director of Focus on the Global South. “The main goal is how they remove what they call the barriers, the protections that states have in relation to their national producers so that they can conquer the remaining markets that are not yet conquered by big transnational corporations.”
We know that the forces that control the WTO will not stop themselves—we must be the ones to stop them! We have blocked the WTO’s progress at every stage over the past 14 years, and we can do it again in Bali. Over 1,000 farmers, trade unions, students, women and youth from more than 30 countries protested in Bali on December 3 to show their total rejection of the WTO and the free trade regime. People were mobilized through mass movements like Gerak Lawan, an alliance of Indonesian Peoples Movements against Neocolonialism and Imperialism, SMAA, and La Vía Campesina. As the WTO meets in Bali throughout the week, they will be confronted with a week of actions from social movements demanding an end to their destructive policies. Today across the US people are protesting the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 29 cities to coincide with the December 3rd day of action.
“We are living in a historic moment where struggles are confronting unchecked, unregulated free markets all across the globe,” says Edgar Franks of Community to Community Development in Washington state, and member of the GGJ delegation to Bali. “The moment calls for us to build and stand side by side with the people of Asia. The moment calls for us to engage participatory process in our communities where we get to decide who and what power really is. It is up to us to create our own alternatives and to demonstrate that another world is possible.”