WTO and Indigenous Peoples: Resisting Globalization, Asserting Self-Determination
The World Trade Organization (WTO) and Indigenous Peoples: Resisting Globalization, Asserting Self-Determination
WTO of the Sky, Trees, Plants, Water, Soils, Seeds, Indigenous Knowledge and Life
The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) went to the 9th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC9) held in Bali, Indonesia, December 3-6, 2013, as an invitation from our brothers and sisters of the Indigenous peoples of Indonesia and the Philippines to take part in a series of activities on “Indigenous Peoples and the WTO: Resisting Globalization, Asserting Self-Determination”. The invitation also invited IEN to the Peoples Global Camp against WTO and Neoliberalization, as one of two large civil society parallel meetings to the WTO MC9.
The Indigenous activities were jointly organized by the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA), Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN), Centre for Research and Advocacy-Manipur, Committee on the Protection of Natural Resources in Manipur, Land is Life (LiL), and the Archipelago Indigenous Youth Front-Indonesia (BPAN) under Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara or AMAN. The objectives of the Indigenous activities were:
- Build deeper understanding and awareness on the WTO and neoliberal globalization, and its impacts on indigenous peoples. Position the struggles of indigenous peoples in the mainstream of the global campaign against WTO and globalization;
- Act as a forum for exchange and learning on the impacts of WTO on indigenous peoples, and how we confront these. Forge solidarity among indigenous peoples and with other similarly affected sectors of society against neoliberal globalization; and
- Formulate a Unity Statement of Indigenous Peoples that shall be submitted to the WTO MC 9 and shall be part of the PGC statement on WTO; and unite on an Action Plan in engaging the WTO and Neoliberalization.
The Unity Statement of Indigenous Peoples was successfully written and adopted by the Indigenous organizations in attendance. It is titled, “Declaration-The World Trade Organization (WTO) and Indigenous Peoples: Resisting Globalization, Asserting Self-Determination”. Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs) are being invited to endorse the Declaration.
IEN, as a member of the US-based Grassroots for Global Justice (GGJ). http://ggjalliance.org/ joined other allies such as Polaris Institute, Canada; Focus on the Global South, Bangkok, Thailand; La Via Campesino; and the Climate Space group from the World Social Forum to participate in the Gerak Lawan (People’s Movement against Neocolonialism and Imperialism) and the Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA) EndWTO assembly to work with other movements in Asia and around the world, to dismantle the ongoing efforts to revive the WTO.
IEN did not seek accreditation to participate within the governmental WTO MC9. IEN joined activists to begin the process for formulating an alternative model of international trade based on economic justice.
Indigenous peoples, social movements, peasants, fisherfolks, women, youth, workers, migrants, environmental and trade justice activists and organizations all have proposals of alternatives that are based on justice. Many have in fact been implementing their alternatives such as agro-ecology, food sovereignty and several other examples, all showing that it is possible to have a different way of surviving and meeting the needs of our respective communities.
As Indigenous peoples, we are just beginning to plan for regional workshops on what economic justice means to us – from our diverse indigenous nations locally and globally.
IEN believes we can come together and create a grassroots-based international trading system that promotes economic justice, based on our cultural resilience, in harmony with our indigenous Original Instructions and a system that is in solidarity with our inherent rights as Indigenous peoples.
IEN 4 Priorities of our participation in the WTO Civil Society Activities
- To strengthen our networking and movement building activities with the Indigenous peoples and organizations of Indonesia, Philippines, Asia and Africa.
- To build understanding and awareness on the WTO and neoliberal globalization and its impact to Indigenous peoples locally, nationally and its global impacts. One focus would be on the link of the WTO to its promotion of free trade and investments that are not about the mitigation of climate change, but promote a fossil fuel economy.
- To bring to the Indigenous and non-Indigenous events, better understanding of the link of REDD (Reducing Emissions of Deforestation and Degradation) as a pillar of the WTO’s green economy and part of the privatization of nature agenda; along with its market-based regime with no safeguards preventing human rights abuses and land grabs.
- To take part in the writing of the Unity Statement of Indigenous Peoples on the WTO with an emphasis on language demanding for the creation of a new paradigm in global trade instruments and economic systems that fully recognizes the vital life-giving cycles, well-being and territorial integrity of Mother Earth.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) and Indigenous Peoples:
Resisting Globalization, Asserting Self-Determination
We, the Indigenous Peoples of Mother Earth gathered here in Bali, Indonesia on 2-6 December 2013, organizing our own workshop and various events parallel to the World Trade Organization Ninth Ministerial Meeting (WTO MC9), hereby agreed to resist neoliberal globalization and assert our right to Self-Determination.
As Indigenous Peoples of the land and the waters, we have a close relationship to Mother Earth and nature. This relationship tells us that life on Mother Earth is in danger and coming to a time of great transformation. We are accepting the responsibility as the guardians of the earth, which has been designated by our respective Original Instructions woven into our cosmovisions, cultures, languages, and ways of life. We are telling the trade ministers of the world governments that we must all work together to create a new paradigm in global trade instruments and economic systems that fully recognizes the vital life-giving cycles, well-being and territorial integrity of Mother Earth.
We reaffirm our responsibilities to protect and defend our lands, water, territories, natural resources, culture and traditional knowledge, all of which are vital to the survival of all of humanity and for future generations. We will persevere in our struggle in reclaiming our inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples and for the well-being of Mother Earth. Until the right to self-determination of Indigenous Peoples and universal laws that recognize Mother Earth as a living being are observed and respected, genuine sustainable development will not be achieved.
We share a common history of colonization and globalization. For centuries, we experienced the colonization of our lands, territories, air, ice, oceans and waters, mountains and forests. Colonialism institutionalized the oppression and exploitation of Indigenous Peoples up to the current era of globalization, exacerbated by the neoliberal impositions of multilateral trade agreements implemented over six decades through the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), replaced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. In its 9th Ministerial Conference, we believe that the WTO will only push for greater neoliberal policies on globalization, liberalization, privatization, deregulation, and denationalization that will consequently intensify the violation of our inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples and the multiple crises that humanity confronts today.
Thus, with our common problems, aspirations and struggles, we resolved to strengthen our unity as Indigenous Peoples and link our struggles with various democratic sectors and organizations worldwide until our right to self-determination and liberation is achieved.
The World Trade Organization and Violation of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights
The WTO is the primary instrument of neoliberal globalization to further economic globalization especially in international trade. It aims to build a unitary system of trade relations of countries around the world governed by various agreements. WTO’s catchphrases of “borderless world”, “leveling the playing field” and “free market democracies”, involves the removal of restrictions or so-called trade barriers that hinder greater corporate profit. While the WTO binds the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to implement the neoliberal policies on trade of goods and services, the few capitalist countries on the other hand, protect their economies from these “free market” policies.
Several WTO Ministerials, such as the Doha Development Round in 2001, collapsed due to continuing disagreements over subsidies on agricultural products, market access, and special safeguard mechanisms, and massive Peoples’ protests. In its 9th Ministerial Conference, the WTO will make decisions on any of the multilateral trade related agreements such as the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMS), and General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and forge new multilateral agreements. The proposed agreement for the MC9 called the Bali Package will push for greater liberalization in agriculture, acceleration of LDCs in the WTO, and expedite trade facilitation through restructuring of GATT articles on imports-exports and trade costs. The Bali Package, along with post-Bali issues on International Technology Agreement (ITA) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), are labeled by developed countries as the solution to the stalled Doha Round to pursue intensified trade liberalization.
Indigenous Peoples, especially future generations, will be extremely affected by these decisions and agreements. For over 6 six decades now, since colonization, neoliberal policies have intensified the sufferings of the Indigenous Peoples. Our lands, territories and natural resources have been exploited by unsustainable development projects, such as mono-cultural chemically intensive plantations, extractive industries such as mining, oil drilling, hydro projects and other environmentally destructive “renewable” energy projects. Trade and investment liberalization have resulted in development aggression and plunder of our territories. We have been displaced from our Indigenous lands and territories. Our Indigenous knowledge, values and spirituality have been bastardized. And our rights to self-determination, to our own governance and own self-determined development have been violated. While defending our inherent and collective rights, we continue to suffer from militarization and State terrorism, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, assassination, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, criminalization of community resistance, harassment and vilification as “terrorists.” All of this has happened for the sake of globalization, and is bound to worsen as the WTO imposes more agreements and policies.
Our experiences show that the removal of tariffs and quantitative restrictions on import goods has led to the influx of foreign products in domestic markets. The AoA has unleashed agricultural liberalization and imposed the importation of agricultural crops even if locally produced. It has forced many developing countries to favor transnational agricultural companies like Monsanto and compelled impoverished Indigenous Peoples to use high yielding varieties (HYV) seeds without being informed of the negative effects. The AoA pushes for commercial agricultural production, replacing traditional plant varieties with genetically altered species marketed by agriculture companies, and chemical-laden foods. The AoA eliminates the ability of Indigenous Peoples to produce culturally appropriate and sufficient food. Such trading system is detrimental to Indigenous Peoples’ food security, health and sustainability. It forces dependency to the capitalist market and weakens Indigenous Peoples’ ability to self-determined development and food sovereignty. The WTO demands reduction of subsidies on price support, while capitalist countries refuse to apply this in their own economies. This has damaged livelihoods resulting in bankruptcy of farmers including Indigenous Peoples, as they are unable to compete with subsidized and cheaper imports from abroad. States worsen this situation by failing to protect Indigenous Peoples’ sources of livelihood and food, land and resources.
Through our harmonious relations with nature as part of our spirituality, culture and beliefs, we maintain knowledge and practice of Indigenous medicines from medicinal plants and animals. We, however, are denied rights and control over our Indigenous medicines when these are taken over by big corporations as their intellectual property rights under WTO. Big pharmaceutical corporations race for patents to gain exclusive control for the production, marketing, distribution and sales of products derived from indigenous knowledge and practice. We are also alarmed that the WTO allows the patenting of life forms including extraction of genetic information under its TRIPS. These capitalist monsters treat Indigenous Peoples as valuable and vulnerable targets for medical research and experiments.
Trade agreements on services have further marginalized and impoverished us, with very limited access to basic social and health services, a situation worsened by government neglect and discrimination. Our right to quality and affordable education and health is further violated by GATS which allows foreign corporations to own and operate educational and health institutions leading to profit-oriented and corporate owned services that are available only to the few who have the means to pay. Education is designed to meet the needs and interests of the multinational corporations and the advanced capitalist countries above the social values and needs of Indigenous communities and national development of poor countries. As a result, the youth and the next generations’ futures are bleak and the survival of our Indigenous knowledge is in peril.
Globalization has even destroyed our biological and cultural diversity, ecosystems, values and traditional knowledge that constitute our existence as humans and as Indigenous Peoples. It is the culprit of the climate crisis, which exacerbates the historical, political, and economic marginalization of Indigenous Peoples. It puts Indigenous Peoples in a very vulnerable situation, notwithstanding the fact that Indigenous Peoples have contributed the least to the climate crisis.
The dominant world capitalist system under which the WTO and similar trade agreements operate is the culprit to the multiple crises that humanity confronts today. The neoliberal policies of globalization, liberalization, deregulation, privatization and denationalization are the root causes of the protracted economic, financial, political, and climatic crises that have put Indigenous Peoples in more oppressive and exploitative conditions and the planet on the brink of destruction. The WTO MC9 in its Bali Package is hell-bent on pushing and imposing more new deals that would intensify our misery ten-fold, as it demands the acceleration of neoliberal globalization for more profit to the few ruling elite of the advanced capitalist countries and their transnational corporations above the interest of Indigenous Peoples, humanity and Mother Earth. Clearly, the WTO advances the neoliberal globalization framework and violates all the rights of Peoples, including Indigenous Peoples and Nations, to self-determination, life and liberty. The WTO is an instrument that serves the primary interest of the multinational corporations and the few advanced capitalist countries to the detriment of Indigenous Peoples worldwide, humanity, Mother Earth and all life.
We will persevere in our struggle to gain self-determination and autonomy. Until our right to self-determination is respected, genuine sustainable development will not be achieved.
We are united to oppose and reject the commodification, privatization and plunder of nature, which includes the green economy, false- or market-based solutions including biodiversity and conservations offsets that put profit above humanity and the planet. We are in solidarity to resist neoliberal globalization. We are united to fight for our rights to self-determination and assert the future we want. We declare to Junk WTO, oppose new deals, and push for an alternative trade agenda appropriate to Indigenous Peoples.
We push for an alternative trade system appropriate for us. We do not just reject trade per se, but push for trade systems that respect and recognize our traditional economies and governance. We envision systems that promote solidarity, mutual cooperation and respect, based on the needs and development of our communities and empowerment of our people. We demand systems that underpin our inherent right to self-determination and our permanent sovereignty over our traditional lands, territories and resources, forests, water, and everything that sustains life for the future generations. We demand systems that reject, and call for the abolition of, all colonial, unequal, and neocolonial trade agreements such as the WTO and other similar trade agreements.
We will continue to strengthen our ranks and further develop and mobilize the capacities of the young generations and women in advancing our struggles against neoliberal globalization and its instruments like the WTO until its removal. We will link our struggles not only with Indigenous Peoples worldwide, but also with other Peoples’ movements, democratic and marginalized sectors and civil society organizations (CSOs) that have common goals and aspirations with that of Indigenous Peoples. We join the worldwide movement to Junk WTO and reject Neoliberal Globalization.
We commit to consolidate our efforts to engage the WTO and other multilateral, regional and bilateral trade syndicates/agreements, and we strongly oppose agreements forged without our knowledge, participation, and consent. In our engagement to these trade agreements, we shall bring to the forefront as main points of assertion our inherent right to self-determination, self-determined and sustainable development, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Alta Outcome Document and other declarations on our collective rights as Indigenous Peoples.
We shall strive to achieve gains that go beyond the mechanisms and opportunities in the UN, and of the benevolence of States and governments. Like in other international fora, processes and mechanisms, we shall create our own spaces asserting our rights to lands, territories, and self-determination.
We must take collective control of our natural resources based on the principles of people’s participation, gender equality, environmental and social justice, self-reliant and sustainable management systems and mindful of the needs of the whole of humanity while maintaining a deep respect, responsibility and recognition of the natural laws of Mother Earth and all creatures within. We must regain sovereignty over our lands and resources from multinational corporations and capitalist countries. We focus on building sustainable communities based on indigenous knowledge and peoples’ development, not on capitalist development. We must strive to promote and assert our sustainable ways of life, social and cultural values for the common good and the whole of society, collective interest over individual, service over profit, respect and care for nature and Mother Earth, including our viable solutions as opposed to false solutions to climate change.
While we continue to unite as Indigenous Peoples worldwide, we also uphold the spirit of international solidarity with other sectors, organizations, activists and genuine advocates of our issues. This solidarity advances our global campaign for Indigenous Peoples’ rights to self-determination and liberation. Junk WTO! No New Deals!
Our Immediate Demands
As we conclude our workshop and events parallel to the WTO MC9, we state the following demands to the World Trade Organization, the States and Corporations:
We demand for focus on new economies based on the principles of living in harmony with nature and governed by the absolute limits and boundaries of ecological sustainability, the carrying capacities of Mother Earth, and in recognition of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.
We demand for a stop to the capitalism of nature. All economic frameworks and trade regimes that privatize and financialise the functions of nature through green economy initiatives must be halted. Mother Earth is the source of life which needs to be protected, not a resource to be exploited and commodified as a natural capital. We call for the halt of all policies controlling the reproductive capacity of Mother Earth through market-based mechanisms that allow for the quantification and commodification of the natural processes of Mother Earth being branded as ecosystem services.
We demand for the respect of Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights, such as but not limited to their traditional lands, territories, resources, free prior informed consent (FPIC), self-determination, culture and identity, and traditional management systems as enshrined in the UNDRIP and other international standards in negotiations and agreements. All trade agreements on investments, programs and projects affecting our lands, territories, communities, culture and identity without our FPIC must be immediately revoked and cancelled.
We demand for the repeal of all trade agreements affecting us without our meaningful, full and effective participation and FPIC. Likewise, we demand for Indigenous Peoples’ full and active participation in decision-making processes and discourses on trade and other matters affecting us at all levels. Our right to FPIC is fundamental, and thus we continue to assert that this must be respected. Nothing About Us, Without Us!
We demand for the full recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ inherent and inalienable right to self-determination and permanent sovereignty over our lands, territories, resources, air, ice, oceans, waters, mountains and forests.
We demand an end to the militarization of our communities, for States and corporations to be held accountable on human rights violations, and ensured justice to the victims and their families and communities who have experienced such atrocities.
Likewise, States should provide concrete support, such as appropriate technologies and funds, to help us develop for ourselves our own self-determined and sustainable development models ad methods.
Stop the theft and patenting of our traditional seeds, medicines, traditional knowledge, and our identity. Stop the commodification of our sacred culture for mega-tourism projects and other big businesses.
Stop the criminalization of community resistance and end the culture of impunity. Pull out State armed forces in Indigenous territories, and uphold the responsibility to provide basic social services to Indigenous communities.
Affirmed this 3rd day of December 2013, in Bali, Indonesia.
- Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL)
- Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN)
- Alyansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN)
- Barisan Pemuda Adat Nusantara (BPAN)
- Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA)
- Land is Life
- Committee for the Protection of Natural Resources-Manipur
- Center for Research and Advocacy-Manipur
- Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
- International Organisation for Self-Determination and Equality (IOSDE)
- Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP)
- BAI National Network of Indigenous Women in the Philippines
- Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center