29/08/2002 PRESS RELEASE
Monday 12 August, 2003
Asian activists tell US military, IMF, World Bank and WTO
to "pack their bags"
BANGKOK, 12 AUGUST: More than 200 representatives of Asian grassroots organisations, social movements, trade unions and NGOs meeting in Bangkok 10-12 August heard accounts from across the region of rising violence, repression and militarisation.
Amit Sen Gupta of the Indian Peoples Science Movement pointed out that twenty years of neo-liberal policies have deepened poverty and unemployment, creating social tensions and conflicts. Typically governments respond with force and repression, leading to a never-ending cycle of conflict and insecurity.
"Neo-liberalism," he said, "is in such a crisis that it has to rely on the repressive powers of the state. Whats more, since September 11, the link between economic globalisation and militarisation has become very clear as the US uses its adventure into Afghanistan as an excuse to secure vital natural resources and economic interests."
The participants said that regional peace and security is being undermined by both economic liberalisation and military expansionism, and there was a unanimous call for the US and its proxies to withdraw from Afghanistan, and for US troops to leave the Philippines, Japan, Korea and Uzbekistan.
Conference delegates also told the IMF, the World Bank and the ADB to pack their bags and leave Asia.
Titi Soentoro of Indonesias Solidaritas Perempuan (Womens Solidarity Network for Human Rights), voicing the sentiments of the conference, said these institutions only cause suffering to people.
"Through their loans conditions, they are forcing us to sell off our public services and hand everything over to the market. We are losing our livelihoods and our land. Whats more, these institutions sign deals with the very governments that are oppressing us and we are left with such huge debts that we have no money for peoples development, for health and education and other vital public services," she said.
House of cards
Walden Bello, director of Bangkok based Focus on the Global South, said that the litany of corruption scandals englufiung Wall Street is symptomatic of a much deeper crisis.
"Corporate profitability is now so tight that CEOs are forced to cook the books to maintain their share prices. The whole system of finance capitalism is a house of cards teetering on the verge of collapse," said Bello.
Citing the six-month long financial and political crisis in Argentina, Bello said this proved once and for all that the IMF policies are a total disaster. "The neo-liberal economic and political model is so thoroughly discredited that people everywhere are demanding a new political and economic system."
The WTO was identified as the weakest link in the chain of corporate globalisation, yet there is no doubt that the US and the EU will do anything to push through a new trade round at the next WTO ministerial, in spite of developing country demands for an overhaul of the trade rules.
"We have to stop the train of trade liberalisation which is being driven by the corporations and which runs over anyone who stands in its way. And the only way to stop that train is to "derail" it at the next WTO meeting in Cancun next September," said Arze Glipo of the Philippines.
"We will be putting all our energies into building strong public pressure so that our governments go into the negotiating room with a very clear idea of what the people are expecting."
"For too long, these negotiations have taken place in the dark but trade effects everyones lives and it must be the subject of public debate and democratic control," said Glipo.
Bello feels that the time is ripe for the social movements of Asia to unite on a common agenda against neo-liberalism and globalisation.
"After September 11, many of the pundits thought that the so called anti-globalisation movement would curl up and die. However, what weve seen is the opposite. The critical voices are getting louder and even respected academics such as Joseph Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs - both of who used to work at the World Bank -- have called for radical change. Sachs has gone so far as to say that developing countries should simply stop paying their debts and use the money for health and education."
Another Asia is Possible
Meena Menon, a textile unionist from Mumbai India and a member of the Indian World Social Forum Organising Committee, believes that a "new spirit of resistance and optimism is sweeping Asia."
Taking the lead from the Brazilian World Social Forum which drew more than 60,000 people to Porto Alegre in January this year under the banner "Another World is Possible," the Indians are hosting the first Asian Social Forum in Hyderabad, 2-5 January 2003. Activists at the Bangkok meeting, as well as thousands of local, national and regional organisation from West to East Asia, will be part of the forum, rallying around the slogan "Another Asia is Possible."
Press conference participants
Farrah Meutia, Acheh Womens Freedom, Indonesia
Gustavo Codas, CUT Brazil, World Social Forum Organising Committee, Brazil
Arze Glipo, IRDF, Philippines
Meena Menon, Asia Social Forum Organising Committee, India
Mushtaq Gadi, Peoples Rights Movement, Pakistan
Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk, NGO-COD, Thailand
Titi Soentoro, Solidaritas Perempuan, Indonesia
Walden Bello, Focus on the Global South
For more information:
Focus on the Global South
02 218 7363-5, 01 375 6409 email@example.com