progressive third party
has captured the White House,
What do we do now?
by Howard Zinn
I have been asked to imagine this situation: "The progressive third party movement has captured the White House, 60% of Congress and 30 Governorships. What do we do now?"
First, we have a party, maybe three, with the third party being special. Then, we have Congress pass, and the President sign, the following legislation:
1) Repeal of the 1996 Crime Bill with its extension of capital punishment, its billions for new prisons.
That should be enough legislation for the first thirty days. During that period, there would be opportunity for people around the country to make suggestions, via town meetings, the internet, and the telephone system, for further national action. At the end of the thirty days, declare a work holiday for parties to take place all over the nation.
by Marta Russell
The short five year history of the World Trade Organization (WTO) shows that the WTO is most interested in building a new global economic order of free trade unfettered by environmental, and labor regulations which protect people over corporate interests. It is clear that the WTO has consistently settled trade disputes in favor of corporate interests. The WTO has ruled against environmental restrictions in every case that has come before it and has frequently deemed labor regulations as "non-tariff trade barriers." It's less apparent, however, that the WTO also poses a threat to civil rights.
It is without question that people with disabilities (PWDs) live on the economic margins in every country in the world. We are the least employed, the most impoverished, the least likely to advance beyond subsistence. By far the majority of the 500 million mobility impaired, blind, deaf, and other PWDs around the world still lack access to basic human rights such as shelter, food, health care, and medicine. The process of impoverishment has grown during the NAFTA/GATT/WTO dominion over trade policies. Elite plans to further negotiations that expand the scope and power of the WTO into health services through the General Agreement on Trade in Services will place PWDs at greater risk as privatization dismantles what remains of public health care system in many nations.
Getting an education and a job remain even further out of reach. PWDs are thwarted from full participation in the social and economic life in their native countries. Powerful social, economic, and cultural forces and institutions prevent PWDs from full and free development, in part, by failure to provide fundamental access. PWDs cannot get into many office buildings, schools, and even medical facilities in their communities but physical barriers also prevent many from access to government institutions such as the courts, the legislatures, and public meeting halls where policies get developed. The American experience teaches that civil rights laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are necessary to require that institutions build ramps as an alternative to steps, inscribe Braille on elevator panels, and provide sign language interpreters (to name a few) at meetings - to ensure the participation of PWDs in the democratic process. Universal access is a right unique to disability civil rights law.
In recognition of the world-wide discrimination and economic marginalization of PWDs, the United Nations drew up a document titled "Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities." This paper serves as the formal groundwork to educate UN member states about the need for government policies that are disability-specific. In particular the document emphasizes the importance of accessibility in the process of equalizing opportunities. But as one international body progresses disability access, another - the WTO - has the potential to override the ADA 's access regulations in the name of "free trade" - as it already has done to national environmental and worker safety regulations.
Here is how that can happen. The WTO limits governments' ability to use their purchasing dollars for human, environmental, and worker rights, i.e., non-commercial purposes. WTO rules assert that governments can make purchases based only on quality and cost considerations, they do not have to adhere to democratically imposed social obligations. Further, the WTO does not allow countries to place restrictions on how products get made. Disability civil rights require products be designed in ways that comply with universal access rules of the ADA which impose specifications on products such as public buses, toilets, commuter-rails, door handles, elevator panels, and other products the public uses every day. For example, buses must be made accessible to wheelchair users, elevator panels must include Braille symbols to designate numbers, public toilet stalls and toilets must be constructed in a manner that all persons, disabled and nondisabled can manage.
When the United States federal, state, county, or city governments contract for large-scale purchases, they solicit bids from all over the world. Because the WTO agreement allows a corporation that believes itself to be disadvantaged by a particular law to look for a government to bring a challenge against it, any competing company in any nation could challenge the ADA's universal access standard as obstructing trade. The objecting nation could bring a complaint against the US calling for it to bring its national law into line with the lower international standard or be subjected to perpetual fines or trade sanctions.
If a corporation were to pursue their interest in the WTO court, there would be a panel of three "experts" comprised of trade lawyers making the decision on the commercial worthiness of universal access. Since the WTO courts have no mandate to gather alternative perspectives, amicus curaie briefs from the public could be omitted from the hearings. Further, since all documents are kept secret, corporations could be asked to submit amicus questioning the trade merit of universal design from the business perspective and citizens with disabilities would not know that had been a part of the decision-making process. And since open public hearings are not a part of the WTO process, citizens would have no say in the final determination about universal design.
Given that business - in the form of the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Banking Association, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses - opposed the ADA from the beginning and that the WTO functions like an international Chamber of Commerce, it is highly possible that the WTO court would label the ADA a "trade barrier." The WTO court acting in the interests of just one business could render the ADA moot internationally and diminish the prospect of advancing disability civil rights law in other nations as well.
It is not, however, my intent to promote reform of the WTO so that it will accommodate disability rights. Rather it seems that we need to dismantle the corporate controlled WTO and create an alternative international where democratic goals can be properly met.
Press release concerning the demonstration against the World Economic on 29 January 2000 in Davos
Today the small county council in Davos has decided that no permission would be granted for a demonstration on 29 January. The county of Davos did not enter into discussion about our offer to do only a rally without a march! We are offered a permission for demonstrating on Sunday 30 January only, which for us does not in any way constitute an acceptable solution.
On 9 December already we have submitted the request for a permission to demonstrate on 29 January 2000 with the county of Davos. If the county of Davos tells us only today that strictly no permission will be granted for demonstrating that day, this comes too late and constitutes nothing but a juridical trick to outlawing the demonstration without officially declaring a ban on demonstrations!
We will appeal to the administrative court in Chur against this scandalous decision which massively limits the free expression of opinion and boils down to a ban on demonstrations. Our mobilization has been in full swing since the beginning of January, and it is thus impossible for us to change the date of the demonstration.
We will gladly reply to questions you might have. Call us at ++41-31-306 69 52.
As you surely know, on 9 December 1999 (!) the Anti-WTO Coordination Switzerland submitted a request for permission for a demonstration against the World Economic in Davos on 29 January 2000.
This request was not dealt with by the county of Davos and the canton of Graubünden until today. In the meantime it has become known that on precisely 29 January Bill Clinton would stop by in Davos for a few hours. After we resolutely demanded it, a meeting was scheduled for this morning at 11 o'clock between the Anti-WTO Coordination and representatives of the county of Davos in order to discuss how to proceed with the permission to demonstrate. A final decision was promised as of late this afternoon.
At 4 p.m. our office was informed that strictly no demonstrations or rallies will be permitted on 29 January. However, and against our explicit wish (the mobilization for 29 January, 3 p.m. has already started!), they said they were considering granting permission for 30 January. Last year already, the administrative court of Chur had, after the fact, reprimanded the county of Davos for its general ban on demonstrations during the WEF 99. We see today's decision as just one more example of the privileges the 'Global Leaders' afford themselves. We resolutely protest this violation of the right to free expression of opinion and call on all progressive forces to support our appeal with juridical and mediatic means.
Anti-WTO Group Zurich
Chamber of County Council
12 January 2000
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Anti-WTO Coordination Switzerland has submitted, on 9 December 1999, a request for a permission for a demonstration against the World Economic on 29 January 2000. The planned demonstration is meant to protest economic policies that increase the injustice between North and South and especially further deteriorates the situation of women.
For a long period of time the authorities of the county of Davos and the canton of Graubunden just didn't treat the request. After we resolutely demanded it, a meeting took place between two representatives of the Anti-WTO Coordination and representatives of the county of Davos as well as the cantonal police of Graubunden in order to discuss how to proceed with respect to the permission to demonstrate. At that meeting the authorities announced that no permission will be granted for 29 January because Davos is not comparable to a big city and because of the great traffic there is not enough space on a Saturday for a demonstration march. However, the town of Davos was prepared to grant a permission for Sunday, 30 January.
However, for the Anti-WTO Coordination it is not possible any longer at this late point in time to postpone the demonstration, since the mobilization has started quite some time ago in Switzerland and internationally and it would be impossible to inform all the persons interested that the demonstration is being postponed. The Anti-WTO Coordination has said precisely this to the authorities of Graubunden at the meeting on 11 January and has proposed a compromise solution: The Anti-WTO Coordination would do without a demonstration march on 29 January and content itself with a rally on a square in Davos instead.
Some hours later the Anti-WTO Coordination was informed over the phone that no demonstrations or rallies would be permitted on 29 January. "In view of the incoming and outgoing traffic on Saturday 29 January 2000 we cannot grant you permission on the date you applied for," a registered letter arriving on 12 December subsequently complemented the explanation. The Lower Chamber of the County Council has yet to explain in what way a rally would disturb traffic. In return, and against the explicit wish of the petitioners, the Lower Chamber gave its permission for a demonstration on 30 January.
We are convinced that this decision is related to the flying visit by US President Bill Clinton that was just recently announced for 29 January. Even though the visit in question is a private visit to an informal meeting the authorities in Davos act as if it was an official state visit (Happiness abounds! - to quote a Swiss politician known for his zeal). At the same time a de facto state of emergency is being set up in Davos through massive police presence and the announced deployment of military troops. At the same time the right to free expression of opinion is to be postponed to the next day.
Last year already the administrative court in Chur had, after the fact, reprimanded the county of Davos for its general ban on demonstrations during the WEF 99. We see the decision of the Lower Chamber of the County Council as just another example of the privileges the 'global leaders' afford themselves.
We resolutely protest against this violation of the right to free expression of opinion and support the appeal of the Anti-WTO Coordination against the decision of the Lower Chamber of the County Council not to allow the demonstration announced for 29 January 2000. We demand from the authorities of Davos that they grant permission for the demonstration on 29 January.
With best regards,
The 30st Anual Meeting of the World Economic will take place on 27 January - 1 February 2000 in Davos/Switzerland. For the first time, NGOs are organizing an independent monitoring and advocacy presence in Davos. Please find below some information on this new effort and an NGO statement for endorsement.
"The Public Eye on Davos" is a joint project of the Berne Declaration, Friends of the Earth/US, and the Globalization Challenge Initiative. Its purpose is to monitor the discussions in Davos, to advocate NGO concerns, to challenge the Davos consensus in the media, and to disseminate information on important developments to the NGO networks. You will find the program of planned NGO activities at the end of this message. The first year will be a learning experience, and we intend to expand the institutional base and activities of "The Public Eye on Davos" in the years to come.
The NGO statement will be published on 28 January in Davos. We ask you to study it and to endorse it if possible.
Please send any endorsements (name of organization, country) to email@example.com until 24 JANUARY at the latest.
Feel free to pass the statement on to partner NGOs, but do not make it public before 28 January. We will report back to you from or after Davos. Thank you for your support.
Peter Bosshard & Jolanda Piniel Berne Declaration
Davos has become one of the capitals of globalization. Every year, the small Swiss mountain resort hosts the Annual Meeting of the World Economic (WEF) and attracts about 2,000 corporate CEOs, leading politicians, academics and journalists. Hundreds of workshops and informal meetings provide opportunities to discuss important issues. The world's presidents and prime ministers court corporate chiefs and financiers; together they chart the global economic rules for finance, trade and development. Under the grand motto of being "committed to improving the state of the world," past meetings have engendered the launch of trade negotiations such as the GATT's Uruguay Round or NAFTA. The upcoming Annual Meeting will discuss topics such as "Building the new financial architecture," "Tackling the challenges of the Millenium Round," "How many people can the earth sustain," "What's left to privatize," and "The fate of the universe."
The format of any meeting should be compatible with its goals and topics. The World Economic agrees that "creating a new paradigm of governance at the national as well as international level" is a central challenge of the 21st century. Yet what is the WEF's own governance paradigm? Its members are the 1,000 largest private corporations and 1,000 so-called global growth companies. At the Annual Meetings, closed circles of business, government, academia and media elites discuss problems of global importance. The media representatives are handpicked, and some have been refused accreditation after reporting critically about the WEF. Journalists are excluded from certain secret meetings altogether. Common people have no voice in the discussions of Davos. The number of NGO representatives is growing, but still minimal. This secretive approach is not compatible with the "highest degree of credibility, efficiency and accountability" which the WEF purports to aspire to. Symbolized by NAFTA and the Uruguay Round, the approach has rather contributed the very problems of economic marginalization, financial crisis, loss of democratic space, social exclusion and environmental destruction which the world is suffering from today.
Public affairs must be negotiated in democratic fora, in a spirit of openness and participation, with full public debate and dissent. We therefore believe that the World Economic has two choices. If it intends to remain an exclusive club of the world's corporate elite, it should restrict its agenda to corporate management issues, and should not aim to deal with issues of global public concern. In this case, the representatives of governments and international organizations should not negotiate their affairs at exclusive gatherings of corporations in Davos anymore. The failure of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) and the WTO Millenium Round demonstrates that in today's world, issues of public interest cannot be negotiated behind closed doors any longer.
If on the other hand, the WEF intends to become an where important public concerns have a place to be debated, it must radically change its perspectives, rules and proceedings. It should not only look at how globalization can serve corporate interests, but should respect public interests. Its agenda must include concerns such as debt cancellation, fair trade, democratic control of international institutions, stopping the abuse of human rights, preventing the privatization of life forms and public goods, and changing unsustainable consumption patterns. Participation at the WEF must be expanded to include a fair balance of all social sectors, particularly the groups who have so far been marginalized by the globalization processes. The interested media should be free to attend all meetings of the , and the practice of secret meetings should be discontinued. To borrow the 's 2000 motto, such an approach would indeed constitute a "new beginning" for Davos.
Henceforth, NGOs will be present in Davos in order to monitor the discussions of the World Economic . We will press for new perspectives and more democratic space at the so that the social groups who pay the price for the globalization process can speak up. The public eye is on Davos.
(List of endorsing NGOs)
Davos has become one of the capitals of globalization. About 2000 leading business people, politicians, academics and editors convene there every January for the Annual Meeting of the World Economic (WEF). Formal and informal gatherings provide opportunities to shape opinions and prepare decisions on important issues such as international trade, financial relations, and the environment. The upcoming 2000 meeting will discuss topics such as "Building the new financial architecture", "Tackling the challenges of the Millenium Round", "How many people can the earth sustain", "What is left to privatize", and "The fate of the universe". So far, the World Economic has been a closed event and has lacked any kind of accountability to the public at large. Non-governmental organizations and social movements have so far hardly been present in Davos. A new NGO project is now being launched to challenge the fundamental premises of the World Economic : "The Public Eye on Davos".
"The Public Eye on Davos" is a joint project of the Berne Declaration (coordination), Friends of the Earth/US and the Globalization Challenge Initiative. It plans to carry out various activities in Davos during the WEF 2000 (see below). And it will disseminate information about the WEF to interested NGOs, social movements, and individuals around the world.
The failure of the Multilateral Agreement on Investments (MAI) and the WTO Millenium Round demonstrates that in today's world, the public interest cannot be negotiated behind closed doors any longer. NGOs believe that the World Economic has two choices: If the WEF intends to remain a where important public concerns are discussed, it must radically change its perspectives, rules, and proceedings. Its agenda must include topics such as debt cancellation, fair trade, democratic control of international institutions, and changing unsustainable consumption patterns. WEF participation must be expanded to include a fair balance of all social sectors, particularly the groups who have so far been marginalized by the globalization process. If on the other hand the WEF intends to remain an exclusive club of the world's elites, it should restrict its agenda to management issues, and should not aim to deal with global public concerns.
"The Public Eye on Davos" - Program of Activities Panel debate in Zurich: "Who Governs the World?" Date and venue: 27 January 2000, 8 p.m.; Volkshaus, Stauffacherstrasse 60, Zurich. Featuring Elmar Altvater (Free University Berlin), Peter Bosshard (Berne Declaration), Nicola Bullard (Focus on the Global South).
Media conference in Davos: "The Public Eye on Davos"
Date and venue: 28 January 2000, 2 p.m.; Dutch Asthma Clinic, Scalettastrasse 19, Davos (next to the Congress Centre). Featuring Peter Bosshard (Berne Declaration), Andrea Durbin (Friends of the Earth/US), Nancy Alexander (Globalization Challenge Initiative), Manuel Chiriboga (Asociacion Lationamericana de Organizaciones de Promocion, ALOP).
Panel debate in Davos: "The Public Eye on Davos"
Date and venue: 28 January 2000, 3 p.m.; Dutch Asthma Clinic, Scalettastrasse 19, Davos (next to the Congress Centre). Featuring Manuel Chiriboga (ALOP), Goran Lindahl (ABB, invited), Klaus Schwab (WEF), Vandana Shiva (Third World Network).
Comments from the NGO community on the WEF proceedings
Representatives of the following NGOs will be present throughout the WEF in order to comment speeches and announcements of the official , and to bring in NGO perspectives on the topics covered in Davos: Asociacion Latinoamericana de Organizaciones de Promocion, Berne Declaration, Focus on the Global South, Friends of the Earth/US, Globalization Challenge Initiative, Third World Network.