"One Country, One Vote""
In Porto Alegre - Another Kind of Globalization
By Christiane Grefe
[This article originally published in: DIE ZEIT 05/2000 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, www.zeit.de.]
Walden Bello wants to do away with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These core authorities of globalization can only represent the interests of the rich states and together with the World Bank are responsible for worsening poverty and inequality in many Third World states. Isn't it politically na´ve to speak of abolishing? "At least the WTO may not expand its power as resolved at the last summit meeting in Doha."
The American Bello is a sociology professor in Manila and directs the non-governmental organization (NGO) Focus on the Global South in Bangkok. He is an acclaimed voice of the South... On Thursday 50,000 unionists, environmentalists and human rights advocates will meet at the World Social Forum in Brazilian Porto Alegre. The World Social Forum competes for a second time with the World Economic Forum. A socially and ecologically consistent globalization and a new democratic system of international institutions are on the agenda. Walden Bello is one of the coordinators of Porto Alegre.
Is he an anti-globalizer? Bello hesitates: "Obviously I want a rational cooperation of political economies. However swift boundless interaction in the world market under the term globalization is fatal for the states of the Third World."
Against the economic spirit of the times, Walden Bello who has long focused on the causes of world hunger wants to maintain free spaces for protectionism. Finally this taboo word of free world trade represents protection. "Third World states must have the chance to subordinate trade policy to their development strategy. They must have the freedom to levy tariffs and protect their economies from the fluctuations of the world economy and capital transfers growing by leaps and bounds." The policy of the WTO, IMF and the World Bank prohibits all this. It imposes the same rule system for politics and the economy on every state of the world. "One clothing size doesn't fit everyone." At least, responsibility for agriculture should be withdrawn from the WTO, Bello insists. "Agrarian culture must remain regionally adjusted and may not become globally uniform."
Don't globalization critics urge minimum worldwide standards for environmental laws and working conditions? "Not the NGOs in the Third World", Bello protests. "As beautiful as all that sounds, the countries of the North can abuse such standards to protect their markets against products from poor countries." These rights must also exist in developing countries. "But why through the WTO? Workers in the South are best helped when the North opens its markets for products from developing countries." Bello admits that globalization critics in the North and South oppose one another in this question. "At the moment we concentrate on what unites us."
Whether the ideas about the reform of global institutions are part of that unity will appear in the discussion tumult in Brazil. In Porto Alegre, Walden Bello will propose replacing the IMF with a new decentralized world financial institution within the UN system. "There the democratic principle `One country, one vote' will be in effect whereas power with the IMF and World Bank is distributed proportional to capital contributions."