Activists ditch tear gas neutralizers for suits at trade talks in Hong Kong
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
December 13, 2005
Some activists have taken a different tack at this year’s World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong according to an article from Dow Jones Newswires.
Instead of tossing Molotov cocktails and confronting armored tear gas-armed riot police as they did during the 1999 talks in Seattle, activists are taking their free-trade arguments to the conference table. It’s part of a growing realization that sitting down and rationally discussing differences in opinion over trade can be more effective — and less destructive — than riots which generally end up hurting local businesses and turning off many who would otherwise tolerate or support ideas put forth by the activists. Organizations increasingly see trade talks as a way to address poverty in developing countries and other issues affecting the global environment. Further bolstering their new strategy: WTO officials are starting to listen.
According to the Dow Jones article, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) — once vocal opponent of global trade — now works with the WTO to ensure that trade deals take into account environmental concerns.
“We used perhaps to be more aggressive about publicizing our concerns and using that as a bat to beat the WTO,” Gordon Shepherd, director of international policy at the WWF, told Dow Jones. “Trade is linked to the development pattern in the developing countries. If that doesn’t happen, then everyone is going to suffer.”
The article notes that environmental group Greenpeace is also working with the trade organization instead of noisily protesting in the streets outside.
While many activist organizations are sporting suits and ties instead of butterfly costumes, protective clothing and tear gas neutralizers, there will still be some protesters in Hong Kong. However the numbers will likely pale in comparison to what was seen in Seattle in 1999 (40,000 protesters) and Genoa, Italy in 2001 (100,000 protesters).
Logistically. large street protests are also more difficult to stage in a post-September 11th security environment.
Corporate America, Activists & Circumventing Washington: A New Approach to Environmental Lobbying: Green groups partner with corporate interests to bring changes in business practices. On April 25, the New York-based banking giant J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. joined the ranks of a select group of firms in the financial sector who have adopted environment policies with an increased focus on more ecologically responsible business practices. This move signals a larger trend and is indicative of the current state of the marketplace as well as that of the government.
This article used a quote from “Activists Take the Fight Inside” By JULIANE VON REPPERT-BISMARCK of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES. December 13, 2005.