Readers may have heard that Campesino groups organized a peaceful demonstration for yesterday, September 9th, 2003 in the center of Cancun. In fact, up to 14,000 people were reported to have participated in the March. IGTN members marched in solidarity with the women's network Women Transforming the Economy.
In a tragic twist to the demonstration, a Korean farmer and activist took his life in protest to the WTO's devastating impact on farmers across the world.
In response, CoC, IGTN, and IJND have sent a response as well as a statement of solidarity with the Korean civil society organizations and social movements related to the recent events. The statement of solidarity reads as follows:
On the death of Mr. Lee: promote lives and care systems, not profits and corporations!
We, women's and mixed organizations that have access to the ongoing WTO negotiations and which met for today's strategy session on gender and trade, express sympathies and solidarity to the Korean civil society organizations and social movements over the death of a Korean farmer and activist here in Cancun. Mr. Lee's dramatic and honorable death reflects the difficult struggle and extreme sacrifices of small women and men farmers that result from the anti-farmer, anti-south and anti-development agreements in the WTO.
We urge all governments of developing countries whose delegations are present here in Cancun to use their sovereign right in opposing unfair and unequal trade rules, to strongly assert their citizens', especially small farmers, fishers, indigenous peoples, workers and women's rights and welfare.
The WTO values profit and corporations; we value our people's lives and our care systems!
International Gender and Trade Secretariat (USA)
Caribbean Gender and Trade Network – (Jamaica)
International Gender and Trade – Asia (Philippines)
Asian and Pacific Women, Law and Development (Thailand)
Pacific Asia Resource Center (Japan)
Bulgaria Gender Research Foundation (Bulgaria)
International Jesuit Network for Development
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
11 September 2003
IGTN held its second strategy session this morning to update and assess new shifts in the negotiations process. Agriculture remains deadlocked and the most central issue. The countries that form the Group of 21 (now it is the Group of 22 with Botswana's new arrival, and counting) have been able to maintain their unity to date. However, the U.S. and the EU continue to exert bilateral pressure on key governments even though they have been adamant on their positions. Yesterday, Brazil reaffirmed its commitment to the Group of 21. After a media conference, the Brazilian Minister Celso Amorin supported the Group of 21 proposal by saying: « Ours is a good cause. We have the support of our population and a large proportion of world opinion. This is a chance for the WTO to show it cares for the poor. » (TWN Cancun News Update – Sept 10). India, China, Argentina, Costa Rica and others also spoke frankly on the importance of the Group of 21 proposal which calls for a reform in domestic support, the inclusion of special safeguard mechanisms (SSMs) and Strategic Products (SPs), and market access. Additionally, it is reported that more African groups will join the Group of 21.
23 countries have formed an Alliance for Strategic Products and Special Safeguard Mechanisms. This group is critical as yet another entity which supports SSMs and SPs. Members include Barbados, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Ecuador.
In terms of the developed countries, the EU and the U.S. have indicated that they are unwilling to accept the Group of 21's proposal. Although Australia supports the decrease in domestic subsidies that is being proposed, it does not support the SSMs and the SPs. Some ministers in the EU have indicated that the Group of 21 is unstable and are waiting for it to break apart.
It is essential that NGOs continue to support these political blocs and their positions on agriculture in response to the pressure that is being mounted by the EU and the U.S. in the negotiations.
It is rumored that, because there is such a discrepancy among the draft ministerial text, the EU/U.S. proposal on agriculture, and the proposal from Group 21, a new compromise text on agriculture could be released today. This has not been confirmed but NGOs are monitoring this closely in order to respond in a timely fashion.
Japan met with countries like Switzerland, the EU, and Mauritius to support multifunctionality in the agriculture negotiations. At a press briefing with Japan last night, NGOs advocated for these governments to support the positions of the lesser developed countries and food security over multifunctionality.
Benin, Mali, Burkino Faso, and Chad will be making a presentation today on the importance of their cotton industries and the need to support their producers. The EU is expected to present a proposal on agriculture to include a special mention of cotton and sugar (many view this as a political maneuver to gain leverage with the Least Developed Countries or LDCs. The U.S. Deputy Ambassador is scheduled to respond to this issue after the four African countries finish their press briefing. NGOs will be monitoring this as well.
The Singapore Issues are still on the table for negotiation, with Canada as the Chair of the Working Group. There is not much to report other than the U.S, which advocates strongly on the issues of government procurement and transparency, will push to get these issues agreed upon if the Singapore Issues are unbundled. NGOs are concerned that the U.S. could possibly achieve this goal if countries let negotiations on this slip under their radar in the midst of their conflicts around agriculture.
Before coming to Cancun, the CARICOM countries made a public stance against the Singapore Issues. Caribbean NGOs are now working to hold their governments accountable to this position here in Cancun.
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