CIVIL SOCIETY AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENTLOPMENT
First, I'd like to thank the organizers of the conference for inviting me here today. This is my first time in Russia, and it was a great pleasure yesterday to stand in Red Square, such a historic place and symbolic of the USSR. Then that evening, it was a pleasure to meet Major General Pavel Semenovitch, who is retired from the Russian military to help covert the military to a productive, civilian system. And like Red Square is representative of Russia of the last century, so is Major General Semenovitch representative of the new Russia of this century, which is forging ahead with a new vision.
I'd like to begin today by addressing the issue of human development, and the emergence of a new social movement in the West that is growing rapidly, is driven by young people, and was evident at the protests last November in Seattle at the meeting of the World Trade Organization.
As we meet here and discuss the development of civil society and the strengthening of democracy in Russia and in our Western Countries, I have to point out that there is a large elephant standing in the middle of the room. This elephant is globalization, and it is dramatically affecting our discussions today.
Globalization is changing all of the rules: it is changing the economy, governments, politics, and civil society.
Globalization developed at the end of the Cold War (notably, so did the concept of a civil society). While the roots of globalization were laid much earlier, the dissolution of the Soviet Union finally freed the West to integrate former Eastern economies and remove trade barriers with the goal of creating a single global economy. The new global economy will have one set of rules for everybody, but the important question that we are asking is, "Whose rules? Who will make these rules? Who will benefit from these rules?"
The creation of the World Trade Organization and its trade agreements are an attempt for the first time to establish international rules which can be adjudicated when disagreements arise and rulings requiring the changing of national laws can be enforced with coercive economic penalties. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, is that the establishment of this regime is driven by government within the so-called Quad: The United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Union.
But behind the governments are the transnational corporations, which work to craft the rules of the global economy and use the WTO to their advantage. Globalization is shifting power away from governments, and putting it into big business. Today, business interests are represented by the large corporation. Mergers and acquisitions have resulted in the creation of the some of the largest corporations ever on Earth, corporations such as General Motors, Boeing, DaimlerChrysler, Microsoft, and TimeWarner. Of the world's largest one hundred economies, fifty two are not even countries, but are corporations. For example, the Gross Domestic Product of General Motors alone is greater than all of South Africa.
Trade Agreements, like those in the WTO, do more to regulate governments than they do trade. The WTO has the power to dictate to governments which laws they can and cannot have - regardless of the democratic process that led to those laws being passed.
The results of five years of the WTO rulings have been dramatic:
Jobs are moving from industrialized countries to the South. And thanks to our interpreter, I learned a new Russian word this morning, which is "potogonnaya sistems" meaning "sweatshops."
There has been increased environmental destruction as every environmental law which has been challenged at the WTO has been struck down by its trade panels.
And the writers of the rules of globalization refuse to even discuss human rights. It is not even an issue for them!
Globally, the situation is not good. The United Nation's Human Development Report devoted itself to globalization, and reported that the gap between the world's rich and poor is not closing, but is widening. It concluded that globalization is fundamentally undermining human security. In sum, thirty years of modern efforts to end Third World poverty have failed.
This is a fact: the market does not recognize the needs for peace and human development - it only understand profit. Ultimately, the state must have the democratic authority to regulate the market to meet the needs of people and the society by redistributing wealth and providing essential public services like healthcare and education.
Now, part of why we are here is to talk about peace. This is an good opportunity to demonstrate where business interests are undermining democracy and peace, because Western defence policies and rates of military spending do not reflect reality, or the will of the people.
In many countries around the world: The United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, rates of military spending is increasing. Why? Why is military spending increasing now, ten years after the end of the Cold War, and at a time when we have had no greater chance for world peace than in the last 100 years?
Certainly, it is not going up because there is some looming military confrontation. In Canada, where military spending will increase by nearly two billion dollars over the next four years, public opinion polls consistently put military spending at the bottom of the list of issues that need government attention.
So why is military spending increasing? Because defence policies have been taken over by the interests of the corporations who benefit from high levels of government spending on weaponry. In all of these countries is an active arms industry led by corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and others which has captured governments and are driving defence policies - especially spending.
For example: the expansion of NATO eastward to include three more states should have never have happened. Why? Because we now know that at the end of the Cold War, U.S. President George Bush went to Mikhail Gorbachev to strike a deal with him that if Russia acquiesced to a reunified Germany, then NATO would not expand. Gorbachev agreed, and we now have a unified Germany.
But never underestimate the power of the corporations. The Committee to Expand NATO whipped up support for NATO expansion where there was no support before. The committee was chaired by the Vice President of Lockheed Martin, the largest weapons builder in the world.
The arms corporations stood to gain billions in contracts from NATO expansion because new member countries would have to retool and upgrade their weaponry from old Soviet equipment to newer and more advance American and European equipment like planes, communications equipment, and other weaponry.
As we know, their lobby was eventually successful, and in 1999 Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined NATO. However the cost was enormous in relations with Russia who was betrayed and humiliated by NATO and the United States. Many analysts point to NATO expansion as a major low-point in post Cold War reconciliation between East and West, and a lost opportunity to build trust and a more secure peace between old foes.
But the corporations have nothing to complain about. Their allies in the US military are now inspecting each NATO member's arsenal of weapons and equipment, and handing each member a shopping list of new equipment required to create "interoperability" within NATO, exactly as the corporations hoped would happen. This will mean more lucrative contracts for the corporations.
All this is meant to describe how our governments have been overtaken by corporate interests, undermining our democracy and even undermining peace and security in the quest for greater power and profits. Maude Barlow, the Chair of the Council of Canadians, has said, "The corporations have spent the last fifty years fighting communism - now they are fighting democracy itself."
But in the face of this corporate assault on democracy, civil society in the West is mobilizing. This new movement of citizens from all walks of life was evident at the tremendous protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in November of last year. More protests followed in Washington D.C. against the IMF and the World Bank. And still more protests are planned in the coming months against meetings of the Organization of American States in Windsor and the World Petroleum Forum in Calgary.
I was present at the protests in Seattle and in Washington, and was part of the mobilization of civil society against the agenda of the World Trade Organization, the IMF and the World Bank.
In Vancouver, I co-chair a coalition of civil society organizations that comprises more than forty organization including trade unions, student groups, churches, environmental and peace groups, and many others. This coalition mobilized thousands of Canadians join the protests in Seattle, including hiring more than 40 buses to transport 2000 people in one day to Seattle from Vancouver.
The large numbers of people who participated in the protests came about because civil society organization spent many months preparing citizens. We organized numerous events, including a conference with more than 1000 participants which had a series of workshops to show how globalization affects everyone, and how issues are linked together.
From this point, the challenge was to turn education into action. This is the key to our success, in that we educate people about the issues, and then provide them with an opportunity to demonstrate their concern and to turn it into political action. This is an essential role for civil society.
And what did I see in Seattle?
I saw more than 50,000 people in the streets working together in common cause: to make a global economy that works for everybody - and not just the very rich in the world. A global economy that promotes peace and human rights, that is environmentally sustainable, and promotes democracy and human development.
Then, I saw hundreds of police in riot gear, police cars, armored cars, and helicopters. I saw protestors rounded up in mass arrests, and hit with tear gas and rubber bullets. And behind the police barricades and clouds of tear gas, were our government members negotiating the rules for the global economy in seclusion and secret.
For us, clearly the challenge is to stop the current pro-business, pro-corporate agenda of globalization. We must work to ensure that globalization is essentially people-centred, not profit-centred. That means reclaiming our governments from the influence of big business, reclaiming our democracy, and then ensuring that governments are empowered to provide essential services like healthcare and education for citizens and to protect the environment.
Finally, I want to say that I am not here to tell Russians how to build their civil society. Russia has a proud history of forging its own path and its own solutions.
But I am here to tell you that civil society in the West needs your help. We need to work together to develop a plan - a new economic model that does not repeat the mistakes of the last century - but creates a new plan for this new century.