10 Ways to Democratize
the GIobal Economy

Global Exchange newsletter, Spring 2000


Citizens can and should play an active role in shaping the future of our global economy. Up until now, globalization has largely been a top-down process driven by economic elites. The challenge now facing progressives is to create grassroots globalization, a global system based on people-to-people connections instead of financial relationships.

Here are some of the ways in which we can work together to reform global trade rules, demand that corporations are accountable to people's needs, build strong and independent labor and promote fair and environmentally sustainable alternatives.

No Globalization Without Representation

Multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund create global economic policies that affect all of us. But while multinational corporations and Wall Street financial interests play a large role in forming these institutions' policy decisions, grassroots citizens groups are given hardly any say at all. We need to ensure that all global citizens are democratically represented in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of all global social and economic policies. The WTO, IMF and World Bank must immediately halt meetings and negotiations in order for a full, fair, and public assessment to be conducted of the impacts of these institutions' policies to date. Each institution must be replaced by bodies that are fully democratic, transparent, and accountable to citizens of the entire world instead of to corporations. We must build support for trade policies that protect workers, human rights, and the environment.

Focus on the Global South: www.focusweb.org
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch/Citizens Trade Campaign www.tradewatch.org
Third World Network: www.twnside.org.sg
International Forum on Globalization: www.ifg.org

Mandate Corporate Responsibility

Corporations have so heavily influenced global trade negotiations that they now have rights and representation greater than individual citizens and even governments. Under the guise of "free trade" they advocate the weakening of labor and environmental laws creating a global economy of sweatshops and environmental devastation. Corporations must serve the needs of the communities they operate in or be subject to having their corporate charters revoked. Corporations must be accountable to public needs, be open to public scrutiny, provide living wage jobs, and abide by all environmental and labor regulations. Shareholder activism is an excellent tool for challenging corporate behavior.

Program on Corporations, Law, and Democracy: www.poclad.org
RainforestActionNetwork www.ran.org
Campaign for Labor Rights www.summersault.com/-agj/clr/
Transnational Research and Action Center: www.corpwatch.org
Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility: www.iccr.org
United Students Against Sweatshops: www.asm.wisc.edu/usas
Student Alliance to Reform Corporations: www.corpreform.org

Restructure the Global Financial Architecture

Currency speculation and the derivatives market move more than $1.5 trillion around the world every day, compared to $6 trillion in the actual trading of goods and services every year. This "casino economy" earns short-term profits for wealthy investors, but at the expense of long-term development. Some countries are implementing "capital controls" to regulate the influence of foreign capital, and grassroots groups are advocating the restructuring and regulation of the global financial architecture, including the dismantling of the failed IMF. Citizens can pass local city resolutions supporting the Tobin Tax-a tax of .1% to .25% on currency transactions which would provide a disincentive for speculation, and create a huge fund for building schools and clinics throughout the world.

Tobin Tax Initiative: www.tobintax.org
Friends of the Earth: www.foe.org
Institute for Policy Studies: www.ips-dc.org
ATTAC: www.attac.org

Cancel All Debt, End Structural Adjustment and Defend Economic Sovereignty

Debt is crushing most poor countries' ability to develop as they spend huge amounts of their resources servicing odious debt rather than meeting the needs of their populations. Structural adjustment is a set of policies mandated by the IMF and World Bank to keep countries on schedule with debt payments, promoting export-led development at the expense of social needs. Jubilee 2000 is an international movement demanding that all debt be canceled in the year 2000 in order for countries to prioritize health care, education, and real development. Countries must have the autonomy to pursue their own economic plans, including prioritizing social needs above the needs of multinational corporations.

Jubilee 2000: www.j2000usa.org
50 Years is Enough: www.50years.org
End the Blockade Against Cuba: www.igc.apc.org/cubasoli/cubalink.html


Prioritize Human, Environmental and Economic Rights in Trade Agreements

The United Nations should be the world's strongest multilateral body-not the WTO. The US must ratify all international conventions on social and political rights. Trade rules must comply with human rights as well as economic and environmental rights already established in United Nations covenants. We should promote alternative trade agreements that include fair trade policies, debt cancellation, micro-credit, environmental stewardship, and local control over development policies. Global trade and investment should not be ends in themselves, but rather instruments for achieving equitable and sustainable development.

International Labor Rights Fund: www.laborrights.org
Food First: www.foodfirst.org
Alternative Agreement for the Americas: www.globalexchange.org/economy/alternatives/ americas/

Promote Sustainable Development - Not GNP Growth - as the Key to Progress

The most common measurement of economic prosperity, Gross National Product, is a grossly flawed measuring tool. It counts everything that generates money as a plus, even when revenues come with destruction of the environment. For example, the Exxon oil spill and the construction of each new prison actually add to our measure of prosperity. We need sane economic indicators that measure real improvements in quality of life. International development should not be export-driven, but rather should prioritize food security, sustainability, and democratic participation

Redefining Progress: www.rprogress.org
Food First: www.foodfirst.org
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: www.iatp.org

Integrate Women's Needs in All Economic Restructuring

Women make up half the world's population but hold less than 5% of positions of power in determining global economic policy, and own an estimated 1% of global property. Family survival around the world depends on the economic independence of women. Economic policies need to take into account women's important role in nutrition, education, and development. This includes access to family planning as well as education, credit, job training, policy decision-making, and other needs.

Women's EDGE: Economic Development and Global Equality: www.womensedge.org
International Center for Research on Women: www.icrw.org
Women's Environment and Development Organization: www.wedo.org

Build Independent and Strong Labor Unions Here and Abroad

While trade is becoming more "free," labor unions are still restricted from organizing in most countries. The International Labor Organization should have enforcement power as strong as the WTO. The US should ratify all ILO conventions and set an example in terms of enforcing workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively As corporations increase their multinational strength, unions are working to build bridges across borders and organizing globally. Activists can support their efforts and ensure that independent labor rights are an essential component of any "free trade" agreement.

American Federation of Labor/Congress of Industrial Organizations: www.aflcio.org
International Confederation of Free Trade Unions: www.icftu.org
International Labor Organization: www.ilo.org

Develop Community & Control Over Capital and Promote Socially Responsible Investment

Local communities should not be beholden to the IMF, international capital, multinational corporations, or any other undemocratic body. Communities should be able to develop investment and development programs that suit local needs, including passing anti-sweatshop purchasing restrictions, promoting local credit unions and local barter currency. Cities, churches, and unions should implement investment policies that reflect social responsibility criteria.

ACORN: www.acorn.org
SustainableAmerica www.sanetwork.org
United for a Fair Economy: www.stw.org
Alliance for Democracy: www.aid-online.org
As You Sow :www.asyousow.org
Investor Responsibility Research Center: www.irrc.org

While we work to replace "free trade" institutions with democratic structures and keep corporate chain stores out of our neighborhoods, we should also promote our own vision of Fair Trade. We need to build networks of support and education for grassroots trade and at the same time promote trade in environmentally sustainable goods. We can advance labeling of goods such as Fair Trade Certified, organic, and sustainably harvested. We can purchase locally made goods and locally grown foods that support local economies and cooperative forms of production and trade. Fair Trade Certified coffee is the first product with an independent monitoring and certification system for a product produced in developing countries.

Fair Trade Federation: www.fairtradefederation.com
Rural Coalition: www.farmworkers.org/ rcpage.html
TransFairUSA www.transfairusa.org
Coop America: www.coopamerica.org

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