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13 December 1999
No. 97

In this issue:
    The Road from Seattle
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Philippines -  Victim of Sex Salvery dies in protest
    Bangladesh - The Tji Hak-soon Justice & Peace Award for Ms. Rosaline Costa
    Hong Kong - CCA/WCC Roundtable meeting on Indonesia and East Timor
    Thailand - CCA-URM Training Workshop on Freedom from Debt Campaign
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    Migrant's Cultural Festival


1. FEATURE - top


by Jeremy Brecher, with Tim Costello and Brendan Smith


The "Battle of Seattle" marks a turning point in the politics of globalization. It represents the emergence of a worldwide movement seeking to put limits on global capital. The "Road FROM Seattle" provides greatly expanded opportunities for that movement -- if it can avoid the potholes in the road.

The Significance of Seattle

Seattle showed that thousands of people are so angry about the direction of the global economy that they are prepared to put their bodies on the line to change it. And it showed that tens of thousands more are so concerned that they are prepared to break their daily routine to protest it.

Seattle called the attention of millions of people to the simple fact that there is a World Trade Organization and that it is something they need to be concerned about. Beyond that, it established corporate globalization as a public issue.

Seattle redefined the issues of globalization for the public and the media, providing a new paradigm for understanding what is really going on in the world today. It forced into public awareness an understanding that protectionism vs. free trade is no longer the issue. The demonstrators reframed the issue as rules protecting corporations vs. rules protecting people and the environment.

Even though the Seattle protests had the WTO as their immediate target, they focussed on the impact of globalization more broadly, avoiding the trap of defining the issue as simply one of "trade" -- free or otherwise. The Jubilee Two Thousand movement for the cancellation of Third World debt, for example, was represented in force, ensuring a strong emphasis on the role of the World Bank, the IMF, First-World creditors, and the structural adjustment programs that have devastated the Third World.

The movement was largely responsible for bringing the WTO to deadlock. As Washington trade lawyer Peter S. Watson, former head of the International Trade Commission explained the failure of the talks, "What you're seeing is the effect of the demonstrations, as well as some real disagreements among the WTO members." [The New York Times 12/4/99] On the one hand, Third World delegates were encouraged to question whether liberalization was actually working for them, and to resist pressures to simply go along with the rich countries' proposals. On the other hand, President Clinton responded to labor pressure by endorsing sanctions against countries that violate labor rights.

Movement Convergence

In Seattle, the movement to control global capital established itself as a global opposition, representing the interests of people and the environment worldwide. It demonstrated that, even when governments around the world are dominated by corporate interests, the world's people can act to pursue their common interests. (This is what some people mean when they talk about the movement as an expression of "civil society.")

The movement in Seattle was international and overwhelmingly internationalist. Echoes of Pat Buchanan's neo-nationalism were few. Most meetings featured speakers from all over the world. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the major labor-sponsored rally included people from 144 countries.

"On stage at the rally were dozens of U.S. workers. . . who had lost work when their plants moved to poor countries. Beside them were workers from Third World countries who have won jobs in U.S.-owned factories but are making less than a dollar an hour and are desperate to organize unions in their countries." [PI, December 1, 1999 p A14]

It is hard to think of anything like this kind of internationalism -- neither subservient to any state nor polarized on Communist/anti-Communist lines -- since the death of Rosa Luxemburg eighty years ago. It grows directly from the realities of the new global economy, in which working people in all parts of the world are put into competition in what many speakers referred to as a "race to the bottom." It's not just in China that workers can't form a union or in Bangladesh that wages are being driven down by international competition -- American workers at the demonstrations in Seattle knew the same pressures are being applied to them.

While participants represented a wide range of views on the ideal balance of local, national, and global power, a broad middle ground viewed some form of global regulation as necessary, but saw a return of power to national and local levels as highly desirable. Few would say that all forms of transnational governance should be abolished. Conversely, few seemed to believe that globalization would be hunky-dory if a few global standards were incorporated in the WTO.

On "the road to Seattle" there were significant tensions between organized labor and the consumer, environmental, trade, and other groups with which it was allied. These tensions were rooted in both policy differences and long-standing distrust. In the end, however, this coalition succeeded in working together and avoiding a split. The huge rally went forward without visible signs of disunity.

The tens of thousands of participants also expressed an unaccustomed unity. There was a convergence of so many issues and of subcultures that it is hard even to list them all. While conventional labor leaders and environmentalists spoke from the same podium, blue-collar workers mingled in the crowd with young environmental activists decked out in turtle costumes. Neither side seemed to feel contaminated by the presence of the other. Seattle seems to have marked at least a temporary truce in the culture wars. In the dozens of forums, teach-ins, and workshops that accompanied the battle, such interaction often went beyond mingling to respectful mutual education.

There was also a surprising tolerance for different styles of activism. On Tuesday morning thousands of direct actionists challenged police with extremely confrontational forms of nonviolent action, in a surprisingly successful effort to prevent the WTO meetings from going ahead. (Ironically, WTO Secretary-General Mike Moore confirmed critics' charges by saying the disruptions didn't matter because the real work of the WTO was accomplished not in the cancelled public sessions but in private meetings behind closed doors.) Meanwhile, more than thirty thousand protestors, the largest group of them blue-collar trade unionists, gathered for a peaceful rally and march. At the end of the march most of them returned home, while a few thousand joined the direct actionists in the streets. Each group seemed content to share the world -- or at least Seattle -- with the other. As a result, the two forms of protest were largely synergistic. (Both groups took a strong stand for nonviolence and the direct actionists on the street did far more than the police to restrain the few dozen people who broke windows and trashed stores.)

The Future of Unity

The unity that was achieved in Seattle is vulnerable, both because of the diversity of interests and cultures involved, and because an effort to buy some groups off and play one against another is a no-brainer for the promoters of globalization.

The movement really is unified around the proposition that global corporations, markets, and capital must be sufficiently controlled to protect the well-being of the world's people and environment. But it is also composed of specific groups with specific interests. Everyone who participates in this movement has a responsibility to represent not just their own interests and concerns, but the general interests of people and the environment worldwide. The "race to the bottom" makes these indivisible. We need to see our particular interests and concerns as part of that broader objective. And we need to grasp that our power to address our particular concerns depends primarily on the growth and unity of the movement as a whole.

The movement's surprising level of unity has been achieved without centralized organization, either nationally or globally. It is composed primarily of locally- and nationally-based issue groups, transnational linking organizations, and a huge amount of networking conducted via the Internet. It seems unlikely that such a diverse global movement could ever develop a centralized organization and leadership. Unity will have to be maintained and deepened by other means. The strongest force for unity is the pressure of rank-and-file activists who understand and want it. The Internet allows them to network across organization lines and pressure leaders and organizations to remain unified.

China Is Near

Many of these issues will be posed concretely in the forthcoming struggle around China's admission to the WTO.

President Clinton has negotiated a deal for China's admission to the WTO. But for this to happen, Congress will now have to agree to permanent most-favored-nation (MFN, or as it is now euphemistically called, "normal trading relations") status for China. A Congressional vote is currently projected for February. The period from the Seattle WTO till then may well see the most important battle over globalization that has yet occurred in the U.S.

The Clinton China deal provides huge and specific benefits for U.S. banks, insurance companies, retailers, airlines, and entertainment companies. These corporations have pledged to mount an all-out campaign to pass the legislation needed. They will be joined by those who are ideologically committed to the idea of unregulated globalization.

There's a hitch, however. Over two-thirds of Americans oppose bringing China into the WTO without further progress on human rights and religious freedom. (Four out of five want labor rights and environmental protections incorporated in trade accords generally.)

Organized labor seems to have decided to take a stand on the China issue. Before Clinton's China deal, John Sweeney persuaded the AFL-CIO to make an early endorsement of Al Gore, and even signed a letter with top corporate leaders appearing to endorse Administration bargaining objectives at the WTO. But when Clinton announced the China deal, Sweeney called it "disgustingly hypocritical" and promised "a full and vigorous campaign" to block permanent MFN status for China.

The Battle of Seattle has already provided a kickoff for that campaign. The public starts out much more concerned -- and much better informed -- than in past trade battles. The coalition is in place, experienced, and relatively united. But there are still dangers of splits, co-optation, and branding of opponents as "special interests."

The battle can only be won if it is not defined as an issue of trade with China, or of protectionism vs. free trade, but rather as an issue of what kind of global economy we want. John Sweeney made a good start on this framing when he told the National Press Club, "The debate isn't about free trade or protectionism, engagement or isolation. The real debate is not over whether to be part of the global economy, but over what are the rules for that economy and who makes them."

While the issue of human rights in China is important, bashing China for its poor human rights record will not suffice. The last two fights in Congress over MFN status for China were framed in this way and, as a result, did not get even a respectable vote count. For the past decade, Congressional opposition to MFN has depended on a large scandal in connection with China (e.g. the 1989 massacre, fundraising, weapons technology, and spying.) In fact, the farther away from 1989, the fewer votes have opposed MFN. Further, the case that bringing China into the WTO will weaken government repression is at least plausible and is supported by important human rights groups both inside and outside China.

MFN for China needs to be made into a national referendum on what kind of global economy we want to have. China must be made emblematic not just of human rights abuse, but of the race to the bottom. After all, there are hundreds of millions of unemployed people in China who have little choice but to work for pennies an hour. And far from raising the living standards of the Chinese people, studies by the National Labor Committee and others demonstrate that China's insertion in the global market is already lowering them.

Another vulnerability of this campaign is that it can be portrayed as representing the special interests of privileged American workers, rather than the broad interest of the world's people. This needs to be countered in several ways:

  • -- The struggle can only succeed if it is conducted by the broad coalition of environmental, consumer, farm, labor, and human rights groups that opposed NAFTA and blocked Fast Track. Sweeney's repeated emphasis on labor's dependence on its allies is on the right track.

  • -- The campaign must outspokenly reject themes that are anti-foreigner, anti-Chinese, or anti-Asian. We should learn from the NAFTA struggle the power that came from working together with Mexican workers, and we should put Chinese labor and human rights workers at the center of the campaign.

  • -- The campaign needs to be transnational. The strongest way to show that we are not protecting narrow interests of American workers is to define the campaign as one battle in a worldwide effort to shape a different kind of global economy.

  • -- A major vulnerability at present is that the campaign can be portrayed as anti-Third World. Its participants need to take on as part of their core message a commitment to reshaping the global economy to benefit the Third World. This obviously includes such matters as debt cancellation, an end to structural adjustment programs, trade advantages for poorer countries that meet labor and environmental standards, and some kind of revival of the North/South Dialogue on the shape of the global economy -- in a UN, not a WTO, framework. As Sweeney has pointed out, those who will be hurt most by Chinese competition are those Third World countries that don't want to be forced to exploit their workers and environment as badly as China has done.

  • -- If the issue is "what are the rules for the global economy and who makes them," we need to project our vision of the answer. This is the best way to show that we do not represent narrow or backward interests, but rather a superior vision of what's needed for the future.

This struggle can only be won at the grassroots. Conventional lobbying won't do it -- only grassroots mobilization has a chance to succeed. The original struggle against NAFTA provides a starting point.

As in the NAFTA struggle, the main leadership will have to come from civil society organizations; while politicians can play an important role, they should not be in the driver's seat. The movement will have to further expand its capacity to function as an opposition force that determines what happens in the political arena by shaping its social context.

How this struggle is fought may be as important as its outcome. The goal should be to come out of it with a still more powerful worldwide movement that will not simply block MFN for China, but which will be able to impose new rules on the global economy.


2. NEWS in Brief - top


Victim of Sex Slavery dies in protest

Lola Lucia Alvarez, a victim of sex slavery by the Japanese Army in WWII died at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in Pasay City at 4:20 PM yesterday. She was 74 years old. Her death came after five days of comatose, following a cerebral stroke she suffered during a protest action at the Third Asean Informal Summit at the PICC

GABRIELA reports that it was around 8:00, Sunday morning when 60 lolas accompanied by their families and supporters assembled towards the PICC where delegates of the Third Asean Informal Summit were gathered, including Japan Prime Minister Keiko Obuchi. For the lolas, it was a rare opportunity to air their grievances at the presence of the Japan Prime Minister.

They were, however, not given the chance to get near the venue as a phalanx of policemen, at the command of a certain PNP Officer Cabigon, blocked and pushed them away with truncheons. They were later forced to retreat to the nearby Japanese Embassy to symbolically hold the protest action. It was then that Lola Lucia Alvarez had her stroke.


The Tji Hak-soon Justice & Peace Award for Ms. Rosaline Costa

Ms. Rosaline Costa, Hotline Extension Worker in Bangladesh, received a human rights award from Korea. Her great work for justice in Bangladesh has achieved the recognition from the world mostly because of her long committment. Ms. Costa has devoted herself for the human rights of the most marginalized and poorest people, that is children, women and tribal minorities. In particular, the selection committee recognized her outstanding efforts and courage in difficult circumstances in leading the struggle to get rid of child labour in the garment industry (mostly girls).

As a result of her various struggles, the garment company owners signed a contract with ILO and UNICEF to stop child labour and put the children into special schools run by NGOs for their primary education. This was the first time in the developing world that child labour has been stopped in any industry.

As well, the selection committee appreciated her enormous efforts spent in many training sessions for various groups, not only in the Catholic Church, but also for many NGOs on the issues of justice, peace, human rights and conflict resolution, which have contributed in the networking and organizations of various trade unions and human rights groups.


CCA/WCC Roundtable meeting on Indonesia and East Timor

Twenty-four Church leaders and representatives of Churches from Indonesia, East Timor and Partner Churches and Mission Agencies from Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and Hong Kong met from 12 to 14 November 1999 at a Roundtable meeting in Hong Kong to discuss the current crisis in Indonesia. The three days consultation included staff of CCA, WCC, and a Resource Person from Indonesia. The meeting was convened by the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in cooperation with the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI).

The CCA and WCC have closely monitored the developments in Indonesia since the May 1998 downfall of President Suharto's regime. Through the visits of international ecumenical delegations and the staff as well as through consultation on a virtual day to day basis, CCA and WCC have followed the situation in Indonesia with growing concern. Both the ecumenical organisations have expressed concern on the deteriorating situation, resulting in political instability, communal violence, human rights violations of the Chinese ethnic minority and the atrocities committed by the military against the people of East Timor and Irian Jaya. The post-referendum killings and destruction of property in East Timor and the increasing incidences of Christian, Muslim clashes that have resulted in wanton killings and burning of places of worship in Ambon are matters of grave and urgent concern for the ecumenical fellowship.

The Roundtable made the following recommendations :

East Timor

  1. The Churches and ecumenical fellowship should assist the people and churches of East Timor in their efforts for reconstruction and to promote peace and reconciliation in society.

  2. The humanitarian assistance to East Timor should be coordinated and an appropriate mechanism be set up to channel aid and assistance to the churches in the territory, particularly GKTT. Given the fact that at present there is no proper mechanism to coordinate international support, it is recommend that WCC should convene an East Timor Roundtable meeting of partners for purposes of ecumenical sharing of resources.

  3. Since its inception GKTT being in the territorial jurisdiction of Indonesia became a member of PGI. The vote for independence has radically changed that situation. GKTT now has to reconsider its relationship with PGI and further re-establish its identity in a predominantly Roman Catholic East Timor. It is recommended that GKTT be enabled by the international ecumenical partners to achieve this goal.

  4. The PGI should encourage and support GKTT to develop and grow as an independent administrative entity in order to gain credibility in the new political ethos of East Timor.

The members of the Roundtable appreciated the statement of Rev. Francisco de Vasconcelos, General Secretary of GKTT to continue its good relations with the Indonesian churches and seek their assistance in developing activities particularly in the areas of theological education, capacity building, reconstruction as well as in the process to promote peace and reconciliation. The Roundtable participants also welcomed the announcement of the General Secretary, that GKTT will seek the membership of CCA.


  1. The ecumenical partners should assist the Protestant Churches in Moluccas in its efforts to settle the internally displaced people in the region.

  2. The PGI, WCC, CCA as well as other partner churches and agencies should initiate steps through visitations and consultations to find ways and means to defuse conflict and tension between Christians and Muslims in the region and to help promote peace and reconciliation between the two communities.

  3. The ecumenical partners should encourage and support the efforts of the Protestant Church in the Moluccas to enter into inter religious dialogue to promote communal harmony and peace in the region.

  4. WCC-CCA should coordinate efforts to provide aid and assistance for the victims of communal violence and to help in the process of rebuilding homes for those rendered homeless.

  5. WCC-CCA should send as soon as possible an international ecumenical delegation on a pastoral visit to Ambon. Members of the delegation should include experts in inter-religious relations and be knowledgeable of Islam.

  6. The international ecumenical community should help in the setting up of model "peace villages" where Muslims and Christians could live in harmony.

Irian Jaya

  1. The PGI, as soon as possible in cooperation with the Evangelical Christian Church should convene a consultation that brings together leaders of church and society as well as legal and political national experts to discuss the future political status of Irian Jaya.

  2. The PGI should initiate Roundtable discussions in Jakarta to focus on the issue of Irian Jaya and in consultation with the Evangelical Christian Church, formulate a policy statement that reflects the aspirations of the people of Irian Jaya.

  3. The Roundtable noted with concern the report of the Evangelical Christian Church in Irian Jaya about the growing influence of Islam in the region as a result of the transmigration policies of the government, which is leading to tension and conflict amongst the people. It is recommended that PGI take up this issue with the concerned authorities.

  4. The PGI and the Evangelical Christian Church undertake a joint study of the new law relating to the autonomy of the regions and submit its comments to the authorities concerned.

  5. The international ecumenical community should channel aid and assistance to Irian Jaya through the Evangelical Christian Church in order to ensure coordination and proper utilisation of resources.

  6. Given the tense situation in the territory, WCC, CCA and PGI should continue to monitor the developments in the territory through regular visits and consultations.

Chinese Ethnic Minority

It is proposed PGI organise a consultation in Jakarta in cooperation with the Chinese Church in Indonesia on "Ethnic Chinese in Indonesia and their aspiration for nationhood"


The Roundtable discussed the deteriorating situation in Aceh and proposed that the Church in North Sumatra closely monitor the situation of refugees. The ecumenical movement should express its concern and solidarity with the muslims of Aceh and make it known that the churches condemn the human rights violations being committed by the military and are in solidarity with the victims.

Human Rights Violations

The Roundtable called on the PGI to address a letter of concern to the newly created Ministry of Human Rights and to the Attorney General of Indonesia to demand an enquiry into human rights violations being committed by the military in different parts of Indonesia particularly in Aceh, Ambon, and Irian Jaya.




A Karen doctor caring for refugees and migrant workers in Thailand, a Burmese student activist held in solitary confinement for his beliefs and a Malaysian human rights NGO earned praises from Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in statements which was released on World Human Rights Day. The support was voiced by Ms Suu Kyi in a smuggled video messages that was played at the presentation of the John Humphrey Freedom Award in Montreal

This year's John Humphrey Freedom Award is being jointly awarded to Dr. Cynthia Maung, a Karen doctor based in Thailand, and student activist Min Ko Naing who has been held in solitary confinement in Burma for over a decade. The presentation ceremony has been organised by the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (ICHRDD) and the World Civil Society Conference (WOCSOC) at the Sheraton Centre in Montreal, Canada.

In another video message to the 10th anniversary dinner of Malaysian human rights NGO Suaram in Kuala Lumpur, Ms Suu Kyi emphasised that human rights, including political, civil, social and economic rights "are not a particularly western idea".

"Human rights are relevant to all human beings. Those who wish to deny us certain political rights try to convince us that these are not Asian values. They try to make us content with what they are prepared to give us.

"The whole concept of political and civil rights is based on the conviction that not only do human beings have rights and responsibilities, but that they have the ability to win these rights for themselves. And they have the qualities that make them deserve these rights. For this reason, for us to be fully developed human beings who have realized our potential, we need our political and civil rights.

"We have heard of brave organizations all over the world which fight for political and civil rights in the face of tremendous difficulties. Quite often, these difficulties come from the direction of the authorities. We know that Suaram, like the National League for Democracy in Burma, has had to face many problems in their battle to promote political and civil rights. Freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to due process of justice, all these cannot be taken for granted in our part of the world."

Ms Suu Kyi also focused on the need for closer cooperation to promote human rights: "I hope the time will come when organizations working for human rights all over South East Asia will be able to cooperate more closely. It is only by our united efforts that we can change those attitudes which are detracting from the genuine development of our nations."


CCA-URM Training Workshop on Freedom from Debt Campaign

The CCA-URM organised a Training Workshop on Freedom from Debt Campaign organised in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from 29 November to 8 December. A total of 21 participants from Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan participated in the workshop which was partly facilitated by the Freedom from Debt Coalition from the Philippines. Other resource persons for the workshop include Dr. Bantorn Ondam from ACFOD, Khun Chanida Chanyapej from Focus on Global South, Fr. J.B. Banawiratma from Indonesia and Dr. Daniel S Thiagarajah, executive secretary for Missions and Evangelism of CCA.

The workshop was organised to train as well as to network action groups in Asia for the campaign on freedom from debt. Meeting at the same location was the joint meeting of the Christian Conference of Asia and its counterparts in the Roman Catholic Church, the Federation of Asia Bishops Conference. The participants sent a letter of appeal to that meeting requesting for their support in their efforts to campaign against debt. (See URGENT Appeal below for the appeal letter).


3. Urgent APPEAL - top


The situation of debt in the developing countries in Asia has reached to a very critical point that dehumanises people, making them the victims of social and economic injustices. The continued debt repayments and strict conditions of the lending institutions, i.e. IMF and the World Bank, Asian debt has already reached to a staggering amount of US$864.3 billion, more than 1/3 of the total debts of all developing countries.

Responding to this situation, WE, the participants of the CCA-URM Training Workshop on Freedom from Debt Campaign organised here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from 29 November to 8 December, would like to seek CCA-FABC support for the following:

  1. To include the cancellation of debts of poor countries in Asia as a matter of top priority in the agenda.

  2. To declare the year 2000 as an Asian Jubilee Year for the cancellation of debts of the poor countries in Asia.

  3. To take strong initiatives to work in solidarity with peoples' movements regardless of faith in addressing the economic structural problems created by Bretton Woods Triune (IMF, WB and WTO).

  4. As Asian people, to raise our strong voices in the ongoing WTO Meeting in Seattle against economic injustice which is being done through WTO.

As this has become a matter of life and death, we eagerly look forward for your support and participation as we step into 21st Century in liberating Asian people from the debt bondage and economic oppression.

Chiang Mai, 2 December 1999

Signed by: 24 Participants and organisers at the Workshop.



Migrant's Cultural Festival

The Coalition for Migrants' Rights in Hong Kong will be organising its most awaited culminating activity of the year - the Migrant's Cultural Festival,
When : Sunday, December 19, 1999
Time : 9 am up to 7 pm
Venue : Site 8 UC Centenary Garden, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon

For more information, write to the Asia Migrant Center at



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