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23 June 2000
No. 107


In this issue:
  1. FEATURE
    DON'T STRENGTHEN THE WTO BY ADMITTING CHINA
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Geneva - NGOs call on the UN to withdraw endorsement
    Thailand - Letter to James Wolfensohn from the Assembly of the Poor
    Burma - AUNG SAN SUU KYI TO WOMEN OF BURMA : DON'T UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF.
    Thailand - THAI WOMEN POLITICIANS SUPPORT WOMEN OF BURMA
    China - World Bank 'broke own rules' on loan
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    Thailand - Peoples' Assembly Against the IMF/World Bank
  4. ANNOUNCEMENT
    EVENT FOR PEACE

 

1. FEATURE - top
 

DON'T STRENGTHEN THE WTO BY ADMITTING CHINA

By Sarah Anderson, John Cavanagh, and Bama Athreya

 

It is unfortunate that the first major post-Seattle legislative battle is over China and the WTO. The Seattle protests offered a stinging critique of the WTO and strong arguments for its downsizing or elimination, and opened up space for a debate on which rules and institutions should replace it. The current congressional debate over China and the WTO is not about these issues, but rather over the conditions that should accompany China's joining a deeply flawed institution.

There are good reasons to oppose China's entry into the WTO, and to oppose the current framework for granting permanent normal trading relations (PNTR) with the United States. However, these reasons do not include the singling-out of China on its human rights record. The challenge for the post-Seattle coalition of citizen organizations is to conduct the China debate in a way which builds upon the North-South and cross-sectoral alliances that were strengthened in the Seattle and Washington protests. Many Southern groups are rightly alarmed by the hyperbolic "China-bashing" that some opponents of PNTR have used. The tactic of singling out China as the great rogue nation on a range of issues weakens the strong North-South alliances that are critical to shifting the direction of the global economy. There are strong "internationalist" reasons to oppose the China deal, and we urge education and advocacy to center on these arguments.

The Larger Context

Since his first run for the presidency in 1992, Bill Clinton has paid lip service to the concerns raised by labor unions, environmental groups, and others over the social impacts of free trade. But while spouting touching rhetoric about "putting a human face on globalization," he has continued to pursue new trade deals that expand the power of global corporations, to the detriment of workers and communities throughout the world.

The Clinton Administration's trade agreement with China, announced shortly before the WTO Ministerial in Seattle in December 1999, is one such deal. This agreement exclusively addresses market access issues, while ignoring the potential impact on employment, environment, and democracy. The skepticism about whether the United States is pursuing a social agenda in good faith is greatly enhanced by the U.S. announcement of an agreement between the United States and China to permit China's entry to the WTO. From the perspective of advocates for a WTO social agenda in trade agreements, the key question is how the United States could manage to reach agreement on a complex series of issues paving the way for China to join the WTO--including issues of intellectual rights protection, textile quotas, and investment barriers--but somehow manage to come up short on securing agreement to begin a meaningful process on social standards?

Indeed, insiders to the negotiations confirm that neither labor rights nor human rights were even mentioned in the context of the negotiations. Some within the administration have argued that such issues are best left to an agreement dedicated to these subjects, and have made much of a long-stalled bilateral dialogue on human rights. In reality, throughout 1999, the relationship between the United States and China was negatively affected by a number of factors, including the U.S. bombing of a Chinese embassy in Bosnia. One of the only venues for exchange was the trade talks, and the U.S. government did not hesitate to use this venue to bring up a number of bilateral concerns. Why not, then, labor or human rights? The subject of labor rights should have been particularly germane to the discussion, as the administration had recently announced its support for a working group on labor within the WTO. The fact that China opposes such a working group, and that the United States did nothing to secure any change in China's position on this issue, suggests that the United States is not serious about WTO reform. Advocates of alternatives to the current free trade agenda must make serious concern and discussion of social issues a precondition to individual bilateral country negotiations.

We do not support the permanent normalization of trade relations with China at this time for the same reasons that we do not support any efforts to strengthen the current trade and investment institutions without explicitly addressing social and environmental concerns. The massive protests in Seattle against the WTO, as well as recent protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC, have only underscored the widespread public rejection of the trade and investment liberalization agenda.

Rather than expanding the free trade agenda, now is the time to put the brakes on these policies so that the world can pursue a serious discussion about new rules for the global economy that will reduce inequality and promote enhanced protection of labor and human rights and environmental standards. Thus, we oppose not only the current China deal, but also the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, the Caribbean Basin Initiative, fast track trade negotiating authority, and the extension of NAFTA into a hemispheric agreement to be called the Free Trade Area of the Americas (due to be completed in 2005). However, we strongly support the need to develop alternatives to these proposals to ensure that the benefits of global trade are broadly shared by the world's citizens; thus we were encouraged by the alternative trade bill for Africa, Jesse Jackson Jr.'s HOPE bill. For us, the China-related legislation is one more battle in the long fight FOR new rules to guide the process of globalization that place the concerns of workers and communities at the center. It is not a battle AGAINST China.

There are specific implications of the current China deal that are of particular concern.

Internationalist Arguments

1. WTO membership limits a country's ability to set domestic economic and social policy. In China's case, workers have even more to lose from a reduced government role in the economy than those in most countries. Currently, more than 100 million Chinese work in state-owned enterprises. China's entry into the WTO will speed up privatization, resulting in millions of layoffs. Free market reforms, including cuts in subsidies for state-owned enterprises, have already caused millions of layoffs, provoking an explosion of protests in many cities. Entry into the WTO is expected to accelerate job loss, including one million layoffs in the textile industry and six million in the auto industry.

2. In the agriculture sector, the impacts will be even more severe. Peasant farmers now make up more than 80 percent of the country's population. As a result of subsidy cuts and trade liberalization, it will be very difficult for China's small-scale farming to survive competition with global agribusiness corporations. Even the Chinese government concedes that an estimated 10 million peasants will lose their livelihoods once the country joins the WTO. A preview of what could come can be seen in the tragic situation of farmers in Mexico. Since the passage of the NAFTA, hundreds of thousands of Mexican peasants have lost their land due to drastic cuts in subsidies and a flood of cheap imports from the American grain belt.

3. On top of unemployment fears, Chinese workers will face an erosion of social welfare programs. Tariffs collected on imports have been a major source of the revenues used to support China's social welfare system. WTO membership will reduce these revenues, likely leading to soaring costs for health care and other services. According to the Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace, "China used to be able to say with some validity that while their system did not protect individual liberties, it did provide for social and economic rights better than a free market economy such as the United States. Now, increasingly, the Chinese system combines the worst features of capitalism and socialism."

4. Foreign direct investment in China to date has resulted in no increased protections for human rights, nor specifically for workers' rights. In fact it is likely that such investment has led to the rise of new types of rights abuses in China. U.S. and other foreign direct investment in China has expanded dramatically since 1990, principally in the light manufacturing industries of south China, but this investment has led to new types of rights violations. Certain types of rights abuses, such as arbitrary detention, lack of due process, torture, and arbitrary application of the death penalty have remained chronic in China. Other rights violations, notably abuses of workers in these new enterprises, have been on the rise; these abuses include excessive overtime, arbitrary fines and other punishments, and exposure to hazardous chemicals and workplace conditions. These problems are exacerbated by China's unique system of internal migration controls, which bond the worker to the factory by giving the employer control over his or her residence permit. Far from enjoying newfound economic freedom, millions of Chinese workers now find themselves working as bonded laborers for foreign enterprises.

The Clinton Response

The Clinton administration argues that these types of abuses will be remedied by "constructive engagement" with China through the country's membership in a "rules-based" trading system. In reality, there is nothing to suggest that China's entry into the WTO will translate into greater respect for human rights. This is not simply due to recalcitrance on the part of China itself; China's major diplomatic partners, including the United States, must share the blame. A bilateral "dialogue" on human rights virtually ground to a halt last year. A longstanding memorandum of understanding on prison labor has never been implemented. When the U.S. government fails to take seriously its commitment to engaging China on any issue other than trade, why should we expect the Chinese government to respond differently?

We have welcomed the vigorous debate around the upcoming congressional vote on PNTR, to the extent that it has provided another opportunity to examine the free trade model. However, we are alarmed at a number of statements and arguments by some of these critics that are reminiscent of some of the worst "China-bashing" of the past 100 years. In particular, some in the Pentagon, Congress, and the conservative think tank arena, desperately in search of new enemies in the aftermath of the Cold War, are painting an inaccurate picture of China as the great new military threat to U.S. interests in Asia. There is ample evidence that China remains militarily weak and poses no threat (See James H. Nolt's FPIF policy brief on U.S.-China-Taiwan Military Relations at http://www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org/briefs/vol5/v5n11china.html). We would urge the AFL-CIO and other progressive allies who oppose PNTR with China to speak out actively against this attempted launching of a new cold war with China. This is a vital issue for the months and years to come.

Alternatives to "China-Bashing"

We offer caution to those who are painting China as the worst abuser of human rights in the world. While acknowledging that China has been a systematic violator of worker rights and of many political and civil rights, we must also give China credit for respecting many economic and social rights. And, overall, there are countries with records as poor as China's on human and worker rights that are already WTO members. Of course, the U.S. record on many of these rights is far from perfect.

The real problem is the U.S. government. By bilaterally negotiating the deal that becomes the key step for China joining a multilateral agency, the United States once again demonstrated the 800-pound gorilla approach that has proved to be a major constraint to healthy international cooperation on serious policy issues. As long as the United States insists on attempting to call the shots in every international institution, it will be impossible to overcome the justifiable suspicions of governments and activists around the world that any new international mechanisms to strengthen enforcement of worker rights and environmental standards will only be manipulated by the U.S. government to serve its own needs.

Thus, instead of arguing that China should be singled out, we support the proposals of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) concerning the development of a mechanism that would provide incentives for all nations to adhere to international labor standards. We acknowledge the criticisms of many that such a mechanism should not be placed in the current undemocratic WTO with its free trade mandate. However, we support calls for a more democratic global trade and investment regime that would be geared toward promoting sustainable societies and dignified work. In such an institution, China and all nations would undergo a review every several years on whether they are taking steps to respect core rights, with any nation that fails to meet the criteria facing the same sanctions. (The ICFTU recommends that the International Labor Organization (ILO) be responsible for carrying out the review). Furthermore, the labor and human rights standards that all countries must respect should be drawn from the core conventions of the ILO and from the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

(Sarah Anderson is the Director of the Global Economy Program and John Cavanagh is the Director of the Institute for Policy Studies. Bama Athreya is the Director of Asia Programs at the International Labor Rights Fund.)

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

GENEVA

NGOs call on the UN to withdraw endorsement of "A Better World for All" document

Geneva, 28th June 2000

NGO’s, people’s organisations and movements, organised in caucuses, are outraged about the document released on Monday 26th of June at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the Social Summit + 5, called A Better World for All.

Process Derailed

A Better World for All was released as a joint document produced by the OECD, IMF, World Bank and the United Nations. It is based on the seven pledges made by the OECD member countries in "Shaping the 21st Century", released in 1996. Although these pledges were said to be extracted from the UN Conferences and the Social Summit, they were only a small selection. The goal to reduce the proportion of people living in poverty by half between 1990 and 2015 was introduced as a new goal by the OECD. With the increased emphasis given by industrialised countries on the targets formulated by the OECD, this new target has been elevated to being the principal target. The IMF presented it as the principal target last year.

We have always welcomed specific objectives and time-bound targets. But we have also recognised that these objectives need to be agreed in an inclusive process of negotiations, with transparent procedures. While the OECD represents only the northern countries, the same as those who are the majority shareholders of the World Bank and the IMF, the UN represents the nations of the world on an equal basis. It provides the principal forum for reaching political consensus in a participatory process that includes both the North and the South. It therefore allows for joint decisions on how to address common problems based on shared responsibility, mutual commitment and national ownership of governance. Rather than imposing policies through conditionality, as the IMF and World Bank do, the strength of the UN is its ability to promote national responsibility in a shared international framework.

This document has been presented as a new consensus between the United Nations, the OECD, the IMF and the World Bank. By doing so, it reinforced the perspectives from the North and disempowered the South. It undermined the very concept of political inclusiveness that defines the UN.

Undermining UNGASS

In the timing of its release this document is particularly damaging. At the moment when UNGASS was in the final phase of negotiating very complex issues, this document advocates a partisan vision forward. This biased message was emphasised by the Secretary General in his opening statements, both at the General Assembly and at the Geneva 2000 forum. This pre-empted the negotiations in the UNGASS and devalued its very process.

Secretary General Surrenders To Bretton Woods

The UN Charter clearly made a distinction between the UN and its specialised agencies, including the Bretton Woods institutions. By doing so it separated the political process from the executive responsibility with the objective to enhance the political accountability of national governments to their citizens. We, therefore, take issue with the equal status given by the signatories of the report between the United Nations, as represented by the Secretary General, and the World Bank, IMF and OECD.

Patronising The Poor - Ignoring Poverty In The North
We are also appalled by the content of the report. In Copenhagen we made headway in changing the notion of "the poor" as "victims of poverty" into "people living in poverty" who are "citizens universally entitled to development who should fully enjoy economic, social cultural, civil and political rights". A Better World for All carries the image of poor people who need help and will be grateful when assisted. The promotion of this image does not empower people living in poverty to demand their rights. A Better World for All portrays poverty as a problem only in the South. No statistics are provided of poverty in the North. In dealing with global poverty the document totally ignores the persistence of poverty in the North. The images show exactly the real nature of the new consensus: the North identifying the problems of the South and providing the solutions for the South.

Contradictions

The importance of Copenhagen was the recognition that social development can only be achieved in an enabling economic and political environment. Clearly A Better World for All has weakened the political environment. While it pays lip service to the need to "empower poor people" it belittles them. While it speaks of the importance of "inclusive democracy" it undermines it. The introduction of the concept of "pro-poor growth" places the responsibility of coming out of poverty on the backs of the poor, particularly in the South.

Backward Steps

A Better World for All is also regressing on the notions developed in Copenhagen on the enabling economic environment. It fails to recognise the role that the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) played in demanding economic policies that generated poverty. The very policies of the Bretton Woods institutions focused on export-led growth and, with disregard of wealth distribution and environmental sustainability, have been an obstacle for national governments to develop social policies. Globalisation has failed to respect workers' rights, including the principles contained in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights of Work; and to provide decent work for the majority of the world’s people. This has had devastating consequences for workers and people in general, especially for women and children. Rather than recognising how to contribute to improve the economic environment, A Better World for All proposes that poverty eradication can be achieved by further opening up of the markets of developing countries. It is indeed evident from the recent financial crises in the East-Asian region and elsewhere, stemming largely from rapid financial liberalisation, that these policies are not sustainable.

IFIs Deepen Poverty

Without changing the substance of their policies, the Bretton Woods Institutions have been attempting to put the macro-economic policies that are advocated into a framework of poverty eradication. Within this global plan, the IMF changed the name of the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) into the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF). The World Bank and the IMF expect that the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers will become a key instrument for countries' relations with the donor community. These plans would also provide a basis for Bank and Fund concessional lending to support the country as well as debt relief under the HIPC Initiative.

The PRSP emphasises - correctly - that national governments are responsible for social development. However, the policies of the Bretton Woods institutions developed to reduce poverty have not resolved the fundamental contradiction between Structural Adjustment Policies, prescribed by the Washington policy-makers to national governments, with Social Development. Whilst the PRSP is an attempt to foster social development, macro-economic conditions by the IFIs for loans and debt relief have not changed. These conditions - which include administrative and fiscal reform in the context of austerity programmes as well as measures for further liberalisation of trade and finance - have destroyed local productive capacity, increased unemployment and degraded the quality of public social services. Globalisation and the neo-liberal system are simply not compatible with Social Development.

Within the PRSP there is no offer to respond to the adverse effects of Structural Adjustment nor are there any arrangements for adequate and additional means for investment in social sectors. It is almost inevitable that the PRSP be an opportunity for donors to impose additional conditionality on national governments. This will make national governments responsible for social development without being in control of the means or resources to implement policies that foster Social Development.

Bretton Woods For All?

We believe that the release of this document raises the stakes of the outcome of UNGASS. The outcome is no longer just credible on a set of new initiatives to rectify the lack of implementation that all can observe. It particularly demands that the wealthy nations demonstrate their commitment to the Copenhagen goals and the UN system as a whole by putting in place measures that honours their pledges in 1995.

We therefore call upon all Member States:

  1. To demonstrate the commitment to the UNGASS Social development + 5 process in analysing the root-causes of poverty and gender inequality within the current macro-economic framework of globalisation in the South and in the North.

  2. To make a commitment to reversing the current decline in ODA and establish a timetable in which the UN target of 0.7% of GNP will be met by 2005. Meeting this long-standing commitment is crucial to re-building confidence between developing and industrialised countries and to provide necessary resources for reaching social development goals.

  3. To implement the immediate and full cancellation of the debt of the developing countries to release resources for investment in social development. The burden of debt is an obstacle to the right to development. Full debt cancellation for developing countries would demonstrate political commitment for social development and would be an appropriate response to the many civil society campaigns.

  4. To introduce a Currency Transfer Tax (CTT) to counter the instability of global capital transactions and to mobilise further resources for social development. A CTT would be an effective means to counter the excessive volatility of short-term capital transactions. It could potentially provide additional resources for social development.

Unachievable Goals

The goals of Copenhagen cannot be achieved if developing countries are marginalised in the decision-making process in the international institutions. They should not and will not accept this. While much responsibility for achieving social development and the eradication of poverty must be taken nationally, this cannot succeed without an international enabling environment, which includes the provision of adequate resources.

NGOs Call For 2005 Summit

The Copenhagen Summit brought together the largest gathering of world leaders in history. The importance of the Summit must be demonstrated by concrete results that can be monitored. It is therefore imperative that in 2005, the mid-point between the historic Summit and the date set for achieving many of the critical targets should be marked by another gathering of meeting of world leaders. This is the best way to re-assert the centrality of the Copenhagen commitments at the beginning of the new Millennium, and to ensure that they receive the political attention that they deserve.

NGOs Call On Member States To Reject Document

NGOs call on Members of the United Nations to disassociate themselves from the document. The content of this document does not reflect the spirit, opinion and positions of the United Nations as a whole, nor that of civil society. Additionally the UN Agencies have published documents which proclaim a different vision and propose policies which contradict the A Better World for All document. NGOs at this conference have pledged to continue to intensify a global campaign against the vision portrayed in this partisan document.

THAILAND

Letter to James Wolfensohn from the Assembly of the Poor

What follows is the text of the letter to James Wolfensohn from the Assembly of the Poor and other villagers whose livelihoods and lives have been threatened by the World Bank-sponsored Pak Mun Dam on the Mun River in Thailand. This letter was delivered to a World Bank official on Wednesday, June 14, and portions of it were read over a bullhorn outside the World Bank.


June 5, 2000

Mr. James Wolfensohn
President
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Wolfensohn,

We, the villagers affected by the Pak Mun Dam and Assembly of the Poor, write to you from the fenced off car park and area around the crest of the Pak Mun dam. One thousand of us have been living here since May 15, 2000 to demand the dam's flood gates be opened permanently to allow fish migrating out of the Mekong to pass through to spawn upstream.

Ten years ago the World Bank and EGAT destroyed our livelihoods through the construction of the Pak Mun dam. We were promised a better way of life but instead our fisheries were decimated and our communities destroyed. Over the past ten years we have learnt that compensation will not solve our problems and will only cause new problems. We believe that the only way forward for our communities is for the dam to be decommissioned and the river restored.

The World Commission on Dams (WCD) Summary for Forum: March 24, 2000, found that "the actual [fish] catch in the reservoir and to a lesser extent also the river reach immediately upstream of the reservoir is 60% to 80% less than in the pre-dam era. The unexpected impacts of Pak Mun dam included dramatic decrease in fish species, fish abundance and productivity; lower fishing income for the households and changes in fishing occupation, fishing pattern, food expense, and the resultant social, economic and political consequences. The Pak Mun dam has affected aquatic biodiversity and relative abundance of fish populations up and down stream of the dam. The head pond has inundated and destroyed significant spawning habitat habitats such as rapids."

The Summary for Forum also said "it is now clear that the fish ladder is not accommodating seasonal fish migration from the Mekong River into Mun/Chi Watershed. The Pak Mun dam, with only 136 MW installed capacity, de facto seals off a catchment area of 117,000 square km. Fish migration only takes place in flood period, usual in August and September, when the flood gates are sometimes open. However the peak fish migration period is from May to June, at the start of rainy season. Of the 265 species record in the Mun watershed before 1994, 77 species were migratory. Furthermore 35 species depended on rapid habitat by the Pak Mun reservoir. The latest survey after dam construction record only 96 species upstream of the dam. There has been an apparent impact on 169 fish species."

According to the Summary Report, the 136 MW Pak Mun scheme was designed to operate as peaking plant, using the storage of the reservoir for daily operation. During wet months Pak Mun cannot turbine the whole daily in flow in the 4 hours peak demand period and must generate power in off-peak hours as well. When the water levels in the Mekong are very high, the power plant will be shutdown for lack of generating head.

Inspection of Pak Mun's monthly energy generation value indicate that in April and May, which are the most critical month in terms of power system demand and hydro availability, not more than about 5 GWh is produced. If this output is spread evenly over the 4 hours peaking period, the equivalent capacity is about 40 MW.

The WCD report said that the economic rate of return of the dam is between 4.6 to 5.6%, less than the projected 12%.

Moreover, the WCD found that the actual irrigations benefit are zero.

Therefore, we call on the World Bank to take responsibility for the destruction you have caused to our lives and to the ecology and fisheries of the Mun River. We demand the World Bank work with the Thai government to decommission Pak Mun dam by opening the flood gates permanently and restoring the Mun River.

Yours sincerely,


Affected villagers by Pak Mun Dam and Assembly of the Poor

BURMA

AUNG SAN SUU KYI TO WOMEN OF BURMA : DON'T UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF.

June 19, 2000

Bangkok, Mon:- Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the women of Burma to work together for the improvement of the country with the reminder "Women should not underestimate their strength and power".

In a bilingual video message to mark Women of Burma Day which also falls on her birthday June 19, the pro-democracy leader said: "The struggle for democracy is not slowing down - it is continuing strongly because of these women. Our party members have been arrested especially after the formation of the CRPP in 1998. The relatives of those who were or are arrested support us in many ways. We understand that this is the strength and power of our women. Women should not underestimate their strength and power.

"Not long ago, I met with a lady whose son was arrested and another lady whose daughter was also arrested. Both of these ladies have a very similar attitude. They believe that what their children believe in is right and will support them with whatever it takes. One mother told her daughter "Do not resign from the NLD because of me"."

Ms Suu Kyi commented further: "I have noticed that among our colleagues, it is those with the staunchest wives who are able to do the best work. It's the wife who decides how effectively and how freely the husband can work in the political field. It is the wife who is prepared to sacrifice her own comfort or her beliefs who is best able to help her husband do his work. Women are very important in our movement.

"We find that it is the woman who sometimes have a better understanding of why we are struggling for democracy because she strips away all the political jargon and gets down to basic facts. What women want is a safer, better life for their children, for their families. On the surface, this seems narrow and this seems selfish but it's not like that. That is just on the surface. If you probe deeper, you find that there are wells of understanding and empathy. Women can empathize with the fate of mothers whose children are in prison, of wives who have lost their husbands, of women who are struggling to feed families, of the housewife who goes to the bazaar daily with her heart pounding in case prices have gone up again."

The Nobel Laureate also emphasised the role of women in work to improve ethnic relations in Burma: "To have peace and unity in our country, women need to lead the way. Women can work a lot more for understanding, unity and loving kindness amongst the ethnic people. Women have more understanding towards each other. Whether it is a Mon mother, Karen mother, Burman mother or Chin mother, they all would worry for their children and so they understand each other. From this basic understanding, we have to build up unity as a whole in our country.

"Therefore, I want our women to be more active and strong. If we all do what we can to get democracy, we will be able to quickly attain our goal. Our goal is to have security and peace for people of Burma. Therefore, I would like to request all women of Burma to work together for this goal."

Ms Suu Kyi also used the occasion to thank women supporters from all over the world : "I would like to use this occasion especially to thank our friends, our woman friends from all over the world who have helped us. It is amazing how many women from different countries have taken up the cause of democracy in Burma."

Groups around the world have organised events to commemorate Women of Burma Day including in such countries as Thailand, Philippines, India, Japan, Australia, USA, UK and South Africa.

THAILAND

THAI WOMEN POLITICIANS SUPPORT WOMEN OF BURMA

Bangkok, Mon - Three activist women writers from Burma were overwhelmed by the goodwill and support of Thai women politicians at an informal meeting held in Bangkok this afternoon to mark Women of Burma Day. Women of Burma Day falls on June 19, which is also the birthday of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The politicians at the ceremony were Mrs. Mukda Phonesombat (MP, Khon Khaen), Senator Maleerat Keawka (Sakon-nakorn), Senator Malinee Sukaveiworakit (Nakornsawan), Senator Prateep Ungsongtham Hata (Bangkok), Senator Samruey Kaevatana (Ayutthaya) and Senator Tuenjai Deetes (Chiangrai). They expressed strong support for the work of women activists striving for democracy using non-violent means. They also presented a birthday card to Aung San Suu Kyi to the activists.

Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, Senator Tuenjai Deetes said that there was great spiritual and moral support for the cause led by Ms Suu Kyi. "We are especially concerned about the situation of the ethnic nationality women. We also realise that what happens in Burma affects the people in Thailand."

The writers, all of whom fled Burma due to military harassment and attack, presented the politicians with flowers and copies of the book "Burma ~ More Women's Voices". The book, produced to mark Women of Burma Day 2000, features contributions by the women.

Ms July who wrote " A Family Tragedy" said: "I had not imagined that there was so much support for the women in Burma. It was a wonderful surprise." Ms Phyu Lay who wrote of her year-long trek evading military attack in the jungles of Burma said: "I was so happy to meet them and see their support and interest." Ms Ying Cherry who wrote an article on national reconciliation in Burma was inspired by the women's achievements in politics. "I hope that our women will get the same chances when Burma has democracy".

The event was also attended by pro-democracy activists from Forum-Asia, Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma, Asian Network for Free Elections and Altsean-Burma.

CHINA

World Bank 'broke own rules' on loan

REUTERS

The World Bank broke seven of 10 of its own regulations when it examined and decided to back a controversial loan to resettle some 60,000 Chinese farmers in traditional Tibetan lands, the Financial Times reported on Monday citing a report prepared for the bank. The US$160 million (HK$1.25 billion) loan has come under fire from both the United Tibetan exile groups, who say the resettlement plan is tantamount to ''cultural genocide,'' and the United States, which has been urging China to withdraw the project.

The report, compiled by three independent development specialists at the request of the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors, found repeated instances where the bank's operational policies and procedures were not followed, according to the newspaper, which said it had obtained a copy. The specialists found that key population groups due to be resettled were not properly consulted, alternative investment and project alternatives were not considered and compared, and the project was not properly classified. It also concluded that the bank's environmental assessments and the standard of maps, charts and references were inadequate, and that the bank did not properly comply with its own rules when assessing the impact the project would have on indigenous communities in the area, the article said.

The investigators also concluded that information was not disclosed in accordance with bank rules, the Financial Times said.

Human rights activists said there was now enough evidence in the public domain for the project to be cancelled outright. "It's really hard to see how the bank is going to fix this project," John Ackerly, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, said. "After so many bungles, there's no way they could go on with it without severely damaging the credibility of the bank."

World Bank officials were not immediately available to comment. Bank President Wolfensohn, in a confidential June 21 letter to directors accompanying the report, said the so-called China Western Poverty Reduction Project was too political for the bank's managers to be involved.

The newspaper said Mr Wolfensohn had wanted to release the scathing report, commissioned in order to respond to criticisms by the International Campaign for Tibet, one of the largest pro-Tibetan groups, in the interest of improving transparency - but the bank's 24 executive directors opposed the release. Publication plans were abruptly cancelled after an emergency board meeting decided that publication would go against bank rules, the paper reported.

"Mr Wolfensohn's personal view is that the report should be released, but the board considered it and felt there were not enough grounds for making an exception to normal bank procedure," the article quoted Sven Sandstrom, the World Bank's managing director, as saying.

The World Bank staff initially appeared unaware of the political implications when it began assessing the project. The bank's board approved the loan last year against the wishes of the US and Germany, two of the institution's top three shareholders, but financing was delayed until the specialists investigated objections to the project.

Mr Wolfensohn has accepted some of the criticisms and proposed putting the project on hold for at least a year while further studies were carried out, including the commissioning of a higher-level environmental analysis, the upgrading of social assessments and the provision of better maps and documentation, according to the newspaper report.

 

3. Urgent APPEAL - top
 

Thailand - Peoples' Assembly Against the IMF/World Bank

Below is a a copy of the unity statement adopted April's People's Assembly Against IMF-WB and Imperialist Globalization held in Washington, DC. the folks at the People's Assembly would like to ask your organization, network, friends, supporters of the Peoples Assembly to sign on to the Unity Statement and show both support for the Peoples Assembly and opposition to the IMF-World Bank and current globalization policies. You can use your individual names and organizations. You may send your "signatures" to <sbaypa@yahoo.com>.

UNITY STATEMENT
Peoples' Assembly Against the IMF/World Bank
April 2000

We, the Peoples' Assembly Against the IMF/World Bank, are firmly united in the task of exposing and opposing the International Monetary Fund/World Bank and advancing the people's resistance to imperialist globalization.

Imperialist globalization must be unmasked and fully discredited. It is monopoly capitalism masquerading as a new and wonderful product of the electronic age. It ravages the environment, devastates countries and subjugates entire peoples with unequaled ferocity and ruthlessness.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) are tools of imperialist globalization. They are instruments of multinational corporations (MNCs) and imperialist states for dictating financial and monetary policy on client states. In the end, the IMF/WB cannot be reformed, but must be dismantled. US imperialism controls the IMF/WB contrary to the official propaganda that member states enjoy decision-making powers.

Imperialist states, led by the United States, and acting as protectors and promoters of the super-profits of giant monopoly firms, are intensifying the exploitation and oppression of all peoples around the world. They are the masterminds of increased worker exploitation, the perpetrators who violate peasants' and workers' rights leaving them landless and in feudal and semi-feudal bondage, the chief instigators of human rights violations, and the biggest plunderers and polluters of the environment.

Imperialist globalization is not inevitable. It is not unstoppable. We have proven this time and time again in tactical battles against the neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation and privatization against the debt trap and in the recent highly successful anti-MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments) Campaign.  The peoples of the world were successful in launching massive protests and shutting down the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle, Washington last December 1999.

While we struggle for reforms and try to achieve palpable gains on immediate issues, we make sure that we are not distracted from the overall struggle against the main enemy of the world's peoples today -- imperialism -- specifically the No. 1 imperialist power, the USA.

We vow to close ranks to confront the imperialist monster that has taken away our land, jobs and livelihood and has further displaced, commodified and turned women into modern-day slaves. We denounce imperialist globalization that has impoverished us and left us hungry, sick, without decent housing, and has stolen our youth's future.

We commit ourselves to bring down this system which is bringing genocidal wars of imperialist intervention and domination upon the peoples of the world. We demand an end to the economic blockade of Cuba, the ongoing bombing of Iraq and the use of the United Nations sanctions to bring sovereign countries to heel.

We firm up our resolve to promote and develop the anti-imperialist and democratic struggle of the workers and oppressed peoples against the inhumane policies and acts of the MNCs, their governments and international instruments such as the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization and military alliances.

We support the calls of the International League of Peoples' Struggles which will be founded at the end of the year 2000.

Finally, we stand ready to fight for the following:

  1. National and social liberation from imperialism and all reaction and resistance to foreign aggression and intervention;

  2. Human rights in he civil, political, economic, social and cultural fields against state violence national oppression, class exploitation, fascism, racism and religious bigotry;

  3. The cause of peace against wars of aggression and against nuclear and genocidal weapons;

  4. Independent trade union and workers' and toilers' rights and reduction of working hours at full pay against mass unemployment and decreasing wage levels;

  5. Rights of peasants, farm workers and fisherfolk against feudal and semifeudal exploitation and oppression;

  6. The rights of women and rights against all forms of sexual discrimination, exploitation and violence;

  7. The rights of the youth to education and employment;

  8. Children's rights against child labor and other forms of exploitation;

  9. Rights of indigenous peoples oppressed nations and nationalities against chauvinism and racism;

  10. The rights of teachers, researchers and other educational personnel;

  11. The right of the people to health care and the rights of health workers;

  12. The rights, welfare and release of political prisoners;

  13. Rights and welfare of displaced persons, refugees and migrant workers;

  14. Environmental protection against plunder and pollution; and

  15. The right to safe and health food free from genetic manipulation.

 

4. ANNOUNCEMENT - top
 

EVENT FOR PEACE

July 6, 2000 at 7pm in Seoul.

The organiser of the Event for Peace is the Committee for the truth of the Civilian Massacres in the Vietnam War at KHIS. The purpose of this event is to convey an apology to the Vietnamese people and to make the larger Korean public aware of this tragedy and to ask for the help of the Korean government to engage in a fact-finding investigation of korean responsibility for the massacres.

Profit from ticket sales will go towards the construction of a museum in remembrance of the masscre victims.

Messages of solidarity can be sent to khis21@hotmail.com

 


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