Of The World Social Forum
By Suhas Chakma
27 January, 2004
4th World Social Forum held in Mumbai from January 17 to 21, 2004, ended
with a pledge to end the rhetorical analysis and adopt a programme of
action for implementation in the next year's summit. Unless the WSF
is able to adopt such a programme of action, polemics will soon suffer
from the law of diminishing returns. However, if the process of adoption
of the NGO Declarations in the World Conferences organised by the United
Nations were any indication, adoption of a programme of action in the
next WSF would be akin to climbing up the Mount Everest.
chorus is against globalisation, the participation of over 100,000 people
from 130 countries undoubtedly contributes to globalisation. Many anti-globalisation
activists themselves take advantage of globalisation. Therefore, what
is required is ethical globalisation. Moreover, globalisation is no
longer synonymous of Western globalisation. While West Pakistan failed
to impose Urdu on Bengalis of East Pakistan in 1950s and New Delhi failed
to impose Hindi on its south in 1960s, Hindi successfully made inroads
across the subcontinent through cable TV. Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu
Thi has replaced Bangladesh TV, Pakistan TV, Nepal TV and MTV.
In most cases,
globalisation only accelerates the exploitation, iniquities and discriminatory
practices and mechanisms already in-built in societies or in the state
apparatus. Jharkhand, the heartland of India's indigenous peoples, has
been the epicentre of India's industrialisation since the colonial times.
It is resourceful with minerals including 37 per cent of the country's
coal reserves and 40 per cent of its copper reserves. Jharkhand ranks
number one State in India in the production of iron ore, copper ores,
mica, kyanite, uranium and asbestos. Despite over a hundred years of
industrialisation, the Adivasis remain poor due to the denial of the
right to entitlement.
The so-called South
is no less exploitative than North. The maltreatment of the migrant
workers across West Asia and South-East Asia requires little introduction.
In fact, the UN International Convention on Migrant Workers has been
ratified only by migrant-workers producing countries and not the recipient
or potential recipient countries. The absence of rule of law across
West Asia and South-East Asia in comparison to Europe is starkly clear.
Rather than prosecuting the guilty personnel for torture and other abuses
against migrant workers, Ms Irene Fernandes, Director of Tenaganita,
an NGO working with migrant women, was sentenced to 12 months prison
by a Malaysian court in October 2003 for allegedly "publishing
false information with malevolent intentions." Her only crime was
abuses against the migrant workers, mainly Bangladeshis.
For poorer countries
of South, origin of capital makes little difference like the Adivasis
of Jharkhand. In 1996, India and Nepal signed a bilateral trade agreement.
This agreement allowed Nepal-produced goods wide access to the Indian
market with drastically reduced "local content" requirements.
Because of the alleged smuggling of non-Nepal produced goods, Indian
Government reacted with anti-dumping duties. The bordering State governments
of Bihar and UP also imposed luxury taxes on Nepali products. India
finally obtained strong amendments to the treaty when it came up for
renewal in early 2002. However, since Nepal opened up in 1960s, Indian
business and industrial entrepreneurs poured into Nepal to secure benefit.
Of the total joint venture investors in Nepal, approximately 33 per
Indians. The 1955 Indo-Nepal Treaty gives advantages to the Indian nationals
in comparison to others.
is no longer synonymous with "western capitalism". The complicity
of the oil companies such as Talisman Energy Inc. of Canada and Lundin
Oil AB of Sweden, for human rights violations in Sudan has been well
documented. Amid mounting pressure from rights groups, Talisman and
Lundin sold their interests in 2002. These West-based corporations,
however, have now been replaced by the state-owned oil companies of
China's China National Petrolium Corp., Malaysia's Petroleum Nasional
Berhad and India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (Videsh) Ltd. The
question remains as to how and whether any pressure could be brought
to bear upon these state-owned oil companies from Asia about the corporate
responsibility against human rights violations.
In the global village,
the possibility of another world must mean ensuring equal access to
education, health care, food, housing and other basic human needs, respect
for rule of law and human rights, good governance and corporate responsibility
and accountability. The focus of the next WSF must, therefore, be equally
on national and multinational capital alike if it is not to turn into
a self-censoring exercise of the apologists from the neo-developed and
developing countries. In "an open meeting place", which WSF
claims, semantics will rule the roost.