At the 2017 WTO meeting in Buenos Aires, a group of countries have jumped on the issue of ‘women’ to introduce new neoliberal ‘free-trade’ issues which are likely to deepen inequality and exploitation.
In the mid ’90s Navdanya gathered women of different regions in the Diverse Women for Diversity movement to provide an alternative voice, among others at the historic and ground-breaking for civil society WTO Seattle meeting of 1999. We take the opportunity to reproduce here the Seattle Declaration of Diverse Women for Diversity issued at that 1999 WTO Seattle meeting – its principles are today more relevant than ever as the corporate assault to our seed, food, health and democracy is increasingly becoming more aggressive and coordinated, through renewed neoliberal policies and deregulation of commerce.
We, Diverse Women for Diversity, diverse in culture, race, religion, socio-economic conditions, have one common goal: biological and cultural diversity as the foundation of life on earth. Therefore we stand for self-sufficiency, self-reliance and solidarity, locally and globally.
For this reason we have gathered in Seattle in November 1999 to struggle against the WTO.
The WTO was created to further and stabilise the freedom of trade and profit on behalf of a few multinationals. Going far beyond this goal, however, it acts as a new World Government.
The WTO is a non-elected institution, based on secrecy and non-representation. It erodes the substance of democracy in our countries. Through its rules it imposes economic policies in favour of gigantic global corporate interests.
The WTO promises to create growth and wealth for all, equality, jobs, ecological sustainability through a `free’ globalised market.
The reality, however, is that the free market mechanisms have led to increased poverty, to more unemployment, more ecological destruction, and to more violence against women, children and minorities.
Our food and agricultural systems have been brought under corporate control of global grain merchants like Cargill and ADM through the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. This has robbed women and peasant producers of their livelihood and has denied consumers worldwide access to sufficient, safe and healthy food.
The WTO rejects any precautionary principle and thus allows corporations like Monsanto (USA), Novartis (Switzerland), DuPont (USA), Astrazeneca (UK/Netherlands) and Aventis (Germany) to spread genetically modified seeds and foods without people’s knowledge and consent, thus creating unprecedented ecological and health hazards. These corporations are a danger to life on earth.
For thousands of years, indigenous people, women and men have protected, nurtured and sustained the biodiversity of food, crops and medicinal plants. This rich biodiversity is now being stolen by monopolistic `life science’ corporations, under the legal protection of the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). TRIPs forces countries to introduce patents on life and promotes the piracy of millennia of innovation and creativity, by millions of women and peasants through the privatisation of traditional knowledge.
After the Multilateral Agreement on investment was defeated by worldwide citizens’ resistance in December 1998, the same proponents of unlimited free market are now pushing for a new round of negotiation on the same issue in WTO. They also include new areas for liberalisation, namely, TRIMs, Services, Investment, Public Procurement and Competition. All these areas, if further liberalised, will have further negative effect, particularly on women.
In summary, this so-called `free-market’ system is indeed a global war svstem, based on violence against nature, humanity, especially women and children.
Together with the thousands of children, women and men gathered here in Seattle, we, Diverse Women for Diversity, reject this global war system and the WTO. We pledge to build an economy and a society where nature and human beings can live and prosper in peace and happiness.
Seattle, 1st December 1999