Collision of two worlds
New York police and protesters get ready for the World Economic
UNITED NATIONS— The streets of New York city may well turn out to be
a raging battle ground next week when radical activists launch a mass protest
against corporate globalisation.
Paradoxically, the only safest hideout for New Yorkers would be a vacation
either in the Tora Bora Mountains in Afghanistan or the occupied territories
in the West Bank and Gaza.
The target of the protest is the annual World Economic Forum (WEF),
which has shifted its venue from the alpine town of Davos in Switzerland
to one of the ritziest hotels in New York: the Waldorf Astoria.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says: "We feel that
we are better prepared than any other city to deal with any contingencies."
The police arsenal includes pepper spray, water cannons and tear gas
canisters aimed at subduing protesters who had earlier caused mayhem at
similar meetings not only in Davos but also in Seattle (in the state of
Washington), in Genoa, Italy, in Salzburg, Austria and in Melbourne, Australia.
The New York Times predicts that the demonstrations "could be unlike
any seen before in the city."
The participants in the WEF come mostly from the highest echelons of
government, including 20 heads of state, and about 250 academic experts,
religious leaders, Nobel Prize winners, artists, writers, scientists and
Also present would be about 1,000 business leaders, including the chief
executive officers (CEOs) of virtually all of the world's major transnational
corporations— some of whose annual budgets exceed the gross national product
(GNP) of most developing nations.
The protesters include radicals of every stripe— ranging from the International
Socialist Organisation to the Workers Democracy Network.
The broadbased coalition of NGOs includes labour leaders, students,
environmentalists, human rights campaigners and anti-corporate-globalisation
The theme of the five-day mass protests — scheduled to take place January
31 through February 4— is summed up in a phrase which embodies the philosophy
of participating NGOs: "Another World is Possible."
The sub themes include: "Stop Destroying the Earth", "Wipe out the Third
World Debt", "No Apartheid for Immigrants", "Hands Off our Civil Rights",
"Stop Fuellings Terrorism", and "Stop the War Machine."
The protests come at a time when the United Nations is getting ready
for a major international conference— in Mexico in March — to find solutions
to the world's mounting economic problems.
A meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the upcoming International
Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, has just
concluded with little or no concessions from rich nations.
The demands of the world's poorer nations include an increase in official
development assistance (ODA), a reduction or cancellation of external debt,
better prices for primary commodities, removal of tariff barriers for Third
World exports and increased foreign investments.
Last week, Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged rich nations to double
their ODA, from the current average of $50 billion to $100 billion annually.
Annan said "this may sound ambitious" but it would still be well short
of the recognised goal of 0.7 percent of gross national product (GNP) agreed
to by all donor nations in a resolution adopted by the General Assembly
in the 1970s.
Only four donor countries have so far consistently achieved that target
during the 1990s: Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
The need for increased assistance has also been prompted by the global
economic downturn caused, in part, by the terrorist attacks on the US last
But the call to bolster ODA has already received a negative response
from the US, the world's richest country, which has refused to make any
"No time frames, no commitments— and no illusions," a US delegate is
quoted as having told a closed-door meeting of the preparatory committee
Additionally, US Ambassador John Negroponte says that a major theme
of the Mexico conference should be that domestic resources— not ODA— are
"the basic foundation for a country's development."
But a coalition of over 50 NGOs says that the Mexico conference would
be a farce if it does not come up with pledges not only to increase aid
but also to cancel debts and eradicate global poverty.
If rich nations do not make concessions, is "another world" really possible?
Or is it just another fantasy in a global economic environment where
everything is stacked up against the world's poor?