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Protesting Globalism

April 14, 2000 at 12:00 AM EST


MARGARET WARNER: Joining me now are two activists who are playing leading roles in planning this weekend’s protest. Vandana Shiva is director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy in New Delhi, India; and Juliette Beck is economic rights coordinator for Global Exchange, an international human rights organization based in San Francisco. Welcome to both of you. We just heard one of the protesters say that all you’re all gathered here because you’re fundamentally dissatisfied with the way the IMF and the World Bank do business. What is wrong with the way they do business?

VANDANA SHIVA: I used to be a physics professor. Twenty years ago I gave up a career in academics to start an independent research institute to help the groups in India fighting against World Bank projects because that is the main reason for the creation of poverty through the destruction of the only resources that people have, which is the natural resources: Their land, their forests, their coasts, their fisheries. And every time the World Bank lends, it’s lending for destruction, it’s lending for transfer of the assets of the poor. I started working on World Bank projects not because I chose to change the World Bank but because I wanted to support our people.

Your clip does planting on a large scale. Shrimp industry devastating our coastline, all with World Bank funding, chemical agriculture spread across the length and breadth of India creating more deserts. Dams, increasingly super-thermal power plants displacing millions — the forced conversion of our common resources like water into the private property of corporations, or seeds, which farmers have given to the world now being displaced by corporate entry forced on India in 1988 with a World Bank seed loan. The conditionalities of the World Bank are basically conditionalities that make the poor poorer and the constant hype that the World Bank serves the poor is not at all true. If I spent the last two decades of my life supporting local movements, doing ecological research, rather than doing physics research, it is because of the devastation the World Bank is causing.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree they’re that destructive?

JULIETTE BECK: The track record is clear: The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund the last 50 years have not helped to develop poor countries. They claim to be eliminating poverty, but the gap between the rich and the poor has increased both within countries and between countries all over the world. It’s a track record of human misery and tragedy.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, as Jim just mentioned, we had James Wolfensohn and Stanley Fischer, the president of the World Bank and the managing director of the IMF, on last night and, for instance, Stanley Fischer said the IMF actually, he insisted, had a good record of stabilizing economies that were in trouble, for instance in Latin America, and in Asia. Do you disagree with that or do you not like the way they did it?

JULIETTE BECK: Well, when the International Monetary Fund goes into a country and provides a loan or an economic bailout package, they do so with strings attached; the austerity measures the International Monetary Fund imposes on countries have a disproportionate impact on the poor. Farmers, for example, lose their subsidies. Resources are shifted from providing for social services, meeting basic human needs, into debt service. The track record of these austerity measures have been such that people are getting poor. It’s not helped to alleviate poverty.

VANDANA SHIVA: And as far as the poor are concerned, these are destabilization measures. Of course, the global financial system is stabilized by continuing to extract the last drop from the poor. But when the poor are eating 12 percent less, as they are India in the last decade because of structural adjustment programs of the World Bank and IMF, there is not much stability in those households.

MARGARET WARNER: Let me bring up really the main point that both Mr. Wolfensohn and Mr. Fischer made, which is that globalization, they both said, is here to stay. It’s inevitable. And Mr. Wolfensohn said, for instance, look, the World Bank, we’re on the same side. We’re trying to alleviate the poverty, some of it caused by the dislocation of globalization. But do you two agree that globalization is inevitable, or do you think it’s something that can be curbed or stopped?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well, if it was inevitable, the World Bank and IMF wouldn’t have to apply such coercive pressure through structural adjustment, which causes globalization. Globalization is not happening. It’s being made to happen through IMF and World Bank conditionalities — and the coercive rules of the World Trade Organization. If it was that natural, they wouldn’t have to bully the third world so hard, and they wouldn’t have — they wouldn’t be forced make the third world pay so much.

MARGARET WARNER: So do you think that, for instance, the third world or the developing economies can stay closed and can just ignore the global economic order that seems to be being built, at least among the developed countries? Let me just get Ms. Beck on that first.

JULIETTE BECK: We are internationalists to the very core. We support an open economy and we support fair trade. Trade actually lifts living standards. A good example is fair trade certified coffee. You mentioned Starbucks. Well, they’ve just agreed to buy fair trade coffee that’s certified, such that farmers producing that coffee are paid living wage, in fact, it will triple their income. It will ensure that the coffee is grown under environmentally sustainable conditions. This is the type of trade that we can support. And it’s had to occur through an independent agency, a non-governmental organization, not through the World Bank. The World Bank is not promoting fair trade. They’re promoting corporate managed trade.

MARGARET WARNER: What is the alternative to the World Bank and the IMF’s role? For example, Ms. Shiva, a spokesman for the World Bank said now fully 25 percent of its projects are spent on health and education and social programs. Who would spend that money without the World Bank or IMF?

VANDANA SHIVA: Well, first the finances that the World Bank is giving for health or education or even water is basically to privatize these sectors and, in fact, take universal rights to water and health and education away from the poor. The privatization is a deprivation. Who would give that money? The countries, if they could stop paying in India the $9 billion we are paying annually for debt servicing, that would go to run our schools. If today our schools don’t have enough money, it’s because we are paying to make the buildings bigger, the salaries higher, the returns on investments fatter for these two agencies.

MARGARET WARNER: So, in other words, you believe that if, for instance, the debt were eliminated and there is a big movement for debt relief — we did a piece on that earlier this week — and then the international community just stayed away, that India would be essentially able to bring itself out of poverty?

VANDANA SHIVA: I don’t think the issue is isolation versus being gobbled up by irresponsible agencies who are primarily global money lenders. The issue is to have international systems of back-up who are responsive, who give on the terms that are necessary. Every time India has needed a tiny loan for a necessary thing — I remember the example in 1984, India needing a drinking water loan and the World Bank said no. We will give you a loan to convert all of your agriculture in Maharash into sugarcane cultivation, destroying your water. But each of those oversteppings, each of those bullying stances, is what we want to get rid of. We need an international backup system, an international system that is not driven by the investors, but driven by the people of the world and their needs.

MARGARET WARNER: What is your answer? What do you think is the alternative to the IMF and the World Bank?

JULIETTE BECK: Other agencies like the UNDP that could possibly be a better job of development of poverty alleviation — the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have succeeded in developing the interests of multinational corporations. In fact, 51 of the largest — 100 of the largest economies in the world are corporations. It’s clear that these institutions are about promoting corporate welfare and not about eliminating poverty.

MARGARET WARNER: So as far as you’re concerned would you like to eliminate two these two institutions?

VANDANA SHIVA: We’d like to… I would like to eliminate excesses that they have engaged in, dominating the decision-making of third world countries. They need to relate to countries as sovereign powers, they need to relate to people as sovereign people. I think it’s that overstepping. The slogan we have for the World Trade Organization is sink or shrink. I think that’s the same slogan for the World Bank and IMF. They should shrink.

MARGARET WARNER: We’re going to have to sink or shrink. Thank you both very much.

JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, what now for NASA, and Shields and Gigot.