Volume 94, Issue 4

Friday, June 9, 2000


Editorial Board 2000-2001

The garden variety protest

Editorial cartoon

The garden variety protest

The Organization of American States held its general meeting in Windsor, from the 4th to the 6th of June. The meeting concerned the loosening of multi-lateral trade rules among members of the 35-state organization. It seems though, whenever there is a trade summit, protesters swarm upon it like ants at a picnic.

This activism on behalf of the public is seen at these meetings consistently now and each time the message broadcast by protesters is one of warning about the consequences of the globalization of business. These people oppose globalization and the American corporate influence because of its negative externalities, including child labour, violation of human rights and the destruction of the environment to name a few.

At international summits like the OAS or the World Trade Organization, there is no direct democracy involved. Foreign policy is conducted with the consultation of the private sector only, not the public. This leaves many concerned to whether or not their elected representatives are truly looking out for their needs.

Another major issue of those opposing these summits is that there is no direct democracy in making these choices and furthermore no accountability. These worried activists may not have stopped the trade summit from happening, but in their attempt, they have achieved the attention they need for the expansion and furthering of their cause. Even Canada's own Prime Minister echoed a lot of what the protesters were saying, evidence that the concerns of those worried about globalization are being recognized.

The fact that those protesting received the attention they did, is reflective of their success. Although the OAS summit in Windsor did not receive the same attention as did the WTO in Seattle, the media coverage it received was significant. Very few people even knew what the OAS was until the drum was sounded for the potential protests. This is perhaps why there was so much attention, most people thought that Windsor would turn into another Seattle protest. A protest of such proportions that most likely never occur again, because no element of surprise that complete could be achieved.

To put a monkey wrench in the machinery of globalization, those protesters need to put on a white shirt and tie, and pull up a seat at the conference table. Otherwise, without fighting business on its own terms, they'll never truly receive change. It is known by a great many that corporations will always have a majority say in a free market society. People can always vote with their feet by simply refusing to fill corporate coffers by not buying their goods or services. The public can only blame the private sector to a certain degree before we need point the finger at ourselves.

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