World Economic Forum: some speakers against globalisation and free trade


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12-09-2000 07:40 PM



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12-09-2000 07:40 PM


7.30 Report


12-09-2000 08:14 PM

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2000-09-12 19:40:59

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O\'BRIEN, Kerry, (journalist, ABC)



SHIVA, Vandana


BURROW, Sharan


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World Economic Forum: some speakers against globalisation and free trade -

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S11's case gets put before World Economic Forum

KERRY O'BRIEN: The World Economic Forum in Melbourne reached its peak today both inside and outside the conference centre.

For WEF organisers, the major star of show, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, took centre stage.

On the outside, thousands of trade unionists marched on the conference to lodge their protest against free trade and globalisation.

And it was to those key subjects that the conference delegates turned and for the first time heard from speakers fundamentally opposed to the outcomes of globalisation.

Chief amongst those was Vandana Shiva, the intellectual mentor of the s11 protesters and the worldwide anti-globalisation movement.

Business and economics editor Alan Kohler reports.

BILL GATES, CHAIRMAN, MICROSOFT: I'm sure there's a very diverse set of view points represented outside, including some who just, you know -- there's a certain excitement about, you know, crazy activity.

DAVID LIM, MINISTER OF STATE, SINGAPORE: If we could jump on top of cars and solve the world's problems, I think I would go out there and jump on top of cars.

SHARAN BURROW, ACTU PRESIDENT: You need to understand the growing sense of powerlessness and alienation felt by many of the world's citizens, including Australians.

VANDANA SHIVA, DIRECTOR, RESEARCH FOUNDATION, INDIA: What people are asking for is a role in decision-making about the conditions in which they live and die, which means a resurrection of democracy which has been stifled by the rules of free trade.

It's a job that cannot be avoided.

Either we can take it on as a democratic process at every level of governance, or we can ignore it and we will not get the peaceful protest that we have taken, but real riots.

ALAN KOHLER: When Vandana Shiva arrived at the World Economic Forum in Melbourne this morning, the crowd of protesters parted.

Dr Shiva is a sort of patron saint of the worldwide anti-globalisation movement.

Her books and speeches provide one of the intellectual threads running through the protests that now materialise outside any global economic conference these days -- Seattle, Davos and now Melbourne.

But she didn't come to protest this morning -- she came to speak.

VANDANA SHIVA: I think everyone is recognising that the rules of free trade that were embodied in the structural adjustment programs as well as the WTO rules are actually working at the cost of democracy and people's freedoms, and that is why we're getting increasing protests.

ALAN KOHLER: In a way, the protests invaded the summit today -- that's because the debate about globalisation dominated the proceedings and the passions of the protesters hung over every session.

The reaction of the corporate delegates to all this was quite varied, but the common theme was that their message just isn't getting across.

AUDIENCE MEMBER (addressing panel): If you had just a couple of minutes to talk to the people outside, what would you say to them to try and bridge this gap of what we're talking about here?

BILL GATES: Fundamentally, world trade, if you block it, the big losers will be the poor people of the world, and I'm not sure it's a cause that gets articulated as clearly as it should be.

ZIGGY SWITKOWSKI, CEO, TELSTRA: My observation is that the consortium of protesting groups in Melbourne have an imperfect understanding of the agenda for this forum.

THOMAS RUSSO, LEHMANN BROS INVESTMENT BANK: Democracy is wonderful, and it's great that people can express their views, even if I disagree with everything that they have to say.

ALAN KOHLER: The people here at the WEF say that they are listening to your message and the message of the protesters outside -- do you think that's true?

VANDANA SHIVA: I will be convinced that they've listened to my message when the rules of globalisation start to change.

ALAN KOHLER: They also talk about that they need to sell their message more, that they need to better sell the message themselves.

What's your comment on that?

VANDANA SHIVA: Unfortunately, the message they have is very convincing to each of them.

They're like a little club with a little ritual, and clubs and tribes manage to believe in the the most crazy rituals, when you look at it from the outside.

ALAN KOHLER: Professor Klaus Schwab founded the World Economic Forum 30 years ago.

Five years ago, he predicted there would be protests and he's invited Vandana Shiva to the last two meetings.

Does Vandana Shiva have a point?

PROFESSOR KLAUS SCHWAB, FOUNDER, WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: Yes, certainly and we are very happy that she has accepted the invitation to come and to speak to the participants here.

We would have liked that many others whom we also invited would have reacted as she did and would have accepted all the invitations, because we feel we have to address all those issues in an inclusive manner.

ALAN KOHLER: Where is she right and where is she wrong, do you think?

PROF KLAUS SCHWAB: I think she is expressing a concern, a legitimate concern.

I wouldn't go into details where she is wrong or right.

She has one point, and I think what we are looking for are solutions for the big challenges we are faced with, and at the end, we have to make compromises.

ALAN KOHLER: One of today's participants, investment banker Thomas Russo, went down and mingled with the protesters this morning.

THOMAS RUSSO: What I got out of it this morning is that there is a lot of misunderstanding there, and I think when people are enraged, it's very hard to communicate on both sides.

I had one conversation, I nearly got belted because the guy was blaming me for something to do with Nike and manufacturing of Nike shoes, and I had nothing to do with it -- I was trying to tell him that and he was very upset with me about it.

But it showed that it was very hard to communicate, and I think that's a problem, and I think we have to take some responsibility for that.

DAVID LIM: Globalisation holds out the promise of bigger markets, better jobs, higher standards of living.

ALAN KOHLER: But are delegates to these meetings now doomed always to have to fight their way through protest blockades?

The answer, according to Klaus Schwab, is education.

PROF KLAUS SCHWAB: We all have to create a better understanding of what's going on.

Technological progress is so fast and it's very difficult to really grasp what's going on.

I think it's not only the protesters who have to be educated, but also the business community and the political community.

Just take the example of biotechnology, genetically modified food.

We all have to learn in order really to be able to solve the issue and to formulate appropriate policies.