Peasants and Fishers lead the calls for alternatives to the WTO

July 29, 2006 GENEVA – Activists from social movements and NGOs responded to the news of the suspension of the Doha with jubilant protests and actions dramatizing the people’s resistance to the WTO and the negotiations for new trade agreements under the Doha Round.

Fishers from the Southeast Asia, in a Fluvial Parade in Geneva

thumb_boat3Report from Kilusang Mangingsda (Fisherfolk Movement- Philippines)

In a show of jubilation on the collapse of talks due to the hard-line stance of the U.S. and the E.U. Twenty-two fishers from the region rode four (4) asian boats with masts, beautifully painted by local trade campaigners in solidarity with the artisanal fisherfolk.

The boats were constructed by the Southeast Asian fisherfolk, predominantly Filipino fishers  within their 4-day stay in a production house in Rue de Mont Brillant in Geneva, Switzerland.

thumb_boat2The parade of asian boats which were joined by local yachts from organized groups of Geneva was a continuation of last year’s fluvial parade in Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong on the 6th Ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Southeast Asian fisherfolk under the banner of Southeast Asia Fishers Network for Justice or SEAFish for Justice, rode two (2) ships to protest against ongoing talks in the Non-Agricultural Market Access or NAMA, where the fishery industry was subsumed along with toys, clothes, jewelry and other industrial goods.

Demanding that the WTO’s ongoing negotiations on NAMA will further marginalized artisanal fisherfolk due to non-recognition of the “externalities” involved within the whole fishing industry especially subsidies for commercial fleet operations and industrial aquaculture.

Fisherfolk Movement – Philippines International Liaison Mr. Ruperto Aleroza in a statement demanded that, “the artisanal fishers of world which comprises the bulk of the producers of fish and fishery related products, has been reeling from a very lopsided trade arrangement brought about by bilateral talks and regional talks, and further discussion of liberalizing the fishing industry under the WTO will be a bad thing for all artisanal fisherfolk.”

The Fisherfolk Movement -Philippines further stated that there is a need to strengthen artisanals fishers capacity to manage their resources, using municipal subsidies that will enhance local and regional capacity to sustainably produce fish and like products for their own consumption.

thumb_boat1Mr. Aleroza also stated that, “there is a need for local industry protection from competition from  highly subsidized fishing fleets from developed countries, therefore we must discipline those countries who are investing heavily in their respective floating factories, which results to over-fishing.”

As a rejoinder the current Chair of the Fisherfolk Movement-Philippines, Mr. Bonifacio Federizo, stated that “its seems that there is a need to again rethink the whole strategy of multilateralism on global trade using pro-poor and pro-environment templates, this in consideration of the collapse of the so-called Doha Round.”  

Peasant March

thumb_koreans1Around 300 people led by farmers from Via Campesina marched from Palais Wilson to the WTO headquarters in celebration of the collapse of the talks and to push for the permanent suspension of the Doha Negotiations.

The Via Campesina delegation included around 20 Korean farmers who carried a casket donned in traditional Korean trimmings to depict the death of the WTO and FTAs.  Environmental group Friends of the Earth led by youth activists from Germany and Norway marched with shopping carts filled with agriculture and fisheries products to dramatize their opposition to the impact of WTO trade policies on agriculture and natural resources and corporate control over these resources.

While the protest actions had a hint of celebration over the collapse of the negotiations, it was clear in the speeches and in the messages in the banners that the struggle against the WTO and corporate driven globalization is far from over. The lull in the negotiations should be used to strengthen the campaigns at both the international and national levels to heighten the pressure on member countries to abandon the Doha Round, and push governments to move towards alternatives to the WTO.

Rock Against the Round: Concert de Souten <<Riz et Poisson>>

A solidarity concert for fisherfolks and farmers was held in Geneva on the evening of July 26, 2006 at Bains Des Paquis. The event featured performances from Nomades, a Swiss-Algerian band playing traditional Algerian music, and three bands from the Philippines- the Village Idiots, Radio Active Sago Project, and Pedicab. The musicians from the Philippines were greeted warmly by the crowd made up of local residents as well as Filipino’s working and living in Geneva who came to show their support for the Filipino visitors. The night was filled with dancing and singing which stretched until midnight.

Two big screens also showed videos depicting the people’s struggle against the WTO and corporate driven globalization.

A collection of artworks from social realists visual artists from the Philippines was also out on exhibit. The artworks touched on the themes of globalization and dislocation.