By Walden Bello
Standing on both sides of the entrance to the huge Al Dafna Hall at the Sheraton, the protesters carried a common sign that read "No Voice at the WTO," calling attention to the lack of transparency, democracy, and civil society input in the decision-making processes of the organization. Once over 5000 had filed in, the demonstrators started chanting "What do we want? Democracy!" An effort by Jose Bove, the famous French anti-McDonalds activist, to lead the demonstrators into the hall was initially countered by Qatari security forces. A few moments later, however, they were allowed in. Fulfilling a pledge made at an open session earlier in the day by the Crown Prince, none of the activists was arrested or detained.
Superparanoia is the only word that can describe the state of mind of the US security force in Doha. As delegates began to arrive, the US Trade Representative’s office moved to get US NGO representatives billeted at the Ritz Carlton with the government people. One of them was Anuradha Mittal, executive director of food First. When they found out that Anuradha was a citizen of India, they "freaked out," she said. They prevented her from riding on the same bus from the hotel to the conference site, refused her access to US official briefings, and did not provide her with a security phone and a gas mask, which they were distributing to other members of the American entourage.

Much fewer NGO representatives are in Doha compared to Seattle, according to a report in the Peninsula, a Doha newspaper.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

"While the numbers of NGO representatives and mediapersons covering the 4th ministerial meeting of the WTO in Doha pales in comparison to those at the 1999 conference in Seattle, the number of delegates has more or less remained the same, said an official yesterday.

"As against the expected attendance of 4500 announced earlier by the organizers, about 3800 people are in Doha to attend the conference.

"Briefing the media ahead of the meeting’s formal inauguration, WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said the largest delegation of 159 has come from Japan. This is followed by the French (75), Canada (62), Indonesia (60), United States (51), and India (48).

"The European Union has a presence of 508 delegates, including about 50 representatives of the European Commission. Apart from the delegations of the 142 member countries, 28 observers and 48 international organizations are represented in Doha. Rockwell said the number of delegates attending the conference is 2,641. There are 388 representatives of the non-governmental organizations and 808 media persons. He said the Seattle conference was covered by about 2700 journalists and 650 NGOs had sent in nearly 1300 representatives. "