IFSW letter to the WTO and the G8 members in connection with the WTO-Meeting in Cancun, Mexico September 2003
We are writing to you as trade ministers from 146 countries are gathering in Cancun, Mexico for possibly the most critical meeting in the history of the World Trade Organisation. As the world professional body for social workers with affiliated organisations in 78 countries around the world with more than 450’000 social workers in membership, we are asking you to ensure the needs of developing countries are not forgotten at Cancun.
Social workers in developed and developing countries have daily experience of the problems of poverty and despair. We know that people are very different in their responses to problems and that some find solutions and some are beaten down. We also know that in many cases, the economic and social environment actively prevents many people from finding solutions. Social workers, especially our colleagues in the developing countries of the south, know only too well how trade rules and economic structures leave the poorest communities with huge problems and no solutions. That is why the gap between the richest and the poorest continues to get bigger. That can only be a recipe for increasing conflict, fuelling desperate measures like terrorism and threatening peace.
The Cancun meeting of the World Trade Organisation is an opportunity to put the needs of the world’s poorest people at the heart of trade negotiations. The outcome of the negotiations will have a direct impact on their lives and opportunities. We are profoundly disappointed that the development round that was promised at the last set of trade talks in Doha in 2001 has not been delivered and that trade rules continue to work against the interests of the poorest on the earth. We are equally disappointed that so little progress is being made on debt reduction for the poorest countries, despite fine words in several international meetings.
We support the call of the governments of the poorest countries who are calling for:
* a fair chance to have their say at meetings
* more flexibility so that they can intervene to support infant industries or vulnerable producers
* a fairer deal in agriculture, including the right to protect themselves from imports when they threaten the livelihoods of small-scale farmers
* no ‘new issues’.
Fifty-seven poor countries have said they do not want the introduction of new issues such as investment and provision of services on to the WTO agenda. Please listen to what they say.
This is not the place for a reasoned argument on trade rules and economic systems. They can be found elsewhere. This is the time and the place for social workers to express our frustration with the slow pace of change in world trade rules. We have a duty to speak out about the impact of these rules on those who are poorest and most vulnerable. As a profession we daily experience how poverty translates into human misery. Poverty is an affront to human civilisation. Achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals is not possible without reviewing the way in which world trade is organised. Please recognise the need of the poorest and exercise your influence to start the process of change in the world trade rules, which is possible at the meeting in Cancun this week.
Sydney/ Berne 8 September 2003
IFSW Secretary General
International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)
Tel (41) 31 382 6015
Fax (41) 31 381 1222