By Eva Cheng
BRUSSELS — Between 500-1000 social movement activists from around the world will be meeting in Brussels on March 12-13 to map out a strategy for an international campaign to press the rich countries to waive the crushing debt they inflict on the Third World.
Around 2000 more activists will also converge in Paris from June 24-26 for an international gathering focusing on capitalism's oppression via global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the planned Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), and speculative financial transactions.
ATTAC, Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions to Aid Citizens, is organising the Paris meeting. The association aims to expose the oppressive functions of financial speculation in light of the prominence given to it and the myths built around it during the current economic crisis.
On May 29, the Euromarch in Cologne, Germany, is expected to involve tens of thousands of protesters from across Europe. The march will condemn unemployment, racism and other forms of "social exclusion" created by capitalism. The last Euromarch, in June 1997, attracted 50,000 people.
A twin action, a people's summit, will be held in early June in Cologne to counter the June 3-4 European Union governments' summit there. Also in Cologne, a demonstration demanding the cancellation of Third World debt is scheduled for June 19, to coincide with a summit of the Group of Eight most powerful countries.
Eric Toussaint of the Committee for the Cancellation of Third World Debt (COCAD), which is organising the Brussels event, told Green Left Weekly that considerable efforts are being made by activists from such campaigns to identify their common concerns and support one another.
A unifying dynamic, he said, is the growing appreciation that the roots of the problems being tackled by the various campaigns lie in a social order which de-prioritises the people's needs in favour of capitalists. A key task of the Brussels meeting is to examine the different types of resistance and find ways to strengthen coordination between them.
Also seeking to join this coordination effort are the Tribunal on Brazil's Foreign Debt (which will next meet in March in Rio de Janeiro), the campaign to oppose the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and the World March for Women in the year 2000.
COCAD argues that the mountain of foreign debt in many Third World countries was incurred without the consent of their people, and without benefiting them, and has sent them into an unpayable debt spiral. Emphasising the need for a fresh start for a new millennium, COCAD is pressing the governments of the creditor countries to waive those debts before the year 2000, to restore to the people the means for a dignified livelihood and to dismantle the mechanisms which foster indebtedness.
The ATTAC initiative was kicked off last June by members of the editorial board of the French progressive monthly Le Monde Diplomatique. It was quickly supported by a wide spectrum of trade unions, non-government organisations, editorial boards and other organisations. More than 100 local committees have been formed throughout France.
Sister committees have formed in Brazil, Québec, Belgium, Spain, Ireland and Italy, forming an international network called TRANSATTAC. Key aims of TRANSATTAC's June meeting are to promote exchange of experiences of recent struggles and plan international campaigns.
The Coordination against the Clones of the MAI, the World Forum for Alternatives (in Senegal, Belgium and Canada), and the FUNDE, a member organisation of Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network, will attend the June meeting.
Representatives of at least six social movements will also attend, including the Movement of the Landless Rural Workers (Brazil), the National Federation of Peasant Organisations (Burkina Faso), the Policy and Information Centre for International Solidarity (South Korea), the movement of the unemployed and those without rights in France, the women's liberation movement in Québec and other parts of Canada, and the Karnathaka State Farmers' Association of India.
Pierre Rousset from ATTAC's Asian desk told Green Left Weekly that ATTAC's long-term goal is to "promote a convergence of social movements and a network of those groups in struggle, each in its field of competence, against neo-liberalism and its consequences". Rousset strongly encouraged groups and individuals in social struggle to attend the June conference. Those interested should e-mail <email@example.com>.
For details of the COCAD campaign, e-mail Eric Toussaint firstname.lastname@example.org.