World Social Forum 2004

Feature story - January 16, 2004

The fourth edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) will take place in Mumbai, India, from January 16-21, 2004.

The WSF is an initiative taken by organizations, movements,networks, alliances and campaigns from civil society, and that looks for alternatives to the economic globalization and its negative effects. The spirit of the Forum is stated in its Charter of Principles.

The organizers of the WSF2004 have defined the focus of the forum as: imperialistic globalisation, patriarchy, militarism and peace, communalism and caste-ism and racism. See more at Greenpeace has participated in the WSF since its first edition. In 2001 we were represented by GP Brazil staff only and the main issues were GMOs and institutional presence. In 2002 we had a team of 20 people, covering the issues of Climate Change, GMOs, Toxics and activism. We launched the "Road to Johannesburg at the WSF 2002.

Do not miss the following Greenpeace events at the World Social Forum.

1. January 16-21 - Greenpeace campaigns and Corporate Accountability.(Stall no. A- 20-23) 2.PANEL DISCUSSION/DEBATE Challenging Corporate Power in a Globalized Economy 18 January, 2004. 1-4 p.m. Hall 2, NESCO Grounds, Goregaon (E), Mumbai

Organisers: Corporate Accountability Caucus consisting of: Amnesty International, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh,Earthrights International, Environmental Health Fund, ESCR Net, FIDH, Friends of the Earth International, groundWork, Greenpeace, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal

Over the past decade, corporations have been writing new rules on trade,investments, social services and intellectual property that will provide them with complete hegemony over the Earth and its inhabitants. If the global capitalist system is successful in these efforts, companies will have control over the basic genetic building blocks of life, as well as fundamental "common" resources like water, food and essential drugs. In resistance to this new incarnation of colonialism, public interest and community organisations are organising across the globe to challenge some of the major global corporationsdriving this destructive trend, as well as developing new proposals for corporate governance that make corporations subservient and accountable to the larger society. This panel will highlight a few of these global corporate campaigns as well as explore new proposals for taking back the Earth from corporate control.

Panel Case Studies:

I. The Bhopal Legacy: Union Carbide/Dow Chemical (20 mins) Speaker: Rashida Bee, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh

After its merger with Union Carbide three years ago, Dow inherited the asbestos legacy of Carbide, as well as the karma for the ongoing Bhopal gas disaster, in which more than 120,000 people still suffer health effects and thousands still drink contaminated water poisoned by the toxic wastes abandoned in and around the factory site. Mrs. Bi is a survivor of the Bhopal gas tragedy and leader of a vibrant trade union of gas-affected women that has waged a successful battle for the livelihood rights of gas victims over the last 15 years. Despite her conservative upbringing in an orthodox muslim family, Mrs. Bi made a rapid transformation to a worldly wise woman in the challenging years after the 1984 gas disaster that killed six of her family members and left her destitute. Her personal struggle for livelihood quickly changed into a struggle for justice on all counts for the survivors of the Bhopal disaster.

II. Blood Oil: UNOCAL in Burma (20 mins) Speaker: Ka Hsaw Wa, EarthRights International

Ka Hsaw Wa is an ethnic Karen, who was forced to flee his native Rangoon after being tortured by the Burmese military for his role in the 1988 student uprising. He spent the next decade or so ocumenting human rights abuses and environmental degradation on the Burma-Thailand border area. His research revealed that some of the forced labor, forced relocations, rapes and executions in southern Burma were linked to the Yadana natural gas pipeline being built by multinational oil companies Total and Unocal. Ka Hsaw Wa is co-founder of the EarthRights International, a group that represents Burmese villagers who are plaintiffs in a landmark lawsuit against Unocal, a California oil company. Ka Hsaw Wa is a winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, the Reebok Human Rights Award and the Conde Nast Environmental Award.

III. New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD): Will it Deliver Corporate Accountability? (20 mins) Speaker: Bobby Peek, groundWork, South Africa

NEPAD, a corporate-led process to take Africa on a path of sustainable growth and devlopment,is likely to consolidate corporate rule in Africa. The programme views foreign direct investment as the panacea to Africa's problems,thus prioritising investors needs above all else. This has serious ramifications for Africa?s poor and for those dependent on the abundant natural resources in the continent.

Bobby Peek is an environmental activist, community campaigner and director of groundWork in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. His passion for social and environmental justice is fuelled from his experience of growing up in the apartheid-created township of Wentworth, in south Durban which is situated amongst highly polluting oil refineries, chemical industries, toxic waste dumps, a pulp mill, which are owned by MNCs and an international airport. In Wentworth, Bobby has lost several of his family and friends to cancer related illnesses. Bobby's work in SouthDurban received recognition in 1998, when he was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa."

SESSION II: Fighting Corporate Crime: The Way Forward

IV. UN Norms for Corporate Accountability: Under Threat (20 mins) Speaker: Irene Khan, Amnesty International, Bangladesh

Earlier this year, the United Nations finalised Norms to hold transnational corporations accountable, and address the potential human rights implications arising from the conduct of transnational corporations. The UN norms are predictably under serious attack by industry forces.

Irene Khan joined Amnesty International as Secretary General in August 2001. As the first woman, first Asian and first Muslim to head the world's largest human rights organisation, she has led Amnesty International through challenging developments in the wake of 11 September 2001, confronting the backlash against human rights, broadening the work of the organisation in areas of economic, social and cultural rights, and initiating a process of internal reform and renewal to enable the organisation to respond flexibly and rapidly to world events.

V. Global Proposals to Rein in Corporate Power (20 mins) Speaker: Gerd Leipold, Greenpeace International, the Netherlands

In response to the New World Order represented by the World Trade Organization, IMF, World Bank and global corporations, public interest organisations are developing a new set of proposals designed to limit corporate control over the "global commons" as well as hold them liable for their human rights, public health and environmental abuses across borders. But these proposals require the strength of public backing globally in order to survive the might of corporations intent on remaining unregulated.

Gerd Leipold is Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

VI. Crime in the Corporate Context: A response to the presentations (20 mins) Speaker:Usha Ramanathan, Legal researcher and academic, New Delhi, India

Corporations that kill and maim go unpunished; corporate CEOs that authorise actions that lead to such crimes continue to be respected in society; the peculiarities of our legal infrastructure gives corporations privileges far beyond what individuals enjoy even while insulating them from liabilities including criminal -- that arise out of their actions. If corporate offenders are criminals, how can society hope to hold them criminally liable?

Usha Ramanathan, a legal researcher keenly involved in the formation of the International Criminal Court, discusses the challenges to reforming international law to hold corporations accountable to the public, their workers, consumers and shareholders.

SESSION III: Reform v. Rejection: Tackling Corporate Criminal A Panel Discussion (60 mins) Moderator: Gary Cohen, Environmental Health Fund, Boston,USA

Gary Cohen is principal co-founder of Health Care Without Harm, a US-wide network of progressive medical professionals dedicated to reforming the environmental practices of the health care industry. Cohen is also a former executive director of the National Toxics Campaign, an NGO that provides technical and organising support to communities facing chemical threats. He is a long-time supporter of the Bhopal campaign, and has been instrumental in keeping the issue alive in the United States.

January 18, 2004. 5-8 p.m. 3. Testimonies: "Corporate Crime: Testimonies from Affected Communities." Hall A3. WSF Case studies presented will include: Dow Chemical and the Bhopal Gas Disaster; Unocal in Burma; Coca Cola and groundwater (Kerala); Dow Chemical, Agent Orange in Vietnam; Dow Chemical and dioxin contamination in Midland, Michigan.

January 19, 2004 - 1pm to 4 pm -4. Ecology, Globalisation and the Rights of the Poor - (Coorganised event with Friends of the Earth International, Heinrich-Böll-Foundation, Greenpeace International, Attac-Germany and Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy)

5. January 19, 2004 Youth Forum Workshop - 1-4 pm Don Bosco Grounds, YOUTH FORUM Choose Positive Energy -An interactive workshop on the role of renewables for a Sustainable future