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What is the Global Week of Action on Trade?

October 2009

The Global Week of Action on Trade is a collaborative worldwide action between different communities, to protest the damaging impact of “free” trade, while highlighting alternatives to NAFTA, CAFTA, other free trade agreements and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It is being organized in conjunction with the Global Mobilization in Defense of Mother Earth and Her Peoples, launched at the IV Hemispheric Summit of Indigenous People in Puno, Peru, last May.

“We ratify the organization of the Minga (traditional indigenous collective communal organization) of the Global Mobilization in Defense of Mother  Earth and Her Peoples against the commercialization of life (including land, forests, water, seas, agro-fuels, external debt) and environmental pollution (extractive transnational, international financial institutions, GMOs, pesticides, toxic consumption), as well as the criminalization of the Indigenous and social movements – which will to be implemented from October 12 to 16, 2009.”

                  -The Mama Quta Titijaja Declaration. IV Hemispheric Summit of Indigenous People (Puno, Peru)

The final declaration of the summit called for the Global Week of Action “to offer an alternative of life to the civilization of death, regenerating our roots as Peoples of the Earth in order to project ourselves to our future, guided by our principles and practices of equilibrium between men and women, Mother Earth and spirituality, cultures and peoples, all of which we call ‘Living Well’ or ‘El Buen Vivir.’”

During the Global Week of Action, Grassroots International is working to amplify the words and actions of our partners and allies that point to a more sustainable future.

What is NAFTA?

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an international commercial agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. NAFTA went into effect on 1 January 1994.

“Unlike the trade agreements that preceded it, NAFTA’s scope extended far beyond traditional trade matters, such as tariffs and quotas setting terms for sale of goods across borders. Instead, NAFTA included extensive rules limiting how the U.S. government can regulate foreign investors operating here, the ownership and domestic regulation of foreign-owned services being provided within the United States, and even how your tax dollars can be spent. NAFTA’s foreign investor protections also established incentives for U.S. firms to move production offshore, promoting a race-to-the-bottom in wages for workers.”
                 -Excerpt from Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch website

The effects of NAFTA on the life of North Americans include:

  •     Loss of jobs
  •     Loss of farmland
  •     Forced migration
  •     Genetic contamination of local varieties of corn
  •     Health risks
  •     Increased food prices
  •     Militarization of borders

The effects on those on the losing end of globalization – particularly in the Global South – are far more devastating.

15 years of NAFTA: Enough is enough!

“The multiple crises—economic, financial, environmental, food—that struck hard by late 2008 have intensified those calls. We are at a defining moment in history. We can either deepen the NAFTA model focused on exports, outsourcing, and capital mobility. Or we can rethink this top-down integration model and begin to build a more equitable, regulated, and bottom-up economic recovery that can be sustained over generations.”

                    – Laura Carlsen,  A Pressing Case for NAFTA Review and Renegotiation, Center for International Policy (CIP), September 10, 2009

The multiple crises and the economic downturn have impacted everyone around the world, directly and indirectly,.  In the United States it is estimated that more than 1 million families have lost  their homes.  Many others still struggle to make mortgage payments.

Those less directly affected face other consequences. The environmental crisis is causing  worldwide climate change that will  affect all of us, regardless of where we live or how much money we have. We need to act beyond personal self-interest and national borders in order to uproot the root causes of the crises we face.

Food, a basic component of our existence, has also been greatly transformed into a commodity by the Free Trade model and is being produced in a way that can be harmful to our bodies as well as our future. Even those with the means to buy food are not guaranteed that it is healthy. And under free trade practices that reward cheap production methods at the expense of safety, food is often produced in inhumane work conditions.

The current situation requires awareness and action. During the week of October 12, we hope that many others will join the voices of peasants, indigenous peoples, women and urban communities. Enough is enough!

Alternatives from below:

There are several community-based alternatives around the world and in the Americas that are being built to counter the effects of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and neo-liberal globalization. These alternatives are grounded in different perspectives, but share common goals: to strengthen local autonomy and national sovereignty; resist multinational corporations; support democracy and grassroots participation; promote environmental stewardship; and raise consciousness about a more sustainable way of living.

ALBA as an alternative of people’s regional integration

The Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) is an initiative created as a counterpoint to the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). It is comprised of seven member nations: Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Dominica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.  ALBA opposes the idea of a regional integration based on the demands of transnational corporations (TNCs) for new markets. Currently it has four programs that are being implemented in the ALBA member-nations: agricultural development, education, health care and energy.

The governing body of ALBA has two main councils. The presidential council consists of all member-nations, plus Ecuador as an observingl, non-voting member, and the social movements’ council as a consultation body of ALBA. ALBA faces several political and economic challenges, but so far it has accomplished several of its goals of promoting self-determination of local communities and strengthening food and energy sovereignty in the continent.

Initiatives of Food and Energy Sovereignty and Trade Justice in the United States and Abroad

We don’t need to go far to see alternatives of food and energy sovereignty. Many communities in the United States have developed their own strategies to protect their food and energy sovereignty and ensure trade justice. It is a tradition in many communities in the U.S. to cultivate vegetable gardens in the summer and save the seeds for the following year. Community gardens are community-based initiatives for food justice and food sovereignty. In the past few years, the movement of “eat healthy, buy local” has been adopted as a solution to the economic crisis and the growing problems of the United States’ broken food system. Even the White House now hosts an organic vegetable garden.

In the Global South, women, peasants and indigenous people are resisting the expansion of single crops in their communities by demanding agrarian reform and food sovereignty from national governments. They are using traditional knowledge of sustainable agriculture and developing new practices through agroecology, a participatory methodology that helps farmers improve their traditional agricultural systems.

Below are some examples of local alternative models or regional campaigns supported by Grassroots International. All of these projects assert the human rights to land, water and food, and environmental and trade justice.

CAMPO (Mexico)

The Center to Support the Popular Movement of Oaxaca (CAMPO) is building an important model for alternative integrated development in indigenous communities in Oaxaca. CAMPO provides technical support and training to a variety of community-based projects that are helping indigenous family farmers move away from unsustainable practices, defend collective land tenure rights, organize indigenous communities and strengthen their skills.

Through its Micro-Regional Sustainable Development program, CAMPO is working  with 33 communities in seven municipalities that geographically and economically constitute a micro-region in the Chinantla Alta and the Mazateca Alta. CAMPO formulates multi-year, community-based sustainable development plans that include both infrastructure improvement and income-generating activities aimed at combating the enormous economic and social crisis in southern Mexico. These development plans include efforts designed to increase food production and improve local health. They include fish farming, poultry production, reforestation, fruit tree seedling nurseries, road building to  link remote areas  and markets, improvement of housing stock, potable water delivery systems, alternative energy sources and sanitary latrine construction.

MCP (Brazil)

The Popular Peasant Movement (MCP) is a grassroots organization in Brazil’s Goiás state that advocates for the protection of the peasant economy and food sovereignty through organizing and the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices that respect the culture of the countryside and the environment. MCP has been a leading voice in Goiás against the expansion of large scale industrial agriculture for the production of agrofuels and the dissemination of genetically modified seeds.

The MCP is expanding  their successful initiative, the Creole Seeds Program, which  encourages the production, growth and distribution of local seeds. Through their program the MCP preserves local genetic materials and markets organic heirloom or Creole seeds, contributing to biodiversity and the sustainability of the livelihoods of thousands of small-scale farmers.

MPP (Haiti)
The Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) is the oldest peasant association in Haiti with a broad range of autonomous development activities to improve peasants’ quality of life. In the economically devastated Central Plateau, Grassroots supports the MPP’s expansive range of self-help development activities aimed at improving peasants’ quality of life and making their voices louder locally, nationally, and internationally.  

MPP’s Agro-forestry and Reforestation, Prevention of Erosion, and Organic Agriculture program aims to increase food production in the Central Plateau through reforestation, soil conservation and organic agricultural production programs. This reforestation and food security project is part of a broader agro-forestry program.

Via Campesina (Central America)

Grassroots is currently funding Via Campesina — Central America’s regional work on the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform (GCAR). Since 2007, GCAR has implemented various initiatives and achieved important milestones.  GCAR is striving to assist peasant and indigenous groups within the Via Campesina working for agrarian reform in Latin America, Africa and Asia by providing strategy development support for national organizations.  GCAR also conducts learning exchange programs that support and strengthen the struggle of landless peasants and rural workers while monitoring and reporting on human rights violations against peasants who are fighting for land reform.

MST (Brazil)

The Landless Workers Movement (MST), Latin America’s largest popular movement, has been at the forefront of social action for comprehensive agrarian reform and food sovereignty. The MST works with landless peasants to identify and settle on underutilized land, gain legal title to the land and bring it into productive use. Through the MST’s efforts, close to 350,000 families have been settled on 17 million acres of land and another 200,000 families are living in encampments, awaiting settlement. The MST is also one of the most powerful peasant and landless workers movements and plays a vital leadership role within the Via Campesina.

Through its National Agroecology Training Project, the MST has made a national decision to promote agroecological agricultural methods as the primary model for all of its settlements across the 23 states where its settlements are found. It is increasing the learning opportunities focused on agroecological development for its members as well as for representatives of other peasant movements in Latin America that are fellow members of the Via Campesina. The MST is also supporting the development of the Latin American School of Agroecology (LASA). For the MST, the ultimate goal of this exchange is to promote food sovereignty and social justice.

PARC (Palestine)

The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), established in 1983, has become a leading non-governmental organization in the fields of rural development, environmental protection and women’s empowerment, working with some 160,000 rural and marginalized Palestinians. PARC promotes sustainable development and aims to build greater food security at the household, community and territorial levels. It has also helped create the Rural Women’s Development society and the Palestinian Farmers’ Union.

PARC’s Urban Agriculture project in Gaza works with women to use rooftops, backyards and small scraps of land between buildings for gardening and animal husbandry. The women are provided with vegetable and fruit seeds and seedlings, as well as with breeding rabbits. To ensure the gardens’ viability, PARC works with participants to construct irrigation networks and install protective fencing for the plots. All the project’s participants receive intensive technical training and follow-up in addition to supplemental informational workshops and educational materials. Creative techniques such as rainwater capture, grey water treatment and reuse, the use of organic materials for compost, staggered planting seasons and small rooftop greenhouses enable households to produce food for consumption and for sale in the local markets while minimizing the negative impact on the natural environment and precious water resources.

ACIDH (Democratic Republic of Congo)

The Action against Impunity and for Human Rights (ACIDH) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been working towards ensuring that transnational mining corporations respect human rights and environmental protections. ACIDH works closely with local communities in the mineral rich and conflict ridden region of Katanga to demand an end to human rights violations and impunity for violators including mutlinational corporations. ACIDH is also working with local communities on environmental justice issues arising from the impacts of extractive industries in the country.

CAIN (Thailand) 

The Campaign for Alternative Industry Network (CAIN) in Thailand works with local organizations around the country to advocate for public disclosure and the right to information on trade agreements like the JTEPA (Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement). CAIN was successful in bringing grassroots pressure to bear and succeeded in ensuring for the first time in Thai history that the treaty text was disclosed to the public before parliamentary ratification. CAIN worked with its member organizations to secure the passage of Article 190 of the 2007 Thai Constitution that guarantees the public’s right to know and to participate in any such future international treaty negotiations.


PAN-AP (Asia) 

The Pesticide Action Network – Asia-Pacific (PAN-AP) has launched a 14 country Save Our Rice campaign in South, Southeast and East Asia to protect, preserve, and propagate traditional, heirloom varieties of rice. Rice is the life of Asia, and is under threat from genetically modified versions propagated by transnational agricultural corporations. Traditional varieties are also under threat from organizations like the World Bank which has in the past sought to take control of the genetic diversity housed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and the IRRI itself has been involved in promoting corporate-friendly green revolution technologies and more recently in the global land grab for e.g advising Saudi Arabia’s efforts to secure land in Africa for growing food to import for its population. PAN-AP has worked with local groups in Kerala, India and Yunnan, China to initiate local efforts to save local varieties of rice and work towards food sovereignty.


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