After an initial period of shock and confusion in the wake of the 11 September attacks on the US, anti-globalisers have resumed their protests against multilateral trade and financial institutions. While mass mobilisation plans in Washington DC were cancelled, educational activities carried on. “Our decision to postpone was made out of respect for the victims of this tragedy [but] the policies of the World Bank and IMF remain unchanged,” said the Mobilisation for Global Justice (MGJ) and the 50 Years is Enough network.
Instead of the expected mass street protests, several groups decided to rechannel their efforts into anti-war coalitions. Peace marches were organised in Washington by members of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence.
Groups are also planning to gather, on a smaller scale, in Ottawa, the site of the rescheduled Bank and Fund annual meetings, in November.
Civil society groups are concerned that the 11 September attacks will make it harder to operate. “The terrorists have triggered a wave of reactionary and repressive politics,” said Bangkok-based advocacy group Focus on the Global South. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who faced intense criticisms over the policing of the Genoa protests in July, bracketed the anti-globalisation movement in the same category as the perpetrators of the 11 September attacks (The Guardian, 29/9/01). Meanwhile, Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf has labelled as “violent anarchists” those who blame the attacks on the “US promotion of global capitalism” (26/9/01).
In this climate, activists and NGOs are cautious about the messages they convey, some declining to adopt a strong approach to denouncing US trade policy for fear of seeming insensitive. Others are wary that the general tone of global cooperation rhetoric employed in the “war against terrorism” may result in the suspension of critical debate on international development.
Ha-Joon Chang, lecturer at Cambridge University, urged campaigners to press on with public work on global policy issues. Both Chang and Chakravati Raghavan of Third World Network fear the recent tragedy may be used as an excuse to push through a new round of trade liberalisation at the upcoming WTO summit in November. Pro-globalisers have already seized the opportunity to push for more trade liberalisation. The US Trade Representative equates democracy with free trade. The World Bank has advocated greater liberalisation to counter the effects of a global recession.
The IFIs and Civil Society in a New Political Context , commentary by Bretton Woods Project.