Women's Rights, Globalization And Strategic International Venues
This session was designed as a space to reflect and to begin evaluating the effectiveness of economic justice and women's rights work that has gone through various international venues in the last 10-15 years.
Focusing on the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the United Nations (UN), presenters and participants shared their advocacy experiences and their ideas for strategic future work.
- Elmira Nazombe Center for Women's Global Leadership, USA
- Laura Frade Women's Eyes on the Multi-laterals, Mexico
- Lynn Freedman School of Public Health, Columbia University, USA
- Mariama Williams DAWN-Caribbean, Jamaica-USA
- Pam Rajput Punjab University, India
- Zo Randriamaro GERA Programme, Third World Network - Africa, Madagascar
- Carol Barton Women's International Coalition for Economic Justice, USA
WTO: Work at the WTO is particularily frustrating because of the ever-expanding mandate of the organization and the proliferation of trade promotion into development agendas. Gender advocates face obstacles with respect to impacting civil society groups with longer histories (such as trade unions and development agencies), gaining access the WTO, and proving the relevance of gender to trade policies. Some alliances have become possible between NGO's and governments, however, as negotiators have become aware of the dangers inherent in issues such as the patenting of seeds and life forms.
UN:Successive UN conferences and the Millenium Development Goals have made invisible the way that international economic policies have contributed to worsening conditions for women, particularly with respect to women's health. What we count or measure is very important in terms of what we do and therefore the indicators used by UN agencies are very important in terms of progress for women. Parallels can be seen between the local level and the UN level, where regressive forces are trying to occupy women's space and to erase the gains of the past 5 years.
The World Bank & IMF: While international financial institutions appear to have made many advances with respect to gender issues, in reality none of these advances turn into practice. Through the Financing for Development process, the World Bank has in fact demonstrated their ability to exclude women's groups from participation. A key point with respect to international financial institutions is that only states can formally participate in negotiating processes which are not transparent or accountable. Negotiating processes and state policies needs to be monitored, therefore, and economic and social rights need to be injected into international economic policy.
It was clear from the interventions of participants that to-date advocacy at the UN and the World Bank has been much more common than at the WTO or the IMF. The value of focusing on national policies and state participation in international institutions (as opposed to focusing on the institutions themselves) was emphasized in several interventions. It was also noted that what we gain in one forum often gets lost in another.
Some of the action suggestions the came out in this discussion included:
- the fight has to be waged in the North, with sisters in the North lobbying their own governments; solidarity between women in the North and women in the South must be part of our strategies no matter where we are located.
- we need to ground our advocay in strategic openings such as the Millenium Development Goals.
- by establishing alternative models (e.g. village women's parliament in India) we can build systems of accountability and present formal alternatives.
- we need to focus on our own states and look for means to open doors for women's access to the interactions between governments and international institutions.
- we should not trust government promises but build our own strategies.
- we need to use international conventions and concluding observations from UN bodies in our domestic political and legal work.
- we need solid evidence for our arguments.
2002 AWID Forum, Session #266