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International News: February

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Issue: 14 Section: International News Topics: social movements, racism

February 3, 2004

International News: February

World Social Forum Examines Alternatives to Neo-liberalism

An estimated 50,000 World Social Forum attendees at a session entitled "Women on War, War on Women." photo: Indymedia India

Traditionally held in Porto Allegre, Brazil, the Mumbai event addressed topics close to the hearts of tens of millions of people involved in social movements in Asia, including caste issues, women's rights and land ownership. The forum also featured several high-profile critics of corporate globalization and imperialism.

Former World Bank economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz condemned "market fundamentalism" and said that new leadership was needed to keep globalization from undermining social security. The alternative to fundamental reforms, he said, is widespread violence.

Indian writer Arundhati Roy called for a direct action campaign against companies that benefit from the US occupation of Iraq. A Filipino researcher argued that "flexible" labour policies adopted by governments to attract investment have the effect of "institutionalizing unemployment." Zambian researcher Austin Mu Bnau described the local impact of the Shopright supermarket chain, which bypasses local suppliers and has weakened unions. British journalist George Monbiot suggested that Third World countries should collectively threaten to default on debt of over $2.2 trillion unless basic levels of fairness are applied to global governance.

A crowd demonstrates agains the International Monetary Fund at the World Social Forum. photo: Evan Henshaw-Plath
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Bill Clinton said that opponents of globalization "have got their criticism right."

"We do not have the systems the world needs to respond in a comprehensive way" to the problems posed by globalization, he said.

The forum will return to Brazil in 2005, but plans are being made to gather in Africa in 2006. An African WSF, some attendees said, would be a powerful tool for drawing attention to AIDS and what activists call the "criminal debt." Some African governments spend close to half of their budgets servicing debts, often due to excessive borrowing by former dictators.

"[The World Social Forum] has now emerged as a matrix, a structure, that can be reproduced in any part of the world," said Flavio Aguiar, a Brazilian professor who has been involved with the forum since 2001. (Independent SA)

» OneWorld.net World Social Forum Plans April Agitation Against IMF and World Bank

» Independent (South Africa): World Social Forum hailed as a big success

» Business Report: World Social Forum seeks to hold summit in Africa

» Bridges Weekly Trade Digest Trade Debated at Mumbai World Social Forum

* * *

Racial Inequality in US Not Improving: Study

At 10.8 per cent, unemployment among African-Americans is more than twice that of white Americans. Infant mortality is 146 per cent higher than that of whites. For every dollar of white income, African-Americans have 57 cents-two cents more than in 1967.

These are some of the findings of "The State of the Dream 2004," a report released by United for a Fair Economy. The report estimates that at the current rate of improvement, it would take 581 years to acheive income parity between blacks and whites. (New Standard)

» The New Standard: MLK Day Report Shows Greater Disparity Between Black and White

» Houston Chronicle: Segregation in schools at levels last seen in 1969

* * *

Citigroup Unveils Environmental Plan

Citigroup, one of the largest banks in the world, announced plans to adopt a comprehensive environmental policy in conjunction with the Rainforest Action Network. Dogged for years by direct action, campus boycott campaigns, protests, and an award for the "World's Most Destructive Bank," Citigroup asked the Rainforest Action Network for a last-minute "ceasefire" on the eve of a major protest planned for the corporation's shareholders' meeting.

Citigroup had been criticized for its investment in polluting industries, including a Peruvian oil pipeline project that the Rainforest Action Network said displaced indigenous people and threatened hundreds of endangered bird and tree species. Critics also targeted Citigroup's lack of investment in sustainable technologies and its unwillingness to modify its mortgage plan to account for the long-term savings of solar heating systems.

The corporation's new policy includes protection of of zones of "social or ecological fragility" and takes climate change into account.
"We believe we can make a difference by holding ourselves accountable for our own impact," said Charles Prince, CEO of Citigroup.

» Corpwatch: Citigroup Awarded ''Honor'' as World's Most Destructive Bank

» Rainforest Action Network: Citibank Targeted by Wave of Student Protests

» Press Release: Rainforest Action Network and Citigroup Announce Enhanced Citigroup Environmental Policy

» TomPaine.com: Jamming Citigroup's PR Message: An Interview With Ilyse Hogue Of Rainforest Action Network

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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