10:41 AM Apr 2, 1996
TODAY'S GLOBALISATION PROCESS
MAX-NEEF. "IT IS A DYING MONSTER, BUT WITH A VAST DESTRUCTIVE CAPACITY."Max-Neef, the author of "the Barefoot Economy" and "Development on a Human Scale", which won him the Alternative Nobel prize in economics in 1983, spoke at an international seminar on "Citizens Face to Face with Globalisation", which ended Sunday in Santiago. More than 300 people participated in the seminar, including environmental, indigenous, women and union leaders, intellectuals and students, and special guest Vandana Shiva, scientists and environmental activist from India and winner of the Alternative Nobel prize in 1993. James Petras, John Cavanagh and David Korten from the United States, Shiva, Enrique Leff from Mexico and Roberto Guimaraes from Brazil spoke on globalisation, and discussed the search for adequate responses to the impact of that process. During the last sessions of the seminar, participants exchanged their approaches and experiences regarding the role of citizens and social organisations with respect to the impact of globalisation. The transnational phenomenon is backed by unprecedented scientific-technological advances, above all in the field of informatics, and is strengthened by the end of the Cold War and the subsequent hegemony of the market economy, it was pointed out during the conference. Globalisation simultaneously generates productive growth and unemployment, while leaving out sectors of society and provoking inequality, participants agreed. It also has negative political, social, cultural and environmental impacts. Raul Rupailaf, an indigenous leader who belongs to the Mapuche ethnic group, said indigenous people suffer from the cultural and environmental impact of a model which, based on the exportation of natural resources, destroys their land and ancestral habitats. Ximena Valdes, with the Research Centre for Women's Development, warned that the agro-exportation model poses new challenges for women, such as the fight against the intensive use of pesticides in the production of fruit, which has negative effects on the health of women and child. And according to Sergio Alegria, president of the Union of Industrial Assembly Workers, Chilean labour legislation is violated by the big investors, particularly Canadians, which in the interests of financial and productive globalisation are developing mining projects. During the seminar, numerous accounts of conflicts caused by globalisation were given, and opposition to free trade accords lacking labour and environmental safeguards was expressed. Opposition to concessions that Chile's agricultural sector will make in accordance with an association agreement with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), to be signed on June 25, was also expressed. Max-Neef stated that forcing some 800,000 small and medium-sized agricultural producers to "reconvert" is an attack on culture, a style of life and a special kind of ties with the land, all in the name of competition. According to the author, who is president of the Southern University of Valdivia - 835 kilometres south of Santiago - it is necessary to recover the language of sensibility in the face of a model "that ignores solidarity, and makes Chile a country that is being destroyed in spite of the proclaimed success of its economy." And Manuel Baquedano, president of the Institute of Political Ecology, stressed several experiences of the environmental movement in conflicts that have arisen from the characteristics of the globalisation process. Baquedano mentioned cases in which environmentalists were able to establish strategic alliances with productive sectors against other business sectors in environmental conflicts: for example, between agricultural producers and transnational mining companies. He pointed out that community movements also arise, in opposition to government decisions on mega-investment projects that ignore the opinions and the interests of affected sectors of the population. "Our strategic allies (in the face of the impacts of globalisation) are all those who think as we do throughout the world," said Max-Neef, who called for increased North-South and East-West communication. This strategic alliance can take advantage of the very instruments created in the context of globalisation, such as international informatic networks, Baquedano said, mentioning a specific example. At the extreme southern tip of Chile, the U.S. firm Trillium is interested in exploiting some 2,500 hectares of "lenga", a valuable indigenous species of tree. But in order to obtain international credit, the company must first obtain certification from industrialised countries regarding the environmental impact of the project. Through the Internet, the Chilean government has recently received copies of declarations of thousands of environmental organisations from all over the world, expressing their opposition to the Trillium project. The flood of responses was so overwhelming that Trillium protested there was an "international conspiracy" against it, Baquedano said.