Stop WTO talks until everyone can take full part in them again
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is often seen as an institution in crisis, powerless and no longer relevant, and especially after US president Donald Trump decided in 2019 to pull the plug on one of the WTO’s most important bodies (the one dealing with trade disputes). Now, more than 150 civil society organisations, networks and interest groups from around the world have signed an urgent letter to WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo, because they are seriously concerned about the state of affairs within the organization.
The WTO is most certainly relevant. A new round of negotiations was even planned to start in June 2020. When the meeting was cancelled because of the COVID-19pandemic, it was a relief especially to poorer member states, which are currently having to devote a disproportionate share of their scarce resources to combat the crisis.
Recently, however, it emerged that the richer member states of the WTO wanted the negotiations to go ahead, but online. That was bad news for the large group of poorer countries. Even in normal circumstances,these countries are at a disadvantage because they often lack the resources to take part in physical negotiations. It will be simply impossible for many of them to take part in online discussions.
This is the reason for the letter. The 150 signatories are concerned that those members who are able talk around the digital table will take insufficient account, if at all, of the interests of countries that are unable to play a full part in the negotiations. The letter calls for the WTO to postpone the negotiations until all members are able to participate in them fully.
As long as the WTO is making important decisions, that must occur in a decent and acceptable manner. Poor countries must not be excluded from the negotiations in any way. Both ENDS has been calling for greater attention to be paid to the interests of developing countries for many years and is bringing the concerns of civil society and local movements in these countries to the attention of delegations from the Dutch government and the European Commission to the WTO.
At this difficult time, there are issues on the agenda that are of great importance to poor people in developing countries. Talks should now be taking place on restricting subsidies to the fishing sector. That is a complex issue because, on the one hand, it is crucial that something is done about the over-fishing of the world’s oceans, and lowering or stopping subsidies would seem an obvious step to take. On the other hand, however, too few of the benefits of the fishery sector remain in poor countries, because they often do not have a developed industrial fishing sector.
Large groups of poor people in these countries depend on fishing for their livelihoods. Fishers and their families need support from their governments to hold their own against the large-scale international fishing industry, which is the major cause of over-fishing.
This is therefore a very important dossier, especially for the least developed countries in Africa and small island states in the Caribbean and Pacific regions. It must not be allowed to happen that these countries are unable to take part in negotiations that are vital to their survival. We therefore fully support this call to suspend the negotiations temporarily.
Update 30 april 2020:
Azevedo responded to the letter five days after it was sent, unprecedentedly fast for an organisation like the WTO. The contents of the response were, however, disappointing. What it comes down to is that the WTO wishes to continue with the negotiations, ignoring the objections.
Therefore, a new letter was sent, this time to all Ministers of Trade of WTO member countries, to call for a halt of negotiations. This new letter was signed by no less than
400 organisations, networks and groups from all over the world, and was made public today.
Read more about this subject
International trade agreements often have far-reaching consequences not only for the economy of a country, but also for people and the environment. It is primarily the most vulnerable groups who suffer most from these agreements.
Blog / 13 May 2020
You can't eat gold, copper and gas
"The virus is spreading quicker than the information" – that was the first we heard in the Netherlands about COVID-19 in many African countries and the measures they were taking to tackle it. While states of emergency were announced, borders were closed and we saw image after image of violent police and army responses, many people outside the big cities did not know that what was going on. When the situation became clearer, serious concerns arose about the consequences of the measures that had been taken: the informal economy coming to a standstill, food shortages and internal migration flows.
Blog / 5 May 2020
Today the Netherlands is celebrating freedom. Our freedom goes further than living in peace. We have the freedom to discuss policy to our hearts’ content on, for example, ending the lockdown on television, in the press and on social media. We can do that freely because we know that our rights to freedom of expression are well protected. But how different that is in countries where authoritarian leaders are grasping the crisis as an excuse to throw these rights out with the trash and rule with an iron hand.
Blog / 15 April 2020
After Dutch Minister of Finance Wopke Hoekstra had brought the fury of the Southern European countries down on his head on 26 March by blocking the European emergency fund, the Dutch were suddenly 'small-minded and selfish‘ (Parool) and we should ‘go on holiday somewhere else‘ (RTL News). The tone was set. The difficulties encountered in making agreements on support at European level contrast sharply with the speed with which the welcome support measures for employers, entrepreneurs and companies had been announced in the Netherlands two weeks earlier. We have learned nothing from our own past, while everyone benefits from greater priority for solidarity.
Blog / 13 April 2020
Since his previous government, prime minister Mark Rutte has wanted to create a green legacy with Invest-NL and Invest International, two new financial organisations. With the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, these organisations are more important than ever. Aiming to stimulate investment in sustainable and social projects, they will operate at a distance from the government so that they can act quickly and efficiently. With an initial budget of 2.5 billion euros, they will give financial support to companies active in sectors that the market avoids and which are at the heart of the transition. At Both ENDS, we see that as an essential step in closing the door for good on our old polluting lifestyle and putting sustainability at the centre of developments in the energy sector, in the organisation of our transport and mobility system, in how we produce our food and in the design of our cities.
Blog / 16 April 2020
In this time of crisis-driven reflection we can read telling analyses of past and present on all sides which are being translated into agendas for action. Many of the analyses address issues like inequality, climate, the financial sector, health care, education and women’s rights. They talk about ‘what’ and much less about ‘who’ or ‘how’.But a different future can only be built together with everyone, young and old, men and women. This future will not simply happen to us; we ourselves have a hand in it. It is time for new faces around the table, with new voices. It is time for a new future.
Press release / 29 June 2020
Germany must use its influence as president of the EU in the second half of this year to ensure that the controversial EU-Mercosur free trade agreement is not signed. This is the message in a letter presented to German chancellor Angela Merkel today by 265 civil society and environmental organisations from the EU and Mercosur countries. The deal between the EU and Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay will stimulate destruction of the natural environment and the violation of human rights in vulnerable areas in South America. The agreement will also give European farmers an unfair competitive advantage. Dutch signatories to the letter include Greenpeace and Both ENDS and various organisations united in the Handel Anders! coalition.
Blog / 16 June 2020
In September 2019, the streets of Jakarta were filled with angry demonstrators protesting against the Omnibus Employment Law. The law will ease the rules for mining, make it much more difficult to hold companies liable for criminal acts and severely restrict the power of the national anti-corruption committee. At the moment, such protests are completely impossible in Indonesia because of the COVID-19 crisis and the associated lockdown measures. And Indonesian people already had few other means of exerting influence on decision-making and legislative processes.
Blog / 30 April 2020
COVID-19is placing our economy under a magnifying glass. Now that a large part of global trade has come to a standstill, the tension between international economic activity and local well-being is becoming more visible. That is very clear in northern Mozambique, where one of the world’s largest gas fields was discovered in 2011. Dutch companies are investing in the processing and transport of the gas.
Blog / 12 May 2020
Post-corona economy: five recommendations for the Dutch government on achieving the SDGs and the goals of the climate agreement
By Daniëlle Hirsch and Maria van der Heijden
The social debate on the Netherlands' role in the global economic crisis is now in full swing. At the centre of the debate is the question: how can we compensate for the setbacks affecting the Dutch economy without losing sight of efforts to make international trade and production chains more sustainable? We – Both ENDS and MVO Nederland (CSR Netherlands) – are particularly concerned about what we hear in these discussions about human rights, climate and the environment. That these are 'luxury problems' which we have no time to address at this time of crisis. And this, while the Corona crisis is showing us just how closely our current economy is irrevocably intertwined with the pollution of the planet and is making people all around the world more and more vulnerable. In short, we have to make our economy more resilient to such shocks. And that means committing ourselves to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the goals of the Paris climate agreement. We therefore address ourselves first and foremost to the government.
News / 18 June 2019
Open letter from more than 340 organisations: EU must stop negotiating treaty with South American countries.
Today, more than 340 organisations from both South America and Europe, including Both ENDS, have sent a joint open letter to European Union leaders calling for the EU to cease negotiations on the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement. The organisations and their constituencies are seriously concerned about increasing violations of indigenous human rights and damage to nature and the environment in Brazil.
Blog / 20 May 2020
'Comfortably staying home with the family': three women in Latin American villages about the Covid-19 crisis
"The Covid-19 crisis is affecting everyone, but in different ways. In some countries, people are feeling the consequences less than in others, in cities the problems are completely different to in the countryside, and men are suffering from the restrictions totally differently to women. Some of the organisations that we work with in Latin America talked to rural women about the effects of the crisis on their everyday lives and what they are doing to keep their heads above water. Below is a small selection from these conversations (freely translated from Spanish) to give some idea of the situation women in remote areas are finding themselves in, of the enormous solidarity they are experiencing and of the solutions, which largely lie in stimulating local food production." - Danielle Hirsch
Blog / 28 May 2020
The Rio de la Plata Basin in South America extends across Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The livelihoods of the millions of people who live there – city-dwellers, small farmers and fishers, and indigenous peoples – are under pressure from soya cultivation, mining and logging, and by the construction of dams and ports. The COVID-19 crisis is making the situation even worse.
Blog / 20 April 2020
The world is turned upside down in this pandemic. Ordinary life is disrupted on our end. Many people suffer from the ‘polder lockdown’, although fortunately we have enough resilience and safety nets to meet our most urgent needs. Unfortunately, outside the Netherlands this all too often lacking. Especially in countries where public health structures are weak and where people are in a total lockdown. Because local communities that are shackled today may be hungry tomorrow. And aid and money does not naturally flow to the most vulnerable citizens there. So extra financial support is urgent.
News / 19 May 2020
On Monday 11 May, at the government's request, the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) published an emergency advisory report on how the Netherlands can make an effective contribution to the worldwide fight against the Corona virus. Together with companies, scientists and environmental, human rights and development organisations, Both ENDS is today presenting a response to this report, in which we make a number of suggestions for investing in countries and people with insufficient resources to tackle the crisis effectively.
Publication / 7 November 2018
External link / 19 October 2020
Countries might face a wave of cases from transnational corporations suing governments over actions taken to respond to the Covid pandemic using a system known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS. In June 2020, 630 organisations already called on governments to urgently take action to shut down this threat. With this video we invigorate this message, as the threat, unfortunately, has not decreased.
News / 29 June 2020
On 23 July 2020 a global network of NGOs working to strengthen corporate accountability for environmental destruction and human rights abuses, including Both ENDS, published an open letter to European Commission DG Justice Commissioner Reynders. The letter is a response to his recent commitment to propose legislation in 2021 on both corporate due diligence and directors’ duties as part of an initiative on sustainable corporate governance.
News / 7 October 2018
We are very proud that our director Daniëlle Hirsch has been included again in the ‘Sustainable 100’ (an annual ranking list published by Dutch newspaper Trouw), and has gone up more than 40 spots compared to last year! Danielle was included in the list because of the many things she does with her organisation as a whole, but she got the higher ranking for the way she combines her criticism of the destructive role of the Netherlands as a trading nation and large cause of CO2 emissions in the world (often supported by the Dutch government), with a constructive attitude when it comes to finding alternatives and solutions.
News / 11 December 2015
Nairobi, Kenya's capital city, will be the epicenter of international trade from 15 to 18 December 2015. The representatives of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which currently has 162 member countries, will come together to negotiate. The different countries tend to have very different and often conflicting interests, which makes it difficult to reach agreements. Burghard Ilge of Both ENDS travels with Minister Ploumen as an official adviser and mediator from civil society. His role is to inform the Minister about the views and interests of civil society organisations around the world, in order for her to take these positions into consideration during the negotiations. We asked Ilge some clarifying questions.