It Takes a Global Village

From Africa to Australia to America, Activists Raise a Ruckus Around the World

But can Americans really push their government to rein in corporations when the very nature of being a multinational means transcending national laws?

Legislation to regulate U.S.-based multinational corporations has been introduced by two house members. Democrat Cynthia McKinney of Georgia introduced the Corporate Code of Conduct. Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont calls for a tax on international currency transactions, creation of a global investment fund, debt cancellation, and restructuring of the World Bank and the IMF. Neither bill is likely to pass as long as both Republican and Democratic leaders persist in liberalizing trade. Nor is the UN able to rein in multinationals, though it has produced several documents that lay out viable plans for global living—the UN Declaration on Human Rights, and its Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, for instance. The problem is that they're not enforceable. To complicate matters, notes Victor Menotti, director of the environmental program at the International Forum on Globalization, the UN "is so paralyzed by bureaucracy and lack of money that it's now being captured by corporations." Kevin Danaher, a cofounder of Global Exchange, hopes that a January 2001 "Social Summit" in Porto Allegre, Brazil, will create "a people's global party that will run candidates in their individual countries."

At all these gatherings the emphasis is both on raising a ruckus and on making connections between the global and local, among the working classes in the global north and south, between the food the world ingests and the way multinational corporations grow it. What Seattle and D.C. did was to demonstrate an effective strategy for mass protest, one that can be replicated across borders. This movement, Anuradha Mittal says, is like "a swarm of bees that can't be cut off at the head or arm because when it attacks you are stung everywhere. That is the power of a people's movement."

As this issue goes to press, the G8—the seven wealthiest nations and Russia—arrives in Japan for an economic summit on the island of Okinawa. Despite the remote location, protesters plan to be there.

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