Multinational Monitor

APR 2003
VOL 24 No. 4


Chemical Trespass: The Chemical Body Burden and theThreat to Public Health
by Stacy Malkan

The Legacy of Lead: Pervasive Poisoning, Suspect Science and the Industry Effort to Escape Liability
by Wendy Johnson

Mercury and Bush’s Not-So-Clear Skies: The Administration Plan for More Coal Plant Mercury Emissions Over a Longer Period
by Zach Corrigan


Fighting for Asbestos Justice in Brazil
an interview with Fernanda Giannasi


Letter to the Editor

Behind the Lines

Tony Mazzocchi, Environmental Health and Justice Crusader

The Front
Southern Solidarity

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Response to the Columbia Shuttle Disaster

Book Review
The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution

Names In the News


The Front

Southern Solidarity

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ó The Non Aligned Movement Summit ended in late February with a call for a new political, economic and human global order that is equitable, just and democratic.

The Non Aligned Movement (NAM) is a grouping of the world's developing countries. The NAM summit participants were heads of state.

The main message emerging from the summit was the urgent need to reaffirm the central importance of multilateralism in face of the threat of rising unilateral actions in international affairs exemplified by the then-pending U.S.-UK war against Iraq.

NAM participants were especially critical of the U.S. unilateral drive to war and disdain for the United Nations. "War must therefore be made illegal," said the new NAM chair, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in his remarks opening the Summit. "The enforcement of this must be by multilateral forces under the control of the United Nations. No single nation should be allowed to police the world, least of all to decide what action to take, and when," Mahathir said, in a clear reference to the threat of U.S. attacks on Iraq.

The summit's closing plenary adopted several documents: the "Final Document" of the 13th NAM Summit; the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on continuing the revitalization of the NAM; and separate statements on Iraq and Palestine. It also agreed to hold the next summit in Cuba in 2006.

In his closing speech, Mahathir said the unipolar world today is different from the multipolar world when the NAM was founded. NAM has become even more relevant today to protect and promote the interests of the South, he said.

"It is clear the well being of the world will be better served by a strong multilateral system revolving around a UN that is more representative and democratic, than a unilateral system based on the dominance of one power, however benign that power may be," Mahathir said. "We are resolved to give strong and sustained support to the UN, for its future is linked with that of the NAM and multilateralism."

Mahathir summarized three new challenges facing NAM: combating international terrorism; globalization and efforts towards integration of developing countries into the new political, economic and human global order that is equitable, just and democratic; and information and communications technology that is changing the world and widening the North-South digital divide.

The reference in Mahathir's speech to globalization and the need for a "new political, economic and human global order" seemed to summarize a key part on globalization in the NAM summit's Final Document.

The Final Document states, "Noting that integration into the global economy in order to benefit from multilateral rules without destroying national comparative advantage is a critical challenge for developing countries, and recognizing that economic reforms are only a means to an end and that in the pursuit of development, the human goals of security, freedom, justice and the opportunity for a fulfilling and empowering life for all humanity must not be neglected, the Heads of State or government emphasized the need for a New Global Human Order aimed at reversing the growing disparity between rich and poor, both among and within countries, through inter alia, the eradication of poverty and the promotion of sustainable development."

Similar themes were raised in the Kuala Lumpur Declaration. "Globalization presents many challenges and opportunities to the future and viability of all states. In its present form, it perpetuates or even increases the marginalization of the developing countries," the declaration says.

"The rich and powerful countries exercise an inordinate influence in determining the nature and direction of international relations, including economic and trade relations, as well as the rules governing these relations, many of which are at the expense of the developing countries."

Observers saw the NAM summit's call for a New Global Human Order based on narrowing disparities as directly contrasting with the U.S.-articulated paradigm of a New World Order first advanced by U.S. President George Bush in the early 1990s and now further extended by President George W. Bush in increasingly unilateralist superpower policies, including the justification for unilateral preventative military strikes and withdrawal from multilateral agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

The "new global human order" also harks back to the developing countries' movement for a "new international economic order" in the 1970s and 1980s, which petered out in face of the backlash from industrialized countries, the debt crisis and commodity price declines, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank's structural adjustment policy conditionalities, and the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Whether the NAM will be able to revive the movement for an equitable international order, and what practical plans and programs it can devise, are some key issues. The task becomes even more onerous if the New Global Human Order seeks to cover both political and economic arenas.

At the closing session, Cuban President Fidel Castro said the new NAM Chair is admired worldwide for Malaysia's development success and especially for his challenge to the IMF's orthodox economic policies during the late 1990s Asian financial crisis. The struggle for development requires solidarity and cooperation among NAM countries, he said.

For the Africa group, Namibia's President Sam Nujomo said NAM must coordinate its members' positions in the international arena especially in trade negotiations relating to the WTO's Doha program ó the current WTO negotiation agenda, including agriculture, services, government procurement and competition policy issues. The group urged NAM members, especially those in the UN Security Council, to follow up on NAM decisions relating to the political situation.

At a media conference following the closing session, Mahathir said, "Without NAM, we will be chewed up and swallowed one by one."

To a question whether it was too idealistic to think the mighty nations would be convinced by his call to abolish wars and nuclear weapons, Mahathir agreed his call looked idealistic as the big powers believe they should have the privilege of maintaining their weapons.

"But if we keep quiet," he said, "they won't feel guilty or uncomfortable when they keep or even use these weapons. Even conventional weapons are being developed to become weapons of mass destruction."

On the practical measures for NAM in the next three years, Mahathir said NAM countries should have a common stand in negotiations and conferences, especially relating to globalization and WTO meetings. "When we don't speak with one voice, the other side will push through their ideas."

- Martin Khor
Third World Network Features


The April 2003 Lawrence Summers Memorial Award* goes to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) in January told the organizers of Nebraska Wesleyan University's annual "Rat Olympics" to change the name of their event or face a trademark infringement lawsuit.

This weaselly message was delivered to the University by a legal adviser to the USOC.

The Rat Olympics are the annual Behavioral Learning Principles class project to teach rats to perform in various competitive events, the Associated Press reports, and has received local and national media coverage.

Wesleyan will hold a contest to rename the contest, a university spokesperson told the Associated Press. "Until then, it is being called ëthe event formerly known as the Rat Olympics,' she said."

Source: Associated Press, "USOC Threatens Suit Over ëRat Olympics,'" January 31, 2003.

*In a 1991 internal memorandum, then-World Bank economist Lawrence Summers argued for the transfer of waste and dirty industries from industrialized to developing countries. "Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (lesser developed countries)?" wrote Summers, who went on to serve as Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration. "I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. ... I've always thought that underpopulated countries in Africa are vastly under polluted; their air quality is vastly inefficiently low [sic] compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City." Summers later said the memo was meant to be ironic.



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