News Release

World Trade Organization Meeting: Will Protests Be Allowed?

The World Trade Organization has indicated that it will hold its next ministerial meeting at the beginning of November in Qatar. This has prompted objections from human rights groups and critics of the WTO concerned that Qatar will not allow protests. The WTO is expected to make its official selection within the next two weeks. The following people are available for comment:

JOE STORK
Washington director of the Middle East/North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, Stork said today: “Either Qatar must pledge that free assembly will be respected or the WTO ministers should find another location. Qatar’s human rights record is blemished. Although the free-wheeling al-Jazeera satellite television station is based in Qatar, the government restricts freedom of assembly. Increasing public concern about the WTO’s failure to incorporate respect for human rights, labor rights, the environment, and globalization’s impact on the poor culminated in large-scale protests during the last ministerial meetings in Seattle in November 1999. Subsequent protests occurred at the spring and annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund that were held in Washington, D.C., and Prague, respectively…. WTO head Michael Moore has said that non-governmental organizations previously accredited by the WTO would have access to Qatar, although he made no pledge about the right to peaceful assembly.”
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KEVIN DANAHER
Co-author of Globalize This! The Battle Against the World Trade Organization and Corporate Rule, Danaher said today: “The unity in the streets in Seattle created such disunity inside the WTO that they have yet to mend the cracks in their edifice. It is indicative of how beleaguered the WTO is and how anti-democratic their instincts are that the WTO is reduced to considering a place chosen for its political inaccessibility. Still, the WTO shouldn’t think that this will prevent dissent.”
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DAVID WASKOW
Trade and international policy coordinator for Friends of the Earth, Waskow said today: “The WTO should not try to avoid public scrutiny simply by holding a meeting in a country that forbids public protest. Rather, such a move would simply send a clear message that current criticisms of the WTO’s anti-democratic processes are if anything understated. Scheduling a WTO Ministerial in Qatar would be contrary to the WTO’s stated plans to build public understanding and support for the WTO.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167