We won in Cancun! The WTO was derailed!

Press release

The Fifth Ministerial Conference of the WTO ended on September 14th in complete failure. The WTO did not even succeed in identifying the location of the next Ministerial Conference. There was no Declaration expressing any theme upon which there was agreement and there was no time to develop consensus on a future agenda. This, together with the anticipated withdrawal of many countries from the South, created confusion and chaos in the Ministerial Conference. Despite the mobilization of strong presence of police and military forces, on September 13th , rural organizations, youth, women and other sectors succeeded in tearing down the barricade imposed by the Mexican Government and the WTO in attempts to make invisible our presence and our proposals.

From September 8-14th we engaged in significant days of struggle, first, within the framework of the International Peasant and Indigenous Forum, and later, in diverse street demonstrations both inside and outside the convention center where the negotiators were concentrated. The peasant and indigenous march of September 10th set the tone for the resistance and struggle of the following days.

On September 13th, with patience and great courage, one hundred women from all over the worlddismantled piece by piece the barricade that impeded entry to the convention center. The Korean peasants together with a large part of the crowd joined in this action and using thick ropes we torn down the walls. This was a symbol of the WTO that would soon collapse in Cancun. The thousands of police and military stood there ready to quell the protestors but no one was intent on confronting them. Our non-violent confrontation was with WTO, not with the police and the military.

Demonstrators burned two effigies of the WTO and sat down. Then white flowers were placed in homage of our friend Lee who gave his life to the people’s struggle, the struggle against the WTO, the struggle for a more just and humane world. On September 14th the WTO had collapsed.

In Cancun we encountered various social sectors, among them were the youth from different parts of the world. When considering forms of struggle, these youth are characterized by different levels of radicalism. For example, among the most radical there is the "Black Block." The Vía Campesina, being consistent with its demands, opened spaces for dialogue and convergence with the youth. This yielded extremely positive results and their contribution was key to achieving our objective through non-violent means. The youth have expressed a desire to continue working with the Vía Campesina in future actions under the conditions mentioned above. There is no doubt that sacrifice of our friend Lee served to animate, strengthen and radicalize the struggle of those who were in Cancun and those social activists engaged in actions of mobilization around the world. His courage and ideals will live with us, we will never forget them. Lee contributed enormously to our victory and the derailing of the WTO.

The governments of the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) have demonstrated themselves totally incapable of understanding and taking into account the legitimate interests of people. Their arrogant and inflexible manner, and blackmailing practices, drove countries of the Third World to form a block of opposition led by Brazil, India and China (G22) against the US and the EU. The group of governments from ACP countries (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) also showed opposition. These initiatives contributed to stop the Ministerial. Via Campesina welcomes this opposition, but does not agree with the proposals of the G22 regarding agriculture. Increasing liberalization and market access do not resolve problems of poverty and social exclusion of millions of people in the world. On the contrary this will worsen the situation.

The President of the European Union Agriculture Council has invited the Vía Campesina to a dialogue on agriculture. We are considering this proposal but we need to receive messages from the European Union that express a real will to change its Common Agriculture Policy and current international trade rules.

In Cancun the EU claimed they had already reduced export subsidies. But in fact, they had reduced farm prices and replaced export subsidies with direct payments which are recognized in the green box. The use of these direct payments by the EU and income support schemes by the US are a hidden way to support agro-industry through low farm prices and to facilitate dumping on international markets. The reaction of some is « to abolish subsidies in agriculture all together ». However this would be another blow for peasant based production. Public support for sustainable peasant-based agriculture, directed to those who need it most, is a key demand in the North and the South. However it is critical to stop overproduction in export countries through supply management schemes and that countries must be able to protect themselves from low-priced imports.

The collapse of the WTO is a result of a profound crisis within the neoliberal model. It is urgent that we continue to strengthen our movements, our alternative proposals. Creating an open transparent and constructive dialogue among ourselves is all the more necessary to advance in our strategies of struggle.

The WTO Kills Farmers! Take the WTO out of agriculture, food and fisheries! Towards Peoples’ Food Sovereignty!
Globalize the struggle, globalize hope

International Co-ordinating Commission of Vía Campesina
Tegucigalpa, 23th of September 2003