12. Non-Governmental Organizations and the WTO: Limits to Involvement?
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309 12 Non-Governmental Organizations and the WTO: Limits to Involvement? PETER VAN DEN BOSSCHE* I. Introduction The importance of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as international actors has increased sharply over the last decades. Since 1945, when NGOs were explicitly recognized as actors on the international scene by Article 71 of the United Nations Charter, NGOs have become an ever stronger and more vocal force in international policy-making,policy implementation,compliance monitoring , and dispute settlement. The interest and involvement of NGOs in the activities of international organizations have especially intensified since the early 1990s. Currently, a continuously growing number of NGOs participate or aspire to participate in the work of international organizations. Many observers would agree with K. Raustiala that‘this growth of NGO activity may indicate an emerging transformation of the international legal and political system—a decline in the importance of the sovereign state and the state system and an accompanying rise of governance by a dynamic global civil society’.1 The most important reason for the empowerment of NGOs on the international plane is the phenomenon of globalization and the growing need to find global solutions for global problems. This has led governments to engage in more negotiation, policy formation, and decision-making at the international level. More often than not, these activities at the international level have significant effects on domestic policy and legislation. In a number of fields, there has,in fact,been a shift in regulatory activity from the national to the international level. Consequently, many NGOs, which were formerly national in focus and organizational structure, have ‘internationalized’ in order to maintain their ability to participate in the policy debate and affect policy decisions.2 The Cardoso Report of 2004, on the relationship between the United Nations and civil society, reports,‘Representative democracy, in which citizens periodically elect their representatives across the full spectrum of political issues, is now supplemented by participatory democracy, in which anyone can enter the debates that most interest them, through advocacy, protest and in other ways.’3 People are using internationally operating NGOs to express their political views and/or promote their interests. Effective involvement in—and influence over— the policy-making, policy implementation, compliance monitoring, and dispute settlement activities of international organizations is a chief objective—if not the raison d’être—of international NGOs. International NGOs have been keen to be involved in the activities of the World Trade Organization (WTO).As the primary international organization concerned with trans-border trade, the WTO is at the forefront of the multilateral effort to manage and regulate economic globalization. The law of the WTO governs the trade relations between its 153 Members and plays a crucial role in resolving trade disputes between these Members. Not surprisingly, the WTO has emerged as a prime target for anti-globalization protests. When Mike Moore arrived at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization in the summer 1999 to begin his first day of work as the WTO’s new DirectorGeneral , he was welcomed by a small but noisy group of demonstrators. One of the demonstrators waved a sign saying,‘Dieu est mort, l’OMC l’a remplacé!’ (‘God is dead; the WTO has replaced him!’). Another sign said, ‘Qui sème la misère récolte la colère!’ (‘He who sows misery will reap anger’), and a third sign said,‘WTO = World Terror Organization.’ This small demonstration was a sign of things to come.A few months later, the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle triggered large-scale demonstrations that degenerated into street battles between the police and protestors. Since Seattle, there have been several other mass demonstrations against the WTO, in particular on the occasions of the biannual sessions of the WTO Ministerial Conference. As Guy de Jonquières observed, this‘interest’ in the WTO reflects‘growing public awareness —but often imperfect understanding—of its role in promoting, and formulating rules for, global economic integration’.4 This chapter examines the nature and the extent of the involvement of NGOs in the activities of the WTO. First, it looks at the arguments for and against NGO involvement in WTO activities. Next, the article discusses the legal basis for the involvement of NGOs in WTO activities and the various forms of involvement provided for. It compares the position of NGOs in the WTO with their position in other international organizations, in particular, the United Nations, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Subsequently, the article explores the...