NGOs ready to flex new muscles at world trade talks (November 2005)

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Tue, Dec 6, 2005

By Sophie Walker

Center of Concern staff quoted in "NGOs ready to flex new muscles at world trade talks", an article released by news agency Reuters on November 2005.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Angry people brandish placards while men in suits scurry into a heavily guarded building -- it's a classic image from world trade and finance meetings but it's not the whole story and it's a little out of date.

Today, some of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) whose activists once protested outside such gatherings are spreading their message inside, having been brought into the talks process because of their rising influence as campaigners for the world's least developed nations.

When the World Trade Organization (WTO) holds what may be make-or-break trade talks in Hong Kong from December 13, the fraught relationship between politicians and NGOs will again be tested.

Some on both sides say the relationship has improved dramatically but others warn tensions remain.

""NGOs do have a growing influence but I'm not convinced it is perceived as a positive force by some decision-makers as they are still blamed in some circles for the collapse of the WTO Cancun meeting (in Mexico) in 2003,"" said Aldo Caliari of the Washington-based development group Center of Concern.

NGOs represent a huge range of interests from trade policy and the environment to human rights and disaster aid.