So what is the World Economic Forum? In its own words "The Forum provides a collaborative framework for the world's leaders to address global issues, engaging particularly its corporate members in global citizenship.i" That is from the WEF web page and despite the careful spin should be worrying to anyone reading it carefully.
Across most of Europe and North America many believe a rather pleasant myth. That is that we live in a democracy where we the people have a real say in how our regions are run. Sure individual politicians are often flawed but we can punish them at election time. This myth extends to the global level - here our democratically appointed leaders make decisions on how the world is run in the public view at global bodies like the United Nations.
So where does the WEF fit into this? It's not democratic in any sense, being composed of representatives from selected corporations who pay 30,000 plus a year for the privilege. Yet it is one of the key bodies which decide how life will be for the 6 billion of us who inhabit the globe. Mary Harney acknowledged this in welcoming the decisions of the WEF to come to Dublin. She said, "This forum will have the capacity to influence change and drive the reforms needed to build competitiveness and greater social inclusion in the EU"ii.
So a glimpse of reality. You might have thought through elections and referenda you decided on the direction of the EU. But really it is a self-defined club of the worlds top 1,000 companies that do so. Don't worry; there is some Irish involvement. At least until recently AIB and Eircom were both members of the WEF. Yep that's the bank that refused to pass on the ECB interest rate cut to borrowers and the company that saw tens of thousands of people lose their savings in the privatisation share disaster. The list of companies involved tells us quite a bit about the WEF agenda. These include Microsoft, Monsanto, Nike, General Motors and, until recently, Enron. iii.
The WEF has been described as the first "'true International of capital"iv. It's widely credited with being the organizing force behind capitalist globalisation. From bus privatization to bin charges, from health cuts to education under funding the WEF is one of the key international bodies pushing the agenda that makes these 'necessary'.
Let us be clear though. The WEF is not run by stupid people. It does not organise under the banner of 'lower wages - bigger profits'. Quite the opposite in fact, since globalisation activists brought its existence out into the open it has promoted itself as a 'make the world a better place' gathering of the global elites.
All over the island people are organising groups to oppose the WEF conference, including a major effort which begun at the 5th Grassroots Gathering. This is your chance to have a go at the people who make the decisions that fuck up this world - don't miss it.
iv by Kees van der Pijl
This edition is No76 published in August 2003