Global Policy Forum

NGOs and the WTO


NGOs have led the citizens around the world to challenge the economic policies of the World Trade Organization as well as the Organization's closed meetings and lack of accountability. This page follows NGO activity on the WTO.

NGO Involvement in the WTO: A Comparative Perspective (October 2008)

Peter Van den Bossche discusses the arguments for and against giving NGOs a larger role in WTO decision making. A more open dialogue with NGOs could possibly increase the legitimacy of the WTO, giving the organization a more democratic and transparent function. However, at the same time some NGOs lack legitimacy because they often advocate on single issues and may therefore not represent all of society’s interests. (Journal of International Economic Law)


Civil Society Has Something to Say (October 27, 2008)

The 2008 Civil Society Development Forum (CSDF) in Geneva concludes that governments have the responsibility to solve the international financial crisis and the food crisis, but that they cannot do this without the help of civil society. This article urges governments to consult with NGOs. It argues that international financial institutions should not impose fixed ideas but use the knowledge that already exists in poor countries to formulate development plans. In the CSDF outcome document, NGOs also criticize the World Trade Organization and argues that its "role in negotiations on agricultural matters should be re-examined." (Inter Press Service)


Brief Observations on the Mechanisms for NGO Participation at the WTO (December 2006)

This piece from SUR – International Journal on Human Rights critically analyzes some of the institutional and external factors that limit NGO involvement in the World Trade Organization's (WTO) decision-making processes. The author argues that poorly-defined formal procedures for NGO participation pose a major obstacle to how effectively non-state actors can monitor WTO governance. In light of the growing influence and ever-changing profile of the NGO sector, the article highlights the rising demand for "permanent mechanisms" to make the WTO more representative of this "new reality."


Breaking out of the WTO Box (April 1, 2004)

In preparation for the UN Conference on Trade and Development in June 2004, NGOs drafted a proposal challenging the neo-liberal agenda of the WTO and suggested the UN as an alternative body to regulate global trade. (Utne)


WTO Mood at Cancun Worsened by NGOs- EU's Fischler (19 September, 2003)

Franz Fischler, Europe's farm chief served as top negotiator at the World Trade Organization's meeting in Cancun. In this AlertNet article Fischler portrays the poor countries' unity at Cancun as resulting from NGO mischief, insisting that "heavy NGO presence" influenced the meeting by creating a "mood of distrust."

WTO's Attack on Public Education (August 10, 2003)

World Trade Organization may include education in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Students worry that this would reduce public spending on post-secondary institutions and increase dependence on private funding, jeopardizing the affordability of degrees and making research a corporate commodity. (ZNet)

WTO Ignores Calls for Democratic, Inclusive Processes for Cancun (June 20, 2003)

Decrying a lack of transparency and undemocratic processes in the WTO, civil society and ministers from poor countries lobby the organization for open-ended consultations before Cancun. (ATTAC)

IMF, World Bank Join Forces with WTO (May 12, 2003)

Senior officials of the IMF, World Bank and WTO will meet in Geneva to synchronize their policies on developing nations. NGOs are concerned that the common agenda will make trade and development policy more inflexible, entrenching the organizations one-sided approach to development and widening the gap between the rich and poor. (Inter Press Service)

Rich Nations Continue to Wield Power in Global Bodies (May 6, 2003)

NGOs point out the undemocratic governance structures of the UN, WTO, IMF and World Bank. Despite professing to create an equitable global community, these institutions concentrate power among world's richest nations. (Inter Press Service)

Regional Consultation on the WTO/Trips Agreement and Access to Medicines: Appropriate Policy Responses (April 17-19, 2003)

A Regional Consultation in Sri Lanka on the TRIPS Agreement and Medicines Access strongly recommends that developing countries use the flexibilities in TRIPS to promote public health. This workshop also expresses appreciation for NGO campaigns against exclusive rights of patent-holding pharmaceutical companies. (Third World Net)

NGOs Say "No" to Investment Agreement at WTO (March 21, 2003)

Over 50 NGOs call on governments to reject a WTO investment agreement at the Cancun negotiations in September 2003. The agreement restricts government's ability to regulate the actions of foreign multinational companies, causing concern that local communities will be exploited. (Third World Network)

NGOs and Experts Call For Rejection of WTO Agriculture Modalities Paper (February 24, 2003)

The WTO Committee on Agriculture considers a proposal for new agricultural trade agreements by the committee chairman, Stuart Harbinson. NGOs call on member states to reject the proposal, claiming it will consolidate the power of multinational agricultural firms at the expense of farmers in developing nations. (Third World Network)


150 NGOs Challenge Democracy Deficit at the WTO and Call for an End to Exclusive Meetings (November 14, 2002)

Over 150 NGOs criticize the "invitation only" WTO mini-ministerial in Sydney, where 25 WTO members from all regions will discuss pressing issues at an "unofficial meeting." NGOs argue that by building a consensus among select members, the group "de facto and illegally takes leadership of the organization." (Focus on the Global South)

WTO Boss Says Free Trade Talks Gathering Momentum (November 12, 2002)

WTO chief Supachai Panitchpakdi claims he will consider NGOs' concerns about the negative effects of privatizing water, healthcare, and education and liberalizing the financial sector. (Reuters)

NGOs Call on Trade Ministers to Reject Closed WTO Process (November 4, 2002)

As the 5th Ministerial nears, NGOs urge trade ministers to reject exclusive, "unofficial" meetings that include only a small portion of the member states. These meetings serve to build a consensus among the few, which is then presented as "a take-it-or-leave-it package" that often presses positions counter to development goals. (WTO Watch)

ASEAN Rejects US Call for NGO Access to WTO Dispute Process (September 17, 2002)

ASEAN diplomats reject the US proposal for WTO transparency, which would allow NGOs unrestricted access to dispute settlement panels and amicus curiae briefs. (Business Times)

European Civil Society Groups Launch Campaign on Global Trade and Investment Talks (September 13, 2002)

European NGOs call on governments to "fundamentally re-orient the rules of the trade system to promote poverty reduction and sustainable development and withdraw proposals for investment negotiations in the WTO." (Friends of the Earth)

Globalization's Bad Effects Discussed (September 12, 2002)

NGOs, labor groups, and businesses met to discuss ways for governments to mitigate globalization's negative impacts. They insisted that the WTO must consider this debate before commencing further negotiations on trade issues. (BusinessWorld)

NGOs Preparing for the World Social Forum (January 9, 2002)

NGO representatives meeting in Mali to plan for the World Social Forum recognize the need for international experts within African NGOs to allow them to play a constructive role in discussions with the World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund. (Inter Press Service)


NGOs Urge Support for Pro-Public Health Interpretation of TRIPS (September 19, 2001)

The civil society is concerned about the TRIPS agreement, demanding its revision at the Doha Conference. Public health and human rights protection should carry more weight within the protection of intellectual property rights. (Third World Network).

NGOs Accuse WTO of Hidden Agenda Behind "Environment" Seminar (March 26, 2001)

What the WTO wants in reality is to gather Asian support for a new trade round. NGOs refuse to participate at the meeting (Deutsche Presse Agentur).

Civil Society Groups Spark Power Battle within WTO (November 24, 2000)

Member States fear the intrusion of NGOs in legal proceedings at the World Trade Organization, expressing disagreement with the Appellate Body's decision to allow NGO participation in the case opposing France and Canada at the WTO. (IPS news reports)

Giving the Public a Voice in the Protection of the Global Environment (Winter 2000/2001)

The author, who thinks that NGOs can address environmental cross-border issues better than states, calls for strengthening the role of NGOs in international institutions such as the European Court of Justice and the WTO and standardizing NGO access. (Colorado Journal of International Law and Policy)


In the Aftermath of Seattle: Backlash Reigns (October 3, 2000)

A critique of the "shut- it-down- strategy" stressing that "some form of multilateral economic governance is fundamentally important". Instead of condemning international institutions, protesters should focus on the US role in the development of a corporate-led globalization. (In Focus)


NGO Statement on the WTO High-Level Symposia (March 17- 18, 1999)

NGOs submit a statement to the WTO for consideration during the WTO High-Level Symposia on Trade and Environment (March 15 -16, 1999) and Trade and Development.

NGOs Unwelcome at Forum (November 30, 1999)

Report from the World Trade Observer on the WTO-NGO symposium in Seattle. NGOs voiced criticism of the WTO and suggestions for change.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.