Intellectual Infrastructure

Forming the International Forum on Globalization

 

Jerry Mander

During the early 1990s, it became obvious that myriad threats to biodiversity and traditional economies were being accelerated by corporate-driven economic globalization. Globalization boosters sought to open all doors for global financiers and multinational corporations to exploit the world’s remaining natural resources as fast as possible, ship them across oceans for processing, and then ship the products among continents—to feed an insatiable hunger of global corporate capitalism for never-ending growth. Economic globalization was speeding up the problems of climate change and depletion of resources including fossil fuels, freshwater, forests, marine life, and arable soils. Globalization contributed to the spike in species extinctions, and threatened successful local economies and indigenous cultures. All of this activity was promoted by an expanding architecture of global “free trade” institutions and agreements including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization, North American Free Trade Association and the like, dedicated to eliminating restrictions on corporate and banking activities.

In response, the Foundation for Deep Ecology added a major program area focused on the dangers of modern global economic ideology, institutions, and practices. FDE convened an extraordinary series of exploratory private strategy meetings among leading environmental and social activists, together with economists and scholars from every continent to share observations, experiences, and ideas on how to slow the juggernaut. These soon led to the formation in 1993 of the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), which shared offices with the foundation. Jerry Mander became its first director, and an international board was formed among leading activists from around the planet. IFG quickly began publishing seminal critiques of economic globalization, and providing effective new language to build a movement.

IFG also sponsored giant public “teach-ins,” including a huge three-day event at Riverside Church in New York, and one in Seattle during the landmark anti-WTO protests of 1999, helping spawn similar protests throughout the world. A burgeoning international movement focused on fighting global finance and trade institutions and corporations. An early string of major victories helped stop or slowed down such major corporate development schemes as the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), the Doha round of the WTO, and numerous regional and bilateral trade agreements, and public policies. IFG was also the first American nongovernmental organization to hold major public protest events focused on climate change. And IFG formed a unique coalition of hundreds of groups that was instrumental in finally gaining passage, after twenty years of effort, of the United Nations landmark environmental and human rights achievement, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.