INDIA: Impact of Free Trade on Children (23 May 2005)

Summary: Report of the panel discussion "Impact of Free
Trade on Children" held on 14th May 2005 at
the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, as
part of the Global Week of Action (10-16 May
2005), organised by the HAQ: Centre for Child


Also involved in this movement
Ankur, All India Trade Union Congress, Centre for Education &
Communication, Campaign Against Child Trafficking, CACL – Delhi, CITU,
Hind Mazdoor Sabha, India Alliance for Child Rights, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan


As part of the various activities in India during the Global Week of Action -
10 to 16 April 2005, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights organised a panel
discussion in New Delhi at Gandhi Peace Foundation on the topic - “Impact
of Free Trade on Children” on 14 April 2005.

Global Week of Action is a part of the Trade Justice Movement. The Trade
Justice Movement is a fast expanding coalition of organisations including
trade unions, aid agencies, environment and human rights campaigns, fair
trade organisations, faith and consumer groups. The movement is
supported by more than 50 member organisations that have over 9
million members, and new organisations are joining every month.

Together, the organisations are campaigning for trade justice - not free
trade - with the rules weighted to benefit poor people and the
environment. The movement is calling on world leaders to change the rules
that govern international trade so that poor countries have the
freedom to help and support their vulnerable farmers and industries.
Five immediate demands of the campaign are:

1. Stop the EU's free-trade agreements with former colonies
2. An end to the IMF and World Bank setting poor countries' trade policies
3. Special treatment for poor countries at the WTO
4. Cut the massive export subsidies used in rich countries
5. Debt cancellation and aid increases must not be used to further impose
free trade

In an International Conference in Delhi during Nov. 2003, over 100 Trade
Justice activists and concerned partners of this movement came together
to share and discuss future strategies to strengthen the international
Trade Justice campaign at the local as well as global level. Global Week of
Action (10-16 April 2005) was an outcome of this meeting, to say

NO to the rich and powerful imposing unjust trade agreements,
indiscriminate liberalisation and privatisation on the poor

YES to everyone’s right to food, a livelihood, water, health and education

The GWA has had series of events and actions worldwide. It could be the
biggest international mobilisation yet against poverty. The GWA built on
existing campaigns and strengthened and added value to them to show
the strength of people’s resistance and rejection of the logic of free
trade, privatisation and liberalisation and increasing visibility for media and
decision-makers. The observance of GWA was a focused time for
coordinated campaigning in the run up to the G8 in the UK and the next
WTO ministerial in Hong Kong.

With the objective of consolidating the Indian Campaign a National
Consultation was organised on the 5th and 6th Oct. 2004 at Chennai.
Within the context of resisting neoliberalism and setting out the peoples’
alternatives, the India national trade consultation proposed the following
specific issues as a focus for the Global Week of Action, 10-16th April 2005
in India:

Overarching theme

Globalisation and the “Threat to Food Sovereignty of communities” — in
particular Dalits, Adivasis, Women and Children.

Specific Issues

· Yes to restoration of tariff protection.
· Yes to land reforms in favour of the poor and community control over
natural resources.
· Yes to the right to decent work and full employment.
· No to privatisation of water, health and education.
· No to corporatisation of agriculture.
· No to genetic engineering and patents on life forms.

Global Week of Action is a global action against neo-liberal globalisation
and unjust global trade with the conviction that people can make changes.

The direct impact of free trade on children may not leap to the eye. But
experiences of other processes of globalisation and liberalisation on
children definitely indicate that there is a strong case for making a closer
examination of this linkage. This is borne out by worsening levels of basic
health, nutrition and shelter as they fall to the knife of social sector
cutbacks and policies, programmes and development initiatives that
continue to deprive communities and families to resources that they have
traditionally depended through loss of control over and access to land,
forest resources and water. Privatisation of social sector benefits such as
education, health and provision of water are clearly taking their toll on
millions of children.

The symptoms of negative fallout are visible: children deprived of even
sparse social benefits as forced and economic migration displaces them,
increasing number of children on the streets, the growing number of street
girls, more and more children being trafficked within and across borders
and rising numbers of children engaged in part or full-time labour.

Over the last decade, countries across the world have embarked on a
course of changing their existing economic models in favour of one driven
by the free-market, incorporating processes of liberalisation, privatisation
and globalisation.

Promoters of free trade describe it as the general openness to exchange
goods and information between and among nations with few to no barriers
to trade. But experiences over the years have shown exchanges between
developed nations and lesser-developed countries (LDCs) seldom occur as
is being publicised. Indeed, what is shared is along uneven terms. This
had led to violent social protests in countries such as in Mexico, Venezuela,
Argentina, etc.

For a full report of the Panel Discussion, contact HAQ: Centre for Child
Rights at [email protected]


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.