NGOs condemn manipulation of draft Doha Declaration

Below is the text of a joint NGO statement condemning the manipulative process by which the draft Ministerial Declaration was transmitted by the WTO General Council Chair and the WTO Director-General to the Fourth WTO Ministerial meeting in Doha. The statement was drafted by some participants at a regional workshop on trade, WTO and human development held in Penang, Malaysia on 2-3 November 2001.

WE, the undersigned NGOs condemn the process by which the draft Ministerial Declaration has been transmitted to the Doha Ministerial Conference.

The draft has not been given the consensus agreement of WTO Members, and there are serious differences between countries on many of its sections and paragraphs.

In particular, many developing countries have repeatedly disagreed that negotiations should be launched on ‘new issues’ (investment, competition, government procurement transparency and trade facilitation).  At the most recent WTO General Council meetings on 3rd and 31st October, a large number of developing countries (including the least developed countries, the Africa Group and several Asian countries) spoke up against negotiations on these new issues. Yet the draft specifically commits Ministers to agree to such negotiations, and does not provide for options.  This totally ignores the views of the people and governments of a majority of developing countries. 

Many developing countries also proposed to have a study process on the effects of past industrial tariff reductions on closure of local industries and job losses, instead of negotiations.  Yet paragraph 16 commits the Ministers to launch negotiations, which can damage developing countries’ local industries and cause serious job losses. By not reflecting the differences in view (either through square brackets or showing the various options), the draft gives a very deceptive impression that there is already agreement, or that the views given command unanimous or overwhelming support.

The deception in such a ‘clean text’ has the serious effect of favouring the developed countries that have campaigned for the new issues, whilst placing the developing countries opposing these issues at a great disadvantage.

Although many countries expressed their grave dissatisfaction with the content and process of coming out with the text, the Chairman has decided to send his draft unchanged to the Ministerial. Moreover, the cover letter he is attaching with the texts, sent to the Qatar Minister of Trade, does not explain the differences in the various issues - thus giving another grossly unfair advantage to the developed countries that are pushing for launching negotiations in new areas.

This incident is another outstanding example of the untransparent, discriminatory, biased and manipulative process of decision-making at the WTO, that favours a few major developed countries at the expense of the many developing countries.  Indeed, compared with previous Ministerial Conferences (for example, Singapore in 1996 and Seattle in 1999), the level of manipulation and deceit in the drafting and transmission of this text is even more blatant and it has brought the WTO down to a record low level in public credibility.  

It is ironic and hypocritical that such untransparent and discriminatory practices are so prevalent in an organisation that claims transparency and non-discrimination as its core principles.

We consider the draft Declaration as illegitimate and a threat to the development and economic and social viability of developing countries. 

It has also failed to address the grave concerns of civil society on the effects of the WTO agreements (and future proposed rules) on food security, human rights, access of consumers to essential goods and services, and the right of local communities and workers to secure livelihoods.

In particular the TRIPS Agreement has been debated and condemned by the public worldwide for its role in depriving consumers of access to essentials.  An organ of the UN Human Rights Commission has noted that implementation of TRIPS conflicts with the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights.  Yet the draft Ministerial Declaration does not deal with the wide range of issues brought up by citizen groups (including biopiracy), whilst the attempt by developing countries to clarify that nothing in TRIPS should prevent public health measures is being undermined by a few developed countries.

Demands and proposals

We condemn the continuation and in fact worsening of the non-participatory and biased process of preparations for the Doha Ministerial Conference.  We call on the WTO Members and the Secretariat to stop using untransparent and manipulative techniques, at Doha and after.

We call on our Ministers, delegations and governments to reject the draft Ministerial Declaration of 27 October as the basis of a Declaration.   Instead, Ministers should boldly table their own alternative texts reflecting the interests of their people and their countries in the various key paragraphs and sections.

In particular we call on the Ministers to reject paragraphs 20-23 on launching negotiations on the new issues and instead replace them with the decision either to continue the study in the working groups on these issues, or to close down these working groups as these issues do not belong to the WTO and negotiations would threaten the future of developing countries.

Also, we support the proposal by many developing countries to change paragraph 16: instead of negotiations on industrial tariffs, a study process should be initiated.

We call on the Ministers to instruct that the TRIPS Agreement be drastically revised to meet the public’s concerns, including that countries can exempt food, medicines and the agriculture and pharmaceutical sectors from patentability.  Other problems arising from imbalances in existing WTO rules and their implementation must also be addressed effectively as a priority.

We also oppose the section on organisation and management of the work programme (paras 38-45 of the draft Declaration) as it contains many elements of a new round (such as a single undertaking and a Trade Negotiating Committee) with a big agenda of negotiations on many new issues. Instead the Ministers at Doha should adopt a simple text stating that the future work programme will be conducted under the General Council’s supervision and a progress report will be submitted to the 5th Ministerial Conference.

We also demand that the Doha Ministerial Conference be conducted in a fair, transparent and inclusive manner. We call on the developed countries and the Secretariat not to persist with the old and discredited methods of manipulation, including the ‘Green Room’ process of small group meetings.

We urge the Ministers of developing countries to refuse to be intimidated by any manipulative tactics and attempts by developed countries aided by the Secretariat to bulldoze through proposals that are a threat to development and people’s interests. The decisions taken will determine the future of our countries. Therefore we urge that the Ministers and officials take a firm stand to defend the public and national interests of their countries.

This statement has been signed and endorsed by the following organisations and individuals (as of 7 November 2001):


Third World Network

ActionAid Pakistan

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

Assembly of the Poor, Thailand

Bayan Muna, Philippines

Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND), Philippines

Consumers’ Association of Penang, Malaysia

FOCUS on the Global South, Thailand

Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, USA

Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Bangladesh

IBON Foundation, Philippines

Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education (TEBTEBBA   Foundation), Philippines

Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Ghana

Institute del Tercer Mundo, Uruguay

Institute for Global Justice, Indonesia

Karnataka State Farmer’s Association (KRRS), India

Korean Peoples’ Action against WTO & BIT, Korea

Korean House for International Solidarity, Korea (KHIS)

National Working Group on Patent Laws, India

Project for Ecological Recovery (PER), Thailand

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), Malaysia

SEATINI (Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information and Negotiations Initiative), Zimbabwe

TERAS, Malaysia

Thai NGO Coordinating Committee on Development

The Edmonds Institute, USA

The Norwegian GATT-WTO-campaign, Norway

URFIG (Brussels-Paris-Geneva)

Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen Indonesia


Surasee Kosolnavin, Member, National Human Rights Commission, Thailand

Charles Abugre, Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Ghana

Deqiang Han, Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, China

Biswajit Dhar, RIS for Nonaligned and Other Developing Countries, India

Ha-Joon Chang, Faculty of Economics and Politics, University of Cambridge, UK

Jayati Ghosh, India