Social Dimensions of Globalization
Advocate Santosh Giri
As a member to the multilateral organization WTO, Nepal is liable for various aspects of obligations, duties and responsibilities. Commercial sectors, Agriculture, Trade, Commerce, Services, IP Regime are obviously the priority of this apex institution. After accession to this 21st century trade wonder of universal trade coalition there has been several efforts from the government, non-government, private and individual sectors to promote the principles of the WTO. Articles, seminars, workshops, conferences, recommendations etc have already been forwarded by time and again, pre and post accession. Ironically there has been minimal efforts in understanding and flourishing some basic tenets of this global agreement, such as promotion, protection and implementation of human rights and protection of environment.
The commitments assumed in the preamble of the Marrakech agreement and a growing world commitment to fostering sustainable development, includes not only environmental resource protection but also the protection of universal human rights, especially economic, cultural and social rights. The principles of WTO need to run parallel with the international commitments such as ICCPR, ICESCR, CEDAW, ICERD, CRC etc. Even in the 21st century a majority of the population are denied of their civil and political rights in Nepal. Decades after ratification of ICCPR, the government of Nepal is considering to send the first ever combined periodic report to the UN Committee on the civil and political right of the Nepali citizens in a few months. Similarly, the citizens are denied of their economic, social and cultural rights even today and there is no significance of ratification of ICESCR. Likewise, women have been denied of their rights envisaged in the CEDAW and Dalits denied of their right against discrimination under ICERD even today. The situation of the children is getting worse day by day. The ongoing conflict as well as due to lack of proper policy of the government of Nepal for the Women, Dalits, Minorities and Children. The general recommendations and concluding comments sent to the government of Nepal after considering the periodic reports of the government and the alternative/shadow reports submitted by the NGOs, the UN Committees have always raised their concern over the worsening situation and disregard to these international human rights instruments. The same situation exists in the environment sector, international laws on environment protection and sustainable development have been similarly disregarded by the state party. This is evident from the diplomatic threats made to Nepal to remove the world heritage sites from the list of UNECSO because of degrading environment, unsustainable use of resources and lack of proper policies and monitoring of the domestic and international legislation.
Trade and commerce effect environment and human rights in very significant ways. Development pace ultimately creates a challenge for parallel environment protection and a threat to sustainability unless focussed upon from the beginning for implementation of the agreement by a new member nation like ours. Development issues are the epicenter of the WTO agenda. The signatories of this convention therefore have the obligation to address environmental and human impacts of trade and trade policy and must act in harmony with the agendas of their treaty and convention commitments. To ensure this CTE has been established under WTO to ensure environment protection and sustainable development.
Considering the gravity of the issue of impact of globalization on human rights and environment, the following observations and suggestions were put forth to improve the human rights and environment content of the WTO Draft Declaration at Doha in November 2001.
1. Promotion of Sustainable Development and Protection of the Environment: The suggestion was made on paragraph 5 of the preamble. It suggested that the paragraph should also state that the WTO commit to ensure that its members, through their trade policy, uphold international commitments to sustainable development and the protection of the environment and human rights which they have adhered to in other treaties and conventions.
2. Labor Rights /International Labor Organization: Suggestion was made on Paragraph 8 of the declaration. The declaration should clearly establish formal ties with the ILO and especially state that the WTO will strive to harmonize member country trade policy, in the spirit of, and with an commitment to, core labor standards emanating from the ILO.
3. Improved Civil Society Participation in the WTO and Transparency: Suggestion was made on paragraph 10 of the declaration. The declaration should commit member states to and specifically refer to fostering increased and meaningful civil society participation in the WTO with a clear and effective framework for dialogue. The declaration should call for formal consultative status for NGOs.
4. TRIPS/Health: Suggestion was made on paragraph 17-19 of TRIPS making reference to the importance of general exceptions as listed in article XX. The stipulations can further strengthen the commitment to the protection of the human rights to health when urgent human health issues arise in conflict to TRIPS. The intent of this paragraph to protect human rights can also be strengthened by echoing the importance of access to health in paragraph 2 of the declaration, which focuses on the specific needs and potential welfare gains of developing countries.
5. Dispute Settlement Understanding: Suggestion was made on paragraph 26 for future amendments on DSU. The declaration should strongly recommend that the WTO detail specific issue to be addressed by the DSU amendments. Further, the commitment to the clarification of procedures, criteria and other specifics related to Amicus Brief presentations by third party and /or no n-government parties should be mentioned in the declaration.
6. Trade and Environment: Suggestion was made on paragraph 27 of the declaration. The declaration should strongly urge the WTO and member states to declare members’ obligation to uphold and act with due respect for international environmental agreements and international human rights treaties, above and beyond the coordination, harmonization and definition of trade policy.
7. Harmonization with other international agreements, institutions: Suggestion was made on paragraph 5 to attain greater coherence in global economic policy making specifically Bretton Woods Commitments. The paragraph needs to include other important international organizations and commitments of member countries such as harmonization with the policies treaties and commitments assumed with the various UN agencies and laws.
As for Nepal there is strict liability to implement the basic norms of human rights outlined in the human rights instrument ratified by Nepal. There is a need of practical implementation of the basic global principles of human rights, which have not been seen visible till date except for some exceptions. Nepal has been a party to major 17 human rights instruments and all without any reservations. CEDAW, ICCPR, ICESCR, ICERD, CAT, CRC are the major human rights instruments which are yet to be implemented practically by Nepal. There have been various shortcomings and disregard to the clauses of these international humanitarian laws, which are time and again evident from the general recommendations and concluding comments made by the relevant UN committees. Some judicial pronouncements of our apex court have also hesitated to imply the norms of these instruments citing their legal status that these international laws are higher than the special laws but lower than the constitution. It is therefore evident that the international laws on human and environment protection are yet to flourish in Nepal.
WTO is not an environment or a human rights organization and it must focus on trade issues, economic growth and commerce. However without the consideration to the environment and human rights issues the mission of WTO may seem impossible once it has its adverse effects.
Therefore there is a serious need of considering respect for the internationally accepted norms of human rights and environment by the state party, conflicting side as well as individuals for the successful implementation of WTO and its social dimensions.