In 1994, the Marrakech Agreement established the World Trade Organization (WTO), one of many suprastate institutions that were created all along the 20th century. The purpose of this organization is to regulate all trade activities between its Member states, by providing the common institutional framework for the conduct of trade relations and the legal instruments that adjust to their needs. The activities led by the WTO have shaped it into a one-of-a-kind international structure that has been adapting itself to global political and economical shifts since it was created. Because Member states of the WTO have been negotiating and discussing about many important issues, there has been a substantial growth in both the range and the authority of global trade law . What followed was an awakening of considerable interest in its activities, especially from civil society and groups that represent it. Amongst these, the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been one of the most important nonstate actor that has sought direct contact with the WTO, bypassing government authorities in order to interrogate and lobby the multilateral institution itself. However, in an international organization in which only states participate in its activities and make decisions, is there any space for NGOs to represent civil society? And if there is, which is their main role and how should Members states of the WTO work with them in order to pursue common interests?
[...] SCHOLTE, Jan Aart; O'BRIEN, Robert; WILLIAMS, Marc. P Marrakesh Agreement. Article V:2. Decision WT/L/162. Guidelines for arrangements on relations with Non- Governmental Organizations July 1996. Article II. Ibid. Article IV. Ibid. Ibid. Article V. Ibid. Article VI. Op. Cit. SCHOLTE, Jan Aart; O'BRIEN, Robert; WILLIAMS, Marc. P KRUT, Riva. Globalisation and Civil Society, NGO influence in international decision-making. Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development P Ibid. Dossiers sur L'OMC: Une grande absente: la Société Civile. In: http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/dossiers/omc/soccivile.shtml. Original [...]
[...] So, which is the role of civil society in the WTO? For WILSON, “involvement of civil society means that there will be challenges to the system, and questioning of power relations”. Southern governments need civil society to be involved so that it can “provide capacity that they are lacking”, and “through access to people who are living in poor conditions, NGOs and community-based organizations are well placed to monitor the impacts of trade liberalization” all around the world. Riva KRUT (UNRISD, United Nations), the International Federation of Human Rights, and Jessica WILSON (ICTSD) have three similar points of view. [...]
[...] The civil society would then have access to these documents whenever they would want to inform themselves about the activities of the World Trade Organization. This is the only article that does not mention NGOs. It is a direct relation between the WTO and the general public through the World Wide Web. Non-Governmental Organizations are mentioned throughout the rest of the Decision. In Article the General Council stated that it recognizes role NGOs can play to increase awareness of the public in respect of WTO activities and agree in this regard to improve transparency and develop communication with NGOs”. [...]
[...] In sum, if a Member state is persuaded that it needs to make changes in its discourse inside the WTO, because civil society might be negatively affected by its trading policies, it will surely be transposed to the negotiation table. This would be an indirect participation in WTO activities, but nevertheless some kind of participation. And it could be the first step for NGOs and other civic institutions to take a part in a more democratised global governance system in the future. [...]
[...] does the WTO need Civil Society?”. In: http://www.ictsd.org/dlogue/1999-02-10/WILSON.pdf P Legal Texts and Agreements Marrakech Agreement. Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization. Decision WT/L/162. Guidelines for arrangements on relations with Non- Governmental Organizations July Web Pages Official Web Site of the World Trade Organization: http://www.wto.org. Dossiers sur L'OMC. Une grande absente: la Société Civile. In: http://www.ladocumentationfrancaise.fr/dossiers/omc/soccivile.shtml. Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (Marrakesh Agreement). Article II:1. SCHOLTE, Jan Aart; O'BRIEN, Robert; WILLIAMS, Marc. The WTO and Civil Society. CSGR Working Paper No. [...]
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