More Progress in the Halls of Power Than Out
Chris Patten, external affairs commissioner of the
EU, was the last governor of Hong Kong.
Nobody should fudge the difference between peaceful demonstration
and violence. There is a huge gap between those that go to international
conferences in Prague, Gothenberg and Genoa as members of non-governmental
organizations with a legitimate concern about the environment or poverty
and those with clubs and helmets who are determined to find an excuse
to throw Molotov cocktails and smash in the windows at McDonald's.
These violent demonstrators should be dealt with forcefully. Everyone
regrets the death in Genoa. But if the demonstrations had been peaceful,
that would not have happened.
The problem with the dialogue with the peaceful demonstrators is that
there isn't one focus, but a disparate number of causes. And, in any event,
anti-globalization is an absurd proposition. You cannot be for or against
a process that is underway. You can have views about how to deal with
the problems and promises it creates. There are ways to produce bigger
and better opportunities for people to benefit from globalization. But
you can't be against it. It is happening beyond the control of anyone
and not at the instigation of any one country, like America.
In order to deal with the problems and realize the promises, what is needed
is international cooperation. What is needed is precisely the kind of
organizations the demonstrators are campaigning against.
At the European Council meeting in Gothenberg last spring, where alas
demonstrators were also shot, we were debating "sustainable development."
Frankly, we were making more progress toward sustainable development in
the hall than was being made by those outside.
I'm all for having a dialogue. But it is quite difficult when some people
don't want to listen. What I am absolutely certain about is that those
who are demonstrating in a well-meaning way against freer trade, for example,
are in practice advocating policies that will make poor people poorer
and further degrade the global environment.
At the same time there are serious issues we need to address-like the
billion people living on less than $1 a day; like the AIDS pandemic in
Africa and parts of Asia, like malaria and TB, like the international
Finally, as these demonstrations are bound to continue, democratic societies
will be forced to face the issue of legitimacy of these protest groups.
What gives these self-appointed activists the right to try to shut down
the meetings of democratically elected leaders? Who has chosen them to
speak in their name?
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