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International Network on Disarmament and Globalisation

In February Peace News caught up with Steve Staples Chair of the International Network on Disarmament and Globalisation and talked with him about the value of a network aimed at bridging movements.

How and when did the INDG come into being?

The International Network on Disarmament and Globalisation formed at the Hague Appeal for Peace conference in May 1999. It arose out of a panel discussion on the Militarisation of the Global Economy, which was standing-room only.

Following the forum, a small meeting was held to continue the discussion and better educate the peace movement about the effects of globalisation on our peace work. (My speech at that Hague Appeal for Peace forum is online at http://www.peacewire.org/campaigns /articles/armstrade/confronting.html The IPS story is available at http://www.oneworld.org/ips2/may99/12_00_049.html) Since then the mil-corp e-mail list has been established, our website was put up (http://www.indg.org), and new membership materials were produced.

Our first major event was the forum The WTO and the Global War System which was held in Seattle during the WTO Ministerial meeting and the now famous protests of November 1999. More than 300 people participated, and it was a real breakthrough in connecting issues of militarism with the globalisation movement. Well-known author Susan George, one of our speakers, lead off the event by saying that she thought the forum was one of the most important political moments of her life because for the first time the peace movement was entering the anti-corporate globalisation movement.

The proceedings of the forum have been distributed around the world through a printed report and video of the forum, both of which are also available on-line (see the report at http://www.indg.org/ wto_ proceedings.org and the online video at http://www.peacewire.org/ram/ wto.ram).

Is the Network something that individuals and/or groups can be part of? How many are currently involved?

As a network, its open to anyone who wants to join. We have more than 300 members in more than 30 countries representing every part of the work. Its our diversity that Im especially pleased about.

The INDG is breaking new ground by linking issues of globalisation and militarism. Its unfamiliar territory for lots of people in the peace movement and the anti- corporate globalisation movement. So, what we've done is connected with people within organisations and have provided them info and analysis, who in turn bring it to their organisations and educate others about the links between the issues. Its a strategy that has worked, as many organisations are now beginning to start work in this area. For other groups, we need to take more time to help them understand that corporate globalisation is a threat to peace and even their ability to work for peace.

Do you have any famous patrons or participants?

Yes we do! we've worked with lots of people at the International Forum on Globalisation one of the most successful groups on the international scene. Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, Susan George of the Transnational Institute, Edward Goldsmith of the Ecologist magazine, and many others are members and supporters.

What do you feel is the Networks main purpose?

Our website describes the INDG as a network of concerned individuals which shares information and promotes greater awareness of the relationship between globalisation and militarism and which opposes international trade and financial institutions (like the World Trade Organization and the IMF) which do not promote peace and disarmament. On another level, it has served as a bridge between the peace movement and the anti- globalisation movement. Since Seattle, I've spent the last year speaking to a variety of groups about these issues in Bangladesh, Russia, Spain, as well as in Canada and the United States. There are now others in the network speaking to organisations about the issues too so our work is spreading.

What kind of disarmament are Network participants interested in: nuclear, handguns, arms trade, general demilitarisation?

When you're looking at issues of corporate globalisation you need to understand how the arms industry works. So we spend a lot of time looking at the weapons corporations, how they operate, what role they play in determining military policy and government spending, and especially understanding the nexus points between globalisation, trade agreements, corporate and military interests.

For example, we've looked at National Missile Defence through its connection with major weapons corporations Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW. These corporations are driving NMD, and stand to win the lions share of the $60 billion in contracts to build the system. As well, we've looked at industrial policy and how trade agreements drive government industrial programmes toward military spending. Trade agreements prevent governments from intervening in the economy, protecting the environment, and providing social programmes. But the arms industry and military spending are completely excepted. So how does the US government help Boeing compete with Airbus? Through massive defence contracts! So developing a dangerous missile defence system helps Boeing compete against Airbus in selling passenger aircraft. As well, we look at the big picture at how these trade agreements are enforcing a hegemony of the industrially advanced word over all other countries. The spread of US corporate interests, for example, requires a military force to protect those interests and investment. As Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times, behind the invisible hand of the free market is an invisible fist called the US Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines.

Does the INDG identify as antimilitarist?

Well, we certainly use the term militarism, so I think that would apply. We use it as the opposite of peace. The analysis stems from an economic and systemic analysis of militarism, viewing militarism as an outcome of the unfettered free-market system. This would be different from those who approach peace from a personal or cultural standpoint. But I think we all agree that these are linked analyses, and are mutually reinforcing in creating a socially and economically just world.

Where do you think it can make the most difference?

We've already had a number of examples of making a difference. A recent issue of New Internationalist magazine was devoted to the subject on militarism and globalisation, which borrowed heavily on our work. Several important conferences on globalisation are now incorporating speakers on militarism, and peace groups are getting involved in anti-corporate globalisation events and protests. The INDG has provided the analysis that allows those groups to make the links and join in political action together.

How do you think it best serves activists?

As I've mentioned, we've provided peace activists with the information and analysis they need to participate in the burgeoning anti-corporate globalisation movement that we've seen in Seattle, Washington, Prague, Melbourne, and elsewhere. Even more, we've given anti-corporate globalisation activists a better understanding of how we need to address militarism if we are to create global economic and social justice.

Does the INDG have formal links with any other organisations or networks?

We have many informal links with other organisations and networks. These include the International Forum on Globalization, Abolition 2000, The International Peace Bureau, The Hague Appeal for Peace, WILPF, The World Policy Institute, End the Arms Race, GRACE, Justicia I Pau, Ecole de la Paix, and even Peaceboat.

Is the INDG really international? Do you have input from and control by, a real spectrum of international participants?

Yes we do. As the Chair, I work very closely with people in Canada, the United States, and Europe. This network will be better formalised this year, and I hope to get better participation outside of North America and Europe.

Where do you think there are problems with INDG and do you see solutions to these?

Like any group, certainly financial resources are a barrier. But even more, since the network is breaking new ground, some groups are unsure how to relate to the network. Since the network acts to bridge two movements, its not completely understood by either the peace or anti-corporate globalisation movements. But over time this will become less of a problem. Already, I am seeing groups coming closer together in analysis and actions.

Do you think the Network will develop and do you have any plans for this?

The INDG is at the cusp of tremendous growth. People around the world are connecting the dots between the global economy and militarism. The INDG, along with others, needs to be ready to organise this emerging group of activists. This is the first generation of post-Cold War activists, and its crucial that they be made aware of the need to confront militarism.