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The bizarre de-registration of anti-WTO NGOs

By   /  December 2, 2017  /  14 Comments

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Yesterday I wrote to Trade Minister David Parker asking him to intervene urgently over the sudden and bizarre de-registration of representatives of prominent NGOs who had been accredited to attend the World Trade Organization ministerial conference from 10 to 13 December in Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Yesterday I wrote to Trade Minister David Parker asking him to intervene urgently over the sudden and bizarre de-registration of representatives of prominent NGOs who had been accredited to attend the World Trade Organization ministerial conference from 10 to 13 December in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Parker is one of four vice-chairs of the eleventh WTO ministerial conference (MC11). To his credit he moved immediately. Vitalis Vangelis, the deputy head of MFAT responsible for these issues emailed back that:

The Minister has asked me to underline to you that we absolutely share your concern that this is a very troubling development. The Minister has also told me to formally and urgently instruct our WTO Mission in Geneva to take this up as a priority with the WTO Secretariat, including to clarify what has happened – and quickly. A Formal Message (ie an instruction to the Mission) is being sent tonight to that effect.

For more background, let’s have a closer look, Lori Wallach from US Public Citizen explains the context …

As if the WTO was not already in a legitimacy crisis, 40 non-governmental organizations were just abruptly notified that their accreditation to attend the WTO ministerial starting in ten days has been revoked.

Yup, literally on the anniversary of the WTO Seattle meltdown – 11/30!

The WTO Secretariat began warning people not to travel to Argentina as they will be sent home. Those banned include representatives from global union confederations, Friends of the Earth, and development think tanks – literally organizations and individuals who have attended every WTO ministerial since the WTO was launched…  It is a bizarre list of 60 people and 20 groups from all over the world.

The WTO Secretariat says that they have warned Argentina, whose government is behind these bans, that this move will cause serious harm to the WTO’s legitimacy. Argentina won’t budge, so now the leading NGO network focused on WTO is calling for the WTO Director General to move the ministerial, which is planned for Dec 10-13 to WTO HQ in Geneva.

With Argentina refusing to budge, now the WTO DG and member states will have to decide if the ministerial proceeds in Buenos Aries or gets relocated/postponed…

Deborah James, who coordinates the Our World Is Not For Sale network, whose members were mainly targeted in the blacklist, sent out the following call to action:

Argentine Government Revokes World Trade Organization’s Accreditation of Key Civil Society Organizations, Just Days before Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires

Groups Call on Argentine Government to Rescind Disaccreditation, Call on WTO Director General Roberto Azevêdo and WTO General Council Not to Hold Ministerial in Argentina Unless Decision is Reversed

Washington, DC ― In an unprecedented action, the Argentine government has revoked the accreditation of 63 civil society experts ― trade unionists, development advocates, digital rights activists, environmentalists, and others ― just days before the 11th Ministerial meeting of the WTO (MC11) in Buenos Aires, advising the WTO that the experts will not be allowed in the country to participate in the meeting. The majority of the rejected organizations work together through the global Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) network.

Civil society delegates from the following countries and organizations, many of whom have attended multiple WTO Ministerial meetings in the past, were sent a note from the WTO Secretariat on November 29 notifying them that the Argentine government had denied the accreditation already issued by the WTO: Argentina (Instituto del Mundo del Trabajo, Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo, and Sociedad de Economía Crítica), Belgium (11.11.11), Brazil (Brazilian Network for People’s Integration, REBRIP), Chile (Derechos Digitales), Finland (Siemenpuu), Indonesia (Institute for National and Democracy Studies), Netherlands (Transnational Institute), the Philippines (People Over Profit) and the UK (Global Justice Now!), as well as international organizations including UNI global union (based in Switzerland) and UNI Americas (based in Uruguay) and Friends of the Earth International. A full list is available upon request. It has not go unnoticed that of the total of 20 organizations that have been banned, only two are from corporations, while the overwhelming number of corporate representatives will be allowed in.

Today, the groups sent a letter (bit.ly/2kc9RGO) calling on the Argentine government to reverse the bans, and on the Director General and the WTO membership not to hold the meeting in Argentina unless the participation of the groups is re-instated.

The standard agreement between international organizations and the host country of an international conference provides for accreditation, visas, and entry to all those the international organization accredits ― diplomats, media, non-governmental organizations, etcetera. The agreement has a provision for the host, only on exceptional security considerations, to refuse entry to a person. But based on the experience of the more than 250 members of OWINFS who have attended international meetings of the WTO, the United Nations, and other fora, hosts have never denied entry, except for at most, one or two specific persons, with at least some justification provided. Previous WTO Ministerial meetings in Singapore, the United States, Qatar, Mexico, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Indonesia, and Kenya did not see similar such repression. “We have participated in many previous Ministerial meetings without any problems, but now our entire four-person delegation has had their accreditation revoked – in spite of the fact that we have been engaging our government on WTO for years, and have non-refundable tickets and hotel reservations,” said Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now!

By offering to host the Conference, Argentina committed itself to ensure the access of all people, including delegates, staff and accredited NGOs that the WTO decides, according to its own procedures, should have access to it. If any host country starts taking decisions limiting access and does so arbitrarily and without having to explain any motives, not only is this conference’s integrity being attacked, but a key principle of international diplomacy is being violated. The WTO should not accept such a blatant violation of well-established international norms.

It is ironic that this occurred on the same day that Argentina is celebrating the transfer of the presidency of the G20 from Germany to Argentina. The banning of registered WTO delegates is an outrageous and worrying precedent, not just for the WTO meeting itself, and also for the G20 presidency of Argentina, but also for all future international meetings that are hosted by repressive governments.


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  1. Castro says:

    Seriously, the Chinese dictatorship is the greatest threat to No Zealand. You’re quiet as a mouse about it, though. The most important thing to do is to tear up the Free Slave Agreement with the Chinese dictatorship. Are you in its employ? Does the Chinese dictatorship have you in its pocket, that you say nothing about it? *crickets chirping*

  2. Jane Kelsey says:

    I want to stress a couple of things.

    1st, this is about the WTO, not the TPPA
    2nd, not all those banned are anti-WTO, but they are critical of what’s happening there.
    3rd, the Minister and MFAT have been proactive on this, and i applaud them for that.
    4th – the real reason we think is behind this is that Argentina is due to host the G20 meeting, where there will be many protests and where they appear to be setting a precedent for blacklisting people. This para from a pro-business Argentina newspaper is instructive:

    The “El Cronista” story is quite interesting, since the medium
    is highly regarded among the Argentine business community.
    The last paragraph sounds as a warning (quick translation):

    “On the other hand, this controversy [the CSOs exclusion] gives
    evidence on the Government being still clueless on how to face
    international NGOs questioning the trade system. That is a key
    issue, because Argentina will be the venue for the G20’s leadership
    summit next year, and global activists will come to Buenos Aires
    for protesting as they did in Hamburg this year. If the government’s
    reply is banning their entry to the country, it will show an image
    completely opposite to that of opening to the world and adhering to
    liberal institutions that [President Mauricio] Macri proclaims.”

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Thanks for your herculan efforts here yet again Jane.

      Where the heck would we all without your vigilence!!!

      You are amazing, a gift to us we are enternally grateful for.

  3. let me be frank says:

    a question…

    if the Argentineans dont change their position and if the WTO dosnt move the conference to Geneva and allow attendance, will the NZ delegation boycott the event?

    • J S Bark J S Bark says:

      I very much doubt it LMBF.

      Thus is demonstrated true corporate power.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      I back you here LMBF,

      Is Argentina another dictatorship, or spineless to stand against the corporates power?

      Certainly looks that way if Argentina does not recind that blocking of free speech advocates doesn’t it.

      At least NZ should boycott this event now, as to show up there is a bad mark against our human rights and shows that NZ support banning free speech and would allow corporates to force the same suppression here in NZ?

  4. savenz says:

    Shocking. Part of the rise of anti democracy by governments started by the illegal Iraq war, cumulated in repressive trade agreements getting more and more litigations to protect power interests, politicians and corporations hiding in tax havens and this hypocrisy being revealed, environmental resources getting plundered and becoming scarcer and more corporations fighting to keep their exploitation ‘rights’ against human rights or even practical long term survival of resources intact. The rise of Trump, fake news, global media controlling news, new media controlling individualised news and that ability to influence democracy and so forth.

    In short when UK and USA started to go at it alone against international law and what most people in their countries wanted (huge protests in UK against military action into Iraq) by controlling the news and creating the scare ‘terrorism’ to erode human rights, it has allowed a precedent of those human rights being revoked by individual politician’s and lobbyists under other bogus pretences. And this has allowed less democratic countries like China and USSR to gain more power at the same time and created trillions of dollars in the US for example going into defence in the Middle East while some parts of the US have become third world. People can’t even afford water there and it’s not even considered a human right.

    Meanwhile EU has it’s own problems such as massive influx of migrants from the Middle East war zones which they themselves have continued and by the earlier actions of the UK and USA.

    And that’s not good. Big mess. Multiple causes.

    And now every country and politician just doing whatever the F they feel like to avoid dissent and ‘control’ their population and free speech.

  5. Historian Pete says:

    At the end of the second world war we had the speech of Winston Churchill about an Iron Curtain descending upon Europe.We now have a new iron curtain descending upon the Western democracies ,instigated and controlled by the U.S.Empire.It will entail the absolute control of the media and the narrative.We already see such events in the pressure being exerted on the internet to censor who is allowed to function on it, with Google,Facebook, and Utube introducing algorithms as a method of control.RT has been forced to register as a foreign agent.Blacklists of undesireable websites have been published at the instigation of the CIA and other U.S. Deep state agencies.Sites such as the World Socialist Website have had their traffic seriously interrupted. I can no longer get BSNEWS.Independent investigative journalists have been frozen out of Western MSM unless they have been prepared to parrot the prevailing Western narrative. Karl rove,George Bush’s top adviser,stated that as the U.S. was an Empire it could create its own narrative. It has done just that ,and McCarthyism is alive and well.When an Empire starts to disintegrate they construct a foreign threat to unify and distract the population.Hence Russia, Russia, Russia.
    You may say so what? Well, for a Democracy to function you need the population to be aware of what is actually happening.All the Msm in New Zealand no longer cover national and international events in a balanced way.Largely they censor the news by omission. The most glaring example of this was the N.Z.MSM coverage of the events in the Ukraine where only events that suited the U.S. Empire narrative were reported.If you don’t have the full information, how can you intelligently vote.You can’t, and so we do not have any longer a functioning democracy in NZ. That is why it is so difficult to vote in a left wing Govt.against a hostile neo-liberal media!
    We can either accept that N.Z is rapidly being transformed into George Orwells 1984 or we can take steps, with a leftwing govt. to bring back a balance with our news coverage.
    What is happening in Argentina is indicative of where the U.S. Empire forces are taking us!

  6. Angel Gabriel says:

    Anti-Zionist Organizations, cut & deregistered. All part of the grand plan. This is what happens to any organization supporting “Boycot Israeli Apartheid”.. Freedom of Speach? Yea right…

  7. Kim dand says:

    Heavyweights shutting people down.
    It’s been this way forever….control and money, always about control and money.

  8. Kim dand says:

    Thanks Pete – well said.
    Maybe what is different today is that many more people know this is the case. Got to keep on pushing back.

  9. Marc says:

    To be honest, I am not at all surprised, given the present right leaning, neoliberal Argentine government under Macri. What else would you expect. At least it shows, German leader Merkel, she may be to the right, but she is at least a little bit tolerant, to let those opponents to the G20 move in and demonstate, although the intention was not ‘riots’, as some would call what happened.

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