Key Positions and Statements

OWINFS has several “flagship” statements that reflect our basis of unity and have been endorsed by hundreds of civil society organizations — trade unions, development advocates, public interest organizations, farmers’ and fishers’ associations, environmental groups, and more – from more than 100 countries over many iterations. OWINFS’s statements thus serve as the reference point for global civil society perspectives on the WTO.

Later in 2021, in advance of the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12), 206 organizations from around the world endorsed the 12-page “Turnaround: New Multilateral Trade Rules for People-Centered Shared Prosperity and Sustainable Development, calling for major transformations to the current global trade system while also detailing the specific rules necessary to change in the WTO in the interim. This comprehensive blueprint is available in English, Spanish, French (27 September 2021)

In 2021, over 200 organizations from 67 countries endorsed a short statement about the crisis in the WTO: “Fundamentally transform the WTO: The WTO’s own policies have caused its existential crisis, which the COVID-19 crisis only amplified”: English, Spanish, French. (28 April 2021)

In 2020, some WTO members wanted to continue to negotiate binding rules to expand harmful WTO policies, even during the Covid-19 crisis. An Open Letter to Trade Ministries and the World Trade Organization (WTO): Stop all trade and investment treaty negotiations during the COVID-19 outbreak and refocus on access to medical supplies and saving lives (English, Spanish, French) was endorsed by 400 organizations from over 163 countries around the world.

In 2019, some WTO members began negotiations towards an agreement on Digital Trade (even though this effort had been blocked by a majority of members at the 2017 Ministerial). OWINFS developed a letter setting forth our opposition to the digital trade negotiations, because of their potential negative impacts on democracy, development, workers, privacy, security, and many more issues. It was endorsed by 315 organizations from around the world, and is available in English, French, and Spanish.

In 2017, previous to the 11th Ministerial Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we focused a Letter from Global Civil Society about the Agenda of the WTO on the need to stop the efforts towards WTO expansion (through digital trade, domestic regulation, investment facilitation, and anti-development rules) and instead focus on a positive agenda that would allow countries to pursue food security and food sovereignty policies, as well as more development flexibilities for developing countries generally. The letter was endorsed by 309 organizations globally including 38 international networks. English, Spanish, French, Greek.

In the summer before the 10th Ministerial in Nairobi, OWINFS drafted a letter in July 2015, summarizing the current state of play in the WTO, and calling for a stop to the efforts to expand the failed model, as well as transformations to the existing rules. The “Letter from Civil Society Regarding Future Agenda of the WTO Negotiations” was endorsed by 341 groups from around the world. An updated version focused on the state of play going into the Ministerial, garnered support of a whopping 460 groups from nearly all countries across the globe. English, Spanish, French.

In advance of the 8th Ministerial in 2011, and then updated in advance of the 9th in 2013, we developed a comprehensive “WTO Turnaround 2013: Food, Jobs and Sustainable Development First – Statement” (pdf) which provides both a call for a fundamental transformation of the WTO system, as well as detailed changes demanded by civil society from multiple sectors around the world, on issues ranging from food sovereignty and industrial policy to public services and access to medicines, and more.

Our Statement of Political Unity, “Stop Corporate Globalization: Another World is Possible!” was developed in 2006, ten years after the founding of the WTO and just before the global economic and financial crises. It sketches out the challenges of corporate globalization, sets forth our goals, and details What We Stand For.

Our second statement was the “Our World is not for Sale: WTO – Shrink or Sink!” This international “sign-on” statement, prepared after the Seattle Ministerial, lays out eleven transformational demands aimed at the WTO. Active OWINFS members have signed onto the statement.

Our founding statement is “No New Round – Turn Around.” This is an international statement written in advance of the 1999 WTO Ministerial in Seattle — calling on WTO member-nations to reject expansion or a “new round”—and, instead, to roll-back harmful WTO provisions and policies. This statement was signed by nearly 1500 organizations in the run-up to the Ministerial.

In addition, OWINFS has developed specific and more detailed statements around issues such as protecting basic services, food security and sovereignty, trade in goods, and challenging the fundamental lack of democracy within the WTO, which can be found in the thematic sections.