30 Dec 2001
More than a hundred activists gathered in Sydney, Australia for the 4th annual APRN conference held on September 26-29, 2001 at the University of Technology. With the theme "Corporate Power or People's Power: Transnational Corporations and Globalisation," participants from 33 organisations and 17 countries from Asia and other regions tackled the power of transnational corporations in the era of globalisation. Twenty-three APRN member organisations attended the event.
The conference aimed to compare experiences among APRN members and other groups in their struggle against TNCs, build common and coordinated research agendas and to develop strategies in dealing with TNCs. The conference features inputs, workshops and presentation of case studies in contesting TNCs.
Jane Kelsey from University of Auckland in New Zealand opened the conference. In her keynote paper "Economic and Political Power of Corporations in the Era of Globalisation," she outlined the overwhelming economic and political power of TNCs and the linkages between them, their parent states and the international institutions.
Kavaljit Singh of the Public Interest Research Group in India gave the second keynote presentation. In his paper "Corporate Power and Corporate Profit", he shared the researches done by his organisation on how TNCs amass profit through transfer pricing.
Rick Fowler of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union in Australia opened the second day. Fowler in his talk on "Challenges in Defining Strategies for Advocacy and Protests" shared practical and specific strategies his union are using in contesting TNCs.
Tony Tujan of the APRN in his speech provided a full approach on strategies in contesting TNCs. He stressed the need for organisations to depart from their parochial issues as the global problems brought by globalisation have multi-sectoral impacts.
Case studies in contesting TNCs were presented on the third day of the conference. Kelly Dent from the Transnational Information Exchange-Asia in Sri Lanka spoke about their experiences in campaigning against sweatshop factories in Sri Lanka that manufactured famous brand labels. Stephen Frost of the Asia Monitor Resource Centre in Hong Kong shared their campaigns against toy companies in China that violate workers' rights.
Meanwhile, Sarojeni Rengam of Pesticide Action Network based in Malaysia spoke about their global campaign against agribusiness companies that produce hazardous pesticides, genetically modified seeds and foods. Moses Havini of the Bougainville Provisional Government discussed how the indigenous people of Bougainville, a small island in the Pacific, fought against mining companies that exploit the island and how this led to their autonomy.
Several workshops were conducted in between plenary inputs and case studies presentations. Sectoral impacts of TNCs were the first theme of the workshop. These include impacts on Agribusiness, Labour, Infrastructure and Mega-projects, Consumers, Environment, the Pacific, and Indigenous People.
The second day focused on power and influences of TNCs. There were seven workshops, which include Women and TNCs, TNCs and Trade, TNCs and the State, TNCs and Finance, Lobbying and Public Relations of TNCs, and Militarisation.
The workshops in day three focused on Strategies in Contesting TNCs. There were six workshops, which include Regulation and Self-regulation, Alternatives to TNCs, Solidarity Against TNCs, Targeting the State, Contesting TNCs Finances, and Labor Movements.
The results of the workshops were gathered and sorted by the Secretariat into research agenda, training and others (e.g. information sharing, etc). These were presented to the APRN members in a separate Business Meeting the day after the conference.
The conference was organised by the APRN Secretariat and the Australian organizing committee composed of AidWatch, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Mineral Policy Institute, APHEDA Union Aid Abroad, Friends of the Earth-Australia, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, and Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.