We use cookies on this website to analyse browsing, help enhance your experience, provide social media features and for you to view embedded content such as videos. Please click accept if you are happy with our use of cookies. You find out more about how we use cookies in our Cookie Statement.

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Interview

Trade disagreement

Global Justice Now's Nick Dearden speaks out on TTIP

Global Justice Now's Nick Dearden speaks out on TTIP

As bureaucrats and lawyers from the USA and the EU negotiate a new trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP, Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden explains why he believes it could spell disaster in many different ways. 

Guided by ideology

We don’t often look at or think of our society as being guided by ideology but I can’t think of a better way of describing it. It’s really important to have a perspective and a worldview, and sometimes NGOs can be a little bit frightened of this. They’re often frightened of having an ideology, of voicing one, even though there is already a really dominant ideology in the world today; It governs our economy and our society and has become so entrenched that it’s actually quite difficult for people to even see that it’s an ideology at all.

“Really big, really controversial statements rarely get challenged in our world today. I think that’s the job of people like us; to challenge that perspective as a whole.”

Nick Dearden, director, Global Justice Now

This idea of neoliberalism or free-market capitalism is a really extreme ideology. We’ve seen through the events in the European Union over recent months, the lengths people in power will go to abide by this ideology. To challenge something that powerful, you can’t just challenge it piecemeal. You need to have a perspective and a worldview of your own to raise up in counterpoint. This allows you to underpin your work from a different starting point and actually think out alternative ways of doing things.

One of my big critiques of NGOs over the past decade is that we have lost a lot of that perspective; becoming much more single-issue in what we work on. It means that while we might win a campaign here or there – and I’m not saying that’s not worth doing – we’re not really challenging the underlying worldview or ideology that puts those policies in place.

That means that sometimes you end up with some pretty shallow victories; you’ll win something over here, but you lose something even bigger over there – and in doing so haven’t really done anything to dislodge the myths so dominant in our society. Many need challenging; the idea for example that the free market is the best way to allocate resources in the world, or that the private sector is always more efficient than the public sector, or the idea that Africa doesn’t have enough food to feed itself and so needs foreign investment to grow that food. These really big, really controversial statements rarely get challenged in our world today. I think that’s the job of people like us; to challenge that perspective as a whole.

TTIP

We started talking about TTIP in January last year. It’s not perhaps an initially exciting topic; there’s a limit to how exciting an international trade agreement gets. Nonetheless it’s been a huge focus for people from all walks of life, in the UK, the US and Europe.

“We have this idea that the global economy isn’t governed, is above and beyond governing; but it’s actually controlled by a very clear set of rules.”

Nick Dearden, director, Global Justice Now

TTIP is now a major campaign for us. It is so clearly an issue that goes right to the heart of what we as an organisation are trying to do; challenge the structures that create poverty and inequality in society. It’s so clearly laid out in the fabric of the agreement itself that we just had to act. TTIP and its sister agreements, as well as the older, similar rhetoric around the WTO and trade agreements in the past are not simply about ‘I sell you bananas and you sell me coffee’. They are actually about the rules of the global economy; the rules which capital has to abide by in the world that we see around us today.

One rule for them

We have this idea that the global economy isn’t governed, is above and beyond governing; but it’s actually controlled by a very clear set of rules. There are lots of things that could have much clearer rules enforced, things we care about like the environment and human rights, but we know that these things don’t have any enforceable rules attached to them. But when you look at things like how much power and influence a company has when it invests in another country, well that’s really clearly laid down, regulated and structured. It’s been codified and made legitimate by these rules. These rules are often unfair.

Unless you challenge some of those rules you end up in a world where we as citizens really have no power, as the rules are continually being made by incredibly powerful corporate entities; the very rich of the world. So when we first read about TTIP it seemed to be a very clear case of creating new rules to enforce the interests of big capital, to the detriment of ordinary people.

NGOs have brought into a way of looking at global South which really relies on pity in charity, it’s a legacy of the Live-Aid approach where you try to pretend there’s no politics or economics and that poverty is like a natural catastrophe and that it’s horrible so please put your hand in your pocket and give money. I hate that.

“There are very powerful people in our society who use and abuse structures of governance in order to attack and rollback democracy. They want to have more control over society than we as ordinary people have.”

Nick Dearden, director, Global Justice Now

The fact that TTIP could affect people, not just in the global South, but in the US and the EU presents us with an incredible opportunity to address one of the key issues on the root cause of poverty and show it closer to home; it was happening to us, we should speak up and speak out about it, and people have a right to question how the these things will affect parts of society we care about. The NHS, the environment, how we produce the food that we eat; in TTIP people see what the hell it is we mean when we talk about these problems in the global South.

Rising issue

When Global Justice Now first started working on it very few people knew what you were talking about, especially politicians. They’d never heard of before and thought we were conspiracy theorists. The thing that really amazed me about the campaign is just how fast it has risen up the political agenda. It is still nowhere near where we would like it to be and nowhere near where it is in countries like Germany say. In the UK, it has gone from absolutely no one hearing of it to being able to get powerful protests, hundreds of thousands of people writing to their MPs, and it’s certainly an issue now that no elected politician could claim to not know about any more.

“TTIP is about more than just trying to destroy a bad agreement… I hope it allows a growing movement of people to set a new agenda of social change and create our own ideology; one that aims for a fairer world.”

Nick Dearden, director, Global Justice Now

We were aware throughout the campaign that we’d touched on something that was not just very scary, but actually brought together a whole range of issues we wanted to work on into some kind of analysis of the world. The TTIP agreement showed the rationale of why people behave this way, how disparate elements of economy, society, welfare and governance fit together and lay bare the economic systems that make it possible. There are very powerful people in our society who use and abuse structures of governance in order to attack and rollback democracy. They want to have more control over society than we as ordinary people have. TTIP explains the rationale of people like this.

TTIP

I also think the campaign has brought a lot of people together, there’s something in TTIP that effects everybody in a sense, because it’s an attack on so many of the things that we care about; whether it’s the environment, public services, democracy, the justice system, it enables people who are working on their own issues not to give up on these issues, but instead to find a place under an umbrella of shared issues where we can all feel more powerful and more empowered.

Campaigning on a global issue in isolation can leave you feeling disempowered. By bringing these courses together I hope that we can begin to create something that I felt when I was a younger campaigner looking at the anti-globalisation movement; TTIP is about more than just trying to destroy a bad agreement; it is that of course, but I hope it allows a growing movement of people to set a new agenda of social change and create our own ideology; one that aims for a fairer world.

The future

The most important thing to me about Global Justice Now is it’s network of local groups around the country; people allowing people to gather, debate, discuss and disagree …and then take action. Those bonds of trust and friendship have to be the basis of social change. No-TTIP groups have started springing up on campuses, in local areas and I hope that those groups will continue and grow.

“Poverty is political. You can’t see and say and do what you need to in order to fight poverty if you can’t be political.”

Nick Dearden, director, Global Justice Now

Some of the legislation enacted by the last Parliament, and that planned under the new parliament, is some of the most reactionary legislation we’ve seen in a generation. It’s terrifying. What’s being attacked now, is very very basic rights of people to express themselves in a democratic way and that is very frightening.

Poverty is political. You can’t see and say and do what you need to in order to fight poverty if you can’t be political. People have been campaigning for a better world, the social change to hundreds of years and have always engaged in civil disobedience. We have tried to provide safe spaces where it’s okay to speak and to challenge, and to encourage people to remember the history of social change.

Global justice now is a small part of what needs to happen. Too many organisations feel that they are the answer. I see our role as to catalyse ability to act, ability to think, in a different way that allows us to start building a genuine movement which is capable of changing the world. Everything that we do should be guided by this; it’s not about winning this campaign or that campaign for the sake of it, unless by winning that campaign we actually end the campaign with a bigger, more vibrant, more angry movement than we started with. During the campaign we must have gone to the heart of challenging some of the assumptions of the dominant ideology of our society, and accept that some of these will not have been a success.

We want to move from campaigns where we’re saying ‘please don’t take this thing from us as well’, we need to get back on the front foot to a place where people are inspired by the positive, so that we can begin to say ‘no, you will not take it from us’.

www.globaljustice.org.uk

interview by Tom Owen

 

CV
Nick Dearden, Director, Global Justice Now

Nick Dearden was very interested in politics and activism at university, but never thought you can actually work on this kind of thing for a living. Working with War on Want around the time of the anti-globalisation movement being at its height Nick heard about WDM; synonymous at that time with the anti-globalisation movement in the UK. They were working on trade and issues of debt around the IMF and the World Bank and it was clear to him even then that they were an amazing organisation mobilising people from all round the country to go protest at these summits and at the same time they produced a lot of interesting analysis. During those early days Nick was involved in a huge range of issues, from Palestine, union rights in Colombia, workers rights in Iraq, and world trade. After years with Amnesty and with Jubilee Debt Campaign just as a financial crash hit he moved to take over the leadership of WDM as they became Global Justice Now – reflecting the notion that the problems traditionally affecting the global south were now affecting the world. Global Justice Now (formerly the world development movement) campaigns for a world where resources are controlled by the many, not the few. They are currently campaigning against campaigning against TTIP, the proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States.

Email newsletter_triodos bank

What do you think of "Trade disagreement"

Please enter a comment

Please enter your name

Trade disagreement – The Colour Of Money | Trio… 4 years ago

[…] Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden explains why he believes the currently negotiated TTIP trade deal could spell disaster in many different ways.  […]