Faith Events Planned Around WTO Conference

World Trade Organization members have not been the only ones preparing for the 6th Ministerial Conference to be held on Dec. 13-18 in Hong Kong. Participants of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance have been active in preparations throughout the year for the meeting that would impact human rights.

Faith events have been organized around the conference that will open just days after Human Rights Day. With decisions on the final agreement of the Doha Development Agenda to be made and completed by the end of 2006, EAA participants look to stir prayer and action particularly on the impact of trade on human rights, including the right to health and the right to food.

Prior to the conference, a gathering on "Globalizing Economic Justice and Social Sustainability" will focus on church contributions to the debates on trade. The Dec. 9-11 pre-conference is to provide a platform for faith communities to critique the WTO's role, reflect on the economic justice aspect of the WTO and search for alternatives towards social justice and sustainability, according to the EAA. An Ecumenical Women's Forum on Life-Promoting Trade, organized by the World Council of Churches, Christian Conference of Asia, and the EAA, is also scheduled to take place Dec. 12-14.

"Yet again what we see happening is that the powerful Northern countries are trying to push ahead with a corporate agenda at the WTO that fundamentally threatens people, communities and the earth," said Rusa Jeremic, program coordinator on international trade and global economic justice for KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, in a released statement.

"We will converge in Hong Kong to have our voices heard as we protest unjust trade rules and offer alternatives that place people, communities and earth at the center," she said.

EAA-organized events that have been planned for include roundtable discussions, press briefings, and a Peace for Life cultural event among others.

Recognizing the need for prayer before taking action, participants will hold a Day of Prayer on Trade on Dec. 11, which will involve at least 23 church and ecumenical organizations. EAA also encourages churches to include worship material on trade and human rights in their services on that Sunday to raise awareness of the WTO negotiations and its impact.

Earlier in December, religious leaders had met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a historical gathering to press matters of fighting poverty including eliminating agricultural subsidies and increasing development aid for the 2007 fiscal year.