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Thursday, January 18, 2001

prepares for
investment meeting

Asian Development Bank
foes here are told to expect
a task force blitz

By Mary Adamski

Hawaii groups organizing to demonstrate against the Asian Development Bank at its May conference here were told to expect a community relations blitz to persuade them the international investment agency is beneficial to Asia.

"I'm puzzled about why Honolulu would volunteer to host this meeting," Philippines professor and author Walden Bello said last night.

"Is it because state officials don't follow events outside?"

Bello, an expert on the effects of globalization in Asia, told a University of Hawaii crowd of 300 people that "ADB will deploy its (nongovernmental organizations) task force to Honolulu because of the sense that people here will provide trouble for them." He chronicled the opposition the bank and other global financial institutions encountered since riots disrupted the World Trade Organization's 1999 meeting in Seattle.

About 3,000 delegates are expected at the Asian Development Bank conference, which opens May 7 at the Hawaii Convention Center.

The United States and Japan are key investors in the institution established 35 years ago for economic and social development in Asia. The Manila-based bank is now owned by 58 member nations.

Groups oppose development

The opposition from environmentalists and human rights groups has grown because "corporate-driven globalization had run over so many people," said Bello. He is a sociology professor at the University of the Philippines and co-director of Focus on the Global South at the University of Bangkok.

What happened in Seattle was not just street riots, he said, "but rebellion of developing countries within the meeting halls. They could no longer allow just a few countries to ram policies down their throats in the name of consensus."

Bello told the meeting organized by environmental, political and indigenous rights groups that the goal is not to just demonstrate against globalization but "to think about, and propose alternatives. What do we find to replace this model of corporate-driven globalization? What is the alternative to this globalization that has muddled the world?

He said: "At this point, (it) is an organization that is stuck. Its momentum has been lost."

Last May at the bank's meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand, delegates were "confronted by thousands of fishers and farmers asking them to leave town." The opposition focused on the funding of a wastewater treatment plan at a place where mussels are harvested, he said.

After a decade in which globalization became the economic and social goal of industrialized countries, "the momentum has gone from the other side to our side," he said.

"I think the moral ascendancy has shifted."

Environmental disruption claimed

Bello said the Asian Development Bank "is known as a nontransparent, nondemocratic organization. It has funded infrastructure -- roads and bridges -- and in the process has caused tremendous dislocation, environmental disruption and uprooting of communities."

"When you talk to the ADB, they say it's in the process of reform. Most of the changes have been in the area of public relations."

"You now have a responsibility," Bello said. "The ADB can come out and say it had the best conference ever in hospitable Honolulu. Or it can come away as a more chastened institution that is more willing to look at its really terrible record."

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