In Seattle, November of'99, the World Trade Organization, a virtually unknown institution to most people was the star attraction in the media for several days. However, the mobilization of protest demonstrations against international institutions didn't start in Seattle. There were demonstrations at the WTO meeting in Geneva in 1998 and at Bank/Fund meetings throughout the 1990's.
But the overall ferocity of this demonstration at Seattle was unprecedented and perhaps a new trend has been established. Even if that were so it would be wrong for us to judge the anti-globalization movement by its representation from the media. The invisible impact of the NGO's on the international policy processes and institutions may turn out to be more important over the long run.
The main objectives of the mobilization networks are to heighten public awareness of the target international institution's role in globalization and, by doing so, to change its agenda and mode of operation – or, in the case of the more extreme members of the coalition, to shut it down. While these networks are loosely knit coalitions of very unrelated groups an analysis of the networks at Seattle show that a significant proportion are environmental, human and gender rights NGO's. However one must be wary of the view that these loose and diverse coalitions represent a new form of globalized participatory democracy on the Internet. That may be partly the case, but the most significant development facilitated by the Internet – and vividly demonstrated in Seattle – has been the emergence of a new service industry – the business of dissent. Coordinating and organizing the demonstrations is only one function of Dissent.com, since the networks are so diverse both in mission and location the message must carry a simple, common theme: anti globalization: pro-democracy.
The charge is that the WTO are dominated by the intere…