On September 11th, Americans experienced the kind of violence that people in the South have been experiencing for a long time. In the aftermath, we're learning about what many of them have already experienced for years: the military component of corporate globalization.

September 11: Views from the Global South

by Bronwyn Mauldin

January 3, 2002

Nine leading economic and social justice activists from the global South were in Seattle last November for a week-long conference called, “Break Free: Voices
of the Global South.” The conference brought activists from Africa, Asia and Latin America together with activists in the North to learn about each other’s work and to build solidarity for our common struggles. Most of the visitors are members of Jubilee South, a network of organizations and individuals in more than 60 countries in the global South, working to end debt domination by wealthy countries and the IMF and World Bank.

While they were in Seattle, I spoke with several participants about whether or
not September 11th and its aftermath have affected their work, and what prospects they see for the future. Two major themes emerged from their comments:

On September 11th, Americans experienced the kind of violence that people in the South have been experiencing for a long time. In the aftermath, we’re learning about what many of them have already experienced for years: the military component of corporate globalization.

While the events of September 11 and the U.S. response have made their work a little harder, it has not caused leaders in the South to change what they’re doing. In fact, some of them see hope for broadening and strengthening the global movement for justice in these times.

Other themes emerged as well…

How their work is more difficult

“I think it’s made it a bit harder because people got tremendously distracted. In the United States you’re still going through some sort of culture shock at this sense of being attacked.”

-Alejandro Bendana, Centro de Estudios Internacionales, Nicaragua

“The media is not helping any by just focusing a lot on the issue of the attack and the war and the U.S., so that it’s eclipsing other issues that are as important… The attacks of the right against the type of message we’re trying to deliver has intensified in the last few months. They’re lumping together everybody that’s critical of government and U.S. policy, of course in a very self serving way. In a way it has made our work a little more challenging these days.”

-Lidy Nacpil, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philippines

New opportunities today for people to work together globally

“It’s easier now to be able to talk out loud and clear and look for linkages and
bridges with the American people, because what has been happening with us for all these centuries, now it’s just at their back yard. I think [Americans] can now begin to see the interests of the multinational corporations… It’s coming out very clearly that [they are] not in the interest of the ordinary citizens of the United States of America.”

-Wahu Kaara, Kenya Debt Relief Network, Kenya

“I think this will [create] a platform to sit down and find a way to solve all the problems we are facing now in the world. And I think too, the problem is not fighting only terrorism, because what is behind this terrorism? Rich countries who are producing weapons, for example.”

-Georgine Kengne, Service Oecumenique pour la Paix, Cameroon

“[September 11th has] made it difficult, it distracted people from concentrating. At the same time it really has opened people’s eyes, and more people’s eyes are open every day.”

-Hanna Petros, Ustawi, Seattle/Ethiopia

“Given the kind of terrifying events of September 11th and the kind of visual and emotional and intellectual shock… I am impressed at the number of people who are willing to call for peace against war. I’m also impressed at the number of people who are willing to say, I don’t accept this nonsense about a war against terrorism.”

-Dennis Brutus, Jubilee South, South Africa/US

Recognizing other forms of terrorism

“You know, September 11th was a very serious attack on human life. That same day the FAO released a report indicating that 35,615 children died from malnutrition and avoidable disease around the world. 35,000 on September 11th. But also on September 12th, September 13th, September 14th, September 15th, September 16th, September 17th. That’s the kind of terrorism that we also want to be concerned about.”

-Beverly Keene, Dialogo 2000, Argentina

“What’s important to understand is that terrorism not only takes the form of planes flying into buildings full of civilians. It also takes the form of structural adjustment being imposed on countries, and destroying lives and livelihoods. This is institutionalized, systematized terrorism, economic terrorism.”

-Alejandro Bendana, Centro de Estudios Internacionales, Nicaragua

“While we were trying to trap terrorists, we’ve caught ourselves in that trap. The same corporations that rule our life finally are practicing the same thing here in the United States. The U.S. is experiencing the same loss of liberty, education is now going to be stratified. It’s becoming exactly like back home. There’s a saying in Ethiopia: if you dig a big hole for someone else to fall in, don’t dig it too deep because you don’t know who else will fall in too. I don’t know if it will be easy for the U.S. to get itself out of the hole we’ve dug for ourselves.”

-Hanna Petros, Ustawi, Seattle/Ethiopia

“Many Americans are beating the drums of war. They’re saying that they’re patriots. They’re flying flags. They’re wearing lapel pins. But what we really need America to do, the real patriots of this country need to take a hard look at what this country has done in terms of foreign policy. This country’s support for dictators all over the world.”

-Mililani Trask, Indigenous Human Rights Caucus, Hawai’i
Challenges and strategies for the future

“The point is that there has to be an awareness that the main culprit of most of the evil today, not the only one but the main, is called corporate globalization, in terms of how it harms human beings. And that corporate globalization, we’ve discovered after September 11th, and the response to September 11th by the U.S., it also has a military component. So in that sense our educational work has to become broader because they can use bombs and bullets as they do in Afghanistan, but they can also use famine as an instrument of war too as the IMF does.”

-Alejandro Bendana, Centro de Estudios Internacionales, Nicaragua

“I think we need to build solidarity with those who are suffering. With those who are facing a problem. And we need maybe to pray for those who have some other strategy which is not a strategy for life, but a strategy of destruction.”

-Georgine Kengne, Service Oecumenique pour la Paix, Cameroon

“There [is] the argument that you could be anti-globalization without being anti-war. This is a curious kind of conflict apparently, but it seems there are people among my allies who are still pursuing the anti-corporate globalization issue, but are not willing to get into anti-war action. For me, there’s an inevitable and inextricable connection.”

-Dennis Brutus, Jubilee South, South Africa/US

“But if [American progressive activists] do not become very strategic, I think their situation is going to be worse, because the multinationals will not allow their stronghold just to sleep, And out of panic, like they have panicked and have reacted with a vengeance to the Afghanistan question, then they might just panic and undertake very extreme purging and repression and crackdowns, which I think the American people might not be prepared for. One very important aspect for them to realize is that the struggle for making sure that finance capital [does not] get to where it wants to go, is not anything which is going to be easy.”

-Wahu Kaara, Kenya Debt Relief Network, Kenya

“So we need, in the human rights arena, to really assess where we’re going to target, what we’re going to prioritize, and the real battle is going to be right here on the home front. And it’s going to be in the political arena. If we can’t get accountability from these folks in the state and in the national Congress, we’re going to have to bring about changes, but we’re going to have to look at things such as consumer boycott, to boycott the products these corporations are making. So I see that we need to have one initiative to bring this into the Congress and into the political arena, but we also have to stay in our communities.”

-Mililani Trask, Indigenous Human Rights Caucus, Hawai’i

Hope for the future

“After Seattle we won one victory after the other. It’s very impressive. Seattle was the first one, but then A16 in Washington, the World Bank and IMF, we messed them up. We go to Prague, and they have to cancel the last day of the meetings. They only met for two days instead of three. We go to Quebec City and we take down the fence, the one thing that was the symbol of their power. We go to Genoa. They issue the cops with live ammunition to intimidate us, and we put 300,000 on the streets. So we were winning. From Seattle to Genoa and Durban, when the U.S. says you can’t discuss slavery, we say too bad, go home. We’re winning all the time. Except that we were winning too well, too much. And the time came for them to crack down, and so the crackdown comes. But of course September 11 is the pretext, but it was going to come anyway because we were just getting too strong all the time.”

-Dennis Brutus, Jubilee South, South Africa/US

“Are we at a stage of despair or hope? For me I would say we are at a stage of being very hopeful because the social transformation forces are taking very, very progressive moves. Even where one has not been able to reach to organize, you still find that people, out of the demands of their daily life, are coming up with very innovative and creative alternatives to be able to engage with the status quo, sometimes very unconsciously. That is a good sign, which means when these forces link up, then the forces of the good way forward will reach a critical mass.”

-Wahu Kaara, Kenya Debt Relief Network, Kenya

Alejandro Bendana

Centro de Estudios Internacionales

Jubilee South

Dennis Brutus
South Africa/US

Jubilee South

Wahu Kaara

Kenya Debt Relief Network

Jubilee South

Beverly Keene

Dialogo 2000

Jubilee South

Georgine Kengne

Service Oecumenique pour la Paix (Ecumenical Service for Peace)

Jubilee South

Lidy Nacpil

Freedom From Debt Coalition

Jubilee South

Hanna Petros


Jubilee South

Mililani Trask

Indigenous Human Rights Caucus

To learn more about the Break Free conference, visit the website of the
sponsoring organization, Ustawi, at www.ustawi.org.

More information about Jubilee South can be found at

Bronwyn Mauldin is an Ustawi board member and a member of the L.A. Independent Media Center. She is the author of “Jubilee 2000 Northwest: Breaking the Chains of Global Debt”, appearing in From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization, forthcoming May 2002.