The 25,000 protesters at the World Trade Organization's 1999 Seattle ministerial meeting and the 250,000 protesters at the G8's 2001 Genoa Summit dramatically demonstrated civil society's growing desire for greater democratic participation in the international institutions linking economic, environmental and social concerns. The 20,000 protesters at the 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas and the many thousands in Calgary for the G8's 2002 Kananaskis Summit showed that Canadians are equally engaged in this cause. This recent Canadian experience also shows that the search for solutions can move beyond confrontational demonstrations to civil dialogue and even produce creative responses to the new needs.
The reaction of traditionalists has been to insist that, in the work of intergovernmental institutions, citizens should only be involved back home within their individual jurisdictions. The spread of democratic practice to formerly undemocratic regimes that now accept the rule of law and government-civil society partnerships gives force to this argument. However, the new generation of multilateral institutions such as the WTO has been pressed to increase its dialogue with civil society at the international level in order to forge a better link among trade, environment and social concerns. Within North America, NAFTA's Commission for Environmental Cooperation has experimented with more innovative mechanisms for civil society involvement, although NAFTA as a whole has far to go to ensure significant citizen participation. And as many issues long local in nature assume transnational dimensions in a globalizing era, various well-developed techniques for multi-stakeholder, consensus-oriented, democratic decision-making within communities across North America offer an even richer repertoire of practices that a new generation of international institutions might usefully adopt.
This conference explores how civil society and global governors have, could and should come together in new ways to improve the links among trade, environmental and social values. It first examines the many new processes of civil society engagement that have been introduced at the local, regional and global levels to identify how - and how well or badly - they have worked, for those in the trade and environmental communities alike. It then assesses what could be done to strengthen the productive partnerships between civil society and global governance, drawing on the extensive inventory of existing practices and community-based alternatives. Finally, it identifies what should be done, based on a critical assessment of how particular mechanisms for civil society participation in global governance have enhanced or impeded the specific economic, environmental and political outcomes that many want.
As an empirical and policy-oriented foundation for this exploration, our conference will begin at the local level, focusing on Local and Transboundary Networks and Cooperation. It then moves to the regional level to examine North American and Hemispheric Experiences. From there it considers the international level with a focus on the Multilateral Trade and Finance Systems. It concludes at the global level with a discussion of the G8 and United Nations Systems. It features a mid-day keynote address by the Honourable Bill Graham, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, who as a parliamentarian and minister has been at the forefront of enhancing the connection between civil society and global governors.
This third and final conference of the "EnviReform" project features a day-long dialogue among the project's ten scholarly investigators, their seven community partners from critical constituencies across Canada and leading individuals from the new generation of policy makers involved in the key institutions of global governance. With the scholars providing background papers reflecting the results of their research in the project, the day is devoted to giving their community partners, policy makers and other stakeholders maximum voice. Through a videoconference with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC and a live webcast of the day's proceedings to the world, it reaches out to those in Canada's partner countries and the global community to satisfy their curiosity, mobilize their perspectives, and elicit their expertise.