The International Forum on Globalization first convened in San Francisco in January 1994 in the wake of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) passage and the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). For the groups and leaders who had worked tirelessly to explain to the public and to policymakers that the proposed trade agreements would lead to multiple negative consequences, it was time to regroup.
IFG associates felt that, despite setbacks, it was critical that activism continue, but that the full dimensions and scale of the problem be rearticulated. The issues could no longer be confined to the problems of the new “free trade” agreements or the policies of the World Bank. The problem needed to be understood systemically, as being a global process. A complete reorganization of the world’s economic and political activity was underway, along with effective takeover of global governance by transnational corporations and the international trade bureaucracies that they established.
At first the IFG functioned as a think tank among some thirty people (later expanded to over sixty) to discuss the issues and develop alternative strategies that might reverse the globalization trend and redirect actions toward revitalizing local economies. The meetings enabled associates to work through differences among themselves—for example, the different frames of reference between activists in the Global North and South. Other discussions focused on the differing views of environmental and labor issues within trade agreements; the role of new technologies in the globalization juggernaut; and the steps needed to relocalize control. The meetings provided an unpressured atmosphere to begin a process of co-education and collaboration.
Based on these meetings, IFG associates agreed to begin speaking out against economic globalization because it was clear that public discourse—in the media, academia, and among governments—had not seriously questioned the commonly held belief that a globalized economy would “lift all boats.” Nor was it understood that viable alternative perspectives and analyses existed.
The goal of the IFG, therefore, is two-fold: (1) Expose the multiple effects of economic globalization in order to stimulate debate, and (2) Seek to reverse the globalization process by encouraging ideas and activities which revitalize local economies and communities, and ensure long term ecological stability.