IDS working papers;328

Democratising trade politics in the Americas : insights from the women’s, environmental and labour movements

Published on 1 January 2009

This paper explores the extent to which and the ways in which civil society groups
are contributing to the democratisation of trade policy and politics in the Americas.
It explores the strategies adopted by a range of NGOs and social movements to
influence the decision-making processes and the content of the trade agenda.
This includes efforts to open up existing spaces of participation as well as the
creation of new ones through forms of citizen engagement, democratic innovation
and efforts to change the terms of debate. We concentrate on the cases of the
women’s, environmental and labour movements in relation to the trade agenda
promoted by the NAFTA, MERCOSUR and FTAA initiatives.
The first part of the paper provides a discussion of the constraints that recent
trade integration processes in the Americas pose to the possibility of deepening
democracy. This is followed by an engagement with existing literatures on
democratisation in Latin America to draw parallels and identify insights on the
nature of the relationship between trade and democracy. The second part draws
on three case studies of the strategies of movements in Latin America in their
attempts to influence trade policy processes across political scales. The first case
study explores the initiatives of women’s and feminist organisations in Mexico to
incorporate a gender perspective into the debate about NAFTA. The second case
deals with the engagements of the environmental movement at the sub-regional
and hemispheric levels in relation to the NAFTA, MERCOSUR and FTAA
initiatives. The third case focuses on the labour movement in the Americas in
relation to the FTAA process. The conclusion reflects on what has been achieved
and what future challenges remain.
Keywords: trade liberalisation; social movements; civil society; democratisation;
gender; labour; environment.

Cite this publication

Icaza, R., P. Newell & M. Saguier (2009) Democratising trade politics in the Americas : insights from the women's, environmental and labour movements. Working paper series, 328. Brighton: IDS.

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