The Moana Nui conference, which took place between November 9th and 11th, was a much-needed forum for presenting alternatives to neoliberal globalization. The first day consisted of workshops in which participants addressed issues such as indigenous land and resource use, globalization alternatives, APEC and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Workshop outcomes were used to frame discussion questions for panelists on the second and third days of the conference. Keynote speaker Kaleikoa Kaeo expressed that “ea” (life and sovereignty) comes “mai ke kai mai,” (from the sea), reminding us of our commonality on our “sea of islands,” to use the phrase of the Tongan intellectual Epeli Hauʻofa. Kaeo’s address highlighted the importance of oratory for Pacific peoples and its use in decolonizing the mind.
The second day featured a keynote address by Phillippine member of Parliament and sociology professor Walden Bello, who made strong case against US economic and military expansion in Asia and the Pacific. Bello highlighted many of the manufactured crises, such as the Southeast Asian food shortages of 2008, and implicated global trade policies in their creation. A panel on native governance, which included attorney and Hawaiian sovereignty activist Mililani Trask, and fellow member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigneous Issues Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, highlighted the adverse effects of privatization on Indigenous governance. Trask pointed to measurable effects privatization of government enterprises on Maori health outcomes, while Corpuz focused on its effects on small groups in the far North of the Phillippines.
A militarization panel levelled devastating critiques of US militarism in the Asia-Pacific region in areas such as Jeju Island, Korea and Guam. Several speakers from Guam, including lawyer Julian Aguon, poet Craig Perez Santos and Dr. Lisa Natividad laid bare the plans for a massive military build up on Guam in the wake of the removal of troops from Okinawa. This buildup would create a 40% population increase on the island, which currently has 160,000 residents and is only 32 miles long and eight miles at its widest point.
The third day featured panels on globalzation, pacific resources and APEC with presenters such as Jerry Mander and Victor Menotti of the International Forum on Globalization and Aruradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute. Former Kaʻahoʻolawe activist Walter Ritte and Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Peter Apo discussed native food production along with panelists from Russia and Vanuatu.
A final panel on APEC and TPPA featured the director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Lori Wallach, University of Auckland law professor Jane Kelsey, and Yasuo Konda of People’s Action Against TPP in Japan. These and other panelists, based on in-depth study of proposed and existing trade agreements, showed that the agreements are not mainly about trade. In fact, they comprise a radical reversal of the relations between governements and corporations, where instead of corporations operating within a framework created by democratic governments, the governements that sign on are constrained in law making by the rules – crafted in secret – of the agreements. Investors and corporate interests can even sue governements in international tribunals for unrealized potential profit they are unable to earn due to government barriers to trade. Such barriers can include environmental and labor laws. In other words, taxpayer dollars can be used to undo democratically crafted protections for citizens, and compensate private interests for daring to create those protections. It takes all risk away from investors and corporations and places it squarely in the laps of citizens, while stripping those citizens of input in the process.
Behind the scenes, Moana Nui advisory board members crafted a statement that expressed the principles and practices that the collective group supported in opposition to APEC. The close of the conference was a moving and participatory ceremony of song, pule (prayer) and a reading, by the entirety of participants of the Moana Nui declaration, which stated:
We, the peoples of moana nui, connected by the currents of our ocean home, declare that we will not cooperate with the commodification of life and land as represented by APEC’s predatory capitalistic practices, distorted information and secret trade negotiations and agreements.
We invoke our rights to free, prior and informed consent. We choose cooperative trans-Pacific dialogue, action, advocacy, and solidarity between and amongst the peoples of the Pacific, rooted in traditional cultural practices and wisdom.
E mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. A mama. Ua noa.
The ceremony can be viewed at http://moananui2011.org/
On Saturday, some conference participants joined other groups in a peaceful, legal march on the Hawaiʻi Convention Center to present the declaration to APEC delegates. The momentum of the Moana Nui conference needs to be maintained through continuing dialog among those who assert the need for alternatives to the neoliberal form of globalization being forced on the many by the few.