Philippines' Prof. Walden Bello Wins Right Livelihood "Altermative Nobel Prize" for 2003

Prize awarded in the Swedish Parliament is "for Outstanding Vision and Work on Behalf of Our Planet and Its People."

Prof. Walden Bello, Professor at the University of the Philippines and Visiting Professor of Sociology and Southeast Asian Studies at UCLA in Spring 2002, was awarded the Right Livelihood "Alternative Nobel Prize" with three others for 2003.

Below follows the description of the award and Prof. Bello's accomplishments from the Right Livelihood website

The 2003 Right Livelihood Awards go to individuals and organisations from New Zealand, the Philippines,South Korea and Egypt working for disarmament, justice, partnership and environmental sustainability.

The 2003 Right Livelihood Honorary Award honours New Zealand's former Prime Minister David Lange, whom the Jury recognises "for his steadfast work over many years for a world free of nuclear weapons"

Four recipients share the 2003 Right Livelihood cash Award of SEK 2 million:

  • Walden Bello and Nicanor Perlas from the Philippines play crucial and complementary roles in developing the theoretical and practical bases for a world order that benefits all people. The Jury honours Bello and Perlas "for their outstanding efforts in educating civil society about the effects of corporate globalisation, and how alternatives to it can be implemented".
  • The Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice (South Korea) has since 1989 worked successfully to make Korean economic development more just, inclusive and democratic. The Jury commends "the rigour with which it has developed and disseminated its wide-ranging reform programme, based on social justice and accountability and the skill with which it is now applying the same values to promoting reconciliation with North Korea".
  • SEKEM (Egypt) shows how a modern business can combine profitability and engagement in world markets with a humane and spiritual approach to people and respect for the natural environment. The Jury sees in SEKEM "a business model for the 21st century in which commercial success is integrated with and promotes the social and cultural development of society through the ‘economics of love' ".

Founded in 1980, the Right Livelihood Awards are presented annually in the Swedish Parliament and are often referred to as "Alternative Nobel Prizes". They were introduced "to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today". Jakob von Uexkull, a Swedish-German philatelic expert, sold his valuable postage stamps to provide the original endowment. Alfred Nobel wanted to honour those whose work "brought the greatest benefit to humanity". Von Uexkull felt that the Nobel Prizes today ignore much work and knowledge vital for our world and future.

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A Press Conference with the recipients will be held in Stockholm on Thursday, December 4th. The award presentation ceremony in the Swedish Parliament will be held on December 8th. .

WALDEN BELLO Philippines (2003)

Walden Bello is one of the leading critics of the current model of economic globalisation, combining the roles of intellectual and activist. As a human rights and peace campaigner, academic, environmentalist and journalist, and through a combination of courage as a dissident, with an extraordinary breadth of published output and personal charisma, he has made a major contribution to the international case against corporate-driven globalisation.

Bello was born in Manila in the Philippines in 1945. He was studying in Princeton for a sociology Ph.D in 1972 when Ferdinand Marcos took power, and plunged into political activism, collecting his Ph.D, but not returning to the university for another 20 years. Over the next two decades, he became a key figure in the international movement to restore democracy in the Philippines, co-ordinating the Anti-Martial Law Coalition and establishing the Philippines Human Rights Lobby in Washington.

He was arrested repeatedly and finally jailed by the US authorities in 1978 for leading the non-violent takeover of the Philippine consulate in San Francisco. He was released a week later after a hunger strike to publicise human rights abuses in his home country.

While campaigning on human rights he saw how the World Bank and IMF loans and grants were supporting the Marcos regime in power. To expose their role, he took the risk of breaking into the World Bank headquarters in Washington, and brought out 3,000 pages of confidential documents. These provided the material for his book Development Debacle (1982), which became an underground bestseller in the Philippines and contributed to expanding the citizen's movement that eventually deposed Marcos in 1986.

After the fall of Marcos, Bello joined the NGO Food First in the USA, and began to expand his coverage of the Bretton Woods institutions, in particular studying the ‘newly industrialised countries' of Asia. His critique of the Asian economic ‘miracle', Dragons in Distress, was written six years before the financial collapse that swept through the region.

His recent work has been criticising the financial subjugation of developing countries and promoting alternative models of development that would make countries less dependent on foreign capital.

In 1995, he was co-founder of Focus on the Global South, of which he is now executive director. Focus seeks to build grassroots capacity to tackle wider regional issues of development and capital flows. When the Asian Financial Crisis struck two years later, Focus played a major role advocating a different way forward.

Bello argues that "what developing countries and international civil society should aim at is not to reform the WTO but, through a combination of passive and active measures, to radically reduce its power and make it simply another international institution co-existing with and being checked by other international organisations, agreements and regional groupings… It is in such a more fluid, less structured, more pluralistic world with multiple checks and balances that the nations and communities of the South will be able to carve out the space to develop based on their values, their rhythms, and the strategies of their choice."

At the abortive WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, Bello played a leading role in the teach-ins around the protest events and was later beaten up by the Seattle police. He was detained again by the Italian police and nearly run over by a police car at the 2001 G-8 summit in Genoa. He also played a key role in civil society circles in elaborating the strategy to derail the WTO Ministerial in Cancun in September 2003.

He has also played a leading role as an environmentalist, and is former chairman of the board of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. His 1998 book A Siamese Tragedy, documenting the environmental destruction of Thailand, became a bestseller there and won praise from former Thai Prime Minister Anand Oanyarachun. It received the Chancellor's Award for best book from the University of the Philippines in 2000.

Bello has campaigned for years for the withdrawal of US military bases in the Philippines, Okinawa and Korea, and has helped set up several regional coalitions dedicated to denuclearisation and demilitarisation, and a new kind of security plan based on meeting people's needs.

After September 11 2001, he was a leading voice from the South urging the USA not to resort to military intervention – which he believed would exacerbate the problem – but to tackle the root causes of terrorism in poverty, inequality, injustice and oppression. In March 2002, he led the peace mission to the southern Philippine island of Basilan, where the US army recently sent their special forces. He was also one of the leaders of a peace mission of Asian parliamentarians and civil society activists that visited Baghdad in March 2003 in a last-ditch effort to stop the US invasion of Iraq.

Bello's current and immediate past roles include:

  • National Chair Emeritus and National Chair of the party Akbayan, one of the fastest growing parties in the Philippines, which has two members in the National Assembly.
  • Professor of sociology and public administration at the University of the Philippines.
  • Executive director of Focus on the Global South.
  • Member and former Chair of the board of Greenpeace South East Asia.
  • Visiting Professor in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles.
  • Board member of Food First, the International Forum on Globalisation, and the Transnational Institute.

Bello has won praise for his writing, as the author or editor of 11 books on Asian issues and a range of articles, notably American Lake: The nuclear peril in the Pacific (1984) (co-authored with Peter Hayes and Lyuba Zarsky), People and Power in the Pacific (1992), Dark Victory: The United States and Global Poverty (1999), Global Finance: Thinking on regulating speculative capital markets (2000) and The Future in the Balance: Essays on globalisation and resistance (2001). He won the New California Media Award for Best International Reporting in 1998. The Belgian newspaper Le Soir recently called Bello "the most respected anti-globalisation thinker in Asia".

Contact details:

Walden Bello
Department of Sociology
College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
University of the Philippines, Diliman


The following related statement was issued by Focus on the Global South on December 8, 2003.
The Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize was awarded, on December 8 in Sweden, to Dr. Walden Bello, Executive Director of Focus on the Global South, a Program of Development Policy Research, Analysis and Action which has offices in Thailand, the Philippines,
Switzerland and India.

Awarded annually in the Swedish Parliament, the Right Livelihood Award was founded in 1980 by Jakob von Uexkull, a Swedish-German philatelic expert who sold his stamps to start the fund and felt that the Nobel Prize ignored significant contributions by many from various fields and countries outside the North. The awards are given "to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today."

Bello, according to the Awards Committee, has done such a deed by "playing a crucial and complementary role in developing theoretical and practical basis for a world order that benefits all people." The Committee also credits his work as a human rights and peace campaigner, academic, environmentalist and journalist.

Below is his acceptance speech.

The Future in the Balance

By Walden Bello
(Acceptance speech, Right Livelihood Award ceremonies, Swedish Parliament,
Stockholm, Dec.8, 2003)

I would like, first of all, to express my profound gratitude to the Right Livelihood Foundation for selecting me as one of the awardees of this prestigious prize for 2003.

I would also like to thank the Parliament of Sweden for hosting these beautiful ceremonies today.

My gratitude also goes to my comrades-in-arms and fellow travelers in the movement against corporate-driven globalization, including my wife Marilen, who is here with me today.

Whenever friends, comrades, and colleagues have congratulated me on the occasion of this award, I have told them that in recognizing me, the Foundation is really recognizing the work of everyone in this burgeoning, diverse movement.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the supreme institution of corporate-driven globalization, and the collapse of its fifth ministerial in Cancun on Sept. 14 this year has dramatically underlined the deepening crisis of legitimacy of the globalist agenda.

Less than 10 years ago, our movement was marginalized. The founding of the WTO in 1995 seemed to signal that globalization was the wave of the future, and that those who opposed it were destined to suffer the same fate as the Luddites that fought against the introduction of machines during the industrial revolution. Globalization was going to bring prosperity in its wake, and how could one oppose the promise of the greatest good for the greatest number that the transnational corporations, guided by the invisible hand of the market, were going to shower the world?

But the movement stood firm in the face of the scorn of the establishment during the 1990¹s, when the boom in the world¹s mightiest capitalist engine‹the US economy‹appeared to be destined to go on and on. It was steadfast in its prediction that, driven by the logic of corporate profitability, the liberalization and deregulation of trade and finance would bring about crises, widen inequalities within and across countries, and increase global poverty.

The Asian financial crisis in 1997 provided sudden, savage proof of the destabilizing impact of eliminating controls from the flow of global capital. Indeed, what could be more savage than the fact that the crisis would bring 1 million people in Thailand and 22 million people in Indonesia below the poverty line in the space of a few weeks in the fateful summer of 1997?

The Asian financial crisis was one of those momentous events that removed the scales from people¹s eyes and enabled them see cold, brutal realities. And one of those realities was the fact that the free market policies that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank imposed on some 100 developing and transitional economies between 19\80 aand 2000 had induced, in all but a handful of them, not a virtuous circle of growth, prosperity, and equality but a vicious cycle of economic stagnation, poverty, and inequality. The year 2001 brought us not only Sept. 11. 2001 was also the year for reckoning of free-market fundamentalism‹the year that the Argentine economy, the poster boy of neoliberal economics, crashed, and the US stock market collapsed owing to the contradictions of finance-driven, deregulated global capitalism, wiping out $4.6 trillion in investor wealth - half of the US' gross domestic product - and inaugurating a period of stagnation and rising unemployment.

As global capitalism moved from crisis to crisis, people organized in the streets, in work places, in the political arena to counter its destructive logic. In December 1999, massive street resistance by over 50,000 demonstrators combined with a revolt of the developing governments inside the Seattle convention center to bring down the third ministerial of the WTO. Global protests also eroded the legitimacy of the IMF and the World Bank, the two other pillars of global economic governance, albeit in less dramatic fashion. Anti-neoliberal regimes came to power in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, and Ecuador. The fifth ministerial meeting in Cancun, an event associated in many people¹s minds with the altruistic suicide of the Korean farmer Lee Kyung-Hae at the barricades, became Seattle II. And, just three weeks ago, in Miami, the same alliance of civil society and developing country governments forced Washington to retreat from the neoliberal program of radical liberalization of trade, finance, and investment that it had threatened to impose in the western hemisphere via the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Justice and equity has been one thrust of our movement. The other has been peace. For we never believed the pro-globalization argument that accelerated globalization would bring about the reign of "perpetual peace." Indeed, we warned that as globalization proceeded, its economically and socially destabilizing effects would multiply conflicts and insecurities. Driven by corporate logic, globalization, we warned, would herald an era of aggressive imperialism that would seek to batter down opposition, seize control of natural resources, and secure markets.

It gave us no pleasure that we were proved right. Instead, the movement swung into action, becoming a global force for justice and peace that mobilized tens of millions of people throughout the world on Feb. 15 of this year against the planned invasion of Iraq. We did not succeed in stopping the American and British invasion, but we have surely contributed to delegitimizing the Occupation and made it increasingly difficult for invaders that brazenly violated international law and many rules of the Geneva Convention to remain in Iraq.

The New York Times, on the occasion of the Feb. 15 march, said that there are only two superpowers left in the world today, the United States and global civil society. Let me add that I have no doubt that the forces of justice and peace will prevail over the contemporary incarnation of empire, blood, terror, and greed that is the USA.

Our movement is on the ascendant. But our agenda is massive, our tasks formidable. To name just a few: We have to drive the US out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We must stop Israel from destroying the Palestinian people. We must impose the rule of law on outlaw, rogue states like the US, Britain, and Israel.

But above all, we must change the rules of the global economy, for it is the logic of global capitalism that is the source of the disruption of society and of the environment. The challenge is that even as we deconstruct the old, we dare to imagine and win over people to our visions and programs for the new.

Contrary to the claims of the ideologues of the establishment, the principles that would serve as the pillars of a new global order are present. The primordial principle is that instead of the economy, the market, driving society, the market must be--to use the image of the great Hungarian Social Democrat Karl Polanyi‹"reembedded" in society and governed by the overarching values of community, solidarity, justice, and equity. At the international level, the global economy must be deglobalized or rid of the distorting, disfiguring logic of corporate profitability and truly internationalized, meaning that participation in the international economy must serve to strengthen and develop rather than disintegrate and destroy local and national economies.

The perspective and principles are there; the challenge is how each society can articulate these principles and programs in unique ways that respond to their values, their rhythms, their personality as societies. Call it post-modern, but central to our movement is the conviction that, in contrast to the belief common to both neoliberalism and bureaucratic socialism, there is no one shoe that will fit all. It is no longer a question of an alternative but of alternatives.

But there is an urgency to the task of articulating credible and viable alternatives to the global community, for the dying spasms of old orders have always presented not just great opportunity but great risk. At the beginning of the 20th century, the revolutionary thinker Rosa Luxemburg made her famous comment about the possibility that the future might belong to "barbarism." Barbarism in the form of fascism nearly triumphed in the 1930's and 1940's. Today, corporate-driven globalization is creating so much of the same instability, resentment, and crisis that are the breeding grounds of fascist, fanatical, and authoritarian populist movements. Globalization not only has lost its promise but it is embittering many. The forces representing human solidarity and community have no choice but to step in quickly to convince the disenchanted masses that, indeed, as the banner of World Social Forum in Porto Alegre proclaims, "Another world is possible." For the alternative is, as in the 1930¹s, to see the vacuum filled by terrorists, demagogues of the religious and secular Right, and the purveyors of irrationality and nihilism.

The future, dear friends, is in the balance. Thank you.

Published: Wednesday, October 08, 2003