Friday, December 15, 2006

An open letter to the WTO and Pascal Lamy

I have worked in the United Nations to create a free and open stack of technology that will help level the playing field for the world. My employer, Adobe Systems, even spent a considerable amount of time and effort implementing some of the standards from UN/CEFACT using PDF and LiveCycle as the platform. The UN eDocs project allows people to simplify the process of creating the paperwork that must accompany goods in trade. The net results is that more people are given access to the trade infrastructure meaning they now have new chances to participate on a level playing field. Just imagine a world where anyone wanting to ship anything internationally had to pay $100,000 to buy a software program to communicate with the trade network? This should never be allowed to happen but it has in some places. One of the reasons I am excited about Apollo it the possibility it will lower more technology barriers to benefit humanity.

During this process, all of us in UN/CEFACT were aware that our work was needed because time has run out for some people who are being affected by the disparity in global trade created by technical barriers to entering the global trade network. The results are seen in the news - people starving, countries at war over resources and people denied the basic necessities of life.

Like any large committee, UN/CEFACT had hiccups and work had to be kick started a few times. As a Vice Chair, when this happened, I reminded the people involved that time was of the essence given the people who we are working for have no other options. Most ot eh time they complied and found a solution.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has had a mandate to do similar world for all aspects of trade to create a fair and equal playing field for all people to prosper under. Unfortunately, the Doha talks have stalled and there is no schedule to resume certain talks that need to happen. The WTO has got to act now. Every day they delay means another day people live in poverty. I am upset by this and have written a direct letter to the Director General, Pascal Lamy. M. Lamy is going to hold a direct chat in December and I will attend and be say what needs to be said. Here is a copy of that Letter:

M. Lamy:

Thank you for making yourself available to citizens like myself. We understand you have a very busy schedule and are grateful for your time to listen to our point of views. Please consider the following question and statement as two of my top concerns. If you can fix this, I have all I want for Christmas.


I too worked in a chair position for a UN body (UN/CEFACT 2004-2006) and found that talks can often break down. I immediately got everyone back to the table to resume dialog and did not let the process stall. I did this because every day, people are subjected to unfair economic discrimination. My question to you is "what are you going to do to force the talks to resume"?

Now my statement:

Every day the stalled Doha Liberalization talks fail to happen, people die as a direct and indirect result of economic disparities. They die M. Lamy. Men, women, children. They die!! I will invite you and those who sit within the WTO to remind themselves who they really work for. They work for people who do not know they exist. They work for people who do not even understand the system they have set up. They work for those who are too weak and too underprivileged to help themselves. You work for those people who are at most risk to die as a result of your failure to conclude these important talks and implement the policies.

You have a heavy burden on your shoulders and I do not envy you. Sometimes, the bureaucratic path fails when procedures are followed to rigorously and complacency follows. After all, no one in your family or mine will die and paying a few more dollars for gas and groceries is probably acceptable for both of us. But it is not!

PLEASE! Stand up and make a difference. Take control and remind those who need to work that there are consequences of their failure to work. Remind them who they work for and that they have a chance to save lives, both metaphorically and in reality. Lead them well, facilitate the process and make a difference.

I worked for the UN to help these people too. It is a thankless job and not many understand the frank reality of the world of commerce. If you ever need help, issue a call to action and I will be there.

Duane Nickull