Strengthening outreach – towards enhanced engagement

The growing global prominence of the WTO – especially compared to the largely unknown GATT – and the increasing public scrutiny of its work, represented one of the major challenges facing the organization over the past 20 years. Almost from the start, the WTO was subject to criticism from an anti-globalization movement deeply suspicious of the new trade body. Protests marred the WTO's May 1998 Ministerial Conference in Geneva and peaked in December 1999 with massive demonstrations at a ministerial meeting in Seattle. The ferocity of the protests, which brought tens of thousands onto the streets of the US city, severely disrupted the ministerial proceedings and came as a shock to both the organization and its supporters. The "Battle of Seattle" soon became a rallying cry for critics of the WTO, who accused the organization of being excessively secretive and insensitive to the needs of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people.

Related Topics: The WTO
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