Speech by Elin Enge, Chair Woman Sophie Foundation

Oslo Sophie Prize Ceremony June 14, 2001

Your Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

I have the great pleasure  of formally announcing, what is now probably quite familiar to you - that:

The international movement of ATTAC
(Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens)
is the winner of the Sophie prize 2001

ATTAC has in the course of the last two years managed to launch and build a unique world-wide movement, now established in 23 countries on four continents, with thousands of members.

This ability to mobilise people is unprecedented in the 90’s. The movement has managed to forge alliances between very different groups of people, bringing together unions, media, ngos, students, academia, farmers, artists and numerous more groups and individuals, around a set of common goals:

  • To challenge the uncritical growth and globalisation of the economic markets and investments.
  • Recapture the space lost by democracy to the speculative economy and the multinational corporations.
  • Oppose any new abandonment of national sovereignty on the pretext of the “rights” of investors and corporations.

In short: Take back the control over the future of our world.

What has caused the growth of this rapidly growing movement?

The dominant litany of the 90`s has been that economic globalisation is inevitable and even desirable as it has been projected to eventually benefit all. The power to dictate this development lies in the hands of the multinational corporations and those that control the financial markets and institutions.

We have witnessed a rapidly growing concentration of global financial control in the hands of few people. The global economic integration of formerly national controlled economies are rapidly undermining democratic structures, both at local, national and international levels.

Economic globalisation is gaining momentum without any noticeable progress towards global governance. To quote the former Sophie Prize winner of 1999, economist Herman Daly; ”Globalisation undercuts our ability to deal with irreducibly global problems such as climate change, because nations with porous borders are not able to carry out any effective national economic policies, including the ones that they agreed to in international environmental treaties.”

We have seen that globalisation without social and environmental responsibility and common rules and regulations allow the powerful to exploit the weak.

How can nations with porous borders carry out effective national economic policies, let alone, socially and ecologically sound policies?
The weakening of nations is causing political apathy and thus also nourishing the growth of anti-democratic movements and parties.

Neo- liberalism is fuelling inequity and marginalisation of the poorest and destroying the environment, thus causing growing insecurity for all.

Approx. 1.600 billion dollars change hands on the worlds money markets every day as speculation on exchange rate variations, in search of instantaneous profit, - without any relation to production and trade of real goods and services.

The Asian financial crisis in 1997 was a resounding wake-up signal to the world. The speculative economy characterised by short-term investments fuelled the crisis. These investors carried no social responsibility for the devastating social after effects. 

The next wake-up call came with the Multilateral agreement on investments (MAI), potentially giving investors extensive powers over governments. The agreement was however effectively stopped, at least for the time being, by massive opposition.

These two events paved the way for the formal launching of ATTAC, that gained momentum in Seattle at the Summit meeting of the World Trade Organisation in 1999, at the World economic Forum in Davos and in Prague. Yet to come is the high-level meeting in Gothenburg taking place right now.

“Another world is possible”, is the common call of ATTAC. The movement is diverse and does not prescribe one single answer or solution. What unites people across their diversities is the call for social justice, equity and democracy, a call for an internationalisation, ruled by social and environmental responsibility.

The Jury of the Sophie Foundation has decided to grant the Sophie Prize 2001 to ATTAC, on account of the movement’s success in:

  • mobilising thousands of people worldwide in a powerful opposition to neo-liberalism, calling for international and democratic control over the financial markets.
  • effectively working together with other network's and social movements, thus building strong alliances that through both education and action can alter development thinking radically, thus giving hope to millions of people who suffer from the adverse effects of globalisation.
  • managing to rekindle a vision of a people centred development and to replace apathy with enthusiasm. Through the mobilisation efforts of ATTAC, people have again started to believe that values such as solidarity and environmental justice, might prevail in an era when the financial marked has become all dominating.

In other words this year's Sophie Prize Winner has managed to mobilise and engage people all over the world for solidarity and justice, in an era otherwise dominated by passivity and greed.
They stood out as a natural choice for the jury as the recipients of this year’s Prize.

It is with great pleasure that I give the floor to the Norwegian Minister of Environment, Siri Bjerke, who will deliver the Sophie prize 2001.