Despite this rhetoric from WTO and the UN, the ground realities happen to be quite different. For example, globalization has led to the practice of exploitation of cheap labour in developing countries. A highly publicized recent case is the operations of sportswear maker Nike in countries such as Indonesia and Philippines. Documentary filmmakers have recorded the inhuman working conditions offered to labourers in Nike plants in these countries. Moreover, these workers were never offered medical insurance or prescribed minimum wages. As a consequence of this negative publicity, many consumers in the West have refused to consume products that were manufactured through exploitation of labour in developing nations. While the condition in manufacturing hubs of Taiwan, Thailand and China are not as harsh as in Indonesia and Philippines, they only barely adhere to international human rights standards (Colares, 2009).
So, while global capitalism is further developing the length and breadth of its reach, it benefits certain sections of people while disadvantaging others. While each country has its own set of labour laws that specify the minimum wage and acceptable working conditions and duration of work, it is common knowledge that these laws are easily circumvented. Given that several developing nations do not have robust law enforcement mechanisms and robust democratic institutions to carry out the mandate of the people, there is a case to be made for broadening the scope of organizations such as WTO, World Bank and the IMF. For example, in Southeast Asian nations of Indonesia, Thailand; Asian nations of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and several East European countries such as Belarus, Georgia, and Croatia and to a lesser extent in China, the levels of corruption have increased since the opening up of their economies (Narlikar, 2003). The misuse of public power for private gain is growing into epidemic proportions in developing nations. As of now the WTO is a purely economic institution, restricting itself to facilitating cross-national trade and money flow. If it takes upon itself the responsibility of social justice as well, then the results of neo-liberal globalization would be much different in the developing world. The implication being that along with exempting developing nations from certain WTO rules, a valid claim is to be made for broadening the existing rules as well (Frieden, 2003).
It is a reflection of the unfairness of existing WTO and World Bank policies that there have been instances of protest and demonstration against policies made in these institutions. The issue of globalization and the resultant injustices to the developing world, such as exploitation of labour and degradation of environment, has outraged intellectuals and community leaders in these nations. This movement for an equitable and just economic system is termed in the mainstream media as “anti-globalization” movement. But this is a subtle ploy to undermine the movement, as those involved in it refer to it as the “social justice” movement. Generally, the issue of globalization has divided the world into two opposing camps (Siddiqi, 2006). Government institutions and business corporations from developed countries are predominantly in support of it and they also happen to possess most of the wealth and power. The majority of those opposing it are from the developing world, including the continents of South America, South Asia and Africa. Events such as the World Social Forum are conceived and conducted in the developing world and purport to serve as alternatives to the policies initiated by the World Economic Forum and its allied institutions such as the WTO. It is no coincidence that the WEF takes place in Davos in Switzerland, a country that is a banking haven for the rich. The World Social Forum events that are conducted with periodic intervals are proving to be a great success in invoking the spirit of resistance in the impoverished people of the world. WSF events in Porto Allegre in Brazil and Mumbai in India have seen large participation from people all developing nations. Intellectuals such as Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy (both from India) and the poet Marcos (from Mexico) are at the forefront of the movement for social justice. These developments show the inherent drawbacks in the policy framework adopted by the WTO towards developing nations (Siddiqi, 2006). Unless it recognizes this and adopts a more equitable policy framework – one that caters to the needs of all people including the poor – the relevance and legitimacy of WTO would remain dubious.