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British Columbians have their say about trade.

What do out-of work mill workers, the head of a Victoria-based Engineering firm, a high school activist struggling, for a "free Tibet" and a creative designer for a prominent cosmetic company have in common? All of them, together with close to 150 other British Columbians, have been meeting in 15 communities across the province to talk about how local and international trade affects their lives and communities.

Pacific Peoples' Partnership has teamed up with the Victoria International Development Education Association to organize this round of deliberations, working to bring a Pacific perspective and to ensure that the international dimensions of trade--and our capacity to affect them--are central to the discussion. Participants explore the local, international and ethical dimensions of trade and its impact on people, communities, and economies around the world. Participants work for more than three hours to achieve "common ground"--principles, values, and strategies they feel will build healthier communities both in Canada and abroad. The deliberations intentionally bring together a diverse group of people who differ in age, ethnicity, economic standing, and life experiences. Whether they believe trade is the bedrock of prosperity or is responsible for impoverishing millions, whether they subscribe to a system where business is heavily regulated or feel that businesses will do the "right" thing if allowed to move freely, and whether they feel that the local economy should be subsidized or that local businesses who can't compete shouldn't be treated preferentially. Participants explore varied perspectives, grapple with their contradictions, and consider the trade-offs while working hard to identify any principles and values they might share.

As a methodological approach, public deliberations are unique in their ability to bring together people with divergent views on potentially divisive issues. It allows discussion of issues in a non-confrontational way, focusing on common ground rather than differences. Unlike a debate, where individuals listen for flaws in arguments and seek winners and losers, deliberations assume that Everyone has a piece of the answer and forces participants to listen carefully for points where agreement can be found.

Out of this will emerge a set of policy recommendations that PPP, VIDEA, project participants and others can use in their own efforts to build healthier economies. Moreover, PPP will create a fair trade and cooperative development guide based on the results that we will take into high schools on Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland in an effort to stimulate discussion among young people about the costs and benefits inherent in the international trading system, along with viable alternatives they might want to explore.
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Title Annotation:Programs
Publication:Tok Blong Pacifik
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 22, 2004
Previous Article:New book on gender and fisheries in South Pacific.
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