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EQUITABLE DEVELOPMENT: THE RISKS OF INACTION

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GENEVA, May 12 2008 (IPS) - (IPS/South Centre) There is much to celebrate in the growth and development of the South in recent years, from the ability of certain Latin American countries to avoid dependence on the North to the growth of the economies of certain Asian countries whose increasing sovereign wealth is now being tapped to bail out distressed banks in the North. While there are signs of growth in Africa too, the continent is worse off than the rest of the South, writes Yash Tandon, Executive Director of the South Centre. In this article, Tandon writes that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not being met, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where at the current rate universal access to a minimum set of social services will only be achieved in 2108, almost a hundred years later than the target date of 2015 set by the MDGs. The risks of not acting are grim. We may witness increasing misallocation of global resources, a growing financialisation of the economy and greater risk of systemic collapse, an increase in what is most accurately described as a recolonisation of Africa by welfare and aid agencies, and increasing migration from the South to the North, and within the South from the poor to the rich countries, as a response to economic distress arising from marginalization and climate change.

Despite this progress, however, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are not being met, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where at the current rate universal access to a minimum set of social services will only be achieved in 2108, almost a hundred years later than the target date of 2015 set by the MDGs.

Africa is still heavily dependent on aid from the North, which makes the continent hostage to policy priorities decided by the donor community and the dominant institutions of global economic and financial governance.

Hunger continues to stalk the South, and especially in Africa, which has gone from being a food self-reliant continent to a net food importer.

In many parts of the South, and not just in Africa, the prospect of industrialisation has receded. Indeed the last twenty years have seen a de-industrialisation and now even deagriculturalisation of many parts of the South.

At the systemic level, despite strenuous efforts by the countries of the South to reform the United Nations system to advance equitable development, the process is being subverted by powerful vested interests that will not allow even modest alignment of, for example, the Security Council to reflect the present-day geopolitical reality.

The increasing out-datedness and irrelevance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to today’s development challenges is clear, but the reforms undertaken in recent weeks to the system (the voting formula in the IMF, for example) do not address the fundamental problems of the precariousness of the global financial architecture.

The Doha Development Agenda of the World Trade Organization is not living up to its name as a new resurgence of neo-mercantilism and protectionism from the North subvert fair trade principles and decrease trade policy space for the South.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has made some progress in introducing a developmental dimension to the agenda. Yet the implementation of that agenda is facing powerful opposition, and the whole system of production and dissemination of knowledge that is the basis of innovation and technology remains hobbled by monopolistic practices of global corporations.

Finally, we cannot forget the overarching challenges to sustainable development that climate change poses, including to food security and sovereignty, livelihoods, and in many cases outright survival. Developing countries will be adversely affected the most by climate change, yet the South needs support from the North for adaptation, financing, and technology sharing under the UN Climate Change Convention and the North’s responsibility to effectively mitigate the emissions that contribute to climate change continue to be unfulfilled.

At the systemic level there are still many formidable obstacles to change towards a more equitable and just world, which requires urgent collective action by the global community:

– The three pillars set by the UN reform process — security, development, and human rights — are interdependent; none can be sacrificed for the others.

-MDGs are not simply a numbers game. The statistization and monetization of MDGs mask systemic and structural malaise behind these issues and divert attention from them. What led to the MDGs was the development failure in 1990s. That condition has not changed.

-The Washington Consensus is dead, and therefore there is need for fresh thinking on development and financial architecture.

-Aid and charity are the wrong way towards addressing systemic and developmental issues, especially of Africa.

-The United Nations, imperfect as it is, is nonetheless the only truly global intergovernmental system we have, and we need therefore to work through it.

The risks of not acting are grim. We may witness increasing misallocation of global resources, arising out of a growing tendency on the part of global corporations to put profit before development and the environment. We may witness an increasing financialisation of the economy and greater risk of systemic collapse. The subprime mortgage crisis is deeper than it appears on the surface and is still continuing, and there is a huge dislocation between the real values of assets and their collaterised prices. There may be an increase in what is most accurately described as a recolonisation of Africa by welfare and aid agencies. And we may witness increasing migration from the South to the North, and within the South from the poor to the rich countries, as a response to economic distress arising from marginalization and climate change.(END/COPYRIGHT IPS/SOUTH CENTRE)

 
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