- Development & Aid
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Thursday, March 23, 2023
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AMSTERDAM, Apr 1 2005 (IPS) - Today\’s world faces an existential choice between armed security and human security, writes Sylvia Borren, Executive Director Novib/Oxfam Netherlands. In this article, the author writes that armed security means the elite of the world defending its privilege with guns, gates, and walls against the great majority of the world who live in abject poverty. Three figures give us a clear indication of where we are heading: 50 billion dollars a year are spent on aid, 350 billion dollars on agricultural subsidies in rich countries, and 900 billion dollars or more spent on arms. Borren calls for building a deeper democracy and local leadership; creating a national governance system which creates an enabling environment; and providing global justice, coherence, and stability. The Millennium Development Goals can actually be met quite easily if we approach them in a rights-based and gender-based way, eliminating agricultural subsidies and dumping, freeing indebted countries from debt, increasing development to 0.7 percent of GDP, and a number of other actions.
Today’s world is a ticking time bomb, and we do not have much time to de-activate it. We face an existential choice between armed security and human security.
Armed security means the elite of the world defending its privilege with guns, gates, and walls against the great majority of the world who live in abject poverty.
Three figures give us a clear indication of where we are heading: 50 billion dollars a year are spent on aid, 350 billion dollars on agricultural subsidies in rich countries, and 900 billion dollars or more on arms.
With a mere 3 percent of these agricultural subsidies, or 1 percent of arms spending, 110 million children who have never seen the inside of a school could be educated along with the 250 million children who receive virtually no schooling because they are working.
The giant quantities of arms do not lead to a secure world but to a polarised world where desperation and hatred increase, terrorist attacks are more frequent, and in the name of the war on terrorism human rights and civil liberties are increasingly discounted, as if they could be put on hold without a price being paid, and as if weapons could solve the growing environmental, social, and political stress in the world.
The Dutch development organisation Novib is part of the Oxfam group, which works with 3000 local and national civil organisations in 100 countries. Oxfam works towards guaranteeing five interrelated and internationally-agreed rights:
-the right to a sustainable livelihood;
-the right to basic social services (education, health);
-the right to security (from conflict and natural disasters);
-the right to social and political participation;
-the right to identity, i.e., to these four rights even if you happen to be a woman or minority.
To this end, work is needed at three levels: building a deeper democracy and local leadership; creating a national governance system which creates an enabling environment; and providing global justice, coherence, and stability.
At all three levels new leadership is needed: diverse leadership, including by women and youth. Indeed, there is a strong gender element to the choice between armed security and human security, because rape has become a systematic component of warfare.
The most optimistic development today is that new social movements are emerging and coming together in the world social forum and its offshoots around the world.
Democracy means more than voting every few years. A deeper democracy encourages people to build a sustainable local community together that includes transparent power structures and checks and balances. Local initiatives generated by people cooperating to take control over their own lives provide some of the most optimistic scenarios I know of today, even in AIDS and in conflict-ravaged Africa.
These initiatives deserve far greater support. When national plans are slow and limited, local authorities should be able to access finances directly from global funds, whether for education or for the fight against AIDS.
The second level of need is of a national governance system that creates an enabling environment and which also has the courage and the right as a developing country to protect its own vulnerable agriculture and industry and provide adequate health and education for its people.
Too many national governments see civil society as a threat while they let the IMF and World Bank decide their national future. Too many have sold out to multi-national corporate interests. They guarantee no labour tensions in their industrial zones where young girls and women in particular work in abominable conditions and trade unions and journalists are barred.
There is an increasing crisis of trust of leadership in the world, corporate and political. The implementation gap has turned into a credibility gap.
At the global level, much of the thinking about how to de-activate the ticking bomb has been done. The Millennium Development Goals, agreed to by 191 nations at a UN conference in 2000, can actually be met quite easily, and even exceeded, if we approach them in a rights-based and gender-based way, through the following steps:
– eliminating agricultural subsidies and dumping;
– freeing indebted countries from debt;
– increasing development to 0.7 percent of GDP;
– making available medicines for AIDS and malaria.
– making education, which is the most important instrument against poverty and inequity, available for all;
– having the World Trade Organisation set equitable international trade rules;
– designing an international tax system to regulate the movement of capital around the world;
– holding the corporate sector socially and environmentally responsible for their behaviour; and
– controlling the arms trade.
But to do this, three major limits must be overcome:
– the defensive energy put into negotiating minimalist international agreements should be transformed into positive energy for implementation. This means that national and particularly local communities must become actors and not victims of international processes;
– global justice must be done, and be seen to be done, in the Middle East, in Iraq, in Sudan, also environmentally and in terms of labour rights in India, Indonesia, and China; and
– new global structures must be engineered.
The UN system does not solve the situation in Darfur, or the environmental bomb we are sitting on. We need new leadership at the global, national, and local level, more transformative and more inclusive and diverse leadership. And we need it now. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
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