- Development & Aid
- Economy & Trade
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- Civil Society
Saturday, February 4, 2023
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NEW YORK, Jul 1 2009 (IPS) - After weeks of negotiations, the conclusion of the United Nations High Level Conference on the Financial and Economic Crisis (24-26 June) was a huge disappointment. The summit was our opportunity to continue lobbying our demands after the Doha Conference on International Financing.
The power play of most of the rich countries was painfully clear over the three days. Shortly after the outcome document was unanimously accepted, the US delegates indicated that the governance structures of the Bretton Woods institutions would not be bound by it (a rejection of democratic scrutiny) and that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would be left to practice business as usual.
The European Union praised the outcome document as “highly ambitious”, which is cynical indeed when most developing nations feel they have been railroaded into accepting a very weak compromise with only an ad-hoc UN working group to continue the process. Civil society is angry that no concrete bailout measures have been agreed on for the most affected: women and the socially marginalised.
According to the United Nations Millennium Campaign, world leaders spent ten times more money last year on bailing out the financial world than they spent in 49 years on development aid.
The world’s most powerful political leaders are maintaining their disregard for human rights by not taking responsibility for the effects of economic and climate crises that they have caused. The food crisis affects mostly women. Young people around the world with no education, jobs, or hope will turn to domestic and communal violence as their outlet. Forced migration will increase.
The causes and combined effects of the food, energy, climate, financial, economic, and gender crises are becoming clearer every day. Economic growth does not trickle down, but economic crisis certainly does. What is needed now is not the repair of old, failed systems but transformation.
The good news of this UN conference is that there are many transformative solutions being brought to the table, all pointing in the same direction, investment in people: in children through quality education; in decent jobs for decent wages for women in the care-industry; in youth employment; in quality public services, health, education, water and sanitation; in sustainable small-scale agriculture to solve the food crisis; in micro-finance as the basis of local economies and enterprise; in green infrastructure to adapt to and combat climate change, and more.
The International Labour Organisation has just adopted the Global Jobs Pact, which puts employment and social protection at the centre of economic recovery plans. The Stiglitz Commission report stresses the need for counter-cyclical policies. The International Trade Union Confederation and the many civil society actors present support these measures, as do many political leaders from developing as well as developed countries.
This is actually a time of unprecedented consensus: the outcome document of the conference acknowledges the causes and impacts of the present combined crises and adopts some of the above solutions, albeit in a very watered-down form: fiscal and economic stimulus packages, a call for increased adherence to Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments, and the establishment of an ad hoc open-ended UN General Assembly working group. In addition, the financial and economic crises will be the main subject of debate at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly.
The bad news is the notable lack of urgency and political will to move boldly on the many solutions put forward. The citizens of the world have seen the leaders of the developed world act with unprecedented speed and courage to bail out the banks and parts of the corporate sector. An estimated USD 20 trillion has been spent or pledged for those who were most responsible for causing the situation we find ourselves in.
Yet not even a third of the USD 30 billion requested at the UN high level meeting on the food crisis a year ago has been forthcoming to date.
The Stiglitz Commission recommends that just one percent of the stimulus packages of developed countries -which would come to about 200 billion dollars- be spent on the developing world, in addition to ODA commitments. The conference did not accept this recommendation.
In my opinion, the solution is to spend on the kinds of investment in people that civil society, including the unions, is demanding: for sustainable solutions, for development, for human rights, particularly of children, youth, and women. Of the USD 20 trillion, at least half should be invested in people in developing countries.
Unfortunately, the negotiations within the UN have more to do with turf wars about future structures than actually helping people. And the decision that any commission must have at least half women has not been taken.
What must we conclude? The voices of women, the poor, and the millions of trade union members and people organising against poverty are apparently not as relevant as the banks and corporate interests.
Our leaders have provided an upside-down bailout package, most of it going to the economic elite and virtually nothing going to the 2 billion women, children, elderly, and socially excluded at the bottom of the economic pyramid, all of whom are most affected by the crises.
This is the moral leadership crisis we are facing in the world today, and this conference did nothing to improve it. The UN meeting tried, but most rich countries blocked solutions. Women and men living in poverty, the millions of citizens in trade unions and social movements, and the 116.9 million who stood with the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) last year will now have to put pressure on the G8 leaders, who start their undemocratic meeting on July 8. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)
(*) Sylvia Borren, co-chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP) and Worldconnectors.
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