Friday, 21 December 2007

Global democracy as a realistic perspective of foreign policy

Global public policies increasingly affect the lives of people around the world. From trade agreements to a new treaty on climate change, from UN sanctions against Iran's nuclear program to peacekeeping in Darfur, global public policy has become too important to bypass the democratic process. That’s the starting point of a new book by Didier Jacobs, Global Democracy: The Struggle for Political and Civil Rights in the 21st Century. The author is special advisor to the President of Oxfam America. The book's bumper-sticker version is: “One person, one vote for global public policy decisions!”

The book develops that slogan as:
* A long-term vision for foreign policy to promote peace and prosperity, with a time horizon of several decades.
* A vision that can be achieved through incremental steps; the struggle for global democracy is already under way. The book is relevant to today's foreign policy debates. For example, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, Rudy Giuliani, endorses the book's cornerstone medium-term proposal: opening NATO membership to any countries in the world that meet “minimum standards of good governance, military readiness, and global responsibility.”
* A vision that fits the trends of shifting power in world affairs: rising power of the “global middle class” (e.g., Brazil, Russia, India, China); pressure from the so-called “anti-globalization movement” gathering those who feel disenfranchised; and the ideological dominance of the “global upper class”: global democracy is all about civil and political rights – the creed of Americans and Europeans.

The first part of the book is geared to political scientists. It challenges the “global governance” literature, which oversells the merits of “transparency, accountability and participation” to fix the “democratic deficit” of global public policy. Participatory democracy is a complement, not a substitute, of representative democracy. The book proposes a rigorous analytical framework to think of democracy in the international context. The second part of the book is geared to practitioners of international affairs – government officials, think-tank researchers, NGO activists, journalists etc. With numerous illustrations of current events, it argues that global democracy is both realistic and desirable to tackle the 21st century's global challenges in the areas of peace, human rights, economic development, and the environment. The book positions global democracy as an alternative foreign policy doctrine, superior to “realism'” “neo-conservatism”, or “internationalism”. For more information on the book click >>> here.


Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Open letter of social movements to the creation of the Bank of the South

(Eurodad) Coinciding with the signing on December 9, in Buenos Aires, of the South Bank's Founding Act, hundreds of social movements, networks, organizations and personalities from throughout Latin America and the world are presenting to the Presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela, an Open Letter expressing their expectation with regard to the creation of the new financial institution together with proposals intended to ensure that the Bank can indeed contribute to the integration of the region's peoples and the full enjoyment of human and environmental rights and the right to development.

The text manifests the movements' conviction that this South-South entity must break with the experience of existing multilateral organisms such as the World Bank, the IMF, the IDB, and the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), "which are widely recognized today for their non-democratic, non-transparent, regressive, and disaccredited operations". The South Bank must also contribute to overcoming "the negative experience of economic liberalization suffered by the region, with its consequences of ever more indebtedness and the constant draining of capital, deregulation, and the privatization of public patrimony and basic services”.

Among other key points, which build on the proposals presented in June of this year, this Second Open Letter highlights the importance of the South Bank forming an integral part of a new regional financial architecture, which would also include the creation of a South Fund - with the functions of a regional Central Bank, and a common monetary instrument. It also underscores the need for transparency and participation of the social movements in both the negotiating phase as well as the eventual operation of the institution and calls on the Presidents to inform and consult with society and incorporate clear mechanisms of citizen control in the Bank’s establishment.

Entitled For a South Bank Oriented to a Sovereign and Sustainable Development Matrix for the Integration of the Continent in Solidarity, the Open Letter further affirms the need for the new Bank to be an instrument "to safeguard and channel savings within the region, interrupting the recurrent cycles of exaction of national and regional efforts through manoeuvres and deals on the basis of public indebtedness and securities, the subsidization of privileged and/or corrupt local and international private economic and financial groups, and constant backing for speculative transborder capital flows."

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Bali Roadmap: First statements

On the Bali Roadmap decision Friends of the Earth Europe declared:

"The United Nations climate talks in Bali reached an agreement today, but Friends of the Earth Europe has expressed disappointment at the weak content, following many attempts to derail the talks by the United States, Japan and Canada. But the European Union and key developing countries stood their ground on the need to include an agreement that emissions cuts should be in the range of 25-40 percent, as demanded by climate scientists. This provides some indication of ambition but still leaves a lot of work to be done.

The United States and Japanese governments, supported by Canada, shot down strong proposals from developing countries on adaptation, technology transfer, and reduced deforestation. The rest of the industrialised countries failed to reign in their obstructive behaviour.

Friends of the Earth Europe climate campaigner Sonja Meister said: 'The EU woke up too late in these negotiations - they confronted the Bush administration and stayed firm in keeping up the range of emission targets, but they should have done so much sooner and stronger. To bring back the trust and build up much needed momentum, the EU should clearly isolate the Bush administration, take real action at home and accept its fair share of the responsibility for financing the adaptation and mitigation costs of climate change in developing countries.'

Friends of the Earth Europe has called for the EU to step up its commitment and publicly agree to unconditionally reduce its emissions by at least 30 percent by 2020, through domestic action alone. On top of this, huge additional obligations will be needed from the EU and other industrialised countries. The Bali deal does include an agreement on the Adaptation Fund which will begin to deliver funds for developing countries to deal with the impacts of climate change, and an agreement to review how industrialised countries will meet emissions reduction targets in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

The limitations of the deal include:

* Developing countries are obliged to provide verifiable reporting, but will not be given sufficient financial and capacity support to enable them to do so

*Plantations could still be included the deforestation scheme, which would water down its impacts

Friends of the Earth International Chair Meena Raman said: 'Around the world millions of people are already suffering the effects of climate change. People outside the talks have sent a strong message demanding climate justice. This message must no longer fall on deaf ears. We only have two years to build on this weak outcome and develop a just deal which ensures tough action from industrialised countries and assistance for people in the developing world.'"


In a first statement Elliot Diringer, the director of International Strategies at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change said:

"Governments today took a critical step toward an effective global response to climate change. The Bali roadmap leaves open a host of key issues. It doesn’t explicitly nail down the scale of effort needed or the nature of the actions to be negotiated. It puts no one on the hook right now for emission reductions. What’s important, though, is that it lets no one off the hook either. It challenges all governments to confront the tough issues ahead and opens the way for the first time to a comprehensive negotiation of post-2012 commitments.

Two years ago in Montreal, many governments were barely prepared to open an informal “dialogue” on future climate action. Here in Bali, all governments agreed to move past dialogue to negotiations with the very ambitious goal of a new global agreement in 2009. They also implicitly recognized that, in addition to emission targets for developed countries, this agreement will have to allow for other types of commitments for developing countries in order to achieve the broadest possible participation.

With their decisions on adaptation, deforestation, and technology, governments addressed key developing country concerns and laid important groundwork for a post-2012 agreement. Ultimately, these and other elements need to be integrated in a comprehensive package spelling out specific binding commitments for all the major economies. Governments can waste no time if they’re to achieve that between now and 2009.

The critical first step is an unequivocal signal by the United States that it is prepared to negotiate a binding international commitment. Having joined other governments in launching this new U.N. process, the Bush administration must not use its upcoming meeting of major economies to stall or steer countries away from binding commitments. With Congress now well on its way to enacting an economy-wide cap-and-trade system, it’s time for the administration to support mandatory emission limits at home as a foundation for a fair, inclusive, and effective global agreement."

Friday, 14 December 2007

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Delayed debt cancellation hurts Haiti, CEPR finds

Delays in debt cancellation threaten to cost millions in urgently needed funds, and Haiti would benefit from immediate debt relief instead, according to a new paper from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). The paper, Debt Cancellation for Haiti: No Reason for Further Delays, notes that Haiti is supposed to have most of its debt cancelled under the IMF and World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative, but this process is still in its early stages, and is likely to fall behind schedule. The delays could have tragic consequences for Haiti, which is the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere and has a life expectancy of 53 years.

"Because of the endemic dire poverty, the recent hurricanes and other natural disasters, and because of their own role in damaging Haiti's economy through a previous aid embargo, multilateral institutions should cancel Haiti's debt as quickly as possible," said economist Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of CEPR and co-author of the paper. Haiti could receive $464.4m in debt cancellation from the World Bank, and as much as $525m from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) under the HIPC Initiative. Before this can happen, however, Haiti must meet a series of conditions, which have taken previous countries an average of three years to complete. If Haiti's debt cancellation is similarly delayed, it may owe over $44.5m in debt service payments - an amount equal to 26% of the Haitian government's public health budget.

The paper also notes that the track record of IMF conditions placed on countries under debt cancellation agreements has not been positive, and that this presents another reason to cancel the debt immediately, rather than subject Haiti to extended conditionality. Haiti was previously excluded from the HIPC process due to a technicality, and was not allowed the debt cancellation received this year by the other HIPC countries in the Americas. The paper also recalls the World Bank and IDB's role in cutting off funds to Haiti beginning in 2001, which crippled the economy and contributed to the toppling of Haiti's elected government in 2004.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

IDA replenishment: European governments miss major opportunity

(Eurodad) Five days after the EU-Africa Summit, where European governments promised to build fairer partnerships with poor countries they are failing to deliver on their promise. European non-governmental organisations spoke out as European governments gather in Berlin this Thursday and Friday to confirm their financial contributions to the World Bank’s biggest fund to poor countries, the International Development Association (IDA). More than 13,000 people from across Europe have called on their governments to withhold funding from the World Bank until it ends its practices of attaching harmful economic conditions to loans and debt relief, and of funding fossil fuel development.

“European governments should not be taken in by the Bank’s assurances that conditionality is a problem that has been dealt with. Using the Bank’s own figures we’ve found that more than two thirds of loans and grants (71%) from the World Bank’s International Development Agency (IDA) are still linked to sensitive policy reforms on developing countries, mostly privatisation and liberalisation. And stories from communities around the world demonstrate the negative impacts of the Bank’s inappropriate economic policies.” says Alex Wilks, coordinator of the European Network on Debt and Development (EURODAD).

While the World Bank declared its commitment towards combating climate change in Bali, financing for oil and gas remains firmly on its agenda. The Bank increased its support for fossil fuel projects during the past years – by 90% between 2005 and 2006 alone. Investments in renewable energy, which have a double positive result both for climate and poverty reduction, only make up 5% of the budget for all energy projects. “The World Bank refuses to release the information on the overall emissions of the projects financed by the institution”, remarks Elena Gerebizza from Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale (the Italian World Bank campaign). “Many of these projects have had negative development impacts, responding to the energy needs of western governments and benefiting western oil corporations while harming the climate and poorer people.”

European governments are about to miss the final opportunity in Berlin to send a strong signal to the World Bank that they want to see major reform of the economic model of development that is being forced on poor countries. Without the threat of cuts to its funding, the Bank will be able to continue pursing policies that are devastating the economies and environments of poor countries.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Pankaj Ghemawat: The world is not flat

In an important book Harvard economist Dani Rodrik asked some years ago: “Has Globalization Gone Too Far?” Not that far as many globalization enthusiasts and also globalization critics do argue, Pankaj Ghemawat would possibly respond to the question. In a new book, Redefining Global Strategy, Ghemawat who is Professor in Barcelona and Harvard says the world is not flat as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote. Businesses that don’t take into account specific political, cultural, and economic differences are set up to fail. Countering the conventional wisdom about globalization, Ghemawat argues that the world is actually “semiglobalized”. In the video below he explains why.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Leaked draft law exposes weak EU standards for agrofuels

A leaked copy of a new draft law to regulate the use of agrofuels (biofuels) in Europe reveals that the EU will fail to protect the environment and the world's poor, warned Friends of the Earth Europe. The proposed Renewables Directive is due to be launched early in 2008. The Directive will introduce into EU law a mandatory target that all fuels for transport contain at least 10% agrofuels by 2020, and sets out a plan on how to achieve this "sustainably". Friends of the Earth Europe criticises the draft Directive as it:

* Fails to acknowledge the growing international concerns about the impact of agrofuels on the environment and food security and presses on with a mandatory target.
* Does not sufficiently address the knock-on effect of rising food prices.
* Will not prevent agrofuel production from pushing other farming activities (e.g. cattle ranching or other crops) into rainforests or other important eco-systems. The Commission proposes to just monitor the situation.
* Provides no criteria to protect people in developing countries from the negative impacts of agrofuel production. Land disputes, forced evictions, human rights abuses and poor working conditions occur frequently in many countries producing crops for Europe.
* Introduces only limited "sustainability criteria" aimed at preventing deforestation and damage to wetlands but ignores other important ecosytems such as threatened biodiversity-rich savannahs (for example, the Brazilian Cerrado). The criteria are only applicable to crops used as fuels in transport but not for the same fuels used to produce electricity.
* Prevents EU member states from introducing stronger criteria at a national level.

The European Commission is expected to define the greenhouse gas savings that an agrofuel would have to meet - compared to fossil-based fuels - in order to be supported by the EU. However the leaked draft is still missing this figure, indicating continued internal disagreement within the Commission.

Bank of the South must learn from World Bank’s failures

The Bank of the South, a multinational funding institute is inaugurated today by seven Latin American nations to finance regional development projects. The seven participating members are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. Seven presidents attend the official launch: outgoing Nestor Kirchner of Argentina; Hugo Chávez from Venezuala; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva from Brazil; Rafael Correa from Ecuador; Evo Morales from Bolivia; Tabaré Vázquez from Uruguay and Nicanor Duarte Frutos from Paraguay. If lessons from past World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) failures are learned, the launch of the Bank of the South represents a strong opportunity to combat Latin American poverty, according to the international anti-poverty agency, ActionAid.

The South can lead in making the world financial system more democratic by implementing its voting system giving equal votes to member countries. “Latin American countries are breaking new ground by discarding the discredited one dollar one vote model of the World Bank and IMF in favour of equal votes for all participating countries,” says Anne Jellema, ActionAid International policy director. The Bank of the South could be also a strong tool to reduce poverty and inequalities in Latin America. “We call on the new bank to take into account the disappointing track record of big infrastructure projects funded by the World Bank and not focus heavily on financing such projects as has been announced by several member states, ActionAid points out. “Focusing on social policies would have a stronger impact for millions of poor people residing in Latin America, and would give Latin American leaders the credibility to support poverty-related policies worldwide”.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

NGOs warn trade ministers not to undermine climate talks

International NGOs such as development agency Oxfam welcomed a long overdue meeting of trade ministers in the sidelines of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Bali over the weekend to discuss how trade policies can contribute to, and not undermine, action on climate change. The meeting has been convened by the Indonesian government. Trade ministers from 30 countries, including the US, EU, Brazil, India and China, will discuss cross-cutting trade-related climate issues such as the liberalisation of "climate-friendly" technologies, and "mutual supportiveness" between the WTO and the UNFCCC regimes. However, the meeting has been seriously compromised by a proposal from the US and EU that uses the climate crisis to push for their trade liberalisation schemes heavily criticised at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This is a double whammy for poor countries. Not only are poor people bearing the brunt of climate change caused by industrialised nations, but rich countries are now also seeking to boost their exports by opening up developing countries' markets.

The US and EU have billed their proposal to eliminate tariff and non tariff barriers on a range of goods and services that can have environmental uses as bold and new, but according to Oxfam, it is neither. "The UN conference on climate change is being used as a pretext to dust off old proposals that haven't gotten anywhere at the WTO," said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand in Bali. "A high priority for action on climate change is support of developing countries to access affordable and clean technology and to develop technology that is most appropriate to the challenges they face. But rich countries have done little to honour their commitments." The proposal would open up developing country markets to goods that are mainly produced in rich countries. The list contains products and services, such as medical, surgical or laboratory equipment and sanitation services, with uses that extend beyond environmental benefit and certainly beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Also, green technologies developed in rich countries can be too expensive and are not always the most appropriate for developing countries.

Friends of the Earth International President Meena Raman said: "This informal trade ministerial taking place behind closed doors on the sidelines of climate talks is deeply worrying. What the climate negotiations need is trust and transparency. The World Trade Organisation's anti-poor, anti-environment agenda must be kept out of the UN climate process." The proposal of the United States and the European Union tands to benefit business interests especially in rich countries rather than people affected by climate change in the developing world, according to FOE International. Meena Raman added: "Technology transfer is not about reducing trade barriers. If the EU and US were serious about helping developing countries tackle climate change, they should be radically reducing their own emissions and living to up their obligations by paying their climate debts. This includes the costs of adaptation and mitigation, including technology transfer and forest conservation. Instead, we see them pushing intellectual property rights onto the poor that block the transfer of desperately needed environmental technology."

The WWF urges the need to explore how the global financial and trade systems can contribute to combating climate change. Global financial and trade systems are important but only means to sustainable development and serve those larger objectives of common global concerns. Those include to overcome effectively the current climate crisis which if not effectively addressed will put the world and especially its most vulnerable communities into jeopardy. Communities and countries who should ideally benefit from global trade and finance transactions. The WWF recognizes that this was the original idea behind the initiative by the Indonesian Government to organize dialogues between selected ministers of trade and finance on climate change issues. The WWF is, however, concerned that governments are not ready to have such a free exchange of ideas, rather it seems that certain governments will try to misuse the climate talks to further their usual agenda on e.g. trade issues as reflected in some of the Doha and other disputes.

In order to achieve the goal of addressing climate change trade and finance ministers should clearly frame the discussion in terms of finding ways and means to address climate change through financial and trade mechanisms in a way that promotes sustainable development and equity. The WWF proposes the following issues:

1. As an outstanding and urgent issue for the current negotiations, technology and finance for Mitigation and Adaptation are key Building Blocks for a post-2012 global climate framework. Without speedily scaling up the efforts to provide substantially new and additional resources to developing countries, support for a truly global low carbon trajectory and meeting the needs of the poor will fail. Therefore, industrialized countries’ Trade and Finance ministers need to provide adequate and predictable mechanisms required in the context of a Bali Mandate and beyond. Equity, fairness, monetary capacity and current as well as historic responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions requires this as a fundamental non-negotiable precondition for global trust and confidence building among all nations, a prerequisite for success for the next two years of climate negotiations which need an encouraging sign by the rich countries’ F & T ministers at the Bali talks.
2. Trade policies can be used to increase the market share of energy efficient and low carbon technologies such as renewable energies. Policies should then be implemented in such a way that it reflects global priorities rather than narrow national (or regional) interests. The EU decision to limit the import of low cost energy saving light bulbs from China on the basis of “anti-dumping” is an example of how policy should not be implemented.
3. Proposals should be developed in cooperation between proponents from Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries in order to increase the potential to reflect common interests. The proposal by the U.S. and EC for Liberalizing Trade in Environmental Goods and Services in the WTO Negotiations enforces polarization between Annex1 and non-Annex1 countries where transcendence is needed.
4. Public subsidies of fossil fuels contribute to a lock-in into a carbon-intensive energy system. It is therefore necessary to start a process to shift public investments away from fossil fuels towards low carbon, highly-efficient and sustainable technologies. This should occur while ensuring that the cost is not shifted onto the poor who are often dependent on fossil fuel energy for daily needs.
5. Public financial institutions should reflect the interests of broad society. Internationals Financial Institutions and Export Credit Agencies should therefore phase out investments in fossil fuels and increase investments in energy saving, renewable energy and sustainable low carbon technologies.
6. The democratic control of public finance managed by International Financial Institutions and Export Credit Agencies should be strengthened. This should happen through an increased role for national parliaments and increased public participation and transparency (good governance).
7. Public procurement can make an important contribution to stimulating green technologies to move out of the start-up phase. Governments should move to 100% green procurement.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Venezuela is not Florida: Chavez’s immediate concession

This blog is called ‘The European Civil Society Round-Up’. But this time we prefer a US citizen to comment. It’s Mark Weisbrot

Last Monday, with less than 90 % of the vote counted and the opposition leading by just 50.7% to 49.3%, President Chavez congratulated his opponents on their victory. They had defeated his proposed constitutional reforms, including the abolition of term limits for the presidency. No one should have been surprised by Chavez's immediate concession: Venezuela is a constitutional democracy, and its government has stuck to the democratic rules of the game since he was first elected in 1998.

Despite the non-renewal of the broadcast license for a major TV station in May - one that wouldn't have gotten a license in any democratic country - Venezuela still has the most oppositional media in the hemisphere. But the U.S. media has managed to convey the impression to most Americans that Venezuela is some sort of dictatorship or near-dictatorship.

Some of this disinformation takes place through mere repetition and association (e.g. "communist Cuba" appearing in thousands of news reports) -- just as 70% of Americans were convinced, prior to the Iraq war, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the massacres of September 11. In that case, the major media didn't even believe the message, but somehow it got across and provided justification for the war.

In the case of Venezuela, the media is more pro-active, with lots of grossly exaggerated editorials and op-eds, news articles that sometimes read like editorials, and a general lack of balance in sources and subject matter.

But Venezuela is not Pakistan. In fact, it's not Florida or Ohio either. One reason that Chavez could be confident of the vote count is that Venezuela has a very secure voting system. This is very different from the United States, where millions of citizens cast electronic votes with no paper record. Venezuelan voters mark their choice on a touch-screen machine, which then records the vote and prints out a paper receipt for the voter. The voter then deposits the vote in a ballot box. An extremely large random sample - about 54% - of the paper ballots are counted and compared with the electronic tally.

If the two counts match, then that is a pretty solid guarantee against electronic fraud. Any such fraud would have to rig the machines and stuff the ballot boxes to match them - a trick that strains the imagination.

In 2007, Venezuelans once again came in second for all of Latin America in the %age of citizens who are satisfied or very satisfied with their democracy, according to the prestigious Chilean polling firm Latinobarometro - 59%, far above the Latin American average of 37%.

It is not only the secure elections that are responsible for this result - it is also that the government has delivered on its promises to share the nation's oil wealth with the poor and the majority. For most people - unlike the pundits here - voting for something and actually getting what you voted for are also an important part of democracy.

The Bush Administration has consistently sought regime change in Venezuela, even before Chavez began regularly denouncing "the Empire". According to the U.S. State Department, Washington funded leaders and organizations involved in the coup which briefly overthrew Chavez's democratically elected government in April 2002. The Washington Post reported this week that the Bush Administration has been funding unnamed student groups, presumably opposition, up to and including this year.

Venezuela must be seen as undemocratic, and Chavez as the aggressor against the United States, in order to justify the Bush Administration's objective of regime change. As in the run-up to the Iraq war, most of the major media are advancing the Administration's goals, regardless of the intentions of individual journalists.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. (www.cepr.net).

GCAP calls for an end to unfair trade deals at Africa-EU summit

On the eve of the Lisbon Summit aimed at approving a new Joint Africa-EU Strategy, European and African members of the world’s largest anti-poverty alliance, the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), warn Heads of State not to build the new strategy on unfair trade deals. Campaigners call on the leaders to build Africa-Europe relations based on pro-development trade justice rather than unfair free trade. They also ask them to include civil society inputs, which foster greater ownership of the strategy by the people it directly affects. “Fair and equitable trade must be a fundamental component of relations between Europe and Africa if poverty is ever to be addressed. Yet, the new EU-Africa Strategy suggests that trade relations should be built on free trade and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs),” said Thomas Deve of GCAP Africa, Zimbabwe. “EPAs are being negotiated outside the framework of the Africa-EU Strategy, under a timeframe imposed by the European Union (EU) that will leave poor countries in Africa worse off.”

Civil society groups in Africa and Europe have, for months, loudly criticized the devastating effects these trade deals will have by taking away people’s rights, undermining and decimating the livelihood of African small-scale farmers and producers, as well as disrupting trade and regional integration processes in Africa. “Trade agreements should not limit the development policy choices for any country,” said Christophe Zoungrana, GCAP Africa Coordinator. “There is little partnership, consultation and strategising grounded in African priorities or fundamental trust in the trade negotiation. We do not believe these trade agreements are fair and we should not build a new partnership between Africa and Europe on such an unfair basis.”

GCAP calls on the EU to lift the deadline imposed on the EPAs negotiations (31 December) and to allow more time to explore pro-development alternative deals. Secondly, GCAP calls on the EU not to penalize countries using import tariffs if they fail to sign the EPAs. Finally, the alliance wants to see an end to the use of development aid as a bargaining tool for trade and investment agreements. Civil society movements involved in the consultation process leading to the new EU-Africa Strategy complain that this has not been inclusive, that the objectives of the new strategy are too vague and that adequate resources have not been allocated for implementation.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

OECD governments failed to manage globalization fairly, unions say

On the occasion of a meeting between trade union leaders and OECD Ambassadors, unions have called on OECD governments to rebalance growth among OECD regions, to reverse growing income inequality, to regulate financial markets and to live up to their promises of supporting development in developing countries. These calls are included in statements from the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) to the OECD’s Economic Policy Committee, and from the ITUC and Global Unions to the recent IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings. According to the statements, so far governments have failed to manage globalisation adequately or to ensure workers an equitable share of economic growth. That much is evident from the falling share of wages as a proportion of national income throughout the countries of the OECD. While a small segment of the populations of these countries are pocketing huge gains, the vast majority of working people have seen stagnant real wages over the last decade. In the US, for example, which may now be heading towards a serious economic slow-down, median real wages are lower today than they were in 1999.

OECD governments must therefore commit themselves to achieving a more just and sustainable global economy. And they must ensure that globalisation progresses in an inclusive way that benefits not only the already developed countries and a few emerging economies, but in a real way delivers economic and social progress to over one hundred developing countries still in desperate need of development, and without which they won’t be able to lift their people out of poverty. “Promises were made at the G8 summits in Kananaskis and Gleneagles to assist and to help developing countries” said Guy Ryder, ITUC General Secretary. The results to date are far from enough to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) or progress the Decent Work Agenda. Governments must live up to their promises and report on the measures that have been and will be taken in order to fulfil these commitments. A greater number of low-income countries must be granted debt cancellation without economic policy conditionality, such that they can devote more resources to achieving the MDGs rather than servicing unsustainable debts.

John Evans, TUAC General Secretary commented that, "The phenomenal growth of credit derivative markets and of 'alternative' investment funds in the past four years has been regarded by the OECD as a positive development in spreading and mitigating financial market risks. The recent sub-prime financial crisis proved the opposite. The rapid transformation of the hedge funds and private equity industry from a niche to a mainstream business has not been matched by comparable changes in national regulations and international cooperation. Central Banks' short term monetary reaction to the sub-prime crisis, necessary as it is, leaves unaddressed the existence of large gaps in the regulatory coverage of global financial markets. These gaps come at a cost for the real economy and its workers."

The TUAC statement to the OECD emphasises that governments must address the lack of adequate regulation of financial markets. Extreme stock exchange volatility and large currency swings again and again hit workers on their job and income security. Governments must step up their efforts to increase coherence and ensure that workers aren’t left to pay the price of such crises whenever they happen. Ryder continued “We see the problems that this can cause for governments when things aren’t going their way: can the US for example keep cutting rates to rescue the financial markets and save their economy when the dollar is getting hit as hard as it is? In our view, this deadlock is the result of flawed policies that have benefited investors rather than working people. - and that unfortunately are being mimicked all around the world.”

William Easterly on Aid and Poverty

Monday, 3 December 2007

Provisional website of the Slovenian EU Presidency

Slovenia, which will undertake the presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2008, inaugurateed a provisional version of its website. Through the www.eu2008.si website it is possible to have access to accreditation applications, meeting schedules and information on Slovenia and the programm of the Slovenian presidency. The official logo of the presidency (see picture) has also been published.