G-20 or G-192: Fear of the South

July 20, 2009

The Real News, July 13, 2009

Western governments shutting UN out of global crisis response, as Southern governments question pillars of the world economy.


Developing nations’ appeals unheard at UN Summit on Global Economic Crisis

June 27, 2009

AlJazeera, June 26, 2009

More than 140 countries have agreed on a blueprint to respond to the global economic crisis.

The paper calls for the inclusion of developing countries in finding solutions to the financial meltdown.

But some say the 15-page document is short on specifics, and has been undercut by indifference from the world’s largest economies.

Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner reports from the United Nations.

Is West Undermining Summit on Financial Crisis?

June 19, 2009

By Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, June 17, 2009

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 17 (IPS) – When a Western diplomat was asked whether his country would be represented by a head of state at next week’s U.N. summit meeting on the global financial crisis, his response was tinged with sarcasm and contempt.

We will send only our note takers,” he was quoted as saying.

In diplomatic jargon, “note takers” are equivalent to glorified stenographers who religiously take down everything said at a meeting but have no authority to intervene or take decisions.

The decision to hold a U.N. summit on the global economic crisis was taken by all 192 member states – by consensus – at an international conference on financing for development held in the Qatari capital of Doha last November.

The participants at next week’s summit were expected to be “at the highest political levels”, meaning heads of state and government.

But Western nations have apparently backed out of the decision which they themselves took in Doha.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Asian diplomat told IPS: “The Western states are trying to undermine the meeting by sending low-level representatives.”

“The reason is obvious,” he explained. “The West feels the General Assembly is not the appropriate forum to discuss the global financial crisis.”

“They think the crisis belongs to the World Bank, and more importantly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he added.

Asked if there were any Western heads of state or heads of government scheduled to participate in the summit, Enrique Yeves, spokesman for the president of the General Assembly, told IPS: “None from the West.”

But there are around 30 heads of state and government (out of 192), mostly from developing nations, who have confirmed attendance, he added.

“We (will) have a strong presence of Latin America and the Caribbean – especially from the Caribbean, we have several heads of state and government coming,” Yeves said. “We’ll (also) have a good attendance, I’ve been told, from Africa and Asia.”

“And then, as they have already been said in public, the developed countries, especially the Europeans and the United States and some others, have indicated they might not be represented at the level of heads of state, but certainly at the level of ministers or whoever is the chief of delegation,” Yeves added.

The summit meeting of the General Assembly, due to take place Jun. 24-26, was originally scheduled for Jun. 1-3.

But delegates wanted more time to negotiate the draft outcome document that will be adopted at the meeting.

The negotiating process on the document has been painfully slow and is expected to continue till the eve of the summit next week.

After consultations with the various regional groups, the president of the General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, the organiser of the three-day summit, decided to postpone the meeting from the original date to next week.

Meanwhile, there have been several stories in the mainstream media, quoting Western diplomats as saying they are very unhappy with the left-wing agenda of D’Escoto, a former foreign minister in the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Asked about this, Yeves told reporters Monday: “But let me – because I have been quoted in some of these articles, as well – tell you what I find strange in the last two or three articles that we have seen, is that we keep hearing these anonymous sources quoting diplomats of the developed countries basically saying that the meeting is not a good idea.”

“It’s going to be a failure or that they don’t think it is going to accomplish anything or whatever,” Yeves said. “I would like to make two comments on this particular issue. The first one, it is very difficult to discuss anonymous sources because, you know, we don’t know who said what, and in what context.”

“However, the president (of the General Assembly) speaks for himself – or I speak for myself – on the record all the time, and our record is very clear.”

“And the second part that I wanted to say is on substance,” because the criticisms are strange, because the summit, and the entire process leading to the summit, have been approved by consensus by all 192 member states,” he said.

Thoroughly modern Marx

June 5, 2009

The Real News, June 1, 2009

Part # 1

Leo Panitch: Marx was a realist; the real romantics think you can have capitalism without great crisis.

Part # 2

Leo Panitch: Marx’s theories are seeing new light as the debate over bank nationalization continues

Part # 3

Leo Panitch: Marx, socialism and individual rights

Overhauling Global Finance

June 3, 2009

Alex Wilks | May 28, 2009 Foreign Policy in Focus

The global financial crisis has discredited the financial institutions that played a part in causing it. Discussions of radical alternatives are beginning to flourish, with the world’s governments rushing to consult experts who previously found themselves out in the cold.

If only. In fact many of the same financial experts as a decade ago populate finance ministries, review panels, and talk shows. The commission of experts convened by the president of the United Nations General Assembly represents one rare exception.

This commission includes 18 researchers, politicians, former officials, and activists from all the world’s regions. Their mandate is to recommend “needed institutional reforms required to ensure sustained global economic progress and stability which will be of benefit to all countries, developed and less developed.” The body is popularly known as the “Stiglitz Commission” because it’s led by Nobel laureate and former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz. But it’s most notable for the participation of high-level experts from developing countries.

The commission is slated to release its 110-page report within days to foster public debate and to improve the outcome of the forthcoming United Nations conference on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development.

Clean Break

In much tougher language than we’ve seen from other official bodies this year, the commission wholeheartedly condemns the fundamentals of the mainstream thinking over the last 30 years. The commission’s draft report, released May 21, seeks to bury “previously fashionable economic doctrines, which held that unfettered markets are, on their own, quickly self-correcting and efficient.” It finds that the globalization constructed on these flawed hypotheses enabled defects in one economic system to spread quickly around the world, bringing recessions and impoverishment to developing countries.

The commission points out that inequality has left many people unable to buy what they need, even in richer countries. Working-class people in wealthy nations have gone deeper and deeper into debt, contributing to the severe financial imbalances between nations which were a major cause of the crisis.

Yaga Reddy, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India and Yu Yongding, director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, two of the commission’s members gave a preview of its findings at a meeting my network organised in Brussels. Reddy and his fellow speaker repeatedly stressed that politicians are currently too focused on fiscal stimulus measures, rather than plugging the gaping holes in policies and institutions. Without structural reforms, they warned, the world economy will continue to suffer repeated crises. The Stiglitz Commission appeals, sensibly, for short-term economic stimulus measures to help introduce, and above all not obstruct, required long-term changes.

The commission also points out that at present poorer countries are effectively lending to the richer countries at low interest rates because of the way the global monetary system works.Global financial redistribution is going the wrong way.Now, following a period where private funding was readily available, many developing countries are seeing massive outflows as rich country banks and investors repatriate funds. They can be expected to do little else, having been bailed out by politicians who want to ensure they make money available in their home economies.

Practical and Visionary Proposals

The commission will make a very comprehensive series of proposals — covering reforms to development funding, tax policies, regulation, and environmental investment. Most innovatively, the commission suggests some new structures that are required to make the world economy more stable and equitable.

Developing countries need access to extra sources of funding to plug the hole in their finances which may amount to $200 billion this year for the world’s 40 poorest countries. These countries are facing shocks from reduced investment, remittances and export earnings. The commission points out that countries such as China, which have money available, are reluctant to channel funding through existing multilateral organizations such as the World Bank because they don’t have enough say on the Bank’s board, the institution’s decision-making body that’s currently dominated by the United States, Europe, and Japan. This is the principle of “no taxation without representation,” well-established at the local and national level in most countries, but still lacking at the international level.

The commission concludes that the only way forward is to create a new “facility” to transfer money from richer to poorer countries. But it unfortunately recommends that this new facility might be housed in an existing institution, administered by the existing institution’s staff, albeit under a new kind of governance arrangement. It’s true that — in the unlikely event that significant sums of money are mobilized this year — the most pragmatic way to proceed is the channel them through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, there is a clear danger that giving them more money now will consolidate their power. This is worrying, unless accompanied by a transformation of the Bank and Fund’s governance and economic policy approach.   

The commission recommends building up regional financial cooperation and regional financial institutions at the same time global ones are transformed. This is positive, although the European Union — the most mature regional grouping at the present time — hasn’t excelled itself in dealing with the current crisis.

To address the imbalances and injustices caused by the dollar being the world’s reserve currency, Stiglitz’s group of experts suggests creating a new global reserve system. This is a worthwhile discussion to initiate, but the commission isn’t likely to be very specific about it.

The commission creatively borrows from other policy areas that its members think can teach a sound lesson to finance officials. The Stiglitz experts recommend setting up a “Financial Products Safety Commission” similar to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Rather than assess new medical or edible products, this new body would scrutinize new financial products to see if they are safe to sell to unsuspecting consumers. The approach until now has been different: allow any kind of financial innovation and hope that consumers would wise up or regulators keep up. Many homeowners, credit card holders, and others can see the disastrous consequences.

The commission borrows another idea from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This body of scientists has sounded the alarm on the need to address human-caused changes to our atmosphere, getting ahead of and driving the political consensus. Such a body could now be created on financial and economic issues. The body would produce public reports pointing out issues which need to be dealt with, and give advice to the United Nations General Assembly and other international organizations. If it’s constituted many of us would be happy to propose some of the Stiglitz panel’s commissioners as candidates.

Fearing a new and dangerous phase of the ongoing debt crisis in the next couple of years, the Commission recommends a Foreign Debt Commission, an International Debt Restructuring Court, and a Global Economic Coordination Council, all under the aegis of the United Nations. The latter would review the activities of the World Bank, IMF, and United Nations, as well as regional and other financial institutions, ensuring that gaps are filled and problems identified early.

Implementation Prospects

The commission is slated to release its final report soon. One of the main strategies of General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann when he established the panel was to inform the inter-governmental negotiations for the UN conference on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development, scheduled previously for the first week of June now postponed until June 24-26. And one of the commission’s findings is that decisions concerning necessary reforms in global institutional arrangements must be made not by a self-selected group, such as the Group of the world’s eight richest countries (G-8), but by all the countries of the world working in concert.

The unfolding crisis should provide an opportunity to abolish the G-8, slim down the International Monetary Fund, and bring forward the United Nations as the more legitimate and therefore more effective forum to set global economic policies and priorities. Over the last six months this has looked unlikely, as the G-8 began to expand into the somewhat more inclusive G-20. This sounds more democratic, as it involves many countries with large populations including India, China, and Brazil. But most other countries are left out. The G-20’s view of what the United Nations should do at this time was merely “to monitor the impact of the crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable,” rather than actively do anything about it.

Diplomats in New York are still arguing fiercely over the text that will define the UN conference. Civil society groups organizing around the process have raised their concerns that the conference may prove a major missed opportunity, but are urging heads of state to attend to raise the chances of a success. Several of the Stiglitz Commission’s innovations are already present in the panel’s latest draftalthough there is still much negotiating to be done. A lively public launch of the commission’s findings should help energize public discussions about how to build political will to make a decisive break with the institutions, thinking, and policies that created this crisis.

 *Alex Wilks is the director of the European Network on Debt and Development in Brussels.

Sino-US economic ties ‘crucial’ to world economy

June 2, 2009

AlJazeera, June 1, 2009

Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, praised China’s response to the global economic downturn during his visit to the country.

He also sought to reassure leaders that China’s $1 trillion portfolio of US government debt was a safe investment.

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan reports.

Civil society wants substance, not procedural delays at UN conf on crisis

May 25, 2009

A statement calling upon governments not to take procedural arguments as an excuse to further delaying the substantive negotiations on the urgently needed global policy responses to the current crisis is being circulated to negotiators at the UN. 

Statement on the negotiations about the outcome of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development 

Choike.org May 15, 2009 

Download: Draft outcome document for the June UN Conference on the crisis

1. We are facing a global systemic crisis, which originated in the rich countries of the North, their unsustainable consumption and production patterns and the irresponsible economic behavior of their dominant social actors. The crisis affects billions of people all over the world, pushing many millions of them into unemployment and poverty, and violating their economic, social and cultural rights. 

2. The response of the G20 was not sufficient to address the root causes of these multiple crises of food, climate, financial markets and sustainable development. 

3. The global crisis needs a global response involving all societies that are affected by crisis. Therefore, the United Nations is the only legitimate forum through which the crisis can be resolved. This is the reason why we highly welcomed the decision of governments in Doha to hold a UN Conference on the world economic and financial crisis and its impact on development. 

4. Since the Doha Conference it has taken diplomats in New York more than 16 weeks to agree on the modalities of the “Crisis Conference“. They are responsible for the delay, they are responsible for the lack of time for the substantive negotiations on the outcome of the conference. 

5. Civil Society Organizations and Networks produced comprehensive statements listing their recommendations and demands on how to address the current crisis, starting with the “Civil Society Benchmark Paper” in the run-up to the Doha Conference 2008. 

6. Many of our demands are reflected in the recommendations presented by the “Stiglitz Commission” in March 2009. For this reason we regard these recommendations as a good basis on which to build a new global economic and financial system . 

7. Many of our positions are also reflected in the first draft outcome document presented by the President of the General Assembly (PGA) on 8 May 2009. We understand that the recommendations in this document contain short-term measures that have to be implemented immediately as a response to the current crisis, such as the sufficient funding for a global stimulus package, and long-term measures, such as the establishment of a new Global Reserve System or the proposal for a Global Tax Authority. We agree that the UN conference in June has to come up with immediate responses to the crisis and simultaneously decide on an intergovernmental time-bound process towards the long-term reforms. 

8. In contrast, the draft document by the Co-Facilitators, dated 6 May 2009 neither specifies the necessary short-term actions nor does it contain concrete commitments for longer-term structural reform measures. It mainly reconfirms – by recycling already agreed language – decisions taken at the Doha Conference and the G20 Summits. The policy recommendations in this document lack any sense of urgency. The recommendations on institutional reforms (para. 47) are interesting but, according to the Co-Facilitators, they only “might be considered”. Such a diplomatic phrase makes any recommendation completely useless. If governments agreed on such an outcome document, they would further weaken the UN as the global forum for economic policy coordination and decision making and would completely fail to find meaningful answers to the current crisis. 

9. We understand that under the current time pressure it will be difficult for governments to agree on a comprehensive set of radical reform measures as outlined in the draft of the PGA. But, a consensus on many concrete reform proposals that are on the table can still be reached. Among the decisions that are of high priority and could be taken at the UN Conference without any further delay are the following: 

– The initiative to establish a Global Panel on Systemic Risks in the World Economy, following the model of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, bringing together academics, civil society and policy makers. 

– The decision to upgrade the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation on Tax Matters to an intergovernmental Commission on Tax Matters as a functional commission of ECOSOC by the end of 2009. 

– The political commitment to introduce an internationally coordinated Financial Transaction Tax in order to mobilize additional resources for a short-term Global Stimulus Fund and the longer-term implementation of the Internationally Agreed Development Goals, including the MDGs. 

– The establishment of a Global Economic Coordination Council within the UN system. 

– The decision to review the Agreement between the UN and the Bretton-Woods-Institutions (BWIs) in order to enhance coordination and policy coherence by integrating the BWIs as specialized agencies completely into the UN system. 

10. We call upon governments not to take procedural arguments as an excuse to further delaying the substantive negotiations on the urgently needed global policy responses to the current crisis. 

Jens Martens and James Paul, Global Policy Forum 
Roberto Bissio, Social Watch 
Beverly Keene, Jubilee South 
Andrea Baranes and Antonio Tricarico, Campagna per la Reforma della Banca Mondiale 
Mirjana Dokmanovic, Women and Development Europe (WIDE) 
Gigi Francisco, Development Alternatives wirh Women for a New Era (DAWN) 
Patricia Blankson Akakpo, Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT) and ABANTU for Development (ROWA) 
Josep Xercavins i Valls 
Philo Morris, Medical Mission Sisters 
Aldo Caliari, Center of Concern 
Rudy De Meyer, 11.11.11 
Verena Winkler and Simon Stocker, Eurostep 
Eva Friedlander, IWAC, the International Women’s Anthropology Conference 
Luke Fletcher, Jubilee Australia 
Anne Jellema, Action Aid 
Mark Herkenrath, Alliance Sud, Switzerland 
Klaus Schilder, terre des hommes Germany 
Magaly Pineda, CIPAF, Rep.Dominicana 
Feminist Task Force of the Global Call to Action against Poverty 
Arjun Karki, LDC Watch 
Sarba Khadka, South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication-SAAPE 
Mana Dahal Rural Reconstruction Nepal-RRN 
Edward Oyugi, Social Development Network, Nairobi, Kenya 
Oksana Kisselyova, Liberal Society Institute, Ukraine 
Cartas A. Kapele, Children Education Society (CHESO), DAR ES SALAAM – TANZANIA 
Fernanda Carvalho, IBASE – Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis 
European Network on Debt and Development (EURODAD) 
ATTAC Hungary 
Milan Smrz, Czech section of Eurosolar 
Joseph M. Sammut, Social Watch, Malta 
Christine Andela – COSADER (Collectif des ONG pour la Sécurité Alimentaire et le Développement Rural) – Cameroun 
Marta Benavides – Instituto Internacional de Cooperación entre Pueblos (IICP) – El Salvador 
GCAP – Sudan 
Jubilee Debt Campaign (UK) 
Tom Kucharz, Ecologistas en Acción (Spain) 
Transnational Institute 
Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project 
Dr. Hassan Abdel Ati – National Civic Forum – Sudan 
Malgorzata Tarasiewicz – Network of East-West Women, NEWW-Polska 
AWID (Association for Women¹s Rights in Development) 
Rede Brasil sobre Instituições Financeiras Multilaterais 
Marek Hrubec, Centre of Global Studies, Czech Republic 
Zelená Pro Planetu, Czech Republic 
Henri Valot, Policy Advisor CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 
Professor Aijaz Qureshi: Social Watch Pakistan- IDF 
Zulfiqar Halepoto- Sindh Democratic Forum (SDF) and Social Watch Pakistan 
Nazeer Memon- Sindh Agriculture Forum 
Abrar Kazi – SDF- water expert and technocrat 
Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN) 
Public Finance Monitoring Center 
Women’s Working Group on Financing for Development 
Egyptian Association For Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE) 
CARDET, Cyprus 
National Social Watch Coalition – India 
Action for Economic Reforms 
Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) 
Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) 
Ziad Abdel Samad 
Mariama Williams, Integrated Policy Research Institute (IPRI) 
Yves Conze, Integrated Policy Research Institute (IPRI) 
Carla Bakboord, MSc Cultural Anthropologist, Executive Director Equality & Equity for Gender&Social Development, Suriname 
El Amel Association For Social Development in Algeria 
Women for Change 
Genoveva Tisheva- Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation 
Development Network of Indigenous Voluntary Associations (DENIVA), J.B. Kwesiga 
Network of Ugandan Researchers and Research Users (NURRU), David Obot 
Tomas Tozicka – Jubilee Czech 
Hanaa Edwar, Iraqi AlAmal Association 
David Obot (NURRU), Kampala-Uganda 
J.B.Kwesiga (DENIVA), Uganda 
Hamarneh, Vanda, Syria 
Consumers Association of Penang 
Friends of the Earth, Malaysia 
KOPIN (Koperazzjoni Internazzjonali) Malta 
Instituto Latinoamericano de Servicios legales Alternativos (ILSA) – Colombia 
Klaus Heidel, Werkstatt Ökonomie e.V., spokesperson Social Watch Deutschland/Forum Weltsozialgipfel (Social Watch Germany) 
International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN). 
Rene Suša, Humanitas, Society for human rights and supportive action, Slovenia 
Africa Development Interchange Network (ADIN) 
Sanayee Development Organization (SDO). Kabul, Afghanistan 
UK Coalition Against Poverty. Eileen Devaney 
Baudouin Schombe, Coordonnateur National Reprontic 
Bretton Woods Project (UK) 
FOCO – Foro Ciudadano de Participación por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos 
DECIDAMOS, Campaña por la Expresión Ciudadana, Paraguay 
Social watch Mocambique 
Jiri Silny, Ecumencial Academy Prague, Czech Republic 
Vagn Berthelsen, Secretary General of IBIS 
Sisters of Mercy (of the Americas) 
Marta Scarpato, Consultora sindical, Italia 
Mayalu Matos Silva, Brazil 
Carlos Martinez Garcia, Presidente de ATTAC España 
Martín Pascual, Fundación Cenda, Chile 
CIDEP, Asociación Intersectorial para el Desarrollo Económico y el Progreso Social (El Salvador)I 
Reseau Marocain pour le Droit a la Sante, Dr Aziz RHALI. Maroc 
Antonio J. González Plessmann, Activista venezolano de Derechos Humanos 
WEDO (Women’s Environment and Development Organization) 
Red de Control Ciudadano, Costa Rica 
Secours-Catholique/Caritas France 
Instituto de Estudos Sócioeconômicos – INESC, Brasil 
Lunaria, Italy 
War on Want 
Carlos Martinez Garcia, Presidente de ATTAC España 
Socio Economic Rights Initiaitive/Social Watch Nigeria 
Global Economy Program 
Coordinación de ONG y cooperativas – CONGCOOP 
Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development 
SLUG – The Norwegian Coalition for Debt Cancellation 
African Women’s Development and Communication Network/FEMNET Africa 
K.U.L.U.-Women and Development, Denmark 
Plataforma 2015 y más, España 
Third World Network 
Red Latinoamericana sobre Deuda, Desarrollo y Derechos – LATINDADD 
Women Headed Households Empowerment (PEKKA)

Further Resources: 

UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development

Official Website of the Conference

Breaking News: UN postpones summit over crisis

UN General Assembly postponed the celebration of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development, to happen in late June, sources reported Friday. According to UN spokesperson Spanish Enrique Yeves, recently many delegations asked the President of the Assembly Miguel D Escoto to postpone the already scheduled date of the encounter, since it coincided with other several international events. He also stressed the delegations to participate are still involved in the negotiations on the project of the event, convened by D Escoto, so that the crisis can be intensively debated by the 192 UN member countries. The Summit, previously scheduled for Jun.1-3, will take place on June 24-26, as it stated a missive sent to UN countries member, from the Head of Cabinet of the President of General Assembly Norman Miranda