Sunday, 16 November 2008
We need a new world economic order
John McDonnell MP
(This article first appeared on Guardian Comment is Free on Friday)
Barack Obama has decided not to attend the G20 summit convened by George Bush and the lack of involvement by India, China and the developing world in the G7 means that the best we can hope for is that this Saturday's talks are a preparatory session for a more inclusive and wider ranging summit in the New Year.
The timing is just not right to secure anything more than limited agreement on coordinating measures to mitigate the recession – and to set an agenda for the post-inaugural economic summit it is hoped the new president will convene.
Brown and Sarkozy will vie with each other over the weekend for the title of saviour of the global economy, but the reality is that until Obama is installed in the White House and unless China and India are engaged, little will change.
In the meantime, millions of workers worldwide will lose their jobs and homes as the recession bites. Many more people in the developing world will be pushed over the edge of poverty into destitution, with starvation putting many lives at risk. The demand for change, which elected the first black president of the US, has the potential to grow into a demand for change in the system that produces such insecurity and suffering.
Civil society now has a part to play in this transitional period between the G20 meeting and what appears to be the inevitable emergence of a new global institutional settlement that reflects the new world economic order.
Since the post-war world's economic institutions (the World Bank, IMF and WTO) were captured by neo-liberals in the 1970s, they have proved themselves a major part of the problem, not the solution to global economic instability. The same policies that have brought individual national economies to their knees are the policies that these institutions have spread across the globe. They have produced the global crisis.
The globalisation of unrestrained free market, rapacious capitalism by this economic institutional structure has produced inequality and insecurity in the west, desperate poverty in the developing world and a sequence of brutal wars causing immense human suffering. The plundering for profit of the world's natural resources has threatened the very sustainability of the planet.
A new democratically accountable architecture of global economic co-operation is now needed – new institutions pursuing new policies.
Civil society organisations could help set this transformation agenda to focus the minds of the politicians in the same way the popular demand for change after the experience of the 1930s depression created the Bretton Woods settlement. In our own lifetime the Jubilee 2000 campaign forced third world debt onto the global agenda.
An agenda of basic demands from any new global civil society coalition could include:
• A new structure of global economic governance inclusive of China and India and a wider representation of the developing world.
• The establishment of a democratically elected global assembly to scrutinise the policies and operation of the new global economic institution.
• The tackling of destabilising market speculation, through the introduction of a Tobin tax on international currency speculation.
• An end to trade policies and the imposition of trade agreements which are tied to deregulation, liberalisation and the privatisation of public services.
• An end to the policy of global collusion in the operation of tax havens that allow rich individuals and transnational corporations to avoid fair taxation.
• A renewed commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, recognising the productive stimulus this would give the world economy in recession.
• An agreement that every nation signs up to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions on international labour standards so that workers have the basic protections needed as recession sweeps the globe.
With this type of programme we could wrest the process of globalisation from the control of the corporations. The risk of the individual country recessions slipping into a worldwide depression provides the stimulus and the opportunity to create a new world economic order.