Open Future NZ 

5 Billion people on planet Earth live in a world where the future is closed. Why?

 printPrint Three Pages   
  Your own knowledge is the powerhouse that makes your personal input valuable.  

Worldwide Engagement by John S Veitch

We do live in a global world. When I was a child the threat of nuclear war was the proof of that. Forty years later we've recognized the ability to destroy the ozone layer existed in the finger of each person who used an aerosol can. With regulation, not very well enforced, we might have put that problem behind us.

Now we recognize another self-created danger. The lifestyle of "modern people" is producing pollution of the oceans, consuming far too much of the oil supply, making unsustainable demands on water supplies and changing the atmosphere to such an extent that the climate is changing. The earth cannot provide the resources for large numbers of people living as American's do, nor even for Americans to continue living as they do. We are faced with some unpleasant choices.

World Governance
We have some old instruments that are intended to help in the process of global management. The most obvious of those is the www link United Nations and some of it's 100 plus associated bodies, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the UN Children's Fund are examples.

All of these organizations were designed in a different time, many were intended to solve the problems of the USA and post WWII Europe, and they are not adapted to today's problems. For instance, many UN organizations have a purpose of promoting economic development, industrialization, and the production of food. The record of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization in the last 20 years is rather inglorious.

The IMF, controlled by the USA, enforced the American orthodox economic theory. America has always had one economic policy for itself and another for the rest of the world. China to prove the point has succeeded by ignoring the IMF and American advice. Widespread disrespect for the idea of world governance is real. That is a view promoted by the politicians of powerful nations, who usually have no democratic legitimacy themselves. We are told that all power corrupts, and it's not hard to see where power is abused. Everywhere.

The United Nations
When the United Nations was formed it was created to accommodate the needs of the five permanent members, by giving them a Veto Power in the security council. From the beginning the UN was not a democratic body. Nor of course can it be "democratic" if each country has one vote, regardless of size. We badly need an organization like the United Nations, but it does need to be genuinely democratic. The world badly needs some form of world government that really works.

I don't have a magic wand. Perhaps a two house system is needed. A General Assembly of representatives based on population, maybe 2000 representatives. A General Congress, of perhaps 500 members based on the financial contributions various nations make to the United Nations. A Security Council with no veto powers, but with the power to pass a problem to the General Assembly for guidance.

International Law
We need to ability to make LAW, that applies to every country, and to establish courts to enforce that law. I don't see how the environmental protection or international trade can be defended in any other way. For instance in the case of world trade, it seems to be in the interest of every trading nation to agree to trade on certain terms and then to find ways to cheat. Protectionism and subsidies are everywhere, but they are usually hidden from view. This cheating isn't trivial, it makes poor people poorer and it leads to a misuse of assets, resources and capability. That makes us all less empowered.

There are over 70 tax havens around the world. What are they for? Yes, they are a source of income for small and poor, often corrupt, island nations. But if the world really encouraged free and fair trade, and if there really was proper aid to underdeveloped countries they wouldn't need to engage in black market methods of making a working economy. Tax havens are tools of people engaged in illegal activities, from arms trading, to slavery and people trading, to good old tax evasion and of course the production and distribution of illegal drugs. So why do we allow this to carry on? Because, I guess, many of the world's wealthy elite use these tax havens and the associated banking systems to hide their money and their illicit dealings from view. The purpose of tax haven is to obscure the truth about assets and transactions in order to achieve some advantage that would otherwise be illegal. In my view tax havens are criminal enterprises helping other criminal enterprises and need to be closed down.

Basic Necessities Neglected
On the 10 December, 2008, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was observed. The UDHR says that; "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". But sadly, human trafficking, child labour, extra judicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture, administrative harassment and false accusation by officials are still everyday events. In the Security Council, permanent members commonly use their veto power to deny the provision of human rights to some people.

We live in a world with more than 7 billion people, 20% of whom live in severe poverty. Everyday problems include lack of food, lack of clean drinking water, lack of sanitation and no access to drugs and medicine in any legitimate way. The Millennium Goals that were a solemn commitment in the year 2000 will not be met. The political will to change this situation doesn't exist. This is a feeding base for discontent, and the war on terror, has compounded the problem.

The 8 Millennium Goals

GOAL 1: ERADICATE EXTREME POVERTY & HUNGER

GOAL 2: ACHIEVE UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION

GOAL 3: PROMOTE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER WOMEN

GOAL 4: REDUCE CHILD MORTALITY

GOAL 5: IMPROVE MATERNAL HEALTH

GOAL 6: COMBAT HIV/AIDS, MALARIA AND OTHER DISEASES

GOAL 7: ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

GOAL 8: DEVELOP A GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT

Forces of Political Change

We've seen the government of Iceland change. There will be more changes of government in Europe as countries are unable to sustain international payments, and joblessness mounts. There are already public protests and sometimes riots in the street.

I fully expect the changes will be much more profound. I can imagine BOTH the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the USA being swept away. In this hour of need the Republicans are playing the old political game of obstruction demanding reduced taxation and "pork" for their own district. The Democrats are committed to their financial backers, the same Wall Street power brokers who created this depression. President Obama hasn't the political strength to nationalize the big banks. That's probably a fatal mistake that means the stimulus package will take years to work.

When faced with riots in the street, other countries will hold elections, find a new direction and avoid self destruction. In New Zealand the National Party, seems to have no idea what's happening. They are trapped with a philosophy that's 30 years old and is now beyond it's "use by date". They are probably just typical of most governments in the world. We are in stormy financial seas and nobody has a plan to calm the sea, so they will focus on saving each ship. If trade restrictions begin, the game changes to "devil take the hindmost". That has the potential to make the depression last more than ten years.

When faced with riots in the street, some countries will resort to oppression, imprison lots of people and essentially create authoritarian government under emergency regulations. I think we need a democratic world if we are to solve our problems. Reliance on military rule is a step backwards we should try to avoid.

A new Bretton Woods agreement

The United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, commonly known as Bretton Woods conference, was held in July 1944. The main idea was to encourage economic development, open markets, and to establish a framework for international currency transaction and exchange rates. The Conference set up the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and much later (1995) the World Trade Organization was added. The USA has veto powers in both the World Bank and the IMF. (For instance, the IMF insists that other countries hold their foreign reserves in US Dollars.) This system broke down when the USA went off the Gold Standard in 1971.

"John Maynard Keynes proposed the International Credit Union as a way to regulate the balance of trade. His concern was that countries with a trade deficit would be unable to climb out of it, paying ever more interest to service their ever greater debt, and therefore stifling global growth. The ICU would effectively be a bank with its own currency (the "bancor"), exchangeable with national currencies at a fixed rate." [Source Wikipedia]

The system where the US Dollar is the reserve currency of the world is unfair and outdated. The USA will object, but the system needs to be changed. One alternative might be to use a small basket of currencies, but Keynes's idea of a "bancor" makes excellent sense.

Please feel free to comment on this essay.(0) Comments