G20 or G192? The global economy needs structural change and not restoration

Posted: July 14, 2009 in society
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Let’s face it: the UN does not represent the people of countries but their governments, and governments in general do not represent their people either. Nevertheless, the tussle represented in the two videos above is an interesting one: it reflects a power differential, that between the political and economic North and South, and it shows a growing unwillingness by the least developed countries (LDCs) to accept it.

It is quite astonishing that the G20 sees itself as a global representative – given that the UN has 192 member countries. Who gave the G20 that mandate for global representation? Certainly not the 172 countries excluded form the swanky club. The UN General Assembly’s Conference on the Economic Crisis certainly seems much more appropriate than the G20 to discuss the economic disaster – not just because 192 nations are represented, but also because it’s the ‘developing countries’ whose populations suffer most from a ‘recession’ primarily manufactured by the US, Europe (in particular Britain) and some other Western governments who were flying high the flag of neo-conservative economics.

While most of the ‘developed’ world can pump billions of taxpayers dollars into troubled banks, the crisis continues to spread across the globe’s South which doesn’t have the clout and means to burden its population with bailout debt. And when this part of the world wants to democratise discussions and target the basic elements of the ‘developed’ world’s financial architecture for drastic reform, they are being told by the ever arrogant US and Canada that they lack the expertise and mandate to demand changes to that system. It is with such flimsy arguments that the West so far has sought to shut out the LCDs of the discussions around international finance.

But whose expertise actually led to the financial meltdown? Whose global institutions (such as IMF or Worldbank) forced structural changes on the least developed countries that the ‘global financial crisis’ rendered unworkable? And who, in addition to practically demonstrating financial incompetence, enforced on those countries unfair trade rules and exposed them to a freefall of some commodity prices and steep rises in others (including those resulting from energy profiteering)? Whose economic model is responsible for more than 1 billion people starving?

With this track record, the West’s hubris and insolence in refusing the LDCs a seat at the table of discussions seeking sustainable solutions to the crisis of the economic world order is not surprising: the West wants to restore the old system it has nicely benefitted from for a long time. For the G20 recovery means business as usual, so the rich can get even richer, the planetary destruction can continue unabated and the domains of power will remain unchanged.

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of The South Centre, an intergovernmental organization that provides research and policy advice to 50 governments of the Global South. Prior to this, he was the Director of the Third World Network, a developing-country organization carrying out research in trade, environment and development issues. He has served as Editor of the South-North Development Monitor and is a member of the United Nations Committee on Development Policy. He sat on a wide array of commissions and boards, serving on the Board of the South Centre (1996-2002), the Helsinki Group on Globalisation and Democracy, the International Task Force on Climate Change (2003-2005), the Expert Group on Democracy and Development, Commonwealth Secretariat (2002-2003), the United Nations Secretary-General’s Task Force on Environment and Human Settlements (1998), and the Working Group of Experts on the Right to Development, the UN Commission on Human Rights. He was educated in Economics in Cambridge University (U.K.) and the Universiti Sains Malaysia, and has authored many books and papers on trade, sustainable development, intellectual property rights, and development.

Byron Blake is an Ambassador to the UN from his home of Jamaica, and serves as a Special Adviser to the current President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel D’Escoto-Brockmann. Blake served at CARICOM (Caribbean Community Secretariat) for almost 30 years, before leaving his position as Assistant Secretary-General, in charge of trade and economic integration. He has also served as an Ambassador to the UN for the government of Antigua and Barbuda, at which time he served as a spokesperson for the G-77 + China, a diverse group of developing countries making up the UN’s largest voting bloc. Blake has a Master’s Degree in Economics from the University of the West Indies.

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