Monday, April 7, 2008

Picking Sides For Armageddon

Two United Nations conferences, one in April 2008, the other in 2009 will bring into focus the concepts, priorities and strategies guiding the economic growth of developing countries. One is the 12th UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to be held in Accra, Ghana; the other is the UN Conference on South-South Cooperation (CSSC), which will convene in Buenos Aires, Argentina, next year. Both are likely to sleepwalk through or entirely ignore the need for decisions on four key issues that will decide whether the world will evolve towards general peace or face a cataclysmic future:

  • Environment and Development: If developing countries continue to follow the Western model of development, the global environmental impact will be disastrous. There is no way that the three billion people now living in poverty can achieve anything approaching Western levels of prosperity without accelerating global warming, desertification, pollution of terrestrial and marine habitats, and the increasingly rapid extinction of species (which is already at a rate not seen since the dinosaurs disappeared). A new development paradigm is needed, but that is not on the agenda of either UN conference (or indeed, anywhere else) .

  • The Power of China: The growing economic and military power of China is pushing the world into territory that is increasingly hostile to liberal democracy, yet both UN conferences will studiously ignore that dire trend as they celebrate “South-South cooperation for development.” The phrase refers to cooperation among developing countries which now account for some 48 per cent of world GDP estimated on the basis of “purchasing power parity.” Unless there is a creative democratic response to the mutual support system of tyrannical regimes, we face an Orwellian future.

  • The Rich Poor Gap: Despite the spectacular economic growth of a number of developing countries some three billion people remain mired in poverty. The rapid economic globalization supporting the growth is widening the gap between poor and rich in every country, developing and developed. Both UN conferences can be expected to make empty declarations on this issue and do little. Unless the problem is effectively addressed we will continue to have a world in which a rich and powerful global elite will be at constant war with an impoverished and disenfranchised underclass.

  • An Ineffective United Nations: The United Nations is now as ineffective as the League of Nations was in its long final phase. It was not able to prevent the proxy conflicts of the “Cold War” that killed over one hundred million people, nor has it been able to check the commercial and “ethnic” wars that have continued to kill millions every year after the end of East-West ideological confrontation. It has stood idly by as repeated episodes of genocide have occurred in full view of the world's mass media. The UN, as the repository of hopes for the rule of international law, is critically important to developing countries; but neither conference will say much beyond expressing formulaic support for the organization, and meaningless reform efforts will continue, as they have for over a quarter century. Unless we have an effective peace organization, the trends described in the three previous paragraphs will push the world into ever more destructive conflict. With the continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, it is possible for conflicts to escalate rapidly to a scale at which all civilization will be at risk.

The world's governments are unlikely to act on any of these problems. An effective response must come from ordinary people. See my post of 2-20-08 for suggestions on what can be done.

No comments: