Saturday, July 19, 2014

Open Letter to UN Diplomats

Hey Guys,

I’m writing to tell you what I think of your latest “Zero Draft” of post 2015 Development Goals .

Sorry to be so blunt, but it seems to me you're trying to avoid real issues.

 Take the first sentence. “Poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

That sounds fine, but is it true?

Isn’t poverty just a symptom?

Of what, you ask?

Well, to begin with, of the theft of trillions of dollars from poor countries by corporations that misprice their trade flows.

Then there’s the problem that economists call “commercial wars” that spring from the “resource curse.” (Don’t you just love how economists whitewash grisly realities? It’s as if some great wizard in the sky cursed us with wars that actually result from criminal conspiracies.)

Those little wars are a major cause of extreme poverty. Take the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s one of the richest countries in the world, but also among the poorest because ever since the Europeans “scrambled for Africa” in the 19th Century, they’ve been stealing its wealth under one pretext or other (take a bow Belgian and French diplomats!).

That has happened throughout English-speaking Africa too (British diplomats take a bow!).

In Asia, the theft of resources has happened most often under cover of “Islamic terrorism” (British get the credit again), and in Latin America “Left guerrillas” and “drug lords” have been the fall guys (Americans take a bow!)

Drug trafficking needs special mention as a generator of poverty. It’s a $500 billion a year phenomenon, but most of that money goes to the same rich bankers noted earlier. If you ever wondered why Western bankers get such astronomical “bonuses,” that’s why: they keep the global criminal economy going, to the tune of anywhere between $4 trillion and $7 trillion a year.

Of course, they share it with the people who help them manage that underground economy. Every terrorist group in the world gets a cut: Al Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic Caliphate, Boko Haram, the Lord’s Resistance Army, Naxalites, Neo-Nazis; you name it, they get it. The Colombian drug cartels, the Mexican drug lords and the Central American murder squads all get funded too.

By the way, every one of those terror groups is a major producer of poverty for they make development impossible in many developing countries. The Naxalites we have in India specialize in destroying schools.

The bankers also plough much of the drug money back into other thriving businesses: producing counterfeit items in sweat shops in poor countries, environmental crime, and international trade of women and children for prostitution. The trade in counterfeit items, including medicines, now generates more returns than illicit drugs. The trade in endangered animals and body parts is a nearly $300 billion industry.

None of these “businesses” give non-criminals a living wage; all generate and sustain poverty big time.

I know you guys feel bad about all this and have just the right politically correct statements if the Press should call; but you’re also “realists” who know there’s no use wasting time on problems the rich and powerful don’t want solved, right?

So I know why your “Zero draft” is filled with noble goals like End poverty and hunger, Provide quality education for all, Attain health for all, as well as gender equality, secure water, sanitation, affordable energy, decent jobs, and so on.

Those are all issues poor countries can deal with on their own if they were free from massive theft of resources and constant economic and political subversion.

What we need the UN to do is deal with matters on which the poor have no purchase.

Those problems are not mentioned at all in your draft.

In case you are open to suggestions, here’s what I think the post-2015 Development Agenda should contain:

1. Introduction

The world stands on the cusp of a period of enormous promise. The new and emerging realities of the Information Age allow us to envisage a world in which we can make mass poverty, the threat of climate change and global environmental pollution the fading memories of a bygone era.

To realize that potential we have to deal effectively with the legacy of the Industrial era in which those issues are rooted. The first step in that process is to recognize the systemic nature of all existing global crises, including those already mentioned as well as endemic armed conflict, terrorism and rampant organized crime. They are not discrete problems and cannot be dealt with symptomatically.

The root systemic problem is a global criminal elite that rose to power during the colonial era; a meaningful post 2015 development agenda must disempower and dismantle it. The following goals are oriented to that end.

2. Goals & Implementation

A. Peace: The United Nations was meant to end war. The Security Council was created with its five “Big Power” Permanent Members to enforce action to that end. Instead, the five have become the world’s biggest arms merchants and supporters of war. Over the last six decades the five have promoted endless conflicts in poor countries that have not only killed well over a hundred million people but have drained them of wealth, blocked their development and trapped them in poverty.

To get things back on the track set by the UN Charter Development Goal #1 must be to end proxy wars in developing countries and establish a general peace by 2030.

The UN Secretariat should list all ongoing wars and create groups of independent experts to report on who is supporting them and identify the ultimate beneficiaries. The Security Council should be charged with meeting the 2030 goal and indeed, for accomplishing the larger task of general and complete disarmament. (In case you’ve forgotten, the General Assembly set the framework for such action in a 1961 resolution incorporating the McCloy-Zorin agreement between Washington and Moscow.)

B. Organized Crime: Through most of history, crime has been a local affair. It became global with colonialism and its ancillary crimes against humanity such as genocide, the slave trade and slavery.

When political decolonization set in after World War II, that criminal system disappeared “underground.” That is to say, the Big Powers that control world mass media began to pretend that it was all a deep mystery to them and that they had no control of it. The “war on drugs” is a typical outcome of such policy.

The trafficking of opium and heroin began as a “legitimate” colonial activity in the 18th Century; it was internationally recognized as a crime in 1912 but continued “underground” and became vastly more profitable as colonial Powers enlisted organized crime groups to expand markets and protect their turf.

Members of the British financial and political elite have continued to be in control globally because they run the system that launders drug money. They make obscenely large profits and spread corruption and endless violence throughout the world. Development Goal #2 must be to end all drug trafficking.

That will require ending the “war on drugs,” declaring all drugs legal, and providing them free as subscription pharmaceutical items. This will cost only a fraction of the “war on drugs” but will be far more effective: by knocking out all profit from trafficking it will remove the only reason why Organized crime is involved. Without drug pushers and their constant violence, governments can deal with the issue as one of mental and public health.

The General Assembly is set to have a special session in 2016 to focus comprehensively on the drug issue. Governments should use that session to amend the existing prohibitionist international drug Conventions and make them vehicles of the new policy.

C. Taxation: As long as there are taxes on income and profit, there will be people who cheat and honest people will always be at a disadvantage. That burden on the honest is a penalty on society as a whole. Governments should recognize that there are no police solutions to this problem; laws, regulations and enforcement agencies aimed at controlling economic forces only create more corruption. The only way to guide economic forces towards beneficial ends is by a market-driven system of incentives and punishments.

Development Goal #3 must be to abolish all taxes on personal and corporate income and profit while maintaining revenue neutrality with new imposts on immovable property.

Without taxes on income and profits there will be no incentive to hold black money; Governments should encourage all of it to surface by offering a general amnesty for those who invest their funds in long-term, profit bearing development bonds. Twinning that with the threat of prison terms for those found not to have revealed their holdings, and the offer to award all funds to informers should ensure full disclosure. These measures should make available a vast corpus of funds for development, more than enough to help all societies achieve the material goals in the current Zero Draft.

D. The Information Era: We are within a decade of having all people on the planet connected by mobile phone networks and broadband Internet. That opens the door to a range of new efficiencies in social interaction. It is not just e-governance and e-commerce, distance education and remotely administered medical care. There is spectacular potential in cloud-based data banks holding vast amounts of geospatially organized information that any smart phone can access and add to.

We are looking at the evolution of what has been called “the global brain,” with the strong possibility that a meta-consciousness will eventually emerge.

Two UN conferences in 2003 and 2005 promulgated the preliminary steps necessary for the healthy evolution of a World Information Society; it is now necessary to look farther ahead and decide on the mechanics, ethics, economics and politics of a fully interactive world.

Development Goal #4 should be to put in place by 2030 a global system to maximize the beneficial efficiencies of global connectivity.

The core effort to realize this goal should be the reform of the UN System, which is now a bureaucratic relic reflecting the brick and mortar realities of the 19th Century. The reform effort should aim to make each part of the thematically differentiated System the hub of global networks facilitating the work of a web of interconnected individuals, civil society organizations, corporations and governmental stakeholders.

C. Spiritual Development: As the world enters a new era of peace and material well-being, it will be necessary to address larger issues such as the nature of human evolution and its connection to universal realities. It will also be necessary to deal with the legacy issues of our swift ascent from barbarity manifested in attitudes such as religious intolerance, gender discrimination and abuse of other life forms.

Development Goal #5 should be an annually updated world map of spiritual progress based on the realization of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and established standards for the ethical treatment of animals.

Every country should map its own progress and discuss it publicly before submitting it to regional and global forums for comment. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights should compile the national submissions into the annual map and flag issues for discussion in the Human Rights Council.

Dear UN delegates,
I hope you do not think these goals are too unrealistic for action. They are the bare minimum if our species is to survive on a liveable planet.

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