Fellows meeting 2010
Their crises, our solutions
The annual TNI Fellows’ meeting in Amsterdam in June brought together more than 40 activist scholars to discuss global issues using the framework provided by TNI Board Director Susan George’s new book Their Crises, Our Solutions. The lively debates at TNI’s offices (summarised below) were accompanied by a well-attended public event on the future of aid in De Balie, a central Amsterdam venue.
Their Crises: Our Solutions
A group of financial and economic elites, the Davos class, has caused a multiple and systemic crisis, in particular through vesting enormous power in the financial sector. Global responses to the crisis have not tackled the deeper structural causes, so it is destined to reoccur. Yet the Left has also been very timid and ineffective in providing alternatives.
Crisis in Europe: Global implications
Costas Lapavitsas, Myriam vander Stichele, Howard Wachtel
Over $2.5 trillion has been spent in the US on the bailout with very little to show for it. Meanwhile private banks are back with record profits, subsidised again by low interest rates by the Federal Reserve. In Europe, the crisis of the Euro has exposed the structural weaknesses of a currency that bridges core and periphery countries, relies on a Central Bank without a treasury behind it, and is dependent on suppressing wages. To tackle the crisis, austerity is being promoted as a political project to further undermine the public sector and the state; yet this is only likely to make an economic crisis even deeper.
The East-South axis vs the North-South Axis
Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Phyllis Bennis and Kamil Mahdi
The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) each now have about 3% of global GDP and foreign assets which are six times the assets of IMF. This is potentially emancipatory if smaller countries can use the contradictions and tensions among a broader number of powerful countries to increase their own bargaining power. However it also incorporates major challenges, in particular the failure of the BRIC countries to incorporate their peasantry in economic development and to develop ecologically sustainable models of growth. Transnational companies based in the South show the same predatory and destructive habits as their Northern counterparts.
From Copenhagen to Cochabamba and Beyond
Nick Buxton, Edgardo Lander and Praful Bidwai
In the aftermath of the failure of Copenhagen’s UN climate conference, Bolivia launched a historic initiative for a Peoples’ Climate Conference in Cochabamba, Bolivia in April 2010. One of the debates this opened up, rooted in an indigenous vision, was a profound critique of limitless growth and a recognition that nature has rights. This is a vision that challenges western concepts that have separated man from nature, but it is a necessary one to tackle the environmental crisis. How can these new ideas be translated into policies that tackle issues of jobs, and the need to act urgently in response to a worsening climate crisis?
The New EU security policy
Patrick Costello with Ben Hayes
In 2008, EU’s Security Policy was revised, shifting its prior focus on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to a greater focus on climate change and refugees. This has led to an increasing militarisation of migration policy and greater use of aid to North African states to try and prevent refugee movements. However the European Union as a whole is in a state of political flux, with increased powers going to the European Parliament, major power struggles between institutions and states, and the inability for any one political tendency to dominate the whole EU – all of which provides openings for strategic victories for progressive groups.
The flotilla crisis and the Middle East
Phyllis Bennis & Jan Nederveen Pieterse
The storming of the anti-blockade flotilla by Israeli troops (which happened a few days prior to the Fellows meeting) further isolated Israel, and its main backer, the US. It also marks growing opposition to US government support for Israeli apartheid policies by the US public, giving added momentum to the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement (BDS). While there is a disturbing rise in the far right in Israel, reflected in the politics of Foreign Minister Lieberman, it is counter-balanced by the fact that in polls 60% of the Israeli population support a two-state solution.
Alternative solutions discussed during the meeting
▪ Socialise the banks and oblige them to lend to social & green projects.
▪ End freedom for capital flows and reintroduce rigorous regulation of financial markets
▪ Introduce Financial Transaction Tax with revenues divided between climate mitigation, social investment and tackling poverty
▪ Support alternative currency systems to the US dollar
▪ Work with trade unions on green conversion plans for fossil-fuel dependent industries
▪ Public audit of the debts in Greece, Ireland other Eurozone crisis countries
▪ Take advantage of power of emerging new economies (BRICS) to increase political and economic leverage of African and low-income nations
▪ Embrace and deepen work on alternatives to ‘green capitalism’ based on indigenous visions of Vivir Bien (Live Well)
▪ Work more closely with European Parliament, which has increased political power after the Lisbon Treaty, to push for changes in trade and investment policy.