March 28, 2009

Global governance at the G20: protest on the outside, national self interest on the inside. Where will the solutions we need come from?

Simultaneous Policy Adopters are planning a visible presence at protests in London today in advance of the G20 summit.

Many other groups are also to be there. The Guardian reports disparate groups are setting aside their differences to protest.

And there is the nub of the problem of the Global Justice Movement in my view. It can unite in opposition, but has no real mechanism for debate and building consensus on alternatives. It has struck me at the European Social Forums I have attended that those seeking democratic discussion are frustrated; the slogan may be 'another world is possible', but there is no route map for bringing it about.

Even amongst campaign coalitions such as the Trade Justice Movement, I have seen how policy aspirations have to be scaled back to what is politically achievable: it is a piece meal approach that wins important concessions, but nothing like the sweeping changes advocated. A broad coalition campaigning in the UK for corporate accountability measures had to celebrate as a victory a requirement that corporations report on their social and environmental impacts; indeed, it was a significant victory given the scale of political opposition. Yet there are no standards for the reports, nor sanctions if companies lie. Perhaps those will be achieved in the decades to come once the reporting principal has bedded in. That is the best hope on offer through conventional campaigning. On climate change, some campaigners are already voicing fears that the lack of progress means there is no hope left: runaway climate change could be unavoidable.

It is such concerns that fuel my support for the Simultaneous Policy approach, which provides a structure for discussing, developing and approving the policies needed to address global problems. My own proposal, which gained good support in the last voting round, is for a World Transnational Corporation Regulatory Authority, something with real teeth to ensure corporations comply with the human rights and environmental standards their glossy reports claim to respect and means to ensure governments play their part in regulating wayward corporations. See:

Other top issues and policies are given in the youtube clip below.

Simultaneous Policy Adopters call on politicians to pledge to implement, alongside other governments, the policies agreed on by we, the people, of the world. Simultaneous implementation removes the principal obstacle to progress: the fear that unilateral action will put a country at a competitive disadvantage, harm its economy and lose political leaders their power. It breaks the power of vested interests to play one country of against another.

The democratic process and the undertaking by Adopters to give a voting preference at elections to candidates who have made the pledge overcomes the second obstacle: the influence of vested interests on the political process. Business leaders may gain privileged access to politicians, but their hold on setting policies to address global problems is broken.

Some politicians have already signed up, as much for the logic of the approach as the chance to pick up votes. When I briefed one MP on the strategy she immediately saw the point, having campaigned without success for aviation fuel to be taxed as other fuels; such a tax, the government argues, would shift air transport from London to Paris or Amsterdam. But not if introduced simultaneously. She returned the signed pledge a few months later.

Even the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, sees the point of simultaneous action even if the Simultaneous Policy is not yet on his radar. Look at what he was saying in New York this week, as reported in The Guardian:


"Global problems will need better global solutions. In the wake of the second world war, we managed to create an IMF [International Monetary Fund], a World Bank, a WTO [World Trade Organisation], a Marshall Plan. We had the capacity with vision and determination to create institutions based on the principle that for prosperity to be sustained it had to be shared and we had to have mechanisms by which we brought the whole world into this enterprise.

"I think we need the same vision now to say the IMF was built for the days when you were dealing with balance of payments problems of individual countries in essentially a national set of economies. Now we've got a global market place, global competition, global flows of capital, global sourcing of goods.

"The institutions you need to deal with these problems are going to be quite different for this new era, so we must shape them."


Well, that's great, but if the G20 is capable of the vision and agreement to achieve these new institutions, what guarantee is there that they will not be as divisive and flawed as the IMF and World Bank and the structural adjustment policies they forced developing countries to adopt? Ironically the IMF, controlled by rich nations, has in the past pressured developing countries not to intervene to protect their banking systems, saying they must be allowed to fail; when it suits them, rich countries do not follow the rules they impose on others.

The answer is, of course, that there is no guarantee. Even if it works, the vision is still for perpetual growth on a planet that already cannot support the demands placed upon it.

While the Simultaneous Policy campaign cannot offer guarantees about the policies developed in the democratic space it provides, the fact that people around the world are invited to participate in the process, shape the policies and vote on them does provide checks and balances missing from the rich countries' club.

The G20 will see campaigners united in opposition on the outside and leaders inside protecting their individual national interests when we need coordinated, coherent and effective action.

If all involved backed the Simultaneous Policy approach, at the very least as a parallel strategy, we might get somewhere. Global problems require global solutions, but they also merit global involvement of citizens in deciding those solutions.

You can take part by signing up as a Simultaneous Policy Adopter free of charge at:

This clip gives information on the state of policies at the moment. As an Adopter you will be able to vote against any you don't like and put forward and support those that you do.

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