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UN Millenium Summit

8.30.2005

At the weekend, we were greeted with reports of leaked documents relating to the attempt by John Bolton, new US ambassador to the UN, to alter the declaration from the UN Milenium summit due to be held in September. Reaction to his attempts to railroad the agenda down American Foreign Policy Drive have brought mixed reactions. Some are of the opinion that the fireworks, friction and other confrontation wrought by Bolton on the institution are good for argument and may yield some results other than navel-gazing. Its a defensible proposition but i think in total the tpm point that all of these fights are turned into zero-sum games by the administration leaves little room for any consensus in an institution thats survival and success is predicated on successful consuensus building.
For those not following the story, TPM oultlines his basic challenges to the document as follows;
"In short, the document does the following:

~ knocks out entirely the Millennium Development Goals

~ continues to undermine collective efforts against climate change

~ knocks out targets and timetables for all goals and objectives

~ guts any efforts toward further disarmament objectives and focuses exclusively on non-proliferation, while both had always been important objectives in the past

~ strikes the section that states that countries will use force only as last resort

~ and oddly, strikes out the need to establish a legal definition of terrorism, which the Bush administration has previously stated is a requirement before proceeding towards a U.N. Convention on Terorrism."

I agree with the characterisation of Boltons actions as such, and so have zero problem plaigerising.
Now I come a cross a report from IPS, which makes clear there was deep-rooted opposition brewing in any case to the draft, which existed even before Bolton's contribution. Apparantly submissions made to the drafters by China and the G77 developing nations, representing 75% of world population, were ignored in the draft released weeks before Bolton's appointment.
In a nutshell, from Peter Hardstaff of the World Development Movement (WDM);

"The UN has produced a text that is largely an acceptance of the free market deregulation approach,
it is sad that the UN itself is producing drafts which show that it is failing to think outside the box, and failing to include the developing countries' views sufficiently. And that could get weakened further because of the U.S. position."

For even thinking such thoughtcrime, i am bound to have free marketeers up in arms. Yet the point must be made that the Global South has often best prospered in cases of initial protectionism until there existed conditions strong enough to withstand globa free trade and movement of capital. While many or some may disagree with the principles of global capital it is the unfortunate reality of todays international arrangement and desires to alleviate overty must be rooted in the realistic vision of our world, oughts and shoulds wont provide a chance for the south yet. The doctrinal approach of freeing up markets and killing social spending is undefensible in cases of countries where people are dying of Aids, HIV, Malaria and starvation. Deprivation of sevices and clean water to these people is not an ideological battle field but a concrete necessity. We must begin to deliver on our responsibilities to those who have been left to support our system, those whose oppression many feel laid the foundations of modern capitalism.
The development summit looks set to go the same way as G8, which appears thus far to have vindicated cynical views of furhter exploitation of dominance. Trying to shoehorn issues such as terror and reform on the agenda serves little outside US interest, the UN should be about more than that and it should have the ability to stand firm in its desire to discuss inequality and social justice.
The G77 outlined some points they felt should be considered in the drafting position, they are as follows and compares them to draft positions, (again from IPS);
- To reject any conditions attached to the provision of development assistance. The Aug. 5 draft declaration contains no reference to removing any of the conditions that are currently attached to aid, loans and debt relief.

- To state that the focus of the WTO Doha Round of negotiations should be on ensuring that the interests of developing countries are fully reflected. The G77 and China specifically note reaching the 2006 deadline for negotiations should not take precedence over an outcome which reflects the interests of developing countries. In contrast the subsequent draft declaration prioritises hitting the 2006 deadline, and makes no reference to it reflecting the interests of developing countries.

- To reaffirm the commitment of developed countries to provide 0.7 per cent of their national incomes in aid. The draft declaration only ''invites'' developed countries ''to establish timetables in order to achieve the target of 0.7 per cent.''

- To specify that developing countries should have the policy space to formulate development strategies. The draft declaration makes no reference to protecting policy space.

- To emphasise the need to provide an immediate solution to the question of commodities and stress the need for more effective international action to address the problems of weak and volatile commodity prices. In reference to Africa, the draft declaration focuses on 'market-based' arrangements with the private sector for addressing the problem of commodity prices, rather than the intergovernmental arrangement called for by the G77 and China.

- To make a reference to commitments made at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. The draft declaration makes no reference to the summit at all. (END/2005)

Considering the effectiveness of a Unified Global south in Cancun who would bet aganist it happeing again in September, especially with China on board. The opportunities to create a democratic and popular consensus on issues of poverty lies before all in New York. If again the hijacking of the casue is permitted, popular movement in the name of Making Poverty History looks set to be an ephemeral piece of popular discontent which, once vented, disappears in our thirty second attention span.
Allowing Bolton to bully his way round the halls of the UN is not an option. Standing tall for global democracy and offering those who need it the opportunity to be in full control of their own destiny is the only way. Africa is not underqualified but under-free to do as it would to alleviate poverty. September's summit in New York must address the interests of the many, not simply our global super-power nor its governing ideology.
RR
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