Kairos Hearing 1994.
Comments and questions on the responses by witnesses/experts
Now we have reached the moment of the possibility of a dialogue, a direct dialogue. Time is short, so we have to do it in about 15 minutes and so my advice is to the experts and witnesses to ask one clear question or make one clear comment and say at the same time to which member of the European Parliament you want to direct your question or remark. Then we can have a quick interchange of opinions.
Which of the experts and witnesses can I give the floor? You can speak from your own place, of course. Mr. Budhoo, please.
I don't want to ask questions to any of the Parliament representatives — I'd like to make more a comment. I think what we need to do — everybody here has seemed to agree that there is a need for change. I think that disagreement is to whether the change should be fundamental change or intermediate change or marginal changes. The elements of fundamental changes that often have been articulated in relation to the international system: Change it fundamentally. I don't think there is much scope for fundamental change within the system, for instance having a Bretton Woods Conference to fundamentally change the world's economic and financial system, make it more equitable, give developing countries more of say in this matter. Simply because the world has got into a state now where developed countries, the North, — as you quite rightly said — have most of the world's resources: conspicuous consumption, the spiral of more and more economic growth, more and more consumption, higher and higher incomes — it is something, it seems to me that's criticized in the North. This obviously is at the expense of the South, it can continue only if the existing systems can continue as it is with the tremendous inequities through the IMF and the WB and GATT and other international instruments that are used by the North to their own advantage.
In terms of what else can be done: Those who are advocate for fundamental change are marginalised immediately, regarded as intellectuals or as Northern do-goodders, without any teeth, and the establishment, the system, including every aspect of government and international organisations would marginalise such people and such an organisation, and they have the crowd and the power to do it. What else is there: There can be peripheral change. This is what the IMF/WB themselves advocate. They know the illness of the institution and they often say that there is need for change and they say that they are doing things. In fact, if you approach any government of the North and say: "Well, there is need for fundamental change in the IMF/WB.", they say, "The IMF/WB are making changes already. There is nothing needed to be done." Now, this is meaningless. The IMF/WB and the G7 have tremendous power and they could build up a whole set of instruments that could insure that only marginal things are done that would not fundamentally change the system.
I think that change must come basically from the South. Southern people themselves making a statement to the North because the situation is so totally desperate, and Southern people must now make their voices heard through empowerment of Southern peoples. It is in this context that our organisation operates, an organisation on Bretton Woods which is a Southerly initiated to take it into their own hands and formulate their own programme: This is what is needed.
Thank you. (applause)
This was more a comment than a remark, but I would like one of you to relate to this comment, please.
Yes, briefly. I would agree that we also need to change a bit ourselves. But I would also say that despite this, an additional alteration in policy would be possible in areas where fundamental change was not necessary. I am thinking particularly in the area of regional cooperation in the Southern countries, which can be sought after more intensively through the Northern countries, and that an additional power can emerge through this. For me this is a very important point. And the second comment I would like to make is that together with GATT we have talked about the social and environmental paragraphs. And this parliament has also demanded that world trade and environmental paragraphs and social paragraphs should be linked together. I would think it highly incredible if on the one hand official cooperation in development doesn't increase substantially in the medium term, and if on the other hand the countries of the South, by means of additional financial instruments, aren't enabled to manufacture in a socially and environmentally acceptable fashion after all. As far as I am concerned, that is part of it, and these would be beginnings, to which one could say — even if one isn't exactly very hopeful with regard to basic changes — that we could ask for something from these institutions. And that I will definitely do.
There is one short remark of Mr. Romberg.
In the EU — so we're talking about one of the richest areas — we have an official unemployment rate of 12%. Actually, unofficially it is substantially more. We know that residual unemployment has grown after every cycle of recession; that is to say, it grows and grows even during boom periods. Even in the EC, the problem of unemployment is apparently not solvable any more using current methods. In this area other structural changes have to come about, and these will only be achieved against strong opposition. In that regard, at the moment there is a growing opportunity for stronger cooperation and mutual understanding in many basic areas. But this has to be more strongly organised. There are also many opposing points, above all in that one would wish to hang on to one's own possessions, but we have to consider how we can work together as a result of this situation for the basis in a new, strongly political, way.
In reply I would like to make some brief suggestions. In reference to the market, to replace both in the exchange rate system and in the trade system the concept 'free market' with 'fair market'. This is the only conditioning that we can give which is democratising: democratising on all levels, in all regions and institutions. With respect to indebtedness and structural adaptation, there should be a writing-off of debt under the following circumstances:
Additionally: The withdrawal of finance for any structural adaptation programme which has not previously been the subject of democratic discussion — that is, analysis of all possible alternatives, studies on the effects, hearings of the various social streams and recognition of the differences of opinions of the people affected all have to come first. And I believe that this is the only way that we will achieve change together.
- Firstly, no individual arrangements, but rather arrangements on a global level with the condition that the North recognises its share of responsibility for the debts;
- Secondly, a freezing of wealth transferred abroad by those belonging to the ruling classes;
- Thirdly, the creation of an international commission to decide about the illegitimacy of debt;
- Fourthly, an investigation into the conduct of the northern banks with regard to unpaid debt.
The floor is for Mr. Arruda.
Thank you. First I would like to explain that the documents that we sent to you, people, before-hand have been somehow changed after we met here and have a new direction among ourselves, so that is the reason we are willing to share with you the new text that we have and that will help you to take a position about the proposals we have made. The second point is that I share this concern about the need for fundamental changes which have been stressed by some of the speakers and one thing that concerns us very much is the lack of Northern awareness of the need for change within the North to make viable the possibility of international changes. This need for change includes a very complex thing which is change of production and consumption, patterns in styles of life which are going to affect first of all the peoples of the North themselves and then have a very important effect of transferring resources for the South to develop as well.
So I would like to ask especially Mrs. Randzio-Plath and Mr. Romberg with regard to questions that Mr. Telkämper really answered very clearly in response to our comments: How do you see, or how much are you willing to put pressure on European governments for a will for urgent change in debt related policies, including bilateral debt policy relations and multilateral relations? How much are you able to influence the policies of Europe within the IMF and the WB? The second is regarding neoliberal adjustment policies: How much is it possible for you to influence European policies within the IMF and the WB so that these approaches to adjustment can be changed? And the third and most important is: The idea that, not only as Mrs. Randzio-Plath said, we need to have our right to development recognised, but we mainly need to have the right to alternative development recognised. Then my question is to you, whether you see that we have a legitimate right to try out other paths of development than the market-centred one. We talk about "people-centred development". This has serious implications in terms of priorities of your investment and efforts to develop should go.
Thank you. (applause)
Many thanks for the question. I have not completely understood your question, because for me it is understood that a right to development is a right to independent development, and it is this starting point that I have adopted from schooldays on with regard to my engagement with the southern countries. The second point is: I do not know who can answer the question as to how we inside the EU are to try and change the structural adaptation programmes of the IMF and World Bank. And Mr. Telkämper will have just as much idea as I have. All I can say is that we are working toward this end in the European Parliament fairly much across party boundaries. And my demand is precisely that we don't restrict our view to our own communal development, or to put it another way, the capital assistance that we can give to ourselves, but rather that as we are working in multilateral international flora, we take this same broad view in these flora, and in the process change these structural adaptation programmes. But, as I said, all I can see is that, just as much in our policies with regard to eastern countries as with southern ones, regrettably we have as yet no opportunity; rather, we try here and there to improve things a little with the EU's own resources in those areas into which international funds are reaching with particular severity. I would say, as far as working together with the East is concerned, that there is a very quiet attempt by the EU, because after all the international financial institutions don't just give credit for assistance, but also at the same time grant facilities for transformation, which then put these countries in the position of getting the pleasure of credit for assistance, without then making them control their balance of trade deficit, their inflation rate etc. strictly, and without having them realise immediately wage reductions or cuts in subvention. And in this case we ought to think whether it would make sense in the context of these criteria for independent development to offer such facilities at least as a small step in this direction. But this is simply an idea, and I do not know if it is realisable, because the offering of such capital for this type of credit doesn't have much support by the `givers' and is always difficult. But I would reckon that the EC should engage itself far stronger in this area. And as far as changing the way we think is concerned, all I can say is that the ecological conversion of industry — and in this area very current are the concepts of carbon and energy tax to make energy dearer — one of the ways that I consider as a principal method, just as the coming changes in transport systems of all types would represent a current step towards changing the way we think.
There is one short remark of Mr. Wilfried Telkämper.
It is right for us to have common demands, but I would think that we could still do something as a citizens' lobby, as a political lobby here in the parliament to the institutions' committees and council, which also has to decide about donations. When I look at the Narmada Dam, the flood action plan as a dam project in Bangladesh, that which is going on in Thailand at the moment — here wherewithal from both the World Bank and the EU is flowing in, and here there are programmes for structural adaptation', and these just can't go on as they are, that is to say that we can exert a very concrete political pressure, so that these policies with regard to energy production, dams, rain forests are not continued. For example, in September there is a sitting of the council of EU foreign ministers with the foreign ministers of south-east Asia, where they want to drive precisely these policies. And if the commission and the council was to declare that it did not want to continue these policies, then that for me would be an important step in the reordering of industrial society.
I would like now to give the floor to Mr. Atherton Martin. He is from the North American sister organisation of Kairos Europa. And I also hope that he will speak briefly, because time is running out.
Well, let me just clarify that I will be speaking later on behalf of the North American NGOs, but I am speaking now in the capacity as a person from the Caribbean which is essentially the reason for my presence here. I want to get back to the point that Mr. Budhoo and that Mr. Arruda raised, because that is the heart of the matter as to why we are here in Brussels. What is it, the EU can do, is prepared to do, to work with us to resolve some of these difficult problems. And there are a number of things that they can do that are not so big and fundamental but are critical because it would signal whether or not we really have a partner in you or whether the EU is as much a part of the problem as the Bank is.
E.g., the EU through its Commission continues to send European consultants to the ACP states, even when there are perfectly capable, competent, bright and sound resource persons in these regions. That is a sharp immediate signal that you can give to our countries that you are serious about promoting a different approach to development: start letting us deal resolving our own problems even if you have to put up some of the resources to do that. Number 1.
Number 2: You have just been through the GATT negotiations. Did you involve your own NGOs in that GATT negotiation process? Did you involve civil society in Europe in trying to figure out what they would want as far as a new international trade in dispensation? That will send a strong signal to us that if you are willing to talk to your NGOs then you might be willing to talk to us seriously.
Number 3: You must support the alternative structural adjustment programme in Guyana, if you are serious and if this conversation is to be anything but a talk show. You must support. There can be no equivocation about this. This is a perfect example.
Number 4: If you are serious, and this goes for the parliamentarians as well as for the members of the Commission, if you are serious about anything remotely representing alternative sustainable development, you will stand up to the US on the question of Cuba. You will violate the embargo that the US has placed on Cuba to make it clear to the world that the Europeans at least are not going to bow down at the US.
Any reaction or is it unanimously adopted?
First point: If I have been correctly informed, the European Parliament has taken a clear position against the embargo policies of the USA. Of course we have to keep asking what steps are to be taken next, and in this area not enough can be done.
Second point: The advisers/experts. We have the same problem in eastern Europe. There as well it is rightly complained about again and again, that a multitude of west Europeans are going to Russia and into other countries, who at least in part don't know the culture and the mentality of these people — and this despite the fact that there are enough experts in east European countries already. The appropriate policies in the EC are continually criticised. I can't say whether, or how, interim corrections are to be made.
As far as Cuba is concerned, I can only recommend what you have said. We have supported it politically, as has been said. Even in the context of this political support there is economic help for regenerative energy in Cuba. As to your suggestion that the ACP-countries should investigate employing their own scientists, that makes sense to me. You could extend that line of thought: How would it be if these people from the ACP-countries just came to the EU and for example investigated here the system of transeuropean networks. For example motorway networks — 100% more traffic by 2005 — and as far as emissions are concerned, we are already above the limits to which our countries promised in the Rio conference to the whole world that we would reduce our carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions. Perhaps such experts might help us on a step or two.
I would like to make a comment about the NGOs. I have already said that I belong to an NGO. I maintain that not only is their advice important, but also that that which they are doing is necessary if we are to have any independent development in many of the southern and eastern countries. And therefore for example I have insisted very strongly with regard to the process of transformation in the East, that the development of NGOs is a part of development, transformation and democratisation. I believe that this is right for all countries in the world, and therefore we have to support NGOs in their attempts to network their work. The second point in this context: For example, because I am the GATT spokesman for my party, NGOs have taken part in the discussions. And I needed these discussion too. When I was elected to parliament last time, we were preparing for the Brussels conference. And in this context, as an example, I made contact with environmental organisations, and asked them whether we ought not to link environmental problems with trade — as a question. At this time, 1989, NGOs were not prepared to ask questions. In this area I have gone down the same long road. I would reckon that without the work of NGOs in this area, it would not have been possible to get a little bit of success in the Marrakesh agreement. This work has to continue with regard to setting objectives to the new world trade organisations.
We give a hand, we are thankful for the members of the European Parliament.