New Internationalist

An historic opportunity for transformation

Issue 417

At the recentAsia-Europe People’s Forum meeting in Beijing, the Transnational Institute and Focus on the Global South convened informal nightly meetings to take stock of the unfolding global economic crisis. Participants discussed the opportunity it presented social movements to put into the public domain some of the inspiring and feasible alternatives many had been working on for decades.

This – the ‘Beijing Declaration’ – is what came out of those meetings of individuals, social  ements and NGOs from Asia and Europe. It’s a start – a contribution around which to formulate proposals and to create a basis for a radically different kind of political and economic order.

The alternatives listed below are practical and feasible and they put the well-being of people and the planet at their centre.

FINANCE

• Introduce full-scale socialization of banks, not just nationalization of bad assets

• Create people-based banking institutions and strengthen existing popular forms of lending based on mutuality and solidarity

• Institutionalize full transparency within the financial system through the opening of the books to the public, to be facilitated by citizen and worker organizations

• Introduce parliamentary and citizens’ oversight of the existing banking system

• Apply social (including labour conditions) and environmental criteria to all lending, including for business purposes

• Prioritize lending, at minimum rates of interest, to meet social and environmental needs and to expand the already growing social economy

• Overhaul central banks in line with democratically determined social, environmental and expansionary (to counter the recession) objectives, and make them publicly accountable institutions

• Safeguard migrant remittances to their families and introduce legislation to restrict charges and taxes on transfers

TAXATION

• Close all tax havens

• End tax breaks for fossil fuel and nuclear energy companies

• Apply stringent progressive tax systems

• Introduce a global taxation system to prevent transfer pricing and tax evasion

• Introduce a levy on nationalized bank profits with which to establish citizen investment funds (see below)

• Impose stringent progressive carbon taxes on those with the biggest carbon footprints

• Adopt controls, such as Tobin taxes, on the movements of speculative capital

• Reintroduce tariffs and duties on imports of luxury goods and other goods already produced locally as a means of increasing the state’s fiscal base, as well as a means to support local production and thereby reduce carbon emissions globally

PUBLIC SPENDING AND INVESTMENT

• Radically reduce military spending

• Redirect government spending from bailing out bankers to guaranteeing basic incomes and social security, and providing universally accessible basic social services such as housing, water, electricity, health, education, childcare, and access to the internet and other public communications facilities

• Use citizen funds (see above) to support very poor communities

• Ensure that people at risk of losing their homes due to defaults on mortgages caused by the crisis are offered renegotiated terms of payment

• Stop privatizations of public services

• Establish public enterprises under the control of parliaments, local communities and/or workers to increase employment

• Improve the performance of public enterprises through democratizing management – encourage public service managers, staff, unions and consumer organizations to collaborate to this end

• Introduce participatory budgeting over public finances at all feasible levels

• Invest massively in improved energy efficiency, low carbon emitting public transport, renewable energy and environmental repair

• Control or subsidize the prices of basic commodities

INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND FINANCE

• Introduce a permanent global ban on short-selling of stocks and shares

• Ban on trade in derivatives

• Ban all speculation on staple food commodities

• Cancel the debt of all developing countries – debt is mounting as the crisis causes the value of Southern currencies to fall

• Support the United Nations’ call to be involved in discussions about how to resolve the crisis, which is going to have a much bigger impact on Southern economies than is currently being acknowledged

• Phase out the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization

• Phase out the US dollar as the international reserve currency

• Establish a people’s inquiry into the mechanisms necessary for a just international monetary system

• Ensure aid transfers do not fall as a result of the crisis

• Abolish tied aid

• Abolish neoliberal aid conditionalities

• Phase out the paradigm of export-led development, and refocus sustainable development on production for the local and regional market

• Introduce incentives for products produced for sale closest to the local market

• Cancel all negotiations for bilateral free trade and economic partnership agreements

• Promote regional economic co-operation arrangements, such as UNASUR, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), the Trade Treaty of the Peoples and others, that encourage genuine development and an end to poverty

ENVIRONMENT

• Introduce a global system of compensation for countries which do not exploit fossil fuel reserves in the global interests of limiting effects on the climate, such as Ecuador has proposed

• Pay reparations to Southern countries for the ecological destruction wrought by the North to assist peoples of the South to deal with climate change and other environmental crises

• Strictly implement the ‘precautionary principle’ of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development as a condition for all developmental and environmental projects

• End lending for projects under the Kyoto Protocol’s ‘Clean Development Mechanism’ that are environmentally destructive, such as monoculture plantations of eucalyptus, soya and palm oil

• Stop the development of carbon trading and other environmentally counter-productive techno-fixes, such as carbon capture and sequestration, agrofuels, nuclear power and ‘clean coal’ technology

• Adopt strategies to radically reduce consumption in the rich countries, while promoting sustainable development in poorer countries

• Introduce democratic management of all international funding mechanisms for climate change mitigation, with strong participation from Southern countries and civil society

AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY

• Phase out the pernicious paradigm of industry-led development, where the rural sector is squeezed to provide the resources necessary to support industrialization and urbanization

• Promote agricultural strategies aimed at achieving food security, food sovereignty and sustainable farming

• Promote land reforms and other measures which support small-holder agriculture and sustain peasant and indigenous communities

• Stop the spread of socially and environmentally destructive mono-cultural enterprises

• Stop labour law reforms aimed at extending hours of work and making it easier for employers to fire or retrench workers

• Secure jobs through outlawing precarious low paid work

• Guarantee equal pay for equal work for women – as a basic principle and to help counter the coming recession by increasing workers’ capacity to consume

• Protect the rights of migrant workers in the event of job losses, ensuring their safe return to and reintegration into their home countries. For those who cannot return, there should be no forced return, their security should be guaranteed, and they should be provided with employment or a basic minimum income

The authors and signatories of the Beijing Declaration say:

‘We have written what we see as a living document to be developed and enriched by us all. A future occasion to come together to work on the actions needed to make these ideas and others a reality will be the World Social Forum in Belem, Brazil at the end of January 2009. We have the experience and the ideas – let’s meet the challenge of the present ruling disorder and keep the momentum towards an alternative rolling!’

For more see: http://casinocrash.org

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