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G20 – Where’s the Rest?

April 2009

The G20 meetings in London are drawing a lot of attention in the media and around the world. Typically, much of the mainstream media attention is focused either on the pomp sideshow (the Queen and Michelle Obama’s hug) or the small portion of the protestors that broke windows and equipment in the RBS offices (which bolsters mainstream media’s emphasis on sensationalism and their ability to dismiss genuine global protest against the destructive policies of governments and multilateral institutions).

As far as the issues themselves go, most mainstream media very often chooses not to ask the serious questions about root causes and needed structural changes rather looking for the quick fix solutions that are aimed only at salvaging the existing system. Our ally Center for Economic & Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot had a good analytical piece in the Guardian of London that noted that “it is the economic issues of the developing world that are most obscured and/or neglected” [and that] “for most developing countries, the current economic crisis is a more acute form of what they have experienced for most of the last three decades — commonly known outside the United States as the era of neoliberalism.”

The “mayhem” on the streets was apparently nothing compared to the confusion in the deliberations by G20 leaders — as our ally Public Citizen reports, the communique today from the G20 is full of contradictions, calling for re-regulation and further deregulation in the same short breath. Rather than calling for a fixing of the problems inherent in the World Trade Organization (WTO) which demands further deregulation, the G20 leaders called for completing the controversial Doha round! Where’s the regulation in that? Our colleagues at the Global Development & Environment Institute gave the G20 a failing grade and deservedly so!

On a positive note, the UN General Assembly president, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua convened a commission earlier this year headed by Prof. Joseph Stiglitz on the financial and economic crisis. Speaking last January at the inaugural meeting of the commission he noted that he found it strange that “many people should have come to believe that the UN General Assembly is NOT perceived as the natural and unavoidable forum for chartering any legitimate effort to recast the institutions and the rules of the global financial system.” Emphasizing the need to re-charter and transform the global finanical architecture, he stressed the need for reforms under the UN General Assembly’s aegis that would prohibit:

  • Shifting the burden of adjustment onto the poor
  • Imposing extreme economic theories inflexibly on countries in need of assistance
  • Forcing countries to adopt pro-cyclical policies in the midst of crisis
  • Imposing a double standard for fiscal and financial discipline
  • Destroying global capital and credibility for national political expediency

The Stiglitz Commission presented a set of recommendations to the UN on March 27th on the eve of the G20 Summit.

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