The unfairness in the economy and politics of the United States is also found in the world at large with much more widespread poverty. The United Nations Human Development Report 1999 compared the economic inequality between nations by contrasting the 20% of the world’s people living in the richest nations to the 20% living in the poorest countries. In 1820 the ratio was about 3 to 1; in 1870 it was 7 to 1; in 1913 it was 11 to 1; in 1960 it was 30 to 1; in 1991 it was 61 to 1, and by the late 1990s it had increased to 86 to 1. This shows how income inequality has become much worse in the last two centuries. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has estimated that if the economic crisis which began in 2008 is not remedied, about 200 million more workers may fall into poverty, mostly in developing countries. The ILO found that about 839 million workers lived with their families on less than $2 a day in 2013. Trying to survive on less than $700 a year is miserable poverty, and currently about 10% of the people in the world attempt to live without having enough to eat.
In 1970 the United Nations General Assembly urged the richest countries to contribute 0.7% of their gross national products to Official Development Assistance (ODA). By 2005 the only nations that were surpassing this goal were Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Denmark. The United States opposed setting this goal and was 21st out of 22 nations, giving only 0.22%.
The first bilateral investment treaty (BIT) was between Germany and Pakistan in 1959. During the 1960s the number of BITs increased to 72, in the 1970s to 165, in the 1980s to 385, in the 1990s to 1,857, and in the 2000s the number of BITs reached 2,750. Between 1991 and 2000 about 95% of the changes in investment agreements in the world were deregulations that removed restrictions on foreign investors. These treaties strengthened the interests of transnational capital by giving them precedence over the social, economic, and environmental policies of sovereign governments, and many of the arbitration cases were settled secretly.
In reaction corporate executives began meeting annually in London in what they called “Responsible Business Summits.” To battle against external regulations on the power of transnational corporations they began the voluntary policy of “corporate social responsibility (CSR).” During the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 the executives began a policy of voluntary self-regulation as their idea of corporate accountability. In the next few years they formed the Caux Round Table Principles for Business and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative in 1994, the ISO14001 standard and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Rules of Conduct to Combat the Extortion and Bribery in 1996, the Global Reporting Initiative in 1997, the Ethical Trading Initiative in 1998, and in 1999 the Fair Labor Association, Global Mining Initiative, Global Sullivan Principles, SA8000 certification, SIGMA Project, and AA10000 Framework Standard.
On November 30, 1999 the third ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle was met with protests by at least 60,000 demonstrators from 700 groups, and the trade talks collapsed. Additional CSR projects included the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production and Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in 2000, the International Council on Mining and Metals in 2001, Global Corporate Citizenship, Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, International Council of Toy Industries Code, and the Kimberly Process in 2002, the Equator Principles and the Business Social Compliance Initiative in 2003, the Electronic Industry Code of Conduct in 2004, and many others. Studies by United Nations agencies found that these organizations were primarily for public relations with minor changes in management to protect the reputations and brand names of the corporations rather than genuine attempts to reform the practices that were impacting the environment and social relations.
In 2000 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan founded the Global Compact, and in 2002 the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was held in Johannesburg. Annan appointed John Ruggle his Assistant for Strategic Planning, and George Kell became Executive Director of the Global Compact. Although the Global Compact formulated Ten Principles as useful guidelines, the Compact had no mechanism to redress or censure. Members merely sent a letter of confirmation to the UN Secretary-General; they paid an annual membership fee, and they were to communicate how they were supporting the Ten Principles. More than 6,000 corporations from 135 nations participated in the Global Compact, and it has been held up as an example of why binding regulations are unnecessary, thus enabling the corporations to escape from being held accountable. In 2011 the UN Human Rights Council established a group of five experts and an annual consultative forum, but they only promoted the Guiding Principles. Business groups were glad that corporations were avoiding legal liability for human rights abuses, and human rights organizations denounced the failure.
The profits of the extractive industries have increased to more than $250 billion in 2011 with over $150 billion going to the oil companies ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, Total, and ConocoPhillips. Phasing out all the fossil-fuel subsidies in the world would save governments $775 billion according to a study by Oil Change International and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Profits of the top 40 mining companies in 2011 were a record $133 billion. A United Nations study found that copper mining companies in Chile paid no taxes between 1993 and 2002 even though sales revenues were more than $34 billion. Transnational mining companies have also avoided paying taxes in Africa. In 2010 in extraction industries about 93% of national regulatory changes put new restrictions on foreign investors including new tax requirements and renegotiation of contracts. That year the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) overturned at least two of the arbitrations, and in 2012 the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) initiated an alternative Investment Policy Framework for Sustainable Development to replace the investor-state dispute settlement provisions they had been using.
Globalization of the garment industry has multiplied poverty-wage jobs in the poor nations in order to maintain low prices for consumers in wealthy nations as transnational corporations make large profits. Garments have become 80% of the exports from Bangladesh and Cambodia. In 2006 protests persuaded the Bangladesh government to increase for the first time since 1994 the minimum monthly wage for garment workers to 1,662 taka, and in 2010 this was raised to 3,000 a month. Yet the trade unions believed the baseline for families needed to be 5,000 taka. The cost of living in the Dhaka capital was even higher. There in the district of Savar on April 24, 2013 an eight-story building collapsed in Rana Plaza, killing more than 1,100 garment workers.
The garment industry had voluntary CSRs such as the Better Factories Cambodia program; but garment pay in Cambodia was the lowest in Southeast Asia, and work weeks could exceed 70 hours. In recent years more than 200,000 Cambodian garment workers have gone on strike for higher wages and better factory conditions, increasing pay of the minimum wage from $61 per month to $83 a month in September 2012. Garment workers in Pakistan managed to get the minimum wage increased from 6,000 rupees a month to 8,000 in 2012; but this is still only half the living wage in Pakistan because inflation has depreciated the rupee compared to the US dollar.
The great recession that began in 2008 had a serious impact on food prices in the world. In 2009 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that for the first time in history the official figure of hungry people in the world had surpassed one billion. In 2012 the FAO estimated that 1.52 billion people did not have enough food, and 2.56 billion took in inadequate calories. About three-quarters of those living with chronic hunger live on small farms or in rural areas. Large corporations own much agricultural land and use industrial methods by controlling seeds, agrochemicals, biotechnology, trade, retail sales, and consumer goods. Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta have more than half the commercial seed market, and Bayer, Dow, Syngenta, and Monsanto are the largest agrochemical companies. ADM, Bunge, Cargil, and Louis Dreyfus dominate world trade in grains, oilseeds, and palm oil. Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Kraft Foods are the biggest food processors. Although 400 million of the 525 million farms are smaller than two hectares, the monoculture plantations using agrochemicals are increasing. Transnational corporations are being granted patents on natural life forms.
Asia and Latin America now purchase more agrochemicals than Europe and North America combined. The Green Revolution helped increase food production between 1970 and 1990 by 11% with per capita gains in South America of 8% and in South Asia of 9%, but the number of hungry people in South America went up 19% and in South Asia by 9%. The intensive monoculture farming has decreased biodiversity and increased the use of pesticides and fertilizers, causing soil deterioration, water pollution, and emission of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. In India rural farms suffered such hardship and bankruptcies that between 1995 and 2010 more than a quarter million farmers committed suicide. Now in the global South about a quarter million farmers belong to cooperatives. China has 180 million cooperative members, and 40% of African households belong to cooperatives.
Meanwhile the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are still forcing national governments to privatize their programs as a condition for loans and debt relief. Yet research by the World Bank, the IMF, and academics has shown that the private sector is not more effective at delivering public goods.
The Millennium Summit created eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were passed by the United Nations General Assembly on September 8, 2000. The main goals may be summarized as follows:
1. Reduce by half hunger and the very extreme poverty of those living on less than $1 a day.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce by two-thirds child mortality.
5. Reduce by three-quarters maternal mortality and achieve universal access to reproductive health.
6. Reduce HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
7. Reduce biodiversity loss and by half lack of safe drinking water and sanitation and improve the lives of 100 million slum-dwellers.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.
All the members of the United Nations agreed to work to accomplish these specific goals by the year 2015. So far the nations who have made the most progress toward these goals are Brazil, China, and India, but by 2015 many countries have not achieved any of these goals. Because of those large nations the first goal of reducing by half the number of people living on less than $1 a day was reached by 2010. By 2008 infant mortality in developing nations was reduced by 28%. Between 2003 and 2008 the number of people in the world using the internet nearly doubled from 12% to 23%. However, in 2011 the World Bank estimated what percentage of developing countries were on track to reach the following MDGs: poverty 47%, undernourishment 25%, primary education 55%, gender equality 82-89%, child mortality 36%, maternal mortality 30%, and clean drinking water 66%. In 2010 a UNICEF study noted that the poorest 40% of people in the world have had little benefit from improvements in sanitation. In 2012 the World Bank predicted accurately that by 2015 more than one billion people would still be very poor. At the end of 2016 about 836 million people were still living on less than $1.25 per day, mostly in India and sub-Saharan Africa. Development experts have noted that the main reason why MDGs are not being reached is not the lack of resources but the failure of political will.
Suggestions for revising MDGs in 2015 include focusing on the long-term poor, making sure that the benefits of public spending are equitably distributed, improving taxation to prevent tax havens and untaxed capital flight, promote the transfer of knowledge and technology to poor nations, link human rights standards to development, improve accountability of development partners, facilitate a greater role for citizens in developed and developing countries, and explicitly address issues of inequality.
Although some progress has been made, the great recession which began in 2008 has made many of these problems worse. Sub-Saharan Africa still has 48% of the people living on less than $1.25 a day in extreme poverty. In 2008 South Asia still had 34% of the people living in this abject poverty. In China the number of extremely poor people in 1981 was 835 million, but by 2008 this was down to 173 million, reducing this poverty rate from 84% to 13%. During the same period (after its American war) Vietnam decreased its poverty rate from 90% to 17%, and the rate in East Asia decreased from 77% to 14%. Latin America lowered their extreme poverty rate to 6%. South Asia’s rate was 61% in 1981 and 36% in 2008, but because of population growth the number of extremely poor people actually increased from 568 million to 571 million. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of population increase of any region. Although the extreme poverty rate went from 52% to 48%, the number of very poor people nearly doubled from 205 million to 386 million. Obviously the greatest need is in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where about 957 million people still live in extreme poverty. The wide variance in these numbers shows that the policies of governments and economic systems can have a large effect on poverty rates. If living on $2 a day is the criterion, then the poverty rate for all developing countries is 47%.
In 2006 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set up the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to support capitalist farming in Africa, using the Green Revolution methods of the anti-communist Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. AGRA promoted the sale of agrochemicals and seeds by transnational companies in Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. The Rockefeller and Gates Foundations funded research of genetically modified (GM) crops. Food prices are expected to remain high because capitalist exploitation is being complicated by global warming, water scarcity, soil degradation, and urbanization. Since the year 2000 transnational corporations have acquired at least 83 million hectares of agricultural land in the global South. In the first decade more than 400,000 Cambodians have been evicted, displaced, or affected by new agribusiness projects.
The largest of the peasant movements is La Via Campesina which has drawn together 150 local and national organizations from 70 nations representing 200 million farmers. They agreed on the following seven principles of food sovereignty: food as a basic right, agrarian reform, protecting natural resources, reorganizing food trade, ending globalization of hunger, not letting food be used as a weapon that increases poverty, and democratic control of agriculture. In July 2010 the United Nations General Assembly recognized the human right to water over the opposition of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The first European Food Sovereignty Forum was held in August 2011 in Austria and resolved to reclaim the food system from the control of transnational capital.
In October 2008 the President of the United Nations General Assembly established a commission of 18 financial experts from 17 nations with the former Chief Economist of the World Bank and chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors, Joseph E. Stiglitz, as chairman. In 2010 they made their report on “Reforming the International Monetary and Financial Systems in the Wake of the Global Crisis” and found that financial instability was caused by “loose monetary policy, inadequate regulation, and lax supervision” and that global imbalances have been “aggravated by increasing income inequality in most countries.”1 They noted that the failure of markets in the financial sector caused substantial negative externalities on output and employment. Although in November 2008 the G-20 nations had resolved not to engage in protectionist methods, by March 2009 nearly all of them had broken their pledges with deleterious consequences for developing countries. These developed nations engaged in unprecedented subsidies mostly in domestic financial enterprises that poorer countries could not afford.
In 2010 the Stiglitz Report advised a substantial increase in aid to developing nations to cope with the effects of the crisis and to undertake stimulus measures. Governments must play a role in providing collective action on both national and global levels in order to respond to the externalities, not just for the global economic crisis but also to meet the challenge of the global climate crisis. In some nations the risks of financial institutions that were considered “too big to fail” have led to even more financial consolidation and corporations that are “too big to resolve” the problems. Some strategies used have increased poverty and made the income and wealth inequalities worse. The Commission outlined four reasons why the developing countries are facing serious problems. First, they have fewer resources. Second, they lack automatic stabilizers for fiscal and social protection. Third, they have difficulty borrowing in international financial markets. Fourth, those nations which relied on private money from international capital markets have been adversely affected. The consequences of this global economic recession could be felt for decades.
The Stiglitz Report concluded that in the last quarter century the flawed theory of economic liberalism or market fundamentalism has distorted decisions affecting the private and public sectors by failing to provide regulation for markets that were not self-correcting. One recent success has been the rapid growth of hundreds of millions of people in Asia out of poverty. Yet the increasing inequality in most countries has been rapidly depleting natural resources and degrading the environment. The massive stimulus and rescue programs by many nations have averted a global depression because they have worked as predicted by Keynesian economists. Expanding the G-8 to the G-20 was an improvement, but most of the nations in the world have been left out. Protectionist measures have been a setback.
The UN Commission advised that the problems of the global economy, the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the expansion of inequality, the persistence of poverty, and the deficiencies in governance, especially internationally, must not be ignored. They found that increasing inequalities are not only socially unjust but that they contribute to the lack of economic demand. This crisis is definitely global and requires a global response. Asymmetric reactions add to volatility in developing countries, increase the cost of capital, and adversely affect growth and poverty. People in the poor nations have had very little say. Governments must now realize that the financial sector requires adequate regulation. Increasing economic interdependence means that the need for collective global action is greater. Recent mistakes and exploitation by a few developed nations have imposed huge costs on the developing world. More regulation will not stifle innovation if it directs entrepreneurial efforts to enhance the well-being of the entire society. Enforcing the laws on competition can prevent the disasters caused by banks that were too big to fail and to be resolved. Yet so far the share of the banks that are too big to fail has increased.
Therefore international arrangements must be made to coordinate global economic policies because it is a question of fairness and self-interest for everyone that the developing countries are helped. A global reserve system is needed. Bank secrecy has caused problems in tax compliance and made fighting corruption in developing countries more difficult. Finally the commission concluded that to solve this global economic crisis and the imminent disasters of global warming, people must learn to live together in peace and harmony with social justice.
After the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 the official UN document A/RES/66/288 called “The Future We Want” on September 11 noted that governments had been relegated to ancillary roles, and they encouraged governments to formulate “regulatory and policy frameworks that enable business and industry to advance sustainable development initiatives.”
In the last half century or so most nations of the world have formed themselves into regional organizations.
The Organization of American States (OAS) was founded on May 5, 1948 with the following 21 members: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba (suspended between 1962–2009), Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras (suspended between 2009-2011), Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Since then the OAS has expanded to include all 35 independent nations of the Americas by adding Canada and the following newly independent nations of the Caribbean: Barbados (member since 1967), Trinidad and Tobago (1967), Jamaica (1969), Grenada (1975), Suriname (1977), Dominica (1979), Saint Lucia (1979), Antigua and Barbuda (1981), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1981), Bahamas (1982), Saint Kitts and Nevis (1984), Canada (1990), Belize (1991), and Guyana (1991). The General Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of OAS and convenes once every year in a regular session. In special circumstances and with the approval of two-thirds of the member states the Permanent Council can convene special sessions. Center-left governments have been elected in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, and Paraguay while more radical policies have been implemented in Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. In December 2011 the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was formed to exclude the United States, which had dominated the OAS, and Canada which had a right-wing government.
The Mercosur trading group was formed in 1991 and includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The Union of South American Nations (USAN) was formed in 2008 and now includes the following 12 members: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Mexico and Panama are non-member observer states.
The Central American Integration System started in 1991 with the following 6 members: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Belize joined in 2000, and the Dominican Republic became a full member in 2013.
The European Economic Community (EEC) began forming in 1951. The European Union (EU) was formally established in 1993 and now has the following 28 members: Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Ireland, Croatia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Malta. Eighteen of these nations (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain) adopted the euro as their official currency to form the Eurozone on January 1, 1999. In 2012 the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) enabled one million EU citizens to petition the European Commission to promote a legislative proposal, and in 2013 the first proposal was the Right2Water. On November 1, 2014 about 150,000 people in more than a hundred demonstrations gathered in Ireland to protest an attempt to tax and privatize the water supply. In March 2015 the European Council agreed to create an Energy Union to promote sustainable energy.
The Organization of African Unity (OAU) began with 32 nations on May 25, 1963. Morocco formally withdrew from the OAU in 1984 over the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. On July 9, 2002 the OAU was replaced by the African Union (AU) with the following 54 members: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo Brasaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The Central African Republic was suspended after the 2012–13 conflict.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was founded in 1975 and now has the following 15 members: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) was formed in 1992 and now also includes these 15 nations: Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The Arab League was formed on March 22, 1945 by Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. The League of Arab States (LAS) now has the following 21 members: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, State of Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Syria was a member but was suspended in November 2011.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was formed in 1969 and has 57 Muslim nations. In 1990 the OIC adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam which affirmed inequalities in Islamic law (Sharia) related to religion, gender, sexuality, and political rights, and it was condemned by the International Commission of Jurists. Although the Cairo Declaration forbids discrimination based on “race, color, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations” and expresses many rights for women, Article 24 states, “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Sharia.”
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was initiated on August 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, and since then its membership has expanded to 10 members by including Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was organized in 1985 with Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. They promote socio-cultural development and welfare economics. Afghanistan became a member of SAARC in 2007. Observer states include Australia, China, the European Union, Iran, Japan, Mauritius, Myanmar, South Korea, and the United States.
Nuclear Weapons Free Zones (NWFZ) have been established in Antarctica in 1961, outer space in 1967, Latin America and the Caribbean in 1969, the seabed in 1972, South Pacific in 1986, Southeast Asia by ASEAN in 1997, Mongolia in 2000, and in 2009 in Central Asia and all of Africa. ASEAN also formed the International Commission on Human Rights which has encouraged movements for more open democracies in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
China and India are so large that they are regional organizations by themselves. Neighbors of China in east Asia are Japan, Macao, Mongolia, North Korea, and South Korea. India’s neighbors in south Asia are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was organized in 1990 and now includes 39 members; 37 of them are also members of the United Nations. Nineteen are in the Atlantic Ocean, 16 in the Pacific Ocean, and 4 in the Indian Ocean. Australia and New Zealand are allied with the United States by the ANZUS security treaty.
Russia is also a large nation in area, and the former states of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) which are now independent nations include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland have not joined the European Union. The South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) includes five Balkan nations which have joined the EU (Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovenia) and the following six which have not: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.
These groups and formal regional organizations represent another development in the process of international integration besides the United Nations which now includes 193 nations. There are 54 countries or territories that are not members of the UN including Vatican City, Taiwan, Kosovo, and Palestine.
One of the main ways that people can work for world peace and justice is by influencing the regional organizations to pass resolutions and take strong stands on important issues that could prevent wars and global warming and reduce economic inequality and injustices. I believe that the people of the world should have the right to vote on such important questions as nuclear disarmament, a universal tax on carbon emissions, fair trade laws, and programs to help the poorest people in the world to obtain basic needs such as clean water, food, shelter, health care, and education. One way to mobilize world public opinion would be too create websites in nations, regions, and globally that would allow anyone on Earth to express their opinions on such issues. These polls could then be used to influence the politicians and elections in order to bring about the urgently needed reforms.
Founding the United Nations on October 24, 1945 was a major step toward international cooperation and the development of peace and justice in the world. However, the actual practices have not fulfilled the policies of its Charter nor the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as fully as they could. All nations can vote on resolutions in the General Assembly, but the real power to prevent wars and settle disputes is held by the UN Security Council which is controlled by the five permanent members (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) any one of which can veto any resolution.
Many people are afraid that a world government might be too strong and could be oppressive, but the history of the League of Nations and the United Nations shows that these organizations have been too weak to prevent wars and to address urgent issues such as poverty and climate change. By making the United Nations a federal government with a constitution it could be made stronger and more democratic by becoming more responsive to the needs and wishes of the people rather than just those of the national governments, especially the major powers. Establishing a democratic and constitutional world government would be an immensely complex task to undertake all at once. Perhaps improving the United Nations by making it more democratic and effective at instituting and enforcing world law would be a more practical approach. Because most nations, including the largest polluters such as China and the United States, are failing to reduce their carbon emissions, an effective tax on carbon emissions is urgently needed in order to prevent catastrophic results in the near future. Wars are also continuing to break out, and the danger of nuclear weapons being used still threatens mankind with unparalleled devastation.
Global peace and justice are urgently needed, and these could be more easily obtained if there were effective world laws legislated by a government which represents the will of the people. A new constitution for the United Nations could be proposed by the people, the nations, and the regional organizations that could authorize and legitimize urgently needed reforms. The United Nations needs to be restructured into a more democratic and effective government while continuing to respect and even expand human rights such as the rights to health care, education, and the basic necessities of life.
These and many other rights are already included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but the two covenants based on the declaration so far have not been able to implement these as effective laws in the world. In 1976 the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights went into effect, but only 67 states have ratified the treaty. China has not ratified the treaty. Ratification by the United States has been severely hampered by five reservations, five understandings, and four declarations, and the US Congress has not acted to implement the agreement. The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights also went into effect in 1976; but the United States has not ratified this treaty even though 162 nations have. Although these two covenants included monitoring compliance and reporting to the UN Economic and Social Council, they have not been given the force of law in most nations.
Efforts to make human rights more understood and applied include the following: Conventions on the Status of Refugees in 1951, on the Political Rights of Women in 1953, on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in 1966, on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979, Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1984, and on the Rights of the Child in 1989. The United Nations General Assembly has endorsed the following Declarations: on the Granting of Independence in Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960, on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition in 1974, on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief in 1981, on the Right of Development in 1986, on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities in 1992, and on the Elimination of Violence Against Women in 1993.
In January 2001 at the first World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil 20,000 activists gathered to protest the World Economic Forum that was meeting then in Davos, Switzerland. Five months later more than 700 organizations met at the Genoa Social Reform during the G8 summit there. After the warlike reaction by the United States to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the alter-global movement began to propose practical alternatives to neo-liberal globalization and American imperialism.
The second WSF met again at Port Alegre in February 2002 with 70,000 activists from more then a hundred countries. Skeptical of the WTO, the World Bank, and the IMF for being unrepresentative, undemocratic, not transparent, and manipulated by transnational corporations, the final document of the WSF assembly criticized those institutions and the NATO military alliance, demanding that they be replaced by “democratic international institutions” handled by governments that are based on participation by the people.
Because profits of large multinational corporations are out of control, the fiscal well-being of the welfare state has been weakened. The international institutions, which are not democratic, have become dominated by the imperial power of the United States and its military allies. Many activists felt the need for political participation based on direct democracy. They longed for a multi-polar and multi-level state that would start from neighborhoods and reach the entire Earth with a synthesis of participatory and representative democracy that would protect cultural differences, respect local needs, and provide solutions to global conflicts peacefully and democratically for the common good of humanity.
In August-September 2002 at a meeting of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg the UBUNTU network initiated the World Campaign for In-depth Reform of the System of International Institutions, and their main demands included a more democratic United Nations, preventing global warming, eradicating poverty, and reforming world trade.
As the United Nations Security Council was refusing to approve another invasion of Iraq by the United States, demonstrations were organized on February 15, 2003 in more than 800 cities on five continents with millions of people demanding peace. The New York Times reported that now there may be two superpowers in the world—the United States and world public opinion.
An international seminar to “Reclaim our UN” met at Padua in November 2004 representing 25 international networks and 50 national organizations. They formulated a document that influenced the WSF at Port Alegre in January 2005 when 140 organizations attended the “Reclaim our UN” seminar. They planned a Global Day of Mobilization for a New World Order Against Poverty, War and Unilateralism, for Economic and Social Justice, Peace and Democracy on September 10, 2005. National leaders met the next week at the United Nations and affirmed their commitments to eradicate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals, but they ignored the demands of the Peace Roundtable to democratize the UN and to guarantee funding to prevent wars, protect human rights, solve environmental problems, and reform the world economy by radically changing the IMF, World Bank, and the WTO.
In April 2007 a campaign began to establish a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) which was supported by more than a thousand members of parliament of whom 800 were still in office as well as more than 300 professors. The Committee for a Democratic UN in Berlin acts as an international secretariat for the campaign. The campaign for a UNPA has been supported by the Canadian Foreign Affairs Committee, the Pan-African Parliament, and the Mercosur Parliament in 2007; the Latin American Parliament and the Senate of Argentina in 2008; the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2009; and the European Parliament in 2011.
In 2004 George Monbiot, one of the leaders of the global justice movement, published his Manifesto for a New World Order in which he complained, “Everything has been globalized but our consent.” After examining various political philosophies he concluded that a global democratic revolution is the most realistic strategy to free people from the vested interests. He observed that the Age of Coercion has been met by an Age of Dissent which needs to evolve into the Age of Consent.
One of the manifestos from the Occupy movement that began on Wall Street in September 2011 was the “United for Global Democracy” appeal on October 15 which was supported by many prominent thinkers in the Global Justice Movement such as Noam Chomsky, Eduardo Galeano, Michael Hardt, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, and Vandana Shiva.
The Constitution of the United Nations Democracy (UND) I am proposing could authorize the UND Congress to legislate world laws passed by majority votes in the General Assembly and in the House of Delegates that are approved by a majority of the people voting in the world and of the Nine Presidents elected to the Executive Council. Each of the 193 nations which are members of the United Nations would have one vote in the UND General Assembly. The members of the UND House of Delegates would be democratically elected by the people of the world.
As of 2016 there are 131 nations with more than four million people. Based on population estimates the 43 nations with 4 million people and less than 10 million would elect one Delegate each with a half vote. The 30 nations with 10 million people and less than 20 million would elect one Delegate, each with one vote. The 23 nations with 20 million people and less than 40 million would elect two Delegates each. The 13 nations with 40 million people and less than 60 million would elect three Delegates each. The 7 nations with 60 million people and less than 80 million would elect four Delegates each. The 6 nations with 80 million people and less than 110 million would elect five Delegates each. The 2 nations with 110 million people and less than 140 million would elect six Delegates each. The 9 nations with 140 million people or more would elect one Delegate for each 20 million people. A global census would be taken in years ending in zero in order to determine the number of Delegates for the next decade.
Based on current population estimates the House of Delegates would have about 426 members. The number of Delegates for the larger nations would be the following: China 69, India 66, United States 16, Indonesia 13, Brazil 10, Pakistan 9, Nigeria 9, Bangladesh 8, Russia 7, Japan and Mexico 6 each, Philippines, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Egypt, Germany, and Iran 5 each; DR Congo, Turkey, Thailand, United Kingdom, and France 4 each; Italy, Tanzania, South Africa, Myanmar (Burma), South Korea, Colombia, Kenya, Spain, Ukraine, Argentina, Sudan, Algeria, and Uganda 3 each; and the following 23 nations would have 2 Delegates each: Poland, Iraq, Canada, Morocco, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Venezuela, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Mozambique, Ghana, Yemen, Angola, North Korea, Madagascar, Australia, Cameroon, Taiwan, Ivory Coast, Sri Lanka, and Niger.
Nations with 10 million people and less than 20 million would elect one Delegate each, and each would have one vote. According to current population estimates they would be the following 30 countries: Romania, Burkina Faso, Syria, Mali, Chile, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Netherlands, Zambia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Senegal, Chad, Guinea, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Cuba, Tunisia, Belgium, Benin, Somalia, Greece, Bolivia, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Czech Republic, and Portugal.
Nations with 4 million people and less than 10 million would have Delegates whose votes would count as one-half vote each. According to current population estimates they would be the following 43 countries: Azerbaijan, Sweden, Hungary, Belarus, United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Tajikistan, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Jordan, Togo, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Laos, Paraguay, Sierra Leone, Libya, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Singapore, Denmark, Finland, Turkmenistan, Slovakia, Eritrea, Norway, Central African Republic, Costa Rica, Palestine, Congo, Ireland, Oman, Liberia, New Zealand, Croatia, Mauritania, Moldova, and Kuwait.
Currently 49 nations have more than 300,000 people and less than 4 million. In electing Delegates these smaller nations could be combined into four groups each electing one Delegate with one vote each. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Albania, Slovenia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Cyprus, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Malta, and Iceland have a combined total of about 19 million people, and they could vote together to elect one Delegate. Georgia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Qatar, Latvia, Bahrain, Estonia, and Djibouti have a combined total of about 18 million people, and they could vote together to elect one Delegate. Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland, Mauritius, Comoros, Western Sahara, and Cape Verde have a combined total of about 18 million people, and they could vote together to elect one Delegate. Panama, Uruguay, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Timor-Leste, Fiji, Guyana, Bhutan, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Brunei, Martinique, Bahamas, Maldives, and Belize have a combined total of about 17 million people, and they could vote together to elect one Delegate.
All nations would have one vote each in the General Assembly which could continue to meet in New York. A more central location for the UND House of Delegates might by located in Athens in recognition of its historic role as a founder of democracy.
After either the UND General Assembly or the UND House of Delegates passed a bill by a majority vote, a notice would immediately be sent by email to all registered voters in the world aged 18 and over who then would have seven days to vote electronically for or against the bill. If a majority of the people voted against any bill, both the General Assembly and the House of Delegates would need a three-fifths vote to pass the bill on to the Council of Nine Presidents. A majority vote by the Presidents would approve the new law. If the Presidents voted against a bill approved by both houses and the people, the General Assembly and the House of Delegates could override their veto with a two-thirds vote by both houses; but they could not override a bill disapproved by both the people and the Presidents.
Elections could also be held by electronic voting. Voters could request ballots and vote by postal mail in elections, but voting on legislative bills would be only by electronic means. Voting electronically would be protected by laws making it a misdemeanor to try to coerce or bribe any voter or for a voter to accept a bribe in exchange for a vote. Repeated offenses of this law and attempts to cheat by manipulating voting results would be felonies. Both houses would be required to vote on any bill sponsored by at least one-third of its members.
The UN Security Council would be replaced by the UND Executive Council of Nine Presidents elected by the people from the following nine regions: China, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and West Asia, Southeast Asia, North Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. In recognition of the League of Nations, perhaps the Executive Council of Nine Presidents could meet in Geneva. The estimated populations of these regions at this time are China 1,380 million, India 1,330 million, Sub-Saharan Africa 990 million, North Africa and West Asia 680 million, Southeast Asia 680 million, North Asia 540 million, Europe 520 million, North America 480 million, and South America 470 million.
China including Hong Kong and Macau would be one region by itself.
India with Sri Lanka and Maldives would be one region.
Sub-Saharan Africa would include all African nations with Madagascar except the nations of North Africa.
North Africa and West Asia would include Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and South Sudan from North Africa and Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh from West Asia.
North Asia would include Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan.
Southeast Asia would include Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands which are not part of the United States.
The Europe region would include Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the Vatican State.
North America would include Canada, Greenland, United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama.
South America would include that continent and the nations in the Caribbean Sea.
The Executive Council of Nine Presidents would be authorized by the Constitution of the United Nations Democracy (UND) to enforce the world laws made by the UND. However, to send police or peacekeepers into a nation suspected of violating world laws or into a nation which another nation is suspected of invading would require a vote by at least six of the nine Presidents. The UND Constitution and world laws could regulate UND elections to assure that they are fair.
The judicial branch of the UND would consist of a World Supreme Court of nine Judges who would be appointed by the Nine Presidents for nine years with one appointed from each of the nine regions each year. Each Supreme Court Judge would need to be confirmed by a three-fifths majority of the House of Delegates. The first nine Judges would have terms of different lengths so that one could be replaced each year. The Presidents may re-appoint a Judge who must be confirmed again, but no Judge could serve more than 20 years. The Congress and the Presidents could establish district courts in the nine regions, and the judgments of those courts could be appealed to the World Supreme Court. In recognition of India being the largest democracy, perhaps the World Supreme Court could meet in New Delhi.
The first draft of the Constitution of the United Nations Democracy proposed by myself can be read in the Documents section at the back of this book.
China and the other nations in East Asia have reduced poverty with egalitarian programs such as land reform and universal education. Latin America also has shown that funding public education can reduce inequality and poverty. Brazil lifted more than 30 million people out of poverty and decreased income inequality by two-thirds between 2000 and 2006. Implementing less inequality in education narrowed the wage differences among workers. Venezuela under Hugo Chavez reduced extreme poverty from 16.6% of the people in 1999 to 7% in 2011. Ecuador led by Rafael Correa had its poverty rates fall by 32%. In Argentina urban poverty was 54.7% in 2003, but by 2011 it was down to 6.5%. In Bolivia the election of its first indigenous president, Evo Morales, helped reduce the number of people in extreme poverty from 38% in 2005 to 21.6% in 2012, and the unemployment rate was cut in half. In 2013 the Bolivian minimum wage was raised 20%. Latin America has improved its social policies. Improvements in agriculture and rural development also reduce poverty quickly as seen in China and Vietnam. In contrast Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have made less progress because their agricultural sectors have received little public support.
With the rapidly expanding world population we have seen the frequent need to provide emergency relief to millions of people because of wars, droughts, famines, epidemics, and the migration of refugees from these disasters. These efforts are desperately needed, but they are only treating the symptoms of poverty, not the causes. The way to prevent these calamities is to support education, sanitation and clean water, health care for all, land reform, and other economic programs that provide opportunities for the poor to earn their way into the middle class. The capitalist system has increased poverty with its exploitation of low wages, ravaging of the natural and human resources of poor nations, and collecting interest on loans to poor countries while forcing them to adopt policies that increase the exploitation and retard the remedies.
The increasing catastrophes from climate change are forcing people to wake up to the disasters that result from capitalist exploitation and the continued use of fossil fuels while being blind to the consequences. Global warming is causing the exploitation and dire consequences for many poor nations to become rapidly worse. The wealthy nations have been relying on fossil fuels to energize their industrial growth and modern life-styles that use most of the world’s natural resources while leaving the poor nations in the South with a hotter climate which results in less fresh water and food. The conscientious people of the world must unite to reverse this trend by initiating radical reforms to reduce the use of fossil fuels, increase the use of renewable energy, and provide the economic assistance to mediate the devastating results of global warming. Already millions of people in Bangladesh are suffering because a large portion of their nation is flooded by seawater. Yet India’s response has been to build a fence on the border and guard it with armed forces to keep out immigrants.
National governments could agree to a multi-lateral treaty with a universal tax on carbon emissions even before an effective world government is democratically organized. Perhaps half of this tax could be used by national governments as they choose with the recommendation that they promote renewable energy and conservation while the other half of the tax could be channeled through the United Nations to help poor countries mitigate the effects of global warming.
The Commission of Experts, which was organized to advise the United Nations General Assembly on reforms to the international financial system, has recommended creating a global financial authority responsible for facilitating financial regulations including on money laundering and tax secrecy. The developing nations need to collect their fair share from private businesses that are part of the global value chains which operate inside their borders. A conservative estimate of the annual tax revenues the developing countries could raise is $250 billion which would triple the resources they receive from the official development assistance (ODA).
National governments need to increase their ability to cooperate and monitor transnational finances so that they can protect their tax bases with regulations. They could widen the scope of multilateral tax cooperation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) by relying on a larger framework provided by the United Nations. Heavily indebted nations need an internationally acceptable mechanism to work out their debt obligations that would apply to all creditors. I suggest that the interest on the debts of poor nations should be forgiven in order to stop the transfer of money from the poor to the rich and so that the poor nations can develop their economies and pay off the principal when they can afford to do so. More prudent regulation and supervision of lending is needed to control capital with regulatory reforms to create counter-cyclical rules for reserve requirements and provisions for the loss of loans. Financial markets and products need to be transparent with accounting and public disclosure.
Since the great recession which began in 2008 and the escalating climate crisis, the people of the world face a worsening emergency related to food, fresh water, and energy insecurity. So far the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been ineffective at bringing about the binding commitments and enforcement capability needed to reduce carbon emissions and global warming. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has formed the Multilateral Framework on Labor Migration (MFLM) based on the human rights of migrants, and they have called for international cooperation to respond to both temporary and permanent migrations.
In the last few decades economic globalization has drastically increased the structural inequality of economic and political power within nations and between the rich and poor nations, and this inequity has infected the multilateral organizations of the United Nations and others that were created during the colonial era by the winners of World War II. The unchecked growth of capitalism has worsened injustice and fostered neo-imperialism that has resulted in millions of people living in misery while the rich are rapidly becoming even richer. The solutions to this triple megacrisis of global warming, economic injustice, and devastating wars are improved democracy, global cooperation, reduction of violence, universal disarmament of the weapons of war, settlement of international disputes by world courts, and sharing of excess wealth so that everyone can have a chance to live a decent life.
When rich nations and individuals give a small percentage of their large incomes to aid the poor nations and people who are suffering, the transfer of cash enables those in poverty to improve household consumption and productive capacity, helping them to work their way out of poverty. By 2010 social assistance programs in developing nations were reaching more than three-quarters of a billion people. The Chinese Dibao program began providing cash and other support for poor households in 1993, and it has expanded from two million beneficiaries in 1999 to more than 22 million in 2002. South Africa introduced child support grants in 1998 and was reaching nine million children by 2007. In India the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee started in 2005 and was reaching 49 million households by 2009. These represent only a small fraction of what needs to be done.
In the 1980s the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank tried to assist less developed countries by funding structural adjustment programs (SAPs) which drastically reduced public expenditures by governments while promoting market principles in the private sector which reduced employment and in Africa caused a lost decade with little economic improvement. In 1999 the World Bank initiated the Poverty Reduction Strategy Plan (PRSP) which required the developing governments to make contracts with the donating agencies. Thus the neoliberal agenda of economic growth by privatization was continued in Africa, and once again the African governments and people were blamed for the failure of the structural adjustment programs (SAPs) which were conditions of the loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These policies discredit local markets, tenure, livelihoods, and community organizations by favoring corporate business management with technical audits, economic growth based on exports, and large private companies that are usually foreign-owned. They are justified by the propaganda that they will increase economic growth and individual freedom. However, the results for Africans have increased financial inequality and made poverty worse. Donors and governments have collaborated in implementing subsidies, tariff reductions, and security for investors while pretending this was done by the private sector without the help of government.
Since the great recession began in 2008, exposing the pitfalls of deregulation and free markets, the IMF and World Bank have been changing their policies by bringing the governments back into the process. The trend toward more socially responsible investing is even influencing the World Bank. More people are discovering that capitalist investments usually help only a few people and increase economic inequality but that alleviating poverty is cost effective, builds solid growth of the economic base, increases development, and reduces violence especially when human rights are protected. China lifted hundreds of millions of their people out of poverty and is now offering alternative policies to helping Africans in Zambia. Still many African governments have leased valuable property and water rights to attract foreign investors, including the Chinese. Investors have been acquiring land in Africa on a large scale and are replacing small farms with large operations. Between 2000 and 2011 in the developing world 500 million acres (200 million hectares) were purchased, and the duration of land leases in developing countries ranges from 50 to 99 years.
In 2016 the Fund for Peace ranked the 38 most fragile nations as Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Haiti, Iraq, Guinea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Guinea Bissau, Eritrea, Niger, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Uganda, Ethiopia, Libya, Myanmar, Liberia, Mauritania, Mali, North Korea, Congo, Rwanda, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, Bangladesh, Angola, and Egypt.
Poor nations need protection against capitalist extraction and exploitation of their natural and human resources by predatory corporations. By analyzing authoritative studies the American professor Ralph Estes calculated that in 1994 US corporations inflicted $2.6 trillion worth of environmental and social damage which was five times their total profits. Global laws and taxes could make sure that companies pay fair compensation for the environmental destruction and other damages they cause. Impoverished countries must be allowed to protect their own developing industries and be permitted to benefit from technology and “intellectual property” at reasonable rates. Companies could pay justly for the wealth they extract. Workers could be supported with global minimum-wage standards. Why should rich corporations be allowed to pay starvation wages to workers in poor nations? Worker rights and conditions also need to be protected. Instead of giving foreign corporations unfair advantages, local governments can control pollution, tax foreigners, and allow workers to form unions. In 1999 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights drafted “guidelines for companies.” Corporations that violate laws must be held accountable throughout the world.
Human rights and the laws protecting them have been displaced in recent decades by the capitalist policies of the unelected World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Massive poverty in the world is the result of a system which structurally benefits a few people while disadvantaging many. Capitalists and political leaders in the rich northern countries have conspired with political leaders and a few capitalists in poor southern nations to extract and sell the natural resources to foreign investors and to use loans and debt with their interest payments to impose their materialistic values that concentrate wealth in fewer hands while bankrupting poor governments and devastating the environment. Unless global warming is reversed by radical changes in policies, what has been caused primarily by the use of fossil fuels by the rich northern countries is going to devastate the water resources and agriculture of the poor southern nations.
In the 21st century the imperial hegemony of the United States is declining as the regions of the world organize their economic and political influence. American imperial power is receding as its resources are wasted on failed military adventures, especially in the Mideast. The militaristic exercise of power motivated by “national interests” determined by elite leaders needs to be replaced by the power of law authorized by constitutions that protect human rights. Recent history has shown that attempts to impose a free-market ideology on the entire world by the military and economic power of the wealthy has excluded the vast majority of humans from the benefits of scientific and economic progress produced mostly by workers, not the elites who manipulate politics and finances for their own aggrandizement and profit. Amid desperate circumstances violence has increased; more wars are breaking out; and powerful nations have used overwhelming military power to try to expand their hegemony.
In 1986 the General Assembly of the United Nations promulgated the Declaration on the Right to Development, which defined development as a “comprehensive economic, social, cultural, and political process which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom.”
These rights were confirmed and elucidated by the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action which was adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on June 25, 1993 and created the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights. The very first proposition affirmed that human rights must be “encoded in all legal, political, economic, and social practices so that the human rights, dignity, and well-being of persons are not placed at risk.” Protecting human rights with effective laws can assure ethical accountability in practice. Justice in the world can be promoted and implemented by national laws, developing regional organizations, and by creating a global constitution that respects and protects people and their diversity in all nations. More than 120 national human rights institutions have been established in 130 countries. Constitutional governments establish courts of law, judicial review, independent electoral commissions, improved budgeting with auditing procedures, and human rights commissions.
People have a natural right to peace and security, but these depend on the economic rights and development that lift people out of poverty. In 1996 the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions adopted the Larrakia Declaration that called upon all parts of society to cooperate in advancing human rights, and they noted the benefits which come to human rights from regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In 1998 the International Labor Organization (ILO) adopted the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work obligating its members to respect, promote, and realize the fundamental rights of free association and collective bargaining, elimination of forced labor, abolition of child labor, and no discrimination in employment. In recent years more people are realizing the importance of human rights to peace and development and the need for international laws to protect them.
The Earth Charter initiative was begun by Earth Council chairman Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1994 in order to implement the action plan of the 1992 Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro. The first international workshop was held at The Hague in May 1995 with representatives from thirty countries and seventy organizations. A commission of 23 people issued a Draft Earth Charter at the Rio+5 Forum in March 1997, and consultation continued for two more years. The mission of the Earth Charter was launched in June 2000 at The Hague “to establish a sound ethical foundation for the emerging global society and to help build a sustainable world based on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.” In 2002 the Earth Charter was recognized by the United Nations, and many countries and organizations have adopted it as an educational tool. The complete text of the Earth Charter is in the Documents section of this book.
In 2007 the UN General Assembly approved the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Since Canada has proposed spending $5 billion to build the Keystone Pipeline from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta, the first nations (native peoples) of Canada have increased their resistance which has also spread in the United States on the route of the proposed Keystone XL that would run to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Many are finding that in opposing the dirty fossil fuels they can also promote the natural and clean energy that comes from the sun and wind which are also free and will never run out.
The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa proposed that reparations be paid to compensate Africans for the centuries of colonialism and slavery. The United States and Israel withdrew from the conference because Zionism was identified with racism. In May 2014 Ta-Nehisi Coates published “The Case for Reparations” in The Atlantic. The extraction and exploitation of natural resources in Africa, Asia, and Latin America has impoverished billions of people instead of sharing the profits with them, and the extreme poverty has increased the internal violence including many crimes of sexual violence.
The most basic human right is to a secure life free of violence. Yet billions of poor people suffer from violence because their human rights are not protected by the laws and police as they generally are in developed nations. Many of the dysfunctional systems are legacies from the colonial era that were never reformed. Often the wealthy and powerful elites prefer lawlessness because their crimes would be threatened by the rule of law. The worst problem is when those responsible for law enforcement are corrupt and are among the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses.
Yet movements to reform criminal justice systems in developing nations can succeed. In treating issues of global poverty the prevalence of violence must be addressed so that the poor may be protected. Otherwise millions of people suffer in terror. Poor women and girls are often exploited and suffer violence that includes sexual crimes such as clitoridectomies (female genital mutilation) in Africa. When agencies work to alleviate poverty, they need to include reform of criminal justice systems with economic development. All people deserve a justice system that protects their rights.
Currently wealth and income are not well distributed in the world. The people in the wealthiest nations that make up the top one-fifth take in more than 80% of the income while those in the poorest nations of the bottom fifth have only 1.4% of the world’s income.
The annual budget for the United Nations and the World Bank has been running about $5 billion per year for each. At the end of 2010 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had about $756 billion. Contributions to the United Nations system have been about 0.07% of the world gross product per year. Recalcitrant nations tend to impose conditions before they make their voluntary donations. A constitutional democratic world government could legally collect taxes from individuals and corporations. If the United Nations Democracy could bring about global disarmament of nuclear weapons and other weapons of war and reduction of military forces, then the nations would have much more money to use for beneficial purposes. The money saved from expensive war preparations and destructive wars could finance the transition to clean energy and help the poor nations develop their economies in peace. Tax havens could be eliminated, and the Tax Justice Network has estimated that the wealth in tax havens is at least $21 trillion, which in 2012 was equal to about one quarter of the gross world product.
In 1949 the United States contributed $6.3 billion, which was 2.5% of its gross national product, in the Marshall Plan to help rebuild the economies of western Europe and East Asia. Taiwan and South Korea received $5.2 billion by the end of 1961, and most of it was in grants. In 1961 when President John Kennedy implemented the Alliance for Progress for Latin America, $10 billion in loans were pledged over a ten-year period.
In 1956 Mahdub ul Haq in his book The Poverty Curtain: Choices for the Third World recommended an anti-humanitarian tax of 10% on arms expenditures. This could be a deterrent, but even better than this would be eliminating that spending. Global resources such as sea-bed mining could be taxed as well as international trade and transfers of profits. In 1972 James Tobin proposed a tax on foreign exchange transactions to reduce speculation in capital flows. He also believed that a better solution is a common currency.
The present system of currency exchange concentrates financial gains in few hands while disadvantaging many. Floating exchange rates increase volatility. Because of globalization the world has a more integrated market, and therefore a single world currency could be quite beneficial. With one common currency global capital movement would be like capital movement is today within national economies or within the Eurozone. A currency union works well especially when sustained by a centralized monetary authority and by common institutions. Thus global money could be secured by building global democratic federalism. Without a global currency and global democracy national competition leads to a system of domination rather than cooperation. Currently the US$ dominates, helping Americans and financial speculators while hurting others. The first step in shutting down this gambling casino is to permanently fix exchange rates and then eliminate separate currencies. The second step is to establish transfers to compensate for the uneven effects of markets so that willingness to join the currency union will not be undermined. In his 2004 book Myron J. Frankman wrote,
Imagining a world community
and building world-scale democratic institutions,
including a world currency, world public finance
and a planet-wide citizen’s income,
may be the only peaceful and sustainable way out
of our increasingly strife-prone global race to the bottom.2
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is already overcoming dependence on the dollar by using a basket of the four currencies—the dollar, the euro, the Japanese yen, and the pound sterling. This creates the international liquidity needed to conduct counter-cyclical policy on a global scale. In order to prevent worse climate change a Green Climate Fund could be created to float bonds and fund spending on climate change. I suggest that the United Nations Democracy could regulate and tax currency exchange to raise needed revenue and reduce speculation until a world currency is established.
Eventually a global currency could be created that every nation could use. Dollars and cents (and other currencies) could be replaced by creating “globals” that would initially be worth ten globals for each dollar using the symbol of a capital G with a single vertical line through it just as the dollar sign ($) is a capital S with a vertical line. The new coins could be for 1, 5, and 10 globals. Thus pennies and nickels would no longer be needed nor would there be a decimal point and cents as in the dollar system. Inflation since the 1950s has made the dollar system less efficient because the value of what was one dollar in the 1950s is now worth about ten dollars. By creating a world currency those using dollars would no longer have special advantages, and the need to exchange currencies would be greatly reduced.
1. The Stiglitz Report by Joseph E. Stiglitz and Members of the UN Commission of Financial Experts, p. 7, 8.
2. World Democratic Federalism: Peace and Justice Indivisible by Myron J. Frankman, p. 189.