Moving on from Live 8

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“It's a little bit of a dilemma, to think of the nations that have helped make Africa poor. And now we look to these nations for help.” (Mighty Popo, African Guitar Summit, Live 8 Concert.)

There is an African expression cited recently by The Globe and Mail columnist Ken Wiwa that sums up the “dilemma.” When the white man came to Africa with his bible, the Africans were living on the land. When he left, the Africans had the bible, and the white man had their land.

The point about the Live 8 concerts was to change the policies in the West that have done so much to make Africa poor. The social democratic injunction fits: first, do no harm. In this case stop the outflow of debt payments, step up the flow of new aid, and revise the trade rules that work against Africa.

One-third of the Canadian population tuned into the Live 8 telecast at some point.

Making the G8 leaders aware the world is watching is important; Live 8 organizers did their job on that score.

Getting the G8 to do something this week will be easier as a result, but what emerges is hardly going to be satisfactory. The G8 is, after all, run by its biggest member, U.S. President you-know-who.

For the ten of millions in the Live 8 audience who signed the pledges and who will be watching the Gleneagles summit for results, it is important to talk about the next steps. What more can be done to Make Poverty History? How can we move on to the ideas for a better world that inspired the Live 8 musicians to perform, and the audience to tune in, and sign on?

Much of what we do in the West needs to be rethought. Here are some proposals, worked out after meeting Southern Hemisphere economists in Havana: ten ways to move ahead, having as an objective to globalize solidarity — the spirit on display at Live 8 across the world.

  • The real economy operates because people work together to meet each other's needs, not because of accumulation by the few, for themselves. Organizing economic life to meet basic needs across our one world recognizes this principle of solidarity.
  • Work belongs to those who produce, who create, and who serve others. Human dignity requires no less. Exchange of products is first about the sharing of work, about human relations, not about price flexibility.
  • Prices for primary and manufactured products require long term contracts, and should not be set by short term auctions which pit large corporations against small producers.
  • Reversing the unjust distribution of power and resources requires international cooperation in service of national development, and vibrant local economies, not subordination to American hegemony.
  • Environmental and social costs affect all and cannot be treated as external to price formation. Natural justice requires green taxes and regulations. Prosecution of pollution violations is in the common interest. Green plans are essential for human development.
  • Working for human development means defeating illiteracy, disease, and hunger. Citizens' rights to health care, education, and the provision of basic public services, including income support for those in need, are universal and irrevocable.
  • Redistribution of wealth and income is an important economic objective. It needs to be supported through fair, transparent taxation. Public expenditure budgets represent a common fund for the common good.
  • Speculation, and manipulation of paper assets, are not authentic sources of wealth. Finance must be locally controlled, and regulated by national sovereignty.
  • The perverse flow of international capital from poor countries to rich reflects unequal power relations, not sound economic principles. The current account deficit of the United States is unsustainable, not the deficits of the poor countries of the world. Rich countries should adjust their policies to meet the needs of the poor and not, as prevails today, the reverse.
  • Because we trade only with ourselves, the world cannot have a balance of trade surplus or deficit. It is unreasonable to expect all countries to show balance of trade surpluses at the same time. Rather than asking indebted countries to export themselves out of debt, it is preferable to expect substantial debt relief, and the extension of low cost credit for international trade, investment and development.

Make Poverty History organizers reminded us that 1,200,000,000 people live in extreme poverty today, 800,000,000 people will go to bed hungry tonight, and that 50,000 people will die from poverty-related causes tomorrow.

Makepovertyhistory.ca says: “It doesn't have to be this way.” When enough people agree, political leaders will do what they do best. Follow.

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