From the TUC

Brown and Lula on the London Summit: a progressive agenda we can push further

10 Mar 2009, by in Economics, International

The Prime Minister addressed the DFID conference yesterday, and set out some of his themes for the London Summit on 2 April. Among them were commitments to boost demand worldwide, tackle tax havens, reform the International Financial Institutions to give the global south a bigger say, and re-commit to the Millennium Development Goals (in particular, his joint pledge with President Obama to get the remaining 75 million children into primary education).

And President Lula of Brazil, in a Financial Times article today which paid tribute to his roots in the trade union movement, summarised succinctly what progressives should hope for from the London summit, and what we want people to demonstrate for on Saturday 28 March.

Here’s how Lula’s article winds up:

“what I can say is what sort of society I hope will emerge from this crisis. It will reward production and not speculation. The function of the financial sector will be to stimulate productive activity – and it will be the object of rigorous controls, both national and international, by means of serious and representative organisations. International trade will be free of the protectionism that shows dangerous signs of intensifying. The reformed multilateral organisations will operate programmes to support poor and emerging economies with the aim of reducing the imbalances that scar the world today. There will be a new and democratic system of global governance. New energy policies, reform of systems of production and of patterns of consumption will ensure the survival of a planet threatened today by global warming.

But, above all, I hope for a world free of the economic dogmas that invaded the thinking of many and were presented as absolute truths. Anti-cyclical policies must not be adopted only when a crisis is under way. Applied in advance – as they have been in Brazil – they can be the guarantors of a more just and democratic society.”

Brown’s was an inspiring speech – international development is clearly not just part of the day job. Here’s a taste:

“In the run-up to the London Summit next month, we will work with the World Bank and our G20 partners to build support for a new fund specifically to help the world’s poorest through the downturn. Too often in the past our responses to such crises have been inadequate or misdirected — promoting economic orthodoxies that we ourselves have not followed and that have condemned the world’s poorest to a deepening cycle of poverty.”

The devil will of course be in the detail (will Brown be willing to crack down on tax havens in British territories, for example?) But Brown’s pragmatic policies and Lula’s vision constitute a progressive agenda for the London Summit which is worth supporting – realisable immediate goals which point the way to a more radical transformation, and don’t lose sight of development or environmental concerns.

We need to keep stressing in particular that reflation in the north, development in the south and global action against climate change is more than a list of three priorities, but interlock to form a coherent programme – each underpinning and delivering the other.

That makes an impressive turnout on the 28 March demonstration – for jobs, justice, climate – all the more important. We must demonstrate:

  • that there is popular support for what the British Prime Minister and the Brazilian President are calling for;
  • that the issues are inexorably intertwined; and
  • that even if they start well on 2 April, world leaders need to go further.