Global civil society: UN falling to deliver, focus on economics
The Global Call to action against poverty (GCAP) global council spent its first day discussing priorities for campaigning: and the role of civil society in global decision-making. The UN came in for more stick than usual, and unions were central to a shift towards focusing on the economy rather than relations with governments.
The UN is usually held up as a better arena for global governance than self-appointed groups like the G8 and G20, and while that’s still true, participants were certainly not UN cheerleaders. Perhaps it was the recent experience of seeing the UN MDG review summit earlier in the week?
The delegate from GCAP Portugal stressed that the UN was not a democratic body and was missing the voice of civil society. The representative from Bangladesh noted that many governments at the UN were not democracies, and GCAP co-chair Sylvia Borren (Oxfam Netherlands and the workers’ group) asked whether UN consultations with GCAP were just a process of ‘civil society whitewashing’. The G77 of developing nations, rather than being the body to cheer on from the sidelines, needed to be lobbied as hard as the G20.
Turning to the substance, day one of the GCAP Global Council heard a new emphasis on economic campaigns. As well as demands for Governments to introduce financial transaction taxes, tackle climate change and just governance, GCAP Sierra Leone said that many African countries could pay for achieving the MDGs themselves, if only they could keep control of their own mineral rights. She demanded that northern governments hold their multi-national enterprises to account.
ITUC New York officer Gemma Adaba raised similar concerns: she said “we shouldn’t lament profit growth, we should demand that profits are fairly distrinuted.” She welcomed the G8/G20 shift from poverty reduction to growth and wealth creation, but stressed that social justice was key.