Summit News, #1 - Tuesday June 13, 1995


IMF Reform: So What?

The Bretton Woods Institutions - the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)- have come under increasing fire from governments of contributor countries for bloated administration costs, failed projects, and absent of accountability. This year's G-7 meeting is expected to address these major issues.

The 1994 G-7 meeting in Naples called for a major review of the IMF and World Bank. The Canadian House of Commons, and Canada's Auditor General, amongst others, have added their voices (Canada contributes more than $250 billion annually to the World Bank, and has committed $6.4 billion to the IMF).

But what kind of review will G-7 leaders call for? Will they try merely to increase the efficiency of IMF and World Bank operations? Will they review the intent behind those operations, questioning who wins and who loses? Should we hope for a more efficient World Bank and IMF, or be grateful that their inefficiencies at least slow down the damage they can do?

What, in fact, do the World Bank and IMF do? The IMF is supposed to promote international monetary cooperation, expansion of international trade, and exchange rate flexibility. The primary mission of the World Bank is supposed to be poverty alleviation. To achieve this goal, the bank has funded projects that have forcibly resettled 2.5 million people since 1986 alone.

Its structural adjustment programs - the infamous Saps - have forced governments in debtor countries to cut social programming to focus on debt reduction. This has a familiar ring to Canadians. But in the Third World, this often means that poor families must pay to go to a clinic or send their children to school. Just how does the World Bank make the connection between SAPs and the alleviation of poverty?

The IMF answers by arguing that reduced foreign debt leads to economic growth, and that economic growth will trickle down to even the poorest, eventually. In the meantime, it's the poorest who are hurt most by national belt tightening. And NGOs scramble to find the funds to provide essential services no longer provided by governments, while the wealthy elites who incurred the debts are largely unaffected.

These sorts of bitter realities have led many to question whether we should want more efficient Bretton Woods Institutions. Many suggest that any future review should focus on the social and economic justice of international economic relations, rather than on the efficiency of the institutions that administer these relations. Only then, they argue, will there be any reason to get excited about reforms.

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World Leaders Unite at the People's Summit

Leaders from around the world have come to the People's Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada to discuss global alternatives for the global economy. These leaders represent countries as diverse as South Africa, Ghana, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, as well as the United States, Canada, Ecuador and India.

Thabi Shange of South Africa works with thousands of women in self-help organizations, through her position as coordinator of Philisisizwe Association for Development (PAD). She lectures at the University of Natal on rural development management. Thabi Shange spoke movingly at our opening picnic of displaced peoples, linking the displacement occurring in South Africa with the current struggle over Africville. Only through making these linkages, Ms. Shange said, will people involved in struggle command attention from the governments.

Sibongile Jack also hails from South Africa. Since 1991, she has been programme coordinator of the Township Aids Project (TAP). She works currently with Puppets Against Aids and will be working with Youth for Social Justice, of the Atlantic Region, during their performances of "A Bunch of Crackies".

Charles Abugre works with the Third World Network based in Accra, Ghana. This Network brings together groups and individuals who seek greater articulation of the rights of the peoples of the Third World.

Carlos Heredia works with Equipo Pueblo; which works towards the economic and political democratization of Mexico. In particular, the Equipo proposes alternate development policies and the rising civil democracy movement in Mexico.

Antonio Otzoy, the secretary of the Mayan Hermandad, a section of the Presbyterian Church of Guatemala, will speak about the emerging civil societies in Guatemala, in particular the Assembly of Civil Sectors.

Also participating in this week's discussion of alternatives are Clara Alonzo, who is with the Federation of Cuban Women and Paulino Mesa Cardenas and Barbara Sarria Aparicio, who work with the National Communications Union of Cuba.

Two members of the Nicaraguan National Farmers' Union, Martha Valle and Zayda Rayo, will participate in the Fish and Chips event, and meet with Nova Scotian fishers and farmers.

One of the Marquee speakers, Dr. Vandana Shiva, will speak about the choosing between a community based "people's economy" or a free-trade based "global economy". A physicist, philosopher of science, and activist, Dr. Shiva is deeply engaged in the ecological, social and economic struggles of subsistence workers in India. Of late, she has focused on protecting farmer's rights to their own seed stock, and exposing threats to the world's farmers through global trade liberalization.

Bob White, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, and David Suzuki, distinguished journalist and broadcaster are veterans of global politics. Bob White will bring the perspective of a leader who has fought to put social, environmental and economic justice on the agenda both in Canada and abroad. David Suzuki, currently with the Sustainable Development Research Institute, is well known for his work in support of Canada's Native people.

The People's Summit also wishes to extend a welcome to Dora Essaka-Deido from Cameroon, Patrick Budhoo of Guyana, members of the Seneca, of the Innu, of the Mi'Kmaq First Nations, and many more activists and concerned individuals for change and positive growth from the United States, England, Ecuador, and India.

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Canada Silent on Children's Reports

A good example of the G-7's unwillingness to address the real issues facing our globe is the Canadian government's recent review of its foreign policy. Although Canada is a signatory to an important international agreement, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the convention is not mentioned once in the report on the review." Canada is silent on these issues," says Michael Noonan, Chair for Education for Development with UNICEF Nova Scotia. "The G-7 is focussing on economic issues and trade flows. It is not focussing on the flow of human rights that needs to accompany international development."

Noonan also argues that people need to become more involved to ensure that governments and corporations respect children's rights.

"An important message to the G-7 leaders", says Noonan, "is that they need to remember they have all signed and/or ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. They should start living up to their convention commitments."

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Barlow: Sounding the Alarm on "Re-inventing Government"

Maude Barlow, the National Volunteer Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, spoke Sunday night at Saint Mary's University. She grips her audience with a startling vision of the new "corporate agenda that is radically reshaping the political environment of Canada and the rest of the world. The essential message is an alarm to citizens to protect their rights and those of future generations from the product of 20 years of right wing think tanks invoking the term " the re-invention of government".

Taking dead aim at the G-7 leaders, she outlined the effect of global impact of the "corporate agenda" through monetary reform. In Canada, we are feeling these effects in social program cuts included in bills C-76 and C-88. These bills, which will soon be Canadian law, drastically reduce the federal contribution and accountability for social programs such as education, medical care and other social programs. They financially punish provinces not implementing NAFTA trade reforms.

Free trade and privatization are concepts that every on understands in the 90's since "less government is better" was touted as our economic salvation for the past 20 years. Ms. Barlow presents us now with an awakening to a more severe rationalization of our social values. She calls on us all to abandon the language and analysis of the world order by ultra conservative sources such as the Fraser and C.D. Howe Institutes. Today, she claims, the assault on democracy is greater than the days of the rise of fascism. It is now just cloaked in national flags, painted with proper morals and mouthed in the same breath as individual freedom, crime reduction and the return to simpler, better times.

She urges us to create our own vision; our own "people's narrative", to create a vision for our society and an anchor for our nation.

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G-7 MediaSpeak!

I ran into a well known journalist in a Halifax Bar yesterday. She gave me great, inside stuff on how the media cover the G-7 summit.

She put the whole thing into a rhyme: "The name of the game is selling the frame."

When I asked what she meant by "selling the frame," she explained that the media use a commonly accepted framework for selling the summit.

"Remember news is a product that has to be marketed," she said as I quickly ordered another round. "That's why journalists use advertising language so much. Haven't you noticed that in most stories things are routinely described as "new", "precedent-setting," or "dramatic"? We also use words like "biggest", "richest" and "most powerful". We keep hoping that the people who buy newspapers or watch the TV news will think the stories they're getting are important."

"So how does that affect coverage of the G-7?" I asked.

"Well, just think how it's being sold," she replied. "Every time you turn around you hear phrases like," leaders from the world's richest nations," or "the world's most powerful leaders" etc. Makes it sound like big news, doesn't it?

"Well they are the leaders of the world's richest nations!" I exclaimed. "I know that for a fact because it says so right here in the Daily News!"

She gave me a pitying smile. "You poor guy. Looks like you bought the frame!" Then she dug a chart out of her briefcase. It showed the world's seven leading economies. China was number two, India, number seven. Britain and Canada weren't even listed.

"Just because the media keep reporting that the G-7 leaders represent the world's richest countries doesn't mean anything," she said. "That's only the frame. See for yourself. China's economy is more than twice as big as Germany's and three times the size of France's or Italy's."

"So why aren't China and India included in the G-7?" I asked. "Good question," she answered. "I guess China and India just don't fit inside the frame. "

"Do you want to hear another nursery rhyme?" my good friend asked. "Mix hocus and pocus to come up with your focus!"

"Hocus, pocus, focus?" I asked in puzzlement.

She laughed heartily. "It's my own private rhyme to describe how journalists figure out what to write about the G-7. Haven't you noticed how we start reporting on it weeks in advance? It's a cheap way of filling space in the papers and airtime in TV. But we can't start our advance build-up until official bigwigs tell us what the summit will be all about. That's called the focus."

You're kidding, " I exclaimed. "I thought the media figured out stuff like that for themselves."

"Oh hell no," she replied scornfully. "We need someone in authority to tell us what the focus is before we can start hyping the summit."

"So what's the focus this time?" I asked.

With a sigh, she opened her notebook and read the following sentence: "The Halifax summit will deal with instability in the world's financial system caused by turmoil on currency markets, the shaky U.S. dollar and the international debt crisis."

I had no idea what she was talking about so I quickly ordered two more double martinis.

"Oh, you're not supposed to understand any of that," she said brightly. "It's just important-sounding officialese. G-7 jargon. Hocus, pocus. Something for Wolf Blitzer to spout on CNN or John "mad dog" McLeod to write about in the Daily News. Believe me they don't understand this stuff either!"

"But surely the G-7 leaders know what they're talking about?"

"Who knows?" she replied. "The meetings are all held behind closed doors. Half of them may be asleep. Besides, a lot of it's jut empty rhetoric. They've supposedly been talking about unemployment since 1981 but nothing ever gets done about it."

She reached in to her briefcase and fished out a report from The Commission on Global Governance. "Look here," she said pointing to some figures. "The official worldwide unemployment figure is 800 million, give or take. You really think these guys care?"

"I feel like another drink," I said. "How about you?"

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In all, quite a mixed bag

The People's Summit was organized by a coalition of organizations, non- governmental organizations, activists, artists, students, service industry workers, teachers, concerned individuals for social justice, in all, quite a mixed bag. We'd like to re-assert the 7 P's; Poverty elimination and employment; Progress for all; Protection of the environment; Power to the People; Promotion of equality and fairness; Preservation of cultural diversity; and Peace.

Summit News is produced by a collective of ten individuals supported by a cast of thousands. This issue was produced by: Andrew Struthers, Michael Welton, Robert Pollard, Isaac Saney, Mike Clarke, Brooks Kind, Kasia Morrison, Luis Soto Rubio, Michelle Welton, Heather Macmillan, Dawn Hall, David Fletcher, Janice Brown, Greta Regan, Cheryl Tingley

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Barsamian: Putting a Human Face on Economic Policy

"Public opinion is increasingly marginalized in the so-called democracies. It's not relevant. It's what corporate power and their allies in parliament want, and that's what the G-7 is about. The G-7 is the governing body of corporate power. They are at the service of corporations, meanwhile rhetorically they are talking about the people ... they say that they have certain Canadians in mind, and it's usually the elite." - David Barsamian

Barsamian began his lecture Monday evening by sketching the contours of the "new world order" - the order dominated by neo-liberal economics, transnational corporations, and financial institutions - at a fairly basic and general level. As his lecture progressed, he drew from a wealth of detailed knowledge of both US and international politics and policy to instantiate the general principles in an interesting and illuminating way. From exploited workers in Indonesian sweatshops to NAFTA and the Mexican bail out, from the labour movement in Europe to the challenges of independent media in the US, Barsamian's examples were wide ranging, creating a coherent picture of the global economic system and its impact on various aspects of social life world-wide.

He also drew interesting analogies between Canada and the US, likening Ralph Klein to Newt Gingrich, and comparing the decline in the quality of life in the two countries. "It is very clear to me that the standard of living and the quality of life in Canada is declining. That is objectively measured. The social contract between the state and its people, the population of the country, is being eroded under this notion of race to the bottom, downward harmonization. It's a new world order. That's what's going on and the same thing is happening in the US." Not surprisingly, he quoted Linda McQuaig and Maude Barlow to substantiate his analysis.

If some of the goals of the P-7 are: to put a human face on the political and economic policies that, in mainstream discourse, are discussed at a level of abstraction which precludes identifying human costs of these policies; to develop an informed popular critique; and to suggest practical alternatives, Barsamian contributed to this collective goal admirably. His conclusion, like that of all conscientious commentators on political economy, was perhaps best summed up in the saying of Confucius which he quoted, "Where wealth is concentrated, the people are dispersed. Where wealth is distributed, the people are brought together."

Barsamian: "I don't think for Canadians talking about the G-7 that you have to talk about intellectual issues. You don't have to be an Oxford graduate or a Rhodes scholar to understand that or explain that to people.

People's incomes are falling. People are working longer hours, they're earning less and less. This is not an intellectual argument. These are plain facts, and there are reasons why these things are happening. That has to do with the globalization of the economy. NAFTA is one aspect of that. The free trade agreement, which Canada entered into with great bravado in 1988 and went into effect on January 1st, 1989, was a disaster for Canadian workers. According to the Council of Canadians and other sources 400-500 thousand manufacturing jobs left this country. That's not an intellectual argument, people understand that. People in Vancouver understand that, people in Sydney, they understand it in Halifax. What has happened to the Canadian economy? Why is the healthcare system under attack, why is UI under attack? Where are all the things that Canadians have taken for granted over the last thirty or forty years. Canadian wages and Canadian people have to get into line or get on the UI line."

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Quote: Bob White, President, Canadian Labour Congress

addressing the P-7, June 12, 1995:

"We have to intervene in the global market on behalf of the people of the world not the corporations of the world." "Mexico: There is no greater example for the failures of the free market. They de-regulated, privatized, raised interest rates, opened financial markets and were seen as heros by world leaders. The Fraser Institute said Mexico was a model to be used in Central America. ...

Speculation caused the Peso to collapse by 40% requiring massive IMF intervention... Over a million more people have become unemployed this year, there is increased poverty, and the government has raised interest rates again. It's getting worse. If that's how you want to run the world, step aside, our agenda makes a hell of a lot more sense."

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Government Hurts

Ever since our ancestors came to this land, without chaos. Then the government came and took over which destroyed the Inuit's harmony.

First of all, they destroyed the language and culture by forcing the inuit children into white schools, not allowing them to express themselves in the only way they knew how (the inuit way). This also created friction between the youth and the elders due to communication breakdown.

They also moved the inuit around to places they felt were appropriate. Not taking into consideration the culture, beliefs and life styles of the inuit. They did not move because they were stupid but because they trusted and believed in people who obviously did not have their best interests in mind.

Government also made inuit out to be dirty scavengers who were not worthy of basic human rights. They also made criminals out of the inuit by enforcing them culturally inappropriate laws and if these laws were not abided by, they were treated with extreme cruelty.

Government has caused the Labrador Inuit a lot of pain and suffering by raping us of our pride and dignity in our culture. We have been treated like animals and displayed in cages in the past and now it's pay back time.

We are capable of taking care and respecting our lands better than any government (who took away and basically destroyed them and everything on them). We know what rules and regulations we need to control our own lives because we have lived on this harsh land for thousands of years.

Today's Labrador Inuit want culture and language back and to be treated as other humans beings across the world are treated. We want to take control of our destiny and meetings such as the Labrador Inuit Youth Symposium is an example of this because like other Inuit, the youth have ideas and views that will help us along in the process.

We know that we are only a small group but together as one we know we can accomplish our goals and continue the traditions that our ancestors instilled in us.

This column was produced by: Beni Anderson, Nain, Luisa Lucy, Hopedale, Susan Nochasak, Hopedale, members of the Youth for Social Justice Network

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The Missing P - Participation

The G-7 has added the Russian Federation and the European Union; it is time for the P-7 to bring another P to the table: participation. We need an explicit commitment to the values of participatory process -- to openness, transparency and access. Participation marks one of the most fundamental distinctions between the G-7 and the vision of the People's Summit -- between the most exclusive club in the world and the rest of us.

Participation -- like the Earth Summit motto -- is "in our hands". It is up to us -- to people and people-centred organisations -- not only to mobilize broad-based participation in the major decisions we face collectively, but to create and design processes that enable real participation. The electoral processes by which the rulers of the G-7 gained power have become corrupted by the dominating influence of money, of corporations, have become a facade that makes a mockery of the participatory ideal of democracy.

We need to explore a full range of technologies and processes of participation. They range from participatory decision-making processes in small and large groups to grappling with the opportunities and challenges offered by the emerging information technologies. The G-7 tries to build a global information infrastructure as a profitable marketplace for transnational corporations. The P-7 needs to build on the opportunities of information technology to create channels for voices of the people - not the corporations - to become what counts in the halls of government.

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