From Socialism and the Eradication of Poverty

The Socialism of the Twenty-First Century’ In Latin America and Venezuela, and the Eradication of Extreme Poverty in the World, by Dr. Zeki Ergas, on Peace Journalism, September 23, 2006.

The whole essay can be found in globalmarshallplan, Share the World Resources, and also in peacejournalism.

Excerpts: … ‘When the elephants fight, the grass suffers,’ says an African proverb. The World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Doha Round – whose raison d’ętre was, supposedly, the development of the poor countries — collapsed after five years of negotiations (it was launched in 2001).

The reason was, the apostles of liberalism widely reported in the mainstream media, the failure by the United States and the European Union (the two biggest elephants) to make sufficient concessions in agricultural and exports subsidies, and in lowering their tariffs on agricultural goods. They fought stubbornly and selfishly, these commentators argued, and the grass (the poor countries) was trampled upon. That explanation is not entirely wrong, but the problem is, it does not go far enough. I think alter-mondialiste commentators and civil society observers got it right, when they pointed out that, deep down, what made the negotiations flounder was the realisation by the poor countries that there was ‘something wrong’ in the way the WTO operated, and that, possibly, WTO’s very foundation stone, the almost axiomatic belief that open markets benefit everyone, the rich as well as the poor countries, turned out to be spurious, or false. Indeed, it is no longer possible not to see, after twenty years or so of neo-liberal globalisation, that open markets have — through the colossal – and let us say it, indecent and shocking — profits of the big multinational corporations (MNCs) — disproportionately benefited the rich countries. To be fair, some so-called big ‘emerging’ countries – China, of course, India and Brazil – have benefited too, but at a very high social and environmental cost, including: the neglect of smallholder agriculture; the tremendous pollution in the big cities, and the ruthless exploitation of the factory workers. Moreover, the benefits of the ‘emerging’ countries owe much to government policies that have protected infant industries and social services sector from the ravages of the neo-liberal globalisation (and privatisation). The truth is the interests of the rich and of the poor countries do not necessarily coincide. Mutually-beneficial trade is possible, but under certain conditions, which are not the same for all poor countries. The latter need to carefully study these local, national, and even regional conditions before entering into binding multilateral trade agreements.

Is the collapse of the Doha Round the beginning of the end for the WTO? What could be the fallout – effects and consequences– of the collapse of the Doha Round on neo-liberal globalisation?

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North-South relations continue to be determined by: the persistence of extreme poverty; the rapidly worsening inequalities; and the humiliation of the powerless and the poor. The three sections below illustrate these three big issues:

MIGRATION THAT KILLS: Between January 1st and July 5th, 2006 11,155 undocumented African migrants left the coasts of Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia in derelict old boats arriving, hungry and exhausted, to the Canary Islands which belong to Spain. More than half, 6,033, arrived in Teneriffe and 2,520 in Gran Canaria. It is estimated that, in the same period, about 3,000 lost their lives, their boats having capsized in the high seas. There has been about 5,000 new arrivals in the Canary Islands in August 2006. The total number of undocumented African migrants is now nearing 20,000, that number appears to be growing exponentially

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Zeki Ergas is a scholar, writer and social activist. Secretary General of International PEN’s Swiss Romand Centre and the founder of Millennium Solidarity Geneva Group, he is the author of five books and dozens of academic articles. In the last two years or so he has been writing a series of essays around the themes of North-South relations and the eradication of extreme poverty.

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