Markets, Europe’s Blindness to Reason, Lack of Leadership

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

After having rescued the same financial institutions that are to a large extent responsible for our present serious systemic crisis; after the “search and destroy” tactics against the PIGS; after the intolerable spectacle of seeing the markets appointing governments –in none other than in Greece and Rome- instead of the ballot boxes; after tolerating biased and dependent rating agencies of questionable efficacy; after having de-localized production and made ample use of tax havens; after having weakened the Nation-State by transferring not only funds, but also strategic and political responsibilities to large international consortia; after having promoted exploitation instead of cooperation; after having been incapable of urgently establishing a European fiscal federation and reducing the immense amounts spent on non-autonomous security in the Eurozone; after so much speculation and the risk premiums; after having forgotten Latin America, China, India; Russia, Turkey… as if this were only, and above all, a problem of the West; after having been incapable of issuing Eurobonds or creating incentives for growth…

While in the meantime and despite the Republican party’s enormous monolithic opposition, the United States has achieved medical care for millions of Americans who live without minimum health facilities; while drastically reducing military spending and arms production; while issuing 300,000 million dollars in incentives for small and medium-size enterprises, scholarships for vocational training and large public works to activate employment; while likewise redefining its global strategy to focus on the Pacific…

While in the meantime Latin America seeks emancipation through CELAC and India is fast becoming a prominent global protagonist…

Europe continues to be obsessed in 2012 with promptly reducing its accumulated debt; with accepting erratic and inadmissible risk premiums; with more and more budget cuts that will never generate the much-needed growth…

The great intellectual potential of the world, one of the greatest spaces for invention and, above all, the cradle of democracy, is being battered by the great financial, military, oil and media domain, reaching limits that must not be surpassed: loss of the human rights won with so much effort, loss of social and gender equality, and human dignity…

This is affecting the very essence of the welfare society: health and education.

There is only one solution, which requires unyielding leadership: more democracy, better democracy. A democracy that will not tolerate recently-elected officials who promptly turn and do just the opposite of what they promised to do in order to win the votes of their constituents.

The time so clearly foreseen in the United Nations Charter has undoubtedly arrived: the time in which “the Peoples” will cease to be passive spectators to become citizens who peacefully but firmly seek to be the protagonists of change. Change, as well as freedom and solidarity, cannot be achieved unless they are first born in each individual.

The time has come for “We, the Peoples” to take in our hands the reins of our own destiny, through modern information and communications technology.

Rio + 20: global Popular Mobilization for the Environment

A great majority of citizens, especially young people, should rapidly demand attention for the great challenge of effectively preserving the environment, and particularly with respect to climate change.

Simple and precise messages should be posted on social networks, urging governments to implement Agenda 21 and other presently appropriate measures.

It’s intolerable that military spending, gas prices, and the power of the media and the stock markets with their constant short-term hounding continue to obscure the huge responsibilities of government leaders to face the serious challenges that threaten the very habitability of this planet. The supreme commitment of all human beings must be to guarantee quality of life for the coming generations.

On several occasions I have proposed the creation an Environmental Security Council in a “refounded” United Nations. It is morally inadmissible that military spending and arms purchases amount to 4,000 million dollars daily, while the necessary resources for maintaining the ecosystem are being withheld.

On all of the social networks, in the “global Puerta del Sol” of cyberspace, let’s raise our voices so that the really essential topics –food, the environment, the fight against poverty…- may be made the priority of government leaders worldwide.

Otherwise, this popular mobilization will become an outcry of such magnitude and resistance to “habitual democratic guidelines” that they will have no other choice than to change their present erroneous tendencies.

No More Embargos

Embargos are frequently used as an apparently bloodless form of pressure. But they don’t affect governments, but rather their peoples. It’s the citizens who are punished.

The Cuban embargo has lasted for over 50 years…

And now an embargo against Iran.

I remember what a well-known Ecuadorian intellectual on the Executive Board of UNESCO said, referring to border conflicts with Peru: “Nothing unites a country on the inside like harassment from the outside”.

Because they’re immoral,

Because they’re ineffective,

No more embargos, beginning with Cuba!

No More Embargos

Embargos are frequently used as an apparently bloodless form of pressure. But they don’t affect governments, but rather their peoples. It’s the citizens who are punished.

The Cuban embargo has lasted for over 50 years…

And now an embargo against Iran.

I remember what a well-known Ecuadorian intellectual on the Executive Board of UNESCO said, referring to border conflicts with Peru: “Nothing unites a country on the inside like harassment from the outside”.

Because they’re immoral,

Because they’re ineffective,

No more embargos, beginning with Cuba!

Nos-otros (We - Others)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This constant reference to others, so beautifully contained in the term for “we” in Spanish and Catalan should be a guideline for life, a motive for action, to prompt a public outcry against the “I” of the absolute power that from time immemorial has brought a fearful and subjected humanity to its knees.

Helder Cámara mentioned “reasons for living” as a premise for having the means for a decent existence, which alone do not vest each human being with the unlikely prominence that the full exercise o his distinctive creative powers provides.

Nothing is unyielding. “Everything has yet to be done and everything is possible... ¿And by whom, if not by all of us?", exclaimed Miquel Martí i Pol in one of his inestimable poems.

“Nos-otros.” Let’s bear this in mind in our daily lives.

Four Contracts for a New World

There are proposals that as time passes continue to be timely and may even become more urgent.

I have re-read the “four contracts” that I proposed in “The World Ahead: our future in the making”, a book published in 2000 when I finished my term as Director General of UNESCO. I had an excellent research and prospective group coordinated by Jêrome Bindé. And I was sure then, as I am now, that with the new century and millennium a new era will commence in which mankind –all human beings and not only a few privileged ones- will be able to fully enjoy the mystery of human existence, with its capacity for creation, reflection and foresight.

The solution lies in political measures, because in genuine democracies political leaders should reflect the demands of their citizens. For that reason, it is so alarming that after having committed the serious error of replacing fundamental ethical principles with the laws of the markets, the markets are now hounding political leaders to the extent that in Greece and Italy it is they who have elected the governments rather than the voters.

I will never tire of repeating that the solution lies in respecting individually and on the national and global levels the democratic principles so accurately and lucidly set forth in the UNESCO Constitution. At present, although the democracies of the European Union still maintain an appropriate separation of powers, their ability to take action has diminished or even been blocked because world governance is no longer in the hands of a democratic United Nations representing all of the world’s countries, but rather is in the hands of groups of 7, 8 or 20 of the most wealthy nations which, as was to be expected, have failed in their attempts at leadership.

It’s quite clear that world problems require a global institution, which warrants an urgent re-founding of the United Nations System that will be up to the task and capable of meeting our current huge and complex challenges.

The four contracts that I proposed were as follows:

-A new social contract. It included tendencies in population, poverty and alienation; changing our cities; life-style changes; the future of urban transportation; the fight against drug consumption and trafficking… The objectives were peace and justice, indispensable ingredients of sustainable development to ensure the equal dignity of all human beings.

-A new environmental contract. It addressed topics concerning environmental quality; science; sustainable development; desertification; food and energy resources… to make it possible to replace an economy based on speculation, de-localization of production and war with an economy based on sustainable development that will guarantee the habitability of the earth for the future generations. Intergenerational commitment is one of the precepts that should guide our conduct daily.

-A new cultural contract: from the information society to the knowledge society. It addressed the new technologies revolution; the future of books and reading; the value of the world’s languages heritage and education on the horizon of 2020. It is clear that we must contribute to educating citizens who will act upon their own reflections, who are “free and responsible”, as educated persons are described in Article 1 of the UNESCO Constitution.

-iii) A new ethical contract. Together with the “dividends of peace”, world security and the United Nations system, this chapter underscored the debt owed for centuries to the black race and particularly addressed the special needs of Africa, which always compensates with its wisdom and creativity any exchanges afforded it toward social and economic development and full emancipation. This very important chapter ends with a study that is socially relevant for the future that is yet to be written, and which urgently demands a transition from a secular culture of imposition, violence and war to a culture of dialogue, conciliation, alliance and peace.

The great transition from force to words. From the raised fist to the outstretched hand.

At the end of each chapter I offer concrete solutions based on popular mobilizations, and on peoples expressing themselves freely and ceasing to be subjects to commence to “manage their own lives”.

As already indicated, all of the proposed actions inevitably require a democratic context on the personal, local and global levels. It is essential to place values (and not stock market quotes!) at the forefront of our daily lives. And to provoke an immense outcry in favor of equal human dignity and to adequately face the challenges which together we can overcome.

The time has come for global citizenship, for peaceful coexistence without borders, for sharing goods, knowledge and experience…

With a reformed multilateral System, we need to put these four contracts into practice. I am sure that we would then be taking an important step towards achieving that new world of which we dream and that our young generations deserve.