CARMELITE NGO NEWS - REFLECTION - COMMENT
|THE ROAD TO
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO PARTICIPATE IN UN CONFERENCES
Some 30,000 people journeyed to Istanbul to seek solutions to urban problems at the Habitat II Conference. Nearly 50,000 went to Beijing to set new standards for the advancement of women. Some 47,000 converged on Rio de Janeiro to find a better balance between environmental protection and economic development at the Earth Summit.
To some, the series of large-scale United Nations (UN) conferences held in the 1990s may have seemed like an extravagant talkfest. But most of the world’s leaders and policy-makers viewed these events as a worthwhile investment—and even a watershed—in shaping out global future.
By involving presidents, prime ministers, and other heads of state—as pioneered at the 1990 World Summit for Children—these conferences have put difficult long-term problems like poverty and environmental degradation at the top of the global agenda. These problems otherwise would not have the political urgency to grab front-page headlines and command the attention of world leaders. The participation of thousands of NGOs, citizens, academics, and people from business, in both the official and unofficial meetings, has turned these conferences into true "global forums."
In 2001, Sr. Helen Ojario, O. Carm., and I attended the preparatory meetings (called PrepComs) for the Financing for Development Conference (named the Monterrey Consensus) that was held in Monterrey, Mexico. This was an education for us because the PrepCom provided us with a firsthand experience of the inner working of a UN Conference. We witnessed the extensive debated and negotiations that take place before consensus is reached on the content and language of the final document that will be signed by participating nations.
The road to Johannesburg took us to Bali, Indonesia for the final PrepCom before the World Summit. Sr. Helen and I were members of a four member team from Loyola University New Orleans. We joined the Sustainable Agriculture Caucus. One goal of the caucus was to search for ways to expand a project of the UNs Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), known as Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD). A criteria for SARD is that it "reduces the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to adverse natural and socio-economic factors and other risks, and strengthens self-reliance."
After speaking with colleagues from Sri Lanka, South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, The Philippines and Indonesia, we became aware that a global economic model with its emphasis on trade and foreign investment frightened farmers and other indigenous workers. We realized that a local economic model that focuses on community and sustainability would provide for the demands of SARD, and give security and stability to local farmers, fishers and other entrepreneurs. We shared our local economic model that has a history of success in urban areas and rural areas, in developed countries as well as developing countries.
Bali gave us a touch of reality in global relationships. The tension that exists between developed countries and developing countries is evident in the content and language of the Bali documents.
From Bali, Sr. Helen and I traveled to Manila, Philippines. There we met at the Titus Brandsma Center with Fr. Bernard Roosendel, O. Carm. Fr. Roosendel had assembled members of the Carmelite Order, religious and lay leaders and others interested in social justice for an afternoon of sharing and discussion.
The gathering was given the theme "Justice and Peace Work in a Global Village" and it provided Sr. Helen and me with an opportunity to share what we observed and learned from Bali. After we presented an overview of the Bali PrepCom and a preview of the agenda for the World Summit in Johannesburg, Sr. Helen and I spent the remaining time sharing the same local economic model that we shared with colleagues in Bali.
In discussing our model, we discovered that many of those present were also using the same model or some part of the same model in development programs they were engaged in. We were enriched by the quality of the discussion and came away with a broader insight regarding the essential components of our model.
The road to Johannesburg continues to unwind. Along the way our team has made many discoveries, especially discoveries that lead to constructive ways to help make our world a better and more inclusive place for all.
To some, the series of large-scale United Nations (UN) conferences may have seemed like an extravagant talkfest. But most of the world’s leaders and policy-makers viewed these events as a worthwhile investment—and even a watershed—in shaping out global future.
Jane Remson, O. Carm.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Speaking very honestly, I am very disappointed that the new and very young Carmelite NGO (Non Governmental Organization) is getting colored by the superficial and incoherent article in CITOC (see March-April 2002 issue). If I am not mistaken, this is the first time that CITOC presented the Carmelites as an NGO with an article one and a half pages long.
I do not know the Acton Institute nor its director, Fr. Robert Sirico. He come across as a theoritician and an idealist with very little experience of the reality, especially of the south. Basically he does not see the interconnection between economic, social, cultural, and political happenings in our present world-order. I will give one example. "Fr Sirico dismisses the anti-globalization activists contention that the division between rich and poor is growing and that the rich always get fat on the toil of the poor." He adds, "That is a popular statement but the evidence simply does not back it up."
What evidence is he talking about? Let me quote from the World Bank. "The total outstanding long-term debt of developing countries stood at approximately US$ 62 billion in 1970. It increases sevenfold in the course of 1970 to reach $481 billion in 1980. The total debt (including the short term debt) of developing countries stood at more than $2 trillion (1996), a 32-fold increase in relation to 1970." (Source: World Bank, World Debt Tables. The Globalization of Poverty by Michel Chossudovshy, p. 45.)
What are the consequences of this increase of debt? Who pays for the debt?
It seems to me that Fr. Robert does not have an idea about internationalization or macro-economic reforms, the cheap labor economy, global geopolitics, social polarization and the concentration on wealth, the role of global institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) menu, economic genocide, the destruction of the national economy, etc.
Fr. Robert might want to read and study Chossudovsky’s book and expose himself to the reality of Peru, Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Bolivia, and other countries of the south.
Bernard Roosendaal, O. Carm.