Three crises – Three ideas

By Johan Galtung

Speech delivered at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on 1 Dec  2011

Your Excellencies,

We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of NAM, the Nonaligned Movement; a great success.  They were not party to the madness of NATO-WTO (Warsaw Treaty Organization) confrontation and arms race, even nuclear. NAM was headed by two country triads, India-Indonesia-Yugoslavia and Finland-Sweden-Austria, and two high quality leader triads, Nehru-Soekarno-Tito and Kekkonen-Palme-Kreisky.  Their in-between roles gave the world some normalcy in the madness.  Much needed for West-Islam today; but that quality leadership is missing.

We are meeting in UN-Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development-UNCTAD and EnergyPact, addressing three crises: North-South inequality; the growing inequity within and between countries, poor and rich, away from the Millennium Development Goals-MDG; and global warming.  So, three ideas, one for each.

North-South Inequality: Revive and Expand the Silk Road.

The formula is to raise the South, and that can only be done by the South itself; it has never been in the North’s interest.  With the North, particularly the Northwest de-developing, and the US Empire falling, the developing and de-developing worlds converge.  But the South–Asia, Africa, Latin America–is still fragmented. Therefore why not more South-South exchanges, including Africa, not only goods, services and factors, but persons and ideas, with flows and counter flows?  Not excluding the North, nor necessarily via the North.

There was a model: When Asia Was the World 500-1500 (Stewart Gordon, 2008).  The Silk Road was more than just silk and road; a giant sea-lane for goods and people from East China to East Africa via Asia, run by buddhists and muslims till Portugal-England killed it for God, King and the Company.  Revive it; add a four-lane highway from Dar to Kinshasa for a bi-oceanic confederation, then by ship to Bahia-Rio-Montevideo-La Plata: and South-South-South is real!  No technical problems; and China could give for free to Africa.

Growing Inequality within Countries: Lift the Bottom Up!

The formula is to raise the bottom, and that can only be done by their own work, it has never been in the interest of the top 1 percent.  The root cause is rampant capitalism pumping liquidity upward, sinking the masses into poverty, even misery, and turning the upper 1 permil into speculators.  The real economy does not work for lack of acquisitive power, and the finance economy works so well that the gap between money value and created value leads to one crash after the other.  Speculation, as opposed to investment with commitment, should be treated as a crime, with names revealed.

Moreover, the vast suffering should trigger action, not finance ratings.  China has huge inequalities, but the Chinese lifted 300-400 million from poverty between 1991 and 2004; now working on the next.  How?

The unit of development is not the individual given stipends to study in and for the West, nor the whole country conditionally subsidized by the West, but the local communities, starting with the poorest.  Employ the most needy in micro-firms producing for basic needs: agro-cooperatives for food, textile and brick mills for clothing and housing, polyclinics, schools.  Five sectors cooperate: private, public, civil society, the technical sector, and a coordinating sector.  Those most in need produce what they need, sell the surplus affordably, pay back the credit, and after some time have money to participate in the real economy, making wheels turn.  The Chinese call it capi-communism. Feasible.

Increasing Global Warming: From Economic to Human Development

Indicators matter.  GNP (Gross National Product)-GDP(Gross Domestic Product) is the value of economic transactions, meaning: added value from processing and marketing, industrializing and transporting; key depleters and polluters; GNDP = Gross Nature Destruction Product. Alternative: HDI, the Human Development Index based on long, healthy lives with education, also for content.

Of course we need production of goods and services. But for what?  What is the goal, and why not aim at it more directly?

The 1946 World Health Organization-WHO definition of health puts that goal very clearly:

“A state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Long, healthy lives means careful use of the  body, watching what goes in and out, handling problems and conflicts within and without with maturity, and togetherness, sharing with others.  The social indicators are low mortality and morbidity, inner and social peace.  It is focused on self in relation to others more than on things; and on spiritual rather than material “goods and services”, lifting the bottom from disease and infirmity, positive health, culture for all.

Using the body well, feeding it properly, handling conflict, are all very soft on the environment; like the life styles high up in the Caucasus and the Himalayas.  Yet, did they produce culture?  They did, but not ours; more like sufism, buddhism. Worth knowing.

How about going for both the material and the spiritual?  Yes, but less of the former and more of the latter.  Control finance and real economies, but add something new and inspiring!  We need leaders who set new goals and chart a new course. Their time has come.  Now!

We have labored enough under the unenlightened, amoral tutelage of GNDP-guided economists.  Queen Elizabeth got it right: “Why did all these bright LSE (London School of Economics) people not foresee our economic mess?” Silence.

The medical professions are under oath to serve health to all, even if sometimes they serve health industries rather than health.  .

A 45-degree change is more sustainable: green, soft on nature.  Lift people up from morbidity and misery by producing for basic needs, for life, wellness, and freedom of choice, something spiritual for identity.  In addition, open a South-South-South link affordable to all, for christian-muslim-buddhist-hindu and many more exchanges.

With people swarming all over, enjoying the incredible human richness.

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