Can we both build a global response to Covid-19 and its social consequences yet at the same time, prevent ecological disaster? This now seems increasingly to be a worldwide demand, but what would be the appropriate response?
Such a response to the health, social and ecological crisis we face is, in fact, obvious; building on what members of Congress, such as the Democrat from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have suggested, it should be a Global Health and Green New Deal . It would be a pact articulated around three major global themes:
First, around health, to prevent pandemics and to ensure that all regions of the world, without discrimination, have access to the medicines and vaccines they need;
Second, the global economy, in response to the recession to come, in order to prevent poverty and hunger; and
Third, the environment, through the promotion of a green economy, supported by a legal framework that values, prioritises and protects our natural world, especially its forests – the ‘Amazons’ replicated worldwide – but also each individual tree for they all contribute to the earth’s system upon witch life depends.
It is a project based on self-evident common–sense; much of it, indeed, was already proposed after the 2008 financial crisis, tragically in vain. It has been sketched out in reports for the United Nations and in books such as Edward Barbier’s Global Green New Deal.
The European Union, if it were prepared to take on the task now, could be the ideal body to propose an ambitious and new global pact on social justice alongside health and the environment at the United Nations and to the G20 group of leading states.
Nonetheless, the imperative then, as now, was to prevent billions of dollars from being invested in the world’s economies ostensibly to ensure social justice and counter the anticipated recession but which only served to finance a distorted global economy that aggravated ecological crisis and financial speculation. The European Union, if it were prepared to take on the task now, could be the ideal body to propose an ambitious and new global pact on social justice alongside health and the environment at the United Nations and to the G20 group of leading states.
In the tragedy that we currently face, human beings have discovered that the world is global in a sense far beyond the constraints of trade, goods and finance They are coming, too, to realise that multilateralism is fragile and that President Trump and his pocket puppets in Brazil and elsewhere want to force it to serve the purposes of their own unilateral obscurantism.
It is sad to see that, today, the United States of the New Deal and the Marshall Plan, the two great examples of the fight against social crisis in the 1930s and 1940s, now only has the suicidal proposal of unilateralism alongside its campaign against the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international bodies to offer the world. The American president’s unilateralism, coupled with the Sino-American rivalry he has stoked up have paralysed the United Nations’ Security Council. The result has been that the Security Council has not even be able to approve a resolution drafted by France and Tunisia to support the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres’s call for a global ceasefire, to allow access for medical aid to countries at war. It is a shameful outcome for a body that is meant to monitor and protect the global commons.
Yet President Trump is not an insurmountable obstacle. The European Union and its liberal democracies could be decisive in shaping the post-Covid-19 world instead. Yet, to do so, they will need first to save themselves by responding to the consequences of the health crisis with a project that radically transforms economics and politics – promoting a real green pact that is an example for us all and not just a convenient political slogan.
So far, it has not done too well; the Commission’s Green Deal does not have even half the resources it will need, and the Union’s proposed budget for 2021-2027 does not even exceed 1.074% of the member states’ global gross domestic product (GDP). Against that, we should remember that Europe’s NATO member states had already agreed to increase their defence spending alone to 2% of their GDPs.
Europe’s new green pact must become Europe’s post-pandemic reconstruction plan. However, to meet the resources it will need, the Union’s budget must be revised to match the demands a real green deal will place upon it
Against that background, Europe’s new green pact must become Europe’s post-pandemic reconstruction plan. However, to meet the resources it will need, the Union’s budget must be revised to match the demands a real green deal will place upon it. In that context, the Franco-German agreement for a recovery fund – of grants, not loans – of €500 billion is a first step in the right direction.
The evidence of these challenges should be a stimulus for a new era of international cooperation, as has happened in the past. The United Nations (of which the WHO is one of six key agencies) and the European Community emerged from World War II. And it was the WHO which eradicated the deadly smallpox -the virus killed almost a third of its victims- by a vaccination campaign it launched in 1966.
If the European Union were to be able to unite around the proposal for an ambitious global pact for social justice, health and the environment, it would find universal popular support, even in America and Brazil. It would certainly find support in most of the world’s states, as was made clear by the UN’s General Assembly’s resolution on the pandemic or by the world conference convened by the WHO, France, the European Union and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on April 24, 2020, in which participants pledged to ensure that any treatment against Covid-19 would be equally accessible to all.
The good news is that a return to life on earth without deadly threats from the ‘four horsemen of the Apocalypse’ – today pandemics, misery, inequality and global warming – is possible. But to achieve that, we must break with the neo-liberal development model that has brought us into the dystopia in which we live. We must, in short, replace it with a more just and fraternal alternative that offers equality of rights and support for all.
This new decade is off to a bad start as far as world peace and the International Order are concerned! The assassination of General Soleimani, ordered by President Trump, perhaps because he thought it would divert attention away from his impending impeachment, was an irresponsible escalation that could lead to a new war in the Middle East. Of all the possible responses to the attack on the American Embassy in Baghdad, the president chose the most extreme, in contempt of international law and American domestic law as well.
The president’s threat to bomb a ‘cultural’ site in Iran, presumably a site such as Persepolis or Isfahan, if Iran were to riposte, was, quite simply, barbaric, a mirror-image of the alleged barbarity for which he had originally blamed Iran. International conventions prohibit historical monuments being used as military targets, a principle reaffirmed by the resolution of the United Nations Security Council – adopted unanimously in 2017 – when Da’ish destroyed large parts of the historical heritage of Palmira in Syria. Even if it did not occur in reality (the president withdrew his threat in yet another tweet the following day), the fact that the threat had ever been voiced nonetheless endangers world heritage sites by legitimising a trend that in the last decade has led, amongst other atrocities, to the destruction of historic monuments such as the great mosque of Aleppo or the massive Buddhist sculptures at Bam.
How did it happen that the United Kingdom has elected as Prime Minister a proven liar, someone who does not know how many children he has, and someone who uses facetiously racist and misogynist language? How did it happen that he achieved a Conservative majority for a monumental act of self-harm to the United Kingdom, namely Brexit?
The Conservative Party had hardly any activists; they have less than 70,000 members, mostly elderly (by contrast Labour has half a million members). Those of us out on the doorstep never saw a single Tory campaigner and very few posters. The Conservative manifesto was sketchy, prone to vagueness and double counting, as in the number of hospitals to be built or the nurses to be recruited. By contrast, Labour had an exciting and ambitious manifesto, representing the outcome of years of hard work, especially by the shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. It included a green new deal, big commitments to public services and utilities, and innovative proposals like public service broadband.
Boris Johnson made gaffe after gaffe – stealing a reporter’s phone after he took a picture of a sick boy on the floor of a hospital, hiding in a fridge to escape the media, not turning up to hustings on climate change or in his own constituency, refusing to be grilled by Andrew Neil of the BBC even though the other party leaders had done so on the clear understanding that the Tory leader would also be interviewed, to name but a few of these incidents.
And yet the relentless message of ‘Get Brexit Done’ combined with the vilification of Jeremy Corbyn put out by a centralised well-funded Tory HQ through social media and the tabloid press seems to have hit home at least in England and Wales. As a whisky exporter from East Dumbartonshire, where the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson lost her seat, put it: ‘I don’t think it would have mattered if Koko the silverback gorilla was the leader of the Tories; they had a message wrapped in the Union Jack and voters in England bought it.’
This was a Brexit election. Those in favour of Brexit united behind the Conservative Party and obtained 47% of the vote. Those who were against Brexit, the majority of the population, were divided among Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, and the Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalist parties. In the British first past the post system, only the dominant parties matter. Labour had a Brexit policy that satisfied no one. Its commitment to a public vote was opposed by those who want to leave but its refusal to commit to a remain position lost it remain voters. The Conservatives only increased their vote by 1.5% compared with 2017, Labour’s share fell by 8%, mainly to other remain parties. This allowed a string of Conservative victories in what is known as the ‘red wall’ – the traditional English labour heartlands across the middle and North of England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea.
* This article was originally published in Open Democracy on 16 of December 2019.
By Álvaro Vasconcelos
The recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in violation of the decisions of the United Nations, is an attack against a city that, more than any other, is a world city.
In 2000 in Ramallah, Faisal Husseini, the late PLO leader,in a EuroMeSCo seminar, declared that Jerusalem should be an open city, with a municipality run jointly by Israelis and Palestinians. Faisal Husseini explained that in a city that is home to the sacred sites of more than 2 billion inhabitants of the world – the ruins of the Temple of Solomon, the Mosque of Al-Aqsa or the Holy Sepulchre – only a shared management would guarantee peace and the free access of all.
Jerusalem is much more than a geographical reference, it is a symbol of the millennial coexistence between the three great monotheistic religions, in all its declinations, is multiculturalism made world, the Tower of Babel as a “realizable Utopia” to use Paul Ricoeur formula .
Seeds of Hope in the Trump-Era?
By Cláudia de Castro Caldeirinha
Donald Trump is on the news everyday, all over the world – and this well before his official term as US President started. His controversial personality and decisions leave little space for neutrality and soft positions. His zero-sum positions provoke an endless succession of tensions and intense reactions, at home and abroad. The least we can say is that he is not good at making friends, as his stances on Mexico, China, the Muslim countries, on multilateralism, on trade, on NATO, the UN and the EU, on freedom of the press, etc, are currently showing.
Gone are the expectations of those who had expected (read “hoped”) that his campaign promises would be replaced by a more pragmatic agenda, once he got elected. His ominous vision of “America first” is everyday incarnating into controversial nationalist measures that are fuelling widespread discontentment. The refugees and immigration bans (also called “Muslim-ban”, as it became known in social media); the anti-abortion rulings; the order to build a border wall to prevent Mexican immigrants to enter the US; the persistence on supporting an unsustainable fossil fuel industry; the destruction of Obamacare, Barack Obama’s healthcare law, are some of the most contentious decisions. Moreover, his radical positions seem to dismiss the point that stable international relations, security and trade are based on compromise-building. This apparent unconsciousness leads many to fear that the new American President might precipitate serious conflicts and even provoke a new global recession with his drastic populist agenda.
It is therefore not a surprise that democrats and liberals all over the world both fear and abhor Donald Trump. Not one day passes without Trump-related declarations. From Obama to the Silicon Valley tycoons, from world leaders to the Members of European institutions, from civil society leaders to concerned citizens. This article focus on the latter, i.e. on the social mobilization gradually building in these first weeks of Trump’s rule.