In February, Stephen Pennels spoke to the Stockport Group about the Global Justice Now (formerly World Development Movement).
The World Development Movement began over 40 years ago and grew out of NGOs such as OXFAM. It provided a front organisation to prevent the NGOs losing their charitable status. Over time Development became a dirty word, being associated with the World Bank imposing development and debt on the third world, so the organisation changed its name to Global Justice Now (GJN).
The issues addressed are global. It is no longer a case of North versus south but the 1% versus the 99%, the increasing injustice and imbalance between a small number of people who have money and power and the rest whose lives are shaped by the 1%.
The slogan of GJN is "People before profits or Global Injustice" because of the sell-out to Transnational Corporate power grabbers: Banks, tax dodgers, agribusiness, construction, arms dealers etc.
Governments are often implicated in practices which are not in the best interests of the majority of people. There are conflicts between farmers being able to control what they grow and food security where there is little choice of what is provided. Food sovereignty may be more productive in the long term. Sustainable models such as timber grown widely apart with crops in between were mentioned.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships (TTIPs) are also causing concern. The ongoing negotiations and draft papers are being kept secret, but it is understood that companies will be able to sue governments if legislation prevents them fully exploiting resources e.g. if they are prevented from fracking or if, say, the channel tunnel is closed because of migrants on the lines. The European commission is trying to change the formula but the changes are cosmetic. Quebec has already been successfully sued over fracking. The system of courts with three lawyers presiding has an in built bias in favour of the corporations.
There is a suspicion that the US is trying to establish international norms before China gets its foot in the door. It is expected that all countries will be expected to adhere to the rules set by the corporations, even poor countries like Bangladesh. Fortunately the UNESCO declaration of 2005 enables local culture to be nurtured. Otherwise , for example, TV could be pulled in from the US completely ignoring local output.(Including in the UK.)
Governments are already heavily in the pockets of the corporations. The last Labour Government introduced PFIs tying the public sector to paying corporations for years even when the resource is inappropriate. Under the coalition aid money is going to industries.
The food industry is dominated by Monsanto, leading to monocultures going against the food sovereignty issue. An animal feed company (KOGIL) has been given a concession to take over African agriculture.
In Lesotho most of the aid money has gone on a single hospital, costing more than one in this country. Even our own NHs is not what we think it is. Expensive car parking fees go to private companies and a private x-ray scanning contract is
more expensive than under the NHS.
The EU has a list of 1,377 chemical banned from use in cosmetics because of safety concerns, the USA has only 11. Cosmetic products cannot be tested on animals in the EU, but America has no such legislation. Under TTPI all this will all change.
Any exclusions from TTIP legislation need to be included in the treaty. With fast moving technology this will prove difficult if not impossible.
Stephen ended with a brief discussion on where the UK political parties stood on these issues.
There was a lively Q and A session.