We should creatively destroy that which is ill-suited to our real requirements, and which persistently reproduces the hegemony of an absolute minority of people through advancing the narrow interests of a dominant fraction of capital in one country out of the multitude that constitute the world systems and the UN, writes Rasigan Maharajh, Director of the Institute for Economic Research on Innovation at the Tshwane University of Technology (South Africa) for the 19th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club.
Recently the United Nations commemorated its 77th anniversary. The International Monetary Fund will be 77 years old in December, when the World Bank turns 76 years old.
These three institutions of world governance were established after a significant extermination of human life, the destruction of massive amounts of fixed capital, and social infrastructure.
The four main goals of the UN were and are (Article 1 of UN Charter, 1945):
I. To keep peace throughout the world;
II. To develop friendly relations among nations;
III. To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms;
IV. To be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations to achieve these goals
While our contemporary conjuncture remains combined and uneven, our continued destruction of biodiversity, rampant pollution, and expanding inequality contribute to accelerating us all towards ecological precarity.
While we are all, as a species-being, confronted by this crisis of existence and challenges of survival, it is the ‘geriatric’ institutions of global governance established in the second half of the 20th century that have governed us into this iniquitous situation. If our current negative conditions are the outcomes of these institutions and their agencies, then we should and must reimagine a system of rules and governance structures that are actually capable of delivering the world that we want, need, and demand.
The impotency of the institutions of global governance to pursue the four main objectives of the UN are clearly reflected in the fact that we have just endured an attack on our species by another life form. The global CoVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent Vaccine Apartheid clearly illustrated that profits trump over people’s lives.
The failure of another of the late 20th century institutions of global governance, the WTO, was obviated in its demonstrated opposition to a proposal made by India and South Africa to waive Intellectual Property Rights during our fight for survival. This further exposed the persistent prejudices of the WTO in its prioritization of the privileges of the transnational corporations of the ‘collective West’ over the collective interests of us all.
Ahead of us, in the first week of November, the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Egypt. We still have no evidence that the advanced and mature capitalist economies will acknowledge that they owe the rest of the world reparations for the damages they have mainly contributed to.
Rather, most financing proposals seek to extend the indebtedness of the countries of the global South, which have been only barely capable of paying for CoVID-19 vaccines. It’s proposed that they also become liable to pay the additional costs associated with adaptation and mitigation.
Just as infinite economic growth framed within the ill-logic of capitalist accumulation is irreconcilable with the finite boundaries of our planet, so we must also challenge indefinite and dangerous instabilities.
In mid-November, the United Nations will inform us that the world is now home to 8 billion people. Could we now, based on what we now know: be sufficiently mature to embrace our species-being prerogatives and challenge the continuation of hegemony and all its negative consequences?
The late, great South African intellectual Steven Bantu Biko famously wrote in 1971 that “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
51 years later, our scientific and technological capacities, capabilities, and competences have advanced exponentially.
Such new knowledge offers us all the promise of liberating our minds from the captivity enforced in the maintenance of the political economy of inequality through unequal exchange.
If the current global balance of power only allows for the limited reform of exiting institutions, then we must build alternatives, which offer the possibilities of poly-polarity.
Recovering traditional and indigenous knowledges from within all our contemporary societies would also encourage the adoption of intergenerational responsibilities.
It is this recuperation from the past, together with economic redistribution, that will provide us with better prospects for the future.
Moderate prosperity for all could indeed be possible should we be willing to think beyond conserving hegemony and its enforced inequalities.
Planning, regulation, and coordination are necessary to avert the ecological catastrophe we are already living within.
Harnessing our scientific and technological progress towards realising such species-level objectives would ensure that we enable better lives for all, rather than perpetuating pre-exiting hegemonies, and allow us to improve the life chances of future generations for all of us.