April 2004 Towards a solidarity agenda

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An international experts' meeting was held on "Globalisation and Africa" at the European Parliament, Brussels from April 15th -17th, 2004. The European United Left Group (GUE/NGL), [See Report] in collaboration with a Netherlands-based Convening Committee, sponsored this meeting at which African experts presented an analysis of the African reality under globalization. The analytical approach presented at this meeting differed from the traditional statistical approach that usually presents a desperate picture of Africa’s poverty and marginalization. Africa’s reality was analysed instead in the context of global forces.

  T he African and European participants agreed to take forward the urgent issues formulated in the second part of this report: “The immediate challenges for African-European relations”.

A. Our Collective Understanding of Globalization

Our shared understanding of globalisation is that it is a process of social, economic and political change driven by the demands of corporate capital. The singular purpose of capital, concentrated in a few global corporations, is to protect or expand the share of profit. This is constantly diminished not only by competition between factors of production, but also between corporations for the share of total profits. To survive and to thrive over competitors, corporations must constantly innovate to drive down costs and increase economies of scale. Going global by expanding into new markets and exploring low cost centres for investments are imperative for their security. This process at one level requires forced liberalization of markets for goods, services and investments in third-party countries and at another level, strong mercantilist policies to protect technology and markets in their home countries.

For this globalization of the profit drive to sustain itself:

The process has to be essentially hegemonic. A hegemon is required to enforce security, ensure safe passage and movement of assets, protect the interest of the corporation wherever it may be and resolve conflicts in their favour. This hegemon becomes the “agency for the good of the world”. Besides hegemonic political power there is also a need for a hegemonic ideology presented in belligerent choiceless terms and a hegemonic culture that seeks to supplant indigenous specificities.  In today’s globalization, the Euro—American alliance stands out clearly as the latter day hegemons and neoliberalism the choiceless ideology.

  1. Requires inter-locking instruments of control. These mechanisms must aim at controlling markets for all potential areas of profit: goods, services, technology and capital (investments). They must also be enforceable at multiple levels through lock-in mechanisms such as bilateral and multilateral enforceable agreements and the use of carrot and stick policies, e.g. the use of aid and debt relief to leverage greater market access for goods, services and investment protection. The WTO and the proposed Economic Partnership Agreements between ACP countries and the EU (EPAs) stand out as the key inter-locking mechanisms confronting Africa and the IFIs and the international aid system in general, the instruments applying carrot and stick to promote unilateral liberalisation of trade and investment regimes. These processes result in the crowding out of policy choices available to nations and require a weak and socially irresponsible state to thrive.




  2. Technology is crucial but not sufficient. Technology as the outcome of innovation is essential to open up new forms of profit, to move goods, services, capital and profit around and to drive down costs. But technology by itself cannot create the “global”. It requires the hegemon to impart political unity and enforce monopoly control over the benefits of technology.




  3. The process is inherently unequal and produces unequal benefits. As the process is necessarily led by the large companies and hegemonic interests, large parts of the world, and certain social groups within them, are by design socially excluded or disadvantaged. The process channels capital to already relatively capital rich countries and skilled labour to relatively skill-intensive countries. This process leads to increasing income divergence within countries and between countries. Within countries divergences are accentuated and in turn accentuate social cleavages in terms of gender, ethno-regional, class and other differences. In the context of weak and socially irresponsible states left by the process, these social cleavages translate into desperate poverty for some and in some cases violent conflict.

We agree that this process produces unjust social outcomes

B. Immediate Challenges for Africa-Europe relations

Among the many issues that this process imposes on Africa, the following issues are urgent.

1. Address the unjust trading and investment system imposed on the continent in particular the EPA process.

The victory of Cancun is a victory of collective resistance of African governments and their civil society organisations; along side their counterparts in all periphery countries and in solidarity with progressive minded organisations and persons within the hegemons. Cancun has provided respite, not a total victory.

Unfortunately, Africa is facing an even more destructive force, in the form of the EPA than the WTO presented. The EPA is particularly dangerous to the African people for the following reasons:

  • A free trade area project for the benefit of corporate Europe is presented as a “partnership”.
  • It is 1884 all over again – a new balkanisation of Africa. The EPA seeks to destroy tentative efforts to build an effective African market for African peoples through the aspirations of the African unions and the sub-regional integration arrangements, all young and fledgling initiatives.
  • The EPA takes the liberation agenda several leaps forward by demanding zero tariffs far beyond the WTO agenda of progressive tariff reduction. This demand carries severe consequences for producers and for revenue essential to the building of a social state. It also seeks to steamroll especially the Singapore issues, which have been rejected as part of the WTO agenda by the ACP, and pushes for rapid liberalization of services that are not obligatory under Cotonou and WTO. 
  • The proposed non-execution clause seeks to take cross-conditionality beyond anything known before, by seeking to punish all members of a region through withholding aid to all if one member violates the trade agreement. This form of peer pressure to conform and its boldness underscores the degree of loss of independence that Africa finds itself in after only 40 years of post-colonialism.
  • EPAs throw the entire burden of adjustment on Africa.

In view of the seriousness of this development, it is urgent to confront this new development with vigour. In this respect, we commit ourselves to working to:

·         Promote the principle of non-reciprocity in international trade arrangements as valid and necessary for a socially just trading system and a fair world.

·         Mobilise populations and political institutions in Europe to put on hold the EPA process until Africa builds its institutions to a level that they can effectively negotiate, and that the EU stops undermining the regionalization effort in Africa. The EU-based partners commit to taking lead on this in Europe.

·         Build consciousness among African populations and their political institutions to bring pressure to bear on African leaders to suspend further progress in the EPA process. The African partners commit to taking leadership in this area.

·         To mobilise like-minded governments and civil society organisations all over the world to support African-EU solidarity in the struggle to suspend the EPA process.

·         To continue to work in solidarity at the WTO and other forums to restrain liberalization and promote a socially just world.

·         Support the right of African nations to develop their domestic and regional markets.

 

  1. Addressing the debt-aid-recessionary trap.  Africa’s economic history has been one dominated by the extraction, exportation and retention of natural resources abroad. Efforts made by post-colonial nationalist leaders to build productive capacity were swiftly swept aside by the SAPs that followed the fiscal crisis of the late 1970s. Although designed ostensibly to enable the economies grow out of debt, this period instead witnessed relative stagnation. Twenty years or so later, the continent is left in a vicious cycle of expanding external and domestic debt, production crisis and dependency on external credit. The increasing aid dependence further exacerbates the forces of external control leading to further crisis of the social state, decline in its ability to stand up to alternatives and exacerbating the crisis of legitimacy. This cycle has to be broken for Africa to advance.

 

To break this cycle, we commit ourselves to work in solidarity in our respective political arenas and collectively in the global arena to:

·         Challenge the governments of Europe and America to prevail on the creditor institutions to cancel all debts.

·         Mobilise African peoples to strengthen the resolve of their governments to take a defiant position against further debt servicing in the interest of the protection of the lives of their people.

·         Fight for restoration of the social state in Africa in contrast to the current “governance” language, which seeks to make African states compliant instruments of the liberalisation process.

·         Fighting for the right of African countries to alternative forms of economics and social restructuring to the model imposed by the Bretton Woods Institutions and the international aid system.

 

3.   Address the challenges of trade, aid, debt, and investment and technology access in an integrated and inter-connected fashion. We observed earlier how trade, debt, aid and investment deregulation are used as cross-conditioning instruments to structure African and developing country economies in the interest of corporations. We have also noted the importance of breaking the aid-debt-recession trap in order for Africa to have a chance of building a productive economy and a social state. In this regard, we commit to:

·         Approaching our respective focus in these areas in an integrated manner.

·         Support each other’s work whether the focus is trade, debt or investment, in order to build a mutually re-enforcing power to tackle the multiple interests and channels employed by corporations.

·         We commit to sharing information and remaining in close contact.