There’s An Alternative

Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith


world leaders meet in Seattle after Thanksgiving for the

"pre-millennial" session of the World Trade Organization, many will

sincerely believe that there is no alternative to the present direction of

globalization. But all over the world, activists and scholars associated with

environmental, religious, labor, and other social movements have in fact been

developing such alternatives.


group of progressive members of Congress, NGOs, trade unionists, and expert

advisors have recently helped draft the Global Sustainable Development

Resolution, incorporating many ideas drawn from this international dialogue.


Resolution assumes that the common people of the world share profound common

interests. It seeks international cooperation to control out-of-control global

corporations, capital, and markets.


Resolution is designed to help unify disparate groups that are deeply concerned

about the impact of globalization on the environment, labor, poverty, democracy,

and human rights by integrating their concerns into a common program. It seeks

to address in an integrated way the economic needs of the worlds’ people and the

need to protect and restore the environment, and the needs of people in both

first and third worlds.


Resolution assumes that global corporations and markets require global

regulation, but that a primary goal of such regulation should be to make it

possible for people in local communities around the world to control their own

economic lives. It tries to integrate the desire for local and national autonomy

and diversity with the need to control global forces and actors.


Resolution lays out a pathway for reconstructing the global economy. It assumes

the program cannot be separated from the process of realizing it. It is designed

to strengthen, not to replace, efforts to change the global economy by action in

civil society.


Current policy seems to be guided by the theory that the more international

trade and investment is better — whatever the consequences. Under the

resolution, policy goals are defined, instead, in terms of what people really


  • reducing

    the threat of financial volatility and meltdown

  • democracy

    at every level from the local to the global

  • human

    rights for all people

  • environmental

    sustainability worldwide

  • economic

    advancement of the most oppressed and exploited groups


Dialogue: So far, the global economy has been designed by small elites meeting

closed negotiating sessions and corporate boardrooms. The Resolution proposes a

U.S. Commission on Globalization and parallel Commissions around the world to

develop the broadest possible dialogue the future of the global economy. It also

proposes a Global Economy Truth Commission to investigate abuses in the use of

international funds and abuses of power by international financial institutions.


Sustainable Development Agreement: A series of Bretton Woods-type conferences,

with representation of civil society, will make recommendations for and initiate

negotiation of a Global Sustainable Development Agreement.


Sustainable Development Financial Strategy: These negotiations will formulate a

strategy to counter those aspects of the global financial system that make it

more difficult for communities, regions, and countries to pursue sustainable

development. The purpose of this strategy is to restructure the international

financial system to avoid global recessions, protect the environment, ensure

full employment, reverse the polarization of wealth and poverty, and support the

efforts of polities at all levels to mobilize and coordinate their economic



financial strategy will provide an alternative to the "new financial

architecture" being proposed by the IMF, World Bank, G-7, and U.S.

Treasury. It will:

  • encourage

    economic policies based on domestic economic growth and development, not

    domestic austerity in the interest of export-led growth.

  • encourage

    the major industrial countries to coordinate their economic policies to

    stimulate domestic demand and prevent global deflation.

  • help

    countries adjust currency exchange rates without competitive devaluations.

  • develop

    means for assuring global liquidity, such as an expansion of the system of

    Special Drawing Rights.

  • reduce

    the flows of destabilizing short-term capital by the adoption of capital

    controls as necessary.

  • establish

    standards for and oversee the regulation of banks and non-bank financial

    institutions by national and international regulatory authorities.

  • encourage

    the shift of financial resources from speculation to sustainable development

    that is useful and environmentally positive, such as community development

    and targeted investment for small- and medium-sized businesses and farmers.

  • establish

    a tax on foreign currency transactions — known as a "Tobin tax"

    — to reduce the volume of destabilizing short-term cross-border financial

    flows and to provide pools of funds for investment in long-term

    environmentally and socially sustainable development in poor communities and


  • create

    public international investment funds to meet human and environmental needs

    and ensure adequate global demand by channeling funds into sustainable

    long-term investment.

  • develop

    international institutions to perform functions of monetary regulation that

    are currently performed inadequately by national central banks, such as a

    system of internationally coordinated minimum reserve requirements on the

    consolidated global balance sheets of all financial firms.


of International Financial Institutions: The IMF the World Bank, and other

International Financial Institutions will be required to reorient their programs

from the imposition of austerity and destructive forms of development to support

for labor rights, environmental protection, rising living standards, and

encouragement for small and medium-sized local enterprises. The IMF will

terminate all activities except those fulfilling its original mandate of

addressing short-term external trade imbalances.


Reduction: Under the Resolution, the wealthy countries will write off the debts

of the most impoverished countries by the end of the year 2000. A permanent

insolvency mechanism will be established for adjusting the debts of highly

indebted nations.


on Unaccountable Corporate Power: To help establish public control and citizen

sovereignty over global corporations and reduce their ability to evade local,

state, and national law, the Resolution calls for a binding Code of Conduct for

Transnational Corporations which includes regulation of labor, environmental,

investment, and social behavior. In addition, corporations incorporated and/or

operating in the U.S. would be held liable in U.S. courts for harms caused



of International Trade Agreements: WTO, NAFTA, and all other agreements

regulating international trade would be renegotiated to reorient trade and

investment to be means to just and sustainable development.


of the WTO have wisely called for a round of evaluation and reconsideration.

These proposals indicate the kinds of alternatives that ought to be on the table


The full text of the Global Sustainable Development Resolution can be found on

the Internet at www.house.gov/bernie/legislation/imf/global.html. The original

co-sponsors include Reps. Sanders, Brown, McKinney, Kusinich, Evans, DeFasio,

and Lee.]



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