PCDForum Column #16,   Release Date August 12, 1991

by James Robertson

The recent London economic summit of the Group of
Seven (G7)–Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada,
France and the United States–again confirmed what has
long been evident. The leaders of the world’s high consumption, high polluting economies are not prepared to
offer an effective response to the deep-seated world
crisis brought on by conventional approaches to economic progress.

In recognition of this reality, the first people’s economic
summit, known as The Other Economic Summit
(TOES), was organized seven years ago in parallel to the
1984 London G7 meeting. One aim of TOES was to
build an international citizen coalition for a new economics grounded in social and spiritual values to address
concerns the G7 consistently neglects–such as poverty,
environment, peace, health, safety, human rights, and
democratic global governance. TOES has since become
an annual companion to the official G7 meetings.

Since 1984, the enormous growth in environmental
awareness and the collapse of world communism have
demonstrated what effective citizen movements can
accomplish and have created important new openings for
a post-modern approach to economic policy. Communism and capitalism have been interlocking aspects of a
world order born of the same world view–modern,
industrialized, supposedly scientific, and culturally European. Both have taken an impersonal, unecological,
and nonethical approach to economic life. Both have
been centralizing, whether under big business or big
government, destructive of the earth, and disabling of
people. For the past seventy years, each has used the
threat of the other to distract attention from its own
injustices and shortcomings. Now the collapse of world
communism opens the way to the transformation of
world capitalism as well.

Yet in spite of growing awareness of our environmental
crisis and much talk about sustainable development, few
leaders in politics, government, business, and finance yet
admit, or perhaps even understand, that the conventional
Western vision of economic progress is hopelessly unsustainable. Nearly all are still acting out the fantasy that
economic growth, combined with new technical fixes,
can provide an effective response to threats like global
warming and growing world poverty. They seem to have
no inkling that economic sustainability will require
reducing present levels of rich-country consumption,
especially of energy, by as much as half or more. Nor
are they prepared to discuss the need for radical changes
to modernize and democratize the present institutions of
global economic governance–the World Bank, the IMF,
the GATT, and the G7 itself. Indeed there seems to be a
conscious effort in preparation for the United Nations
Conference on Environment and Development next year
to avoid such issues.

Last year’s G7 at Houston declared the 1990s a “decade
of Democracy.” Yet the G7 Summits, in which seven
wealthy countries assume unto themselves responsibility
for directing the world economy, represent a damaging
anachronism in a democratic post-European one-world
economy striving for sustainable development. To
strengthen and democratize the system of global economic governance the G7 Summits must be replaced by
a more representative World Economic Council working
within the UN system and responsible for coordinating
the work and policies of UNDP, the World Bank, IMF,
GATT and other such organizations.

In addition to such an official body, an independent
citizen forum is also needed. TOES should develop into
such a body–an officially recognized, but still wholly
independent annual international gathering of NGOs,
peoples’ representatives and concerned citizens meeting
in parallel with the new World Economic Summit. Its
task then, as now, would be to look further ahead and
more widely than politicians and government officials
can do and to make sure that vital citizen interests and
concerns are not ignored in the official forum.

People pursuing career success and survival within the
established institutions of our society are prisoners of the
power structures they head. Only independent citizens
and people’s movements are free to map the route to a
truly new world order. Our leaders will follow only
when we as citizens insist that they do so. Non-governmental organizations concerned with earth’s people and
ecology must provide leadership toward this longer
view. They must not allow themselves to be captured by
the short-term agendas of business and government.


James Robertson is a founder of TOES, publisher of the
“Turning Point 2000” newsletter, and a contributing editor
of the People-Centered Development Forum. This column
was prepared and distributed by the PCDForum based on
his paper “Seven Years On: The Other Economic Summit
Begins Its Second Seven-Year Cycle.” Robertson’s most
recent book is Future Wealth: A New Economics for the
21st Century
. His address is Turning Point Network, The
Old Bakehouse, Cholsey. Nr. Wallingford, Oxon OX10
9NY, U.K.

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