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RIO+20 a Citizen's Background Document

RIO+20 a Citizen's Background Document

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Published by Oscar Reyes
The world is looking ahead at a decade of stagnation and unemployment, and yet at UNCSD 2012 (Rio+20) the crisis is absent from the agenda. This document looks at the implications of neoliberal macroeconomic policy for sustainability.


Official
documents
and
the
unending
barrage
of
propaganda
in
the
international
business

press
continue
to
distort
the
public’s
assessment
of
the
origins
and
gravity
of
today’s

crisis,
as
well
as
its
implications
for
sustainability.
The world is looking ahead at a decade of stagnation and unemployment, and yet at UNCSD 2012 (Rio+20) the crisis is absent from the agenda. This document looks at the implications of neoliberal macroeconomic policy for sustainability.


Official
documents
and
the
unending
barrage
of
propaganda
in
the
international
business

press
continue
to
distort
the
public’s
assessment
of
the
origins
and
gravity
of
today’s

crisis,
as
well
as
its
implications
for
sustainability.

More info:

Published by: Oscar Reyes on Jun 22, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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09/14/2012

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1
RIO+20:ACitizen’sBackgroundDocument
 AlejandroNadal
CenterforEconomicStudiesElColegiodeMexicoandCo-Chair,TEMTICEESP-IUCN
STATEMENTOFPURPOSE
Humanityisatacrossroads.Theglobaleconomicandfinancialcrisischallengesthedogmasofneoliberalismandindicatesunerringlythatfollowingthismodelwillleadustoatragicabyssofnoreturn.Duringthelastfourdecadesindebtednessandasymmetriesaccumulated,environmentaldegradationcontinuedrelentlessly,inequalityintensifiedandthedestructionofpeoples’livelihoodsadvancedunquestioned.Thebankingandfinancialsectorsinthematurecapitalisteconomiesweretheepicentreofthecrisis.Todaytheyremainonthebrinkofcollapseandrecordhighlevelsofunemploymentpersist.Theworldislookingaheadatadecadeofstagnationandunemployment,andyet,atUNCSD2012(Rio+20)thecrisiswillbeabsentfromtheagenda.Officialdocumentsandtheunendingbarrageofpropagandaintheinternationalbusinesspresscontinuetodistortthepublic’sassessmentoftheoriginsandgravityoftoday’scrisis,aswellasitsimplicationsforsustainability.Thisbackgrounddocumentisamodestattempttosettherecordstraightandtoprovidereferencematerialforamoreobjectiveassessmentbyconcernedcitizens.
Introduction
TwoweeksbeforethestartoftheUNConferenceonSustainableDevelopment(UNCSD)theSecretariathasreleasedthedraftoftheOutcomeDocument,entitled“TheFutureWeWant”.Althoughintensenegotiationsaretakingplacetoimprovethetext,theseriouslimitationsandflawsofthedocumentarealreadyvisible.Thisisaninstrumentthatisnotuptothechallengesthatdefyhumanitytoday.Thepeopleoftheworldandtheglobalenvironmentdeservesomethingbetter.Theworldeconomyisnowenteringthefifthyearofaglobaleconomicandfinancialcrisis.ItistheworstslumpsincetheGreatDepressionanditwillprobablylastlonger.Persistenthighunemploymentrateshavealreadythrownmillionsintopoverty.Thebankingandfinancialsystem,whichwastheepicentreofthecrisis,remainsundergreatpressure.Likewise,firmsinthereal(non-financial)sectorsoftheglobaleconomyhavefeltthenegativeimpactofthedeflationaryphaseofthecrisis,withgreaterunsoldinventoriesandlittleenthusiasmfornewinvestments.Thiseconomiccollapsehasevolvedandgonethroughdifferentstages.Itmorphedintoapublicfinancecrisis,wherethefiscalaccountswerecompromisedduetoreductionsintaxrevenues,thelaunchingofstimulusprogramsandthehighcostsofbailouts.Thescarsleftonpublicaccountswillhaveimportantfiscalpolicyimplicationsforyearstocome.ButthecriticalstateofSpain’sbankingsystem
 
2remindseveryonethattheinternationalbankingandfinancialsectoristhebirthplaceofthecrisis.Neoliberalismappearedtobequitesuccessfulinenforcingitsprioritiesandpolicyregime.However,inthemidstoftheglobaleconomicandfinancialcrisisitsrecipesandpolicyresponsesappeartobeuseless.Clearly,alternativepriorities,withnewinstitutionalframeworksandnovelregulatoryregimeswillberequiredtogetoutofthispredicament.Buttheworldisnotonlythreatenedbystagnation,deflation,unemploymentandfiscalaccountsgoneawry.Todaywearetrappedinadramaticenvironmentalpredicament,onethatmayevenimperilthesurvivalofhumankind.Wearenotonlythreatenedbyeconomicwoesbutalsobydeforestation,soilerosion,overexploitationofaquifers,theplunderofmarinefisheriesandaman-madeeventofmassextinction.Themostimportantassessmentsoftheglobalenvironmentconfirmthattheworld’secosystemsarelosingtheircapacitytoprovideservices(MEA2005),thatdrylands,forestsandaquifershavebeencontinuouslydegraded(UNEP2007)andthattheaccumulationofgreenhousegassesintheatmosphereisaccelerating(IPCC2007).Arecentstudyidentifiednineplanetaryboundarieswithinwhichhumanitycanbeexpectedto“operatesafely”(seeRockströmetal2009)outofwhichthreehavealreadybeentransgressed(forclimatechange,biodiversitylossandchangesinthenitrogencycle).Ofcourse,theimpactofasignificantincreaseinpopulation(from5billionin1987to6.8billionin2010)isanimportantfactorinthisprocess.Tobesure,theadditionalburdenthatthislevelofpopulationposestosoils,aquifers,forestsandoceansissignificant.Butthedisparitiesinratesofconsumptionoftheworld’snaturalresourcesarejustasimportantwhenitcomestodiscussingenvironmentaldeterioration.Inaddition,economicpoliciesplayacriticalroleinthisprocessofenvironmentaldegradation.Thesocialfabricofcommunitiesandsmall-scaleagriculturalproducersthatplayakeyroleinenvironmentalstewardshiphasbeenseriouslydegradedduringtheseyearsbyeconomicforces.Investmentinitemsthatarecrucialforsustainability,suchashealth,education,sanitationandenvironmentalstewardshiphasalsobeenseverelyhamperedbytheneoliberaldogmaoffiscalbalance.Inthiscontext,talkaboutrecoveryandareturnto‘normality’isnotonlypremature,itisalsomisplacedbecause‘normality’isthenameforastateofaffairsinwhichinequalitywasincreasing,andenvironmentaldestructionandspeciesextinctionproceededatfullspeed.Inspiteoftheseconsiderations,theUNConferenceonSustainableDevelopmentisleavingoutofitsagendathemostpressingproblemsofthemoment.ThedraftoftheRio+20OutcomeDocumentrevealsfivecriticalproblems.
First 
,itlacksameaningfuldiscussionofthenature,originsandevolutionoftheglobaleconomicandfinancialcrisisthatiswreakinghavocintheworldtoday.Thiscrisisisnotgoingawayanytimesoonandhassignificantimplicationsforsocialandenvironmentalsustainability.Itcannotbe
 
3ignoredinanyinternationalnegotiationordebateonsustainabledevelopment.
1
Second 
,thedocumentalsochoosestoomitanyreferencetomacroeconomicpolicies.Monetary,fiscalandincomes’policyprioritieshaveamajorimpactonsustainabilityandurgentlyneedtobeanalyzedanddiscussed.Macroeconomicpolicyreformisaprerequisitefortheformulationofadequatesectorlevelpolicies.
Third 
,theDraftZerodocumentoverlooksalmostallofthemainstructuralproblemsweighingontheworldeconomytoday,aswellastheirimplicationsforsustainability.
Fourth
,thegreeneconomynotionadvancedinthedocumentisamisleadingconcept.Itisessentiallycentredontechnology,notoneconomicrelations.Thus,forexample,thedocumentdiscusses‘decentjobs’butfailstoexaminethegraveproblemsofstagnantwagesandofhighunemploymentrates.
Fifth
,thesectiononthemeansofimplementationisutterlyweak.Theimplementationmeasuresthatareadvocatedaretotallyinsufficient,evenforthelimitedscopeofthegoalsofagreeneconomyasadvocatedinthedocument.Theyforetellthefailureoftheobjectivesofsustainabledevelopment.Theoutcomedocumentappearsthereforetobeinamodeofcompletedenialastothemosturgentproblemsfacinghumanitytoday.Thisiswhythecurrentdraftinsistsonpursuingthegoalofsustainabledevelopmentwiththesameframeworkthatexistedin1992intheheydaysofneoliberalism.Rio+20isarescuemission,butnotfortheplanet.Itsobjectiveisthesalvationoftheneoliberalmodel.Thestructureofthisbackgrounddocumentisasfollows.The
first 
sectionfocusesonthenatureoftheglobaleconomicandfinancialcrisis,aswellasitsimplicationsforsustainability.The
second
sectioncentresontheimportanceofmacroeconomicpoliciesforaseriousdiscussionofsustainability.The
third
sectionexaminesfivestructuralcharacteristicsoftheworldeconomythatneedtobetakenintoaccountinanynegotiationonsustainability(butareconspicuouslyabsentfromRio+20).The
fourth
sectionpresentsacritiqueoftheGreenEconomyreportpreparedbyUNEP.
I.TheGlobalEconomicandFinancialMacroeconomicCrisis:ImplicationsforSustainability
Theworldisgoingthroughthemostseverecrisisineightyyears.Thiscrisisisstillunfoldingandincontrastwiththefinancialcrisesofthelasttwentyyears,itoriginatedintheheartofthematurecapitalisteconomiesoftheworld.Itisthecrisisofaflawedeconomicmodelwithapolicymixthatconsidersbothpricestabilityandfiscalbalancedbudgetsasthekeyprioritiestoattaingrowth,jobsandequilibrium.
1
ThisisironicsincetheUN'WorldEconomicSituationandProspects2012'reportwarnsthattheworldisonthebrinkofanotherrecession.TheUNreportevenreducesglobalgrowthforecastsfor2013to2.5%(downfrom4%in2010)andconsiders2012isadecisive“make-or-break”year.Thereportisavailableat:http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/wesp/index.html.

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