The reverberations from the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 enmeshed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a major legitimacy crisis over its recently assumed mission to promote free capital mobility around the globe. The repercussions from the current Argentine crisis threaten to apply the coup de grace to that mission. The mission, which deviates drastically from the IMF’s original function under its Bretton Woods charter, was designed to support the U.S. free market globalization strategy. The mission crisis of the IMF is thus also a U.S. policy crisis.
Since September 11, the United Nations has gained a rare prominence in Washington’s calculations. Of course it did once before, when Iraq invaded Kuwait–but that was more like a one-night stand turned date rape than a long-term relationship. This time, it could be a more durable courtship, based on more modest and realistic expectations on both sides.
Two years ago in Seattle, demonstrators in the streets brought previously esoteric negotiations of government ministers at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to the world’s eye as never before. Less noticed, inside the meetings, African trade ministers denounced the lack of transparency in the proceedings. “African countries are being marginalized and generally excluded on issues of vital importance for our peoples and their future,” they declared in a public statement. The next day the summit adjourned with no agreement, as developing countries rebelled at being pushed aside, and Europe and the U.S. also failed to resolve their own differences.
The Group of Twenty (G-20) will meet in Ottawa in mid-November, the third meeting since the group was created in 1999. In addition to the G-8 (G-7 plus Russia), the membership of the G-20 consists of: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and, oddly, two institutional representatives–one for the European Union and one for the Bretton Woods institutions (the IMF and World Bank).
“After our trip to Buenos Aires,” the investment firm of Merrill Lynch announced in early July, “our main impression is that the risks of a spiraling of the crisis in Argentina have increased.” Investors took the warning to heart. On July 11, in its efforts to raise funds on the bond market, the Argentine government was forced to offer interest rates of 14% on its three month bonds; only two weeks earlier, investors had demanded only 9% for similar bonds.
The U.S. boycott of the historic United Nations Conference Against Racism is indicative of the growing U.S. arrogance in international forums. The Bush administration, backed by congressional leaders of both parties, used a couple of controversial lines–out of a document hundreds of paragraphs long–critical of the policies of a U.S. ally as an excuse to avoid addressing such critical questions as racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination that continue to plague humanity.
The objective of this discussion paper is to examine in broad terms the emergence of a transnational citizen movement opposed to the current forms of global economic governance, while providing sketches of main analytical tendencies within this diverse movement. Although largely a backlash movement—one that mobilizes against the negative manifestations of economic globalization and the associated role of the institutions of global economic governance—the main theorists and organizers have in the past several years taken tentative steps toward formulating alternative paths for the global economy and its governance.
The United States, the self-described leader of human rights, effectively decided to boycott the UN conference against racism in Durban, South Africa. The U.S. could have made a strong, positive impression by sending its African-American Secretary of State, a descendent of slaves, and making a forceful stand against racism. Instead, it chose to send a low-level delegation.
On July 26, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William J. Burns appeared before the House International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
Let us take as a starting point that the broadly consensual strategy and basis for self-activity in what we can term Global Justice Movements is the following: to promote the globalization of people and halt (or at minimum radically modify) the globalization of capital. But this strategy conflicts with the objectives of at least four other tendencies that also appear to have solidified in recent years. Since the full-blown emergence of an international financial crisis around mid-1997, the world has witnessed a revival of Third World Nationalism, a Post-Washington Consensus reform option, obstinacy on the part of Washington Consensus powerbrokers, and a formidable Rightwing Resurgence.