Sunday, May 29, 2005

In which Claire disagrees with the leader of the Green Party.

Today on campus, as part of the department's election year carry-on, we had some MPs talk about foreign policy. Given that I study international relations, I thought it might be interesting to have a wee listen, so I toddled off to do some learning.
There was one MP from the Progressive party, one from United Future, and the co-leader of the Green Party. They all had interesting things to say, especially about NZs relationship with China (the official one-China policy versus the unspoken-everybody-knows-it two-China policy), and relations with the US; from our nuclear free stand in the 80s, to our refusal to go along with the invasion of Iraq. Admittedly the group was heavily leaning towards the left of things, and while I'm a bit of a lefty myself, I also believe that you can use institutions to your own advantage, rather than completely disregarding them.
Rod Donald, co-leader of the Green Party, was talking about the Green's vision for foreign policy in the future, and he had some very good points. I think a lot of what he had to say was founded in good intentions and strong principles, unfortunately I can think of several arguments against him, especially regarding trading ties with China and their history of human rights abuses, poor governance and occupation of Tibet. I think he was arguing that we sever ties with them until they sort themselves out, but admittedly when he was talking about that I was writing notes to the person next to me.
One thing he talked about as the foundation of the Green's foreign policy was the concept of "peace through development", which is something I think has huge potential, and is a far more valuable approach than post-conflict engagement like peacekeeping and reconstruction. Everybody knows that prevention is better than cure.
I asked him how the party planned on implementing this policy, as in what sort of bodies they would work through for this development to occur. He listed various UN bodies and bilateral organisations, and when I asked about the WTO I was met with a shocked expression, as if to say "get out of my sight you damn corporate drone". He pretty much said he would completely discount the WTO as providing any useful development structure, and then when I asked him about the World Bank he looked even more horrified and said that now Wolfowitz was taking over there would be pretty much no hope for any of the Bretton Woods institutions to do any good for anyone ever, except multinationals and governments of rich countries. Then he started on about structural adjustment so I left.

The thing that I disagreed with was the whole notion of discounting these huge organisations with buckets of money, that have all the infrastructure in place and most of the resources required to enable development to a level sufficient to achieve the Millenium Development Goals, to make trade fair, to put an end to hunger, to give people jobs so they are less inclined to join a militia, to increase their wages so they aren't inclined to steal from their neighbours.
The WTO has conditions attached to membership that relate to workers rights and protection of industries. If these rules were strictly enforced, it wouldn't have nearly as bad a reputation as it does.
The World Bank has billion of dollars available for development, it has more influence over most economies than anyone likes to admit, and if it were staffed with willing bodies, it could be a force for change unrivalled.
These organisations are huge, they are global and they are rich as fuck. They're not going away any time soon, so lets use them to our advantage.

Here endeth the rant.