December 2004
Volume 17 Number 12


SOCIETY'S PLIERS:
What Does the Election Tell Us?

FOOD RIGHTS:
The Political Economy of Hunger

CARIBBEAN:
"Thugs" in Haiti?

LABOR:
TSA's New Rules For Unions

POLITICAL ACTION:
What's Left of the Left in Israel?

LABOR BATTLES:
Dairy Farm Workers Fight for Their Rights

DOMESTIC POLICY:
Stealing Social Security: Past, Present, & Future
FOREIGN POLICY:
Arafat
FOG WATCH:
The Afghan, El Salvador, and Iraq Elections
FACTOID:
Bush's First Term
WAR & PEACE:
Refusing to Fight
Z PAPERS ON VISION:
Ten Principles for Sustainable Societies

FILM REVIEW:
The Corporation

FILM REVIEW:
Homo Sapiens 1900

BOOK REVIEW:
Undivided Rights

HOTEL SATIRE:
Smokin'

Z Papers
on Vision

Ten Principles for Sustainable Societies

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As part of our series on vision, we are reprinting a chapter from Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World is Possible, edited by John Cavanaugh and Jerry Mander. It is a report from the International Forum on Globalization formed after the “Battle in Seattle.” Contributors include Maude Barlow, Walden Bello, Vandana Shiva, and many others. The book attempts to answer the question, “If you're not for globalization, then what are you for?” —Eds. 

On a rainy day in late November 1999, environmentalists dressed like turtles marched arm-in-arm with teamsters down the city streets in what has become known as the Battle of Seattle, an extraordinary event that deadlocked WTO negotiations and brought that powerful agency’s momentum to a standstill. These unlikely partners were joined by tens of thousands of others—students, religious activists, women’s rights activists, family farmers, health activists, indigenous people, and economic justice organizers from many countries—in what was baptized the Seattle Coalition. 

In sifting through the thousands of pieces of literature produced by these formerly disparate groups, we found that a fascinating pattern emerged. Certain words cropped up time and again as core principles, no matter the particular group or specific country in which the organization was based. 

The term democracy was perhaps the most common thread linking all the groups, with different groups affixing different adjectives to try to give the word a deeper meaning: living democracy, participatory democracy, new democracy, people’s democracy. After democracy, ecological sustainability came next, again often described in related terms. Most groups now also suggest localization and subsidiarity as key principles opposed to globalization. 

As we pored over the documents and manifestos distributed in Seattle and elsewhere, we found that ten terms were repeated most often as organizing principles, and we began to understand the basis for the movement that has alternately been described as “anti-corporate globalization” or “pro-global justice.” It is this growing commonality among principles that allows this set of disparate groups with thousands of separate leaders and hundreds of different significant issues to be called a movement. 

These principles stand in start contrast to those that guide economic globalization, which are narrow and serve the few at the expense of the many and the environment. Economic growth has been the central goal of the IMF, the World Bank, and the GATT, as well as its successor, the WTO. Expanding international trade and investment flows has been viewed as an end in itself. 

The time has come to create healthy, sustainable societies that work for all. Healthy, sustainable societies vest power in institutions that measure their performance by their contribution to the long-term well-being of people, community, and nature and distribute power equitably among all of society’s stakeholders. Such societies are measured by their essential qualities, primarily the well-being of all their people. Each sustainable community and nation seeks to achieve sufficient self-reliance in meeting basic needs—including food, shelter, clean water, energy, education, health, political participation, and culture—to assure the livelihoods, civil liberties, and sense of meaning and identity of each of its members. 

To achieve truly sustainable societies, all international, national, and regional economic policy rules and institutions should be designed to conform to the ten basic principles that are enunciated here. 


1. New Democracy 

Democracy flourishes when people organize to protect their communities and rights and hold their elected officials accountable. For the past two decades, governments have transferred much of their sovereignty into the hands of global corporations. The authors of this volume advocate a shift from governments serving corporations to governments serving people and communities, a process that is easier at the local level but vital at all levels of government. Lula in Brazil and Kirchner in Argentina, to note two hopeful examples, were elected on such a mandate and their success ultimately depends on their overseeing such a shift. 

We use the terms new democracy and living democracy in part because democracy is equated in many minds with elections alone. As vital as fair elections are to democracy, we want to focus more attention on the dynamic processes initiated by civil society organizations around the world to instill new energy and meaning into democratic movements. In some countries, primarily in the Southern Hemisphere, these movements focus on winning community control over natural resources. In other countries, mainly in the North, they are striving to remove corporate money from politics and refocus government agendas on a citizen’s agenda of rights. 

Accountability is central to living democracy. When decisions are made by those who will bear the consequences—such as when a community democratically decides how to manage forests immediately around its homes on the watershed it depends upon for flood control and water—they are likely to give high priority to the sustained long-term health of those forests because their own well-being and that of their children is at stake. This is not the case if the management decisions are in the hands of a foreign corporation whose directors live thousands of miles away and, furthermore, face a legal mandate to maximize short-term return to shareholders. The shareholders, in turn, may not even know they hold shares in this particular company, let alone the location of its forests. These circumstances lead directors to consider only the immediate profit that clear-cutting the trees will bring; they will neither see nor bear the costs of the flooding, mudslides, and disruption of local water supply that this choice will inflict on others. When health, labor, and environmental standards and the rules of foreign trade and investment are shaped by corporate lobbyists in secret negotiations in distant cities, those who will profit are well represented, but those who will bear the costs are not at the table, and their interests carry no weight. 

The principle of new democracy means creating governance systems that give a vote to those who will bear the costs when decisions are being made. It also means limiting the rights and powers of absentee owners and ensuring that those who hold decision-making power are liable for the harms their acts bring to others. The dominant institution of the global economy—the publicly traded, limited liability corporation—violates these conditions by institutionalizing an extreme form of absentee ownership and by insulating the shareholders in whose name the corporation acts from liability for the harm these acts may inflict on others. It is an institutional form poorly suited to the needs of sustainable societies. 

There are dozens of examples of organized citizens launching new democracy initiatives and they are as diverse as the conditions that gave rise to them. Some are small and community-based, such as the seventy-six families who formed a fishing cooperative in rural Chile. Others are large, encompassing whole regions or countries, such as the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain, the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and the Land- less Workers Movement in Brazil. 

Some emerge from the collapse of market economies, such as the so-called horizontalism movement across Argentina that originated in the crisis of its IMF model in December 2001. Some are temporary processes designed to mobilize popular resistance to assaults on democracy, such as the 1998 Canadian inquiry to seek alternatives to the corporate-driven multilateral agreement on investment. Some are citizen initiatives to stop or replace abusive corporate control of vital resources, such as the movement around water in Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

Many others involve indigenous peoples reclaiming their autonomy over their lives, land, and resources. Some involve other communities asserting collective rights over seeds or other natural resources. Some, like Sustainable Chile, involve thousands of people in dialogues about the future they might create. 

All these efforts involve people organizing and taking risks to assert control over their lives and resources in order to advance the common good.

2. Subsidiarity 

Economic globalization entails first and foremost the delocalization and disempowerment of local communities and economies. Yet a high percentage of people on earth still survive through local, community-based activities: small-scale farming, local markets, and local production for local consumption. This traditional system has enabled these people to remain in control of their economic and food security, and it also maintains the viability of their communities and cultures. Even in developed countries, most livelihoods have traditionally been connected to local economic production. Economic globalization is rapidly dismantling this, favoring instead economies based on export with global corporations in control. This brings destruction of local livelihoods, local jobs, and community self-reliance. 

It is necessary to create new rules and structures that consciously favor the local and follow the principle of subsidiarity—that is, whatever decisions and activities can be undertaken locally should be. Whatever power can reside at the local level should reside there. Only when additional activity is required that cannot be satisfied locally should power and activity move to the next higher level, that of region, nation, and finally the world. Site-here-to-sell-here policies and the grounding of capital locally should be codified. Economic structures should be designed to move economic and political power downward—toward the local rather than in a global direction. 

Subsidiarity respects the notion that sovereignty resides in people. In other words, legitimate authority flows upward from the populace through the expression of their democratic wills. Thus, the authority of more distant levels of administration is subsidiary, or subordinate, to the authority of more local levels, which allow a greater opportunity for direct citizen engagement. Decisions are properly made as close as feasible to the level of the individuals who will bear their consequences. Most of the affairs of self-reliant local economies are properly left to local people and institutions; issues such as global warming that demand collective action on a global scale necessarily require a greater involvement from global institutions. 

The principle of subsidiarity recognizes the inherent democratic right of self-determination for people, communities, and nations as long as its exercise does not infringe on the similar rights of others. This right is properly secured through (a) the local and national ownership and control of resources and productive assets; (b) local and national rule-making authority in a system in which more central levels of authority support the local in achieving self-defined goals; and (c) local and national self-reliance in meeting essential needs with local and national resources to the extent feasible. Greater local ownership, political authority, and self-reliance mean less external dependence and vulnerability to exploitation—and the reduction or elimination of winner-take-all competitive struggles for jobs, markets, money, and physical resources that are central to the global economic system. It does not, however, mean isolation. Sustainable societies are good neighbors that reach out to engage in cooperative, peaceful, and mutually beneficial relationships with all people through trade, cultural exchange, and the sharing of information and technology. 


3. Ecological Sustainability 

All life on earth is dependent on the vibrant health of the planet’s live support systems and the maintenance of its biodiversity. The ultimate measure of long-term viability for an economic system must finally be whether it is able to meet genuine needs of people without diminishing the ability of future generations to meet theirs and without diminishing the natural diversity of life on earth. So any sustainable society must be certain that (a) rates of resource exploitation do not exceed rates of regeneration; (b) rates of resource consumption do not exceed the rates at which renewable replacements can be phased into use; and (c) rates of pollution emissions and waste disposal do not exceed the rates of their harmless absorption. Compromising any of these three conditions puts the well-being of future generations and planetary life at grave risk. 

Unfortunately, economic globalization is intrinsically harmful to the environment because it depends for its own viability on an opposite set of standards; ever-increasing commodity consumption, expanding resource use, and increased disposal of polluting waste in oceans, land, and air. A primary feature of globalization—export-oriented production—is intrinsically damaging because it brings increased global transport activity and therefore increased fossil fuel use, refrigeration, packaging, and very costly and ecologically destructive new infrastructures such as dams, ports, roads, airports, canals, pipelines, and so on. In the agriculture realm, the switch to industrialized export systems also brings soil and water pollution, pesticide poisoning, and genetic pollution from genetically engineered plants. And by the rules of globalization’s bureaucratic instruments, globalization also accelerates commoditization and privatization of resources that are fundamental to life, such as fresh water; it appropriates global commons like air and oceans as dumping grounds for wastes; it inhibits the ability of nations to make their own environmental and health regulations; it separates farmers and traditional peoples from their historical connections to land by substituting industrial systems while dismissing more earth-friendly worldviews and practices; it is a primary instrument in the spread of invasive species, including deadly mosquitoes and other organisms; it substitutes homogeneity and monoculture for biodiver- sity; and it directly serves unregulated corporate power. 

If we are going to reverse paths in the future—and given the already emerging crisis of climate change and others, it must be in the near future—a redesigned system is mandatory; one that observes the fundamental rules of ecological sustainability. We already know the goals. The great need now is for a new system that reverses a current dominant hierarchy of values that places corporate profit and wealth creation at the top and leaves sustainability out of the mix. That is a formula for disaster. 


4. Common Heritage 

There exist common heritage resources that constitute a collective birthright of the whole species to be shared equitably among all. We believe that there are three categories of common heritage resources. 

The first category includes the water, land, air, forests, and fisheries on which everyone’s life depends. The second includes the culture and knowledge that are collective creations of our species. Finally, more modern common resources are those public services that governments perform on behalf of all people to address such basic needs as public health, education, public safety, and social security, among others. All of these common heritage resources are under tremendous strain as corporations seek to privatize and commodify them. 

Together, these three categories of resources form the foundation of all real wealth. After all, without them there is neither life nor civilization. Healthy societies acknowledge and reward individual contributions to increasing the useful productivity of natural resources or expanding humanity’s common pool of culture and knowledge. At the same time, they recognize that no individual created the natural wealth of the planet or the whole of any underlying body of knowledge. 

Where property rights to common heritage resources are used to secure the livelihood rights of individuals, it is recognized that any right to the use of a common heritage resource carries a corresponding moral obligation to act as its steward on behalf of all. Similarly, the accumulation of such rights must not infringe on the birthright of others to their equitable share in the common inheritance. Efforts by persons or corporations to monopolize ownership of an essential common heritage resource, such as water, a seed variety, or a forest, and exclude the needs of others should be deemed unacceptable. 


5. Diversity 

A few decades ago, it was possible to leave home and go someplace where the architecture was different, the landscape was different, and language, lifestyle, dress, and values were different. Today, farmers and filmmakers in France and India and millions of people elsewhere are protesting to maintain that diversity. Tens of thousands of communities around the world had perfected local resource management systems that worked but are being undermined by corporate-led globalization. Yet, cultural, biological, social, and economic diversity are central to a dignified, interesting, and healthy life. 

Diversity is key to the vitality, resilience, and innovative capacity of any living system. So too for human societies. The rich variety of the human experience and potential is reflected in cultural diversity, which provides a sort of cultural gene pool to spur innovation toward higher levels of social, intellectual, and spiritual accomplishment and creates a sense of identity, community, and meaning. Economic diversity is the foundation of resilient, stable, energy-efficient, self-reliant local economies that serve the needs of people, communities, and nature. Biological diversity is essential to the complex, self-regulating, self-regenerating processes of the ecosystem from which all life and wealth ultimately flow. 

Global corporations abhor diversity because for them it is a source of inefficiency and uncertainty and, most of all, it is a drain on profits. They seek to reduce costs and increase market control through cultural homogenization, economic specialization, and elimination of unprofitable species. These corporations profit from economies of scale, reduced management costs, and the increased dependence of individuals and communities on the products and services they find it profitable to sell. Corporate logos replace authentic local cultures as the primary source of personal identity. Communities that once created their means of livelihood through local enterprises, using local labor and resources to meet local needs, now must depend on the sale of their labor and resources for whatever the market will bear to distant corporations over which they have no control. Biological vitality is sapped by the loss of biological diversity, which creates an ever growing, unsustainable dependence on the input of expensive and often toxic fertilizers and pesticides. People and communities pay the price for loss of the services that nature once provided for free; corporations and their distant absentee owners reap the profits. 

Diversity may be bad for corporate profits, but it is essential for healthy, sustainable, vital communities. 


6. Human Rights 

In 1948, governments of the world came together to adopt the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which established certain core rights such as “a standard of living adequate for…health and well-being…including food, clothing, housing and medical care, and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment.” Building on this declaration, governments negotiated two covenants in subsequent decades, one on political and civil rights and the other on economic, social, and cultural rights.

Over much of the past half-century, people have struggled to press their governments to advance these rights, which remain as central to human development today as they were in the beginning. The goal of trade and investment should be to enhance the quality of life and respect core labor, social, and other rights. 

Traditionally, most of the human rights debate in the United States and other rich nations has focused on civil and political rights. Although we agree that it is the duty of governments to ensure these rights, we believe they also need to guarantee economic, social, and cultural rights. This assertion has some important implications. For example, we believe that every person has the right to clean and safe water. That leads us to conclude that water should not be commodified or privatized for sale at market prices and that it is the obligation of governments to guarantee safe water supplies. We recognize that many governments are corrupt and unaccountable, but this does not lead us to the conclusion that the private sector is a better guarantor of rights. Rather, it reinforces our resolve to press accountability on governments at every level. 

Some suggest that this principle of human rights can conflict with the second principle, subsidarity. Their reasoning is that some local societies follow practices that violate human rights, such as female genital mutilation and other violations of the right against gender discrimination. We believe that when these two principles clash, then universal human rights should trump local assertions of authority that violates those rights. 


7. Jobs, Livelihood, Employment 

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms every person’s “right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, and to protection against unemployment.” Most of the people in the world ensure the livelihood of their families through work outside the formal sector. In indigenous societies, the majority participate in activities that offer sustenance but are often not integrated in the national or global market. In rural areas, most make a living off the land, often engaged in subsistence agriculture or small-scale entrepreneurial activities that do not offer regular incomes. In urban areas, most people in poorer nations make ends meet without regular jobs or incomes. In each of these cases, corporate globalization is displacing greater numbers of them from dignified livelihoods than it is helping. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights also affirms that everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions. Over the past eight decades, the UN International Labor Organization has elaborated over 100 conventions that further specify basic labor rights. Yet this same organization points out that today some 30 percent of workers are unemployed or seriously underemployed. Many of those who work do so under brutal, exploitative, and dangerous conditions. One of the most dynamic social movements confronting corporate-led globalization is organized labor, which has gathered over 100 million workers around the world into trade unions. Millions more join together in associations of informal sector workers. These movements, rooted in a struggle for these core rights, are a cornerstone of the social movements that are creating economic alternatives. 

Hence, sustainable societies must protect both the rights of workers in the formal sector and address the livelihood needs of the greater numbers of people who subsist in what has become known as the informal sector, as well as those who have no work or are seriously underemployed. 


8. Food Security and Safety 

Communities and nations are stable and secure when their people have enough food, particularly when these nations can provide their own food. People also need safe food, a commodity that is becoming increasingly scarce. 

Some of the strongest citizen movements around the world today are fighting the juggernaut of globalized industrial agriculture. Monopoly control of food and seeds by a small number of corporations threatens millions of farmers and the food security and safety of millions of people. Global rules of trade now favor the industrial agriculture model, rapidly destroying small-scale farmers who produce staple foods for local consumption. Globalized industrial agriculture is driving small farmers off the land and replacing them with pesticide and machine-intensive monocultures producing luxury items for export at great environmental and social cost. 

New rules of trade must recognize that food production for local consumption should be at the top of a hierarchy of values in agriculture. Local self-reliance in food production and the assurance of healthful, safe foods should be considered basic human rights. Shorter trade distances and reduced reliance on expensive inputs that need to be shipped over long distances are key to a new food system paradigm.

9. Equity 

Under the current rules, economic globalization has widened the gap between rich and poor countries, between the rich and poor in most countries, and between men and women. The social dislocations and tensions that result have become among the greatest threats to peace and security the world over. Greater equity both among nations and inside them would reinforce democracy and sustainable communities. 

Reducing the growing gap between rich and poor nations requires first the cancellation of the illegitimate debts of poor countries. It also requires the replacement of the current institutions of global governance with new ones that include global fairness among their operating principles. 

As for the inequities within nations, a key flaw of the current dominant system is that markets respond to the wants of those with money and disregard even the most basic needs of those who do not have the means to pay. Extreme inequality in income and ownership distorts the allocation of economic resources, excludes all but the very rich from meaningful democratic participation, undermines institutional legitimacy, and creates social instability. 

Economic globalization disproportionately hurts wo- men too. Women make up the majority of the small-scale food producers who still provide most of the planet’s nutritional needs. Hence, they suffer the most from a globalized agricultural system. Likewise, most of the workers on the global assembly lines of Nike, Dell, and other global corporations are women, so they suffer most from the sweatshop conditions in many of these workplaces. Whether farm or factory workers, women are the primary household workers and caregivers, and the majority of this work is unpaid. And just as the lowest rungs of the global assembly lines are made up primarily of women, corporate CEOs and global bureaucrats are overwhelmingly male, reinforcing the unequal-gender pay scale. 

The claim of economic globalization advocates that those who accumulate great wealth take nothing away from those less fortunate is at best disingenuous. When those who have the money to enjoy meat-rich diets cause the market to redirect available supplies of grain away from the tables of people who cannot pay in order to feed livestock to provide meat to those who can, they contribute to the dynamics of hunger. When banks foreclose mortgages on family farms and put them up for sale to corporations to grow crops for export, they are depriving the displaced families of their means of livelihood and often condemning them to a marginal, dependent existence as landless laborers or sweatshop workers producing products for export that they cannot afford themselves. When the rich buy opulent second, third, and fourth homes, they drive up the price of land and housing and force the less fortunate onto the street. Those who profit from clear-cutting hillsides contribute to the floods that sweep away the homes and crops of those living below. Those with the wealth to engage in profligate energy consumption contribute to the storms that kill and displace hundreds of thousands of people living on coastal lowlands in Bangladesh and elsewhere. The idea that the good fortune of the rich has no consequences for the plight of the poor may comfort the consciences of the rich, but it is not true. 

In an increasingly crowded world with finite environmental limits, the human species confronts an increasingly painful trade-off between expanding the profligate material consumption of the wealthy and meeting the basic needs of everyone. 

Because equity is essential to social health, healthy societies set a floor on the bottom and a cap on the top, while striving to maintain true equality of opportunity and balance between incentive and equity. A century ago, the celebrated financier J.P. Morgan, himself no paragon of virtue, asserted that a company’s top executive should not make more than twenty times the income of the lowest-paid worker. In the year 2000 in the United States, the average CEO made 458 times the income of the average worker. There are a plethora of policy options to improve the incomes of both industrial and rural workers. And there are sensible proposals to remove incentives that encourage excessive executive pay. 

Social justice and greater equality—among nations, within nations, between ethnic groups, between classes, and between women and men—are cornerstones of sustainable societies. 


10. The Precautionary Principle 

We live at a time when corporate-driven scientific and technological innovation is affecting the environmental, social, and political milieu as never before. Great technological change takes place with little advance understanding of its impacts, and virtually no process for democratic evaluation, often until it is far too late to reverse a technology’s negative effects. The twentieth century brought us the automobile, chemicals, plastics, nuclear energy, air travel, television, computers, bio-weaponry, space explorations, and more recently biotechnology, nanotechnology, and wireless communication, to name only a few of the innovations. Each of these is already bringing massive change on social, economic, and political fronts. Much of that change is beneficial, but there has also been a degree of pollution and an ecological impact that was never publicly considered and that may bring great hardships, illness, and dislocations for generations. None of these changes were brought to the world in a democratic manner, with full exposure of the potential negative outcomes, which range from climate change, to ocean pollution, to chemical poisonings, to space weaponry, to globally centralized and concentrated communications, and so on. Nearly all were introduced either because of military or market considerations without regard, exposure, or discussion of negative potentials. Whenever new technologies were described at all, it was always about benefits, in sometimes utopian language. “Nuclear energy is safe, clean, unlimited.”“Biotechnology will feed the world.” “Antibiotics will end disease.” Downsides are not apparent until much later.

In recognition of this problem, the 1992 Declaration of Rio, signed by country participants at the Rio Earth Summit, codified the precautionary principle as international law, as follows: “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied.... Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental damage.” We strongly endorse this principle as basic to rational, democratic decision making. Obviously, it sometimes takes many years for scientific proof of harm to be established, and the precautionary principle places the onus of proof on the technology’s or the process’s proponents to prove that it is safe before it is generally introduced. As in the old adage, “Better safe than sorry.” Or the more recent cautionary about problematic technologies: “Guilty until proven innocent.” 

Precaution even in the absence of absolute certainty of danger and the deliberate shifting of burdens of proof to proponents are two fundamental components of the precautionary principle. Two other important ones are that where doubt exists, preference should always be given to alternatives and that there must be full public participation at all levels of decision making. 

Although the precautionary principle is considered controversial by some, many countries have begun to accept and codify it. Germany and Sweden have already done so, and wide application of the precautionary principle has also been made in Australia, Scotland, and Norway, among others. In February 2001, the European Commission also took a helpful stance: “When there are reasonable grounds for concern that potential hazards may affect the environment, human, animal, or plant health, and when at the same time the data preclude a detailed risk evaluation, the precautionary principle has been politically accepted as a strategy.” 

The United States, for example, has famously refused to apply the principle in the case of climate change, arguing that science has not yet proven that human activity is the cause—a very lonely and dangerous view. The United States has also sued, under WTO rules, to overturn the European Union’s ban on the import of beef products treated with artificial growth hormone, which is suspected of increasing the risk for cancers.  

Here we have yet another area where the WTO represents a major problem. Under WTO rules, safety regulations must be based on risk assessment, which requires governments to present categorical proof of harm from new technologies and techniques before they may ban a usage. Without such categorical proof—which the EU did not have in the case of its ban on beef containing hormones—preventive measures qualify as illegal barriers to trade, and may be overturned. If such WTO rules had been in place in the 1950s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would not have been able to ban the use of the drug thalidomide, which caused severe deformities in babies in many countries (including in Europe) where it had been approved and widely used and whose culpability was not finally proven until 30 years later. 

Quite a few U.S. laws actually do apply the precautionary principle, though not by name. These include the Clean Water Act, the National Environment Protections Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Pollution-Prevention Act of 1990, though WTO rules may someday be used to challenge these policies. Meanwhile the United States is using those same WTO rules to threaten action against precautionary policies of other governments. In addition to the beef hormone case, this has lately happened with regard to genetically engineered export foods, phthalates in children’s PVC toys, and certain electronic technologies. 

Universal acceptance and adoption of the precautionary principle is thus essential if citizens, through their democratically elected representatives, are to have the right to learn about, decide upon, and control the risks that they or the natural environment should be exposed to. Global trade bodies should either codify and incorporate the principle, as was done at Rio, or at least take no restrictive stance when countries apply it. 


Applying the Principles to Globalization 

These ten principles seem to be mirror opposites of the principles that drive the institutions of the corporate global economy. The imperatives of this powerful system create a self-reinforcing drive toward the privatization and monopolization of common heritage resources; the centralization of power and authority for the few who are shielded from legal accountability for the impact of their decisions on the well-being of people and planet; a life- and-death competition that divides the world into big winners and even bigger losers; the unaccountable externalization of costs; the destruction of cultural, biological, and economic diversity; and the disregard of deadly risks to human and environmental health. It is time to reclaim the power taken by the institutions of corporate globalization and replace them with institutions and rules that better serve the needs of people and planet. 

Surely, it is time for a new approach. 


John Cavanaugh is director of the Institute for Policy Studies and coauthor of 11 books on the global economy. Jerry Mander is with the Public Media Center and is author of a number of best-selling books. Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World is Possible (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publisher).



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