A bad start to the new century


Sadly one would have to agree that the first decade of the new century is not a cause for optimism. Not only have we not solved the problems that we had, other even more difficult ones have been added to the list.

There is no improvement in the standoffs with Iran and North Korea. The Palestinian situation is getting worse as Israel openly defies Barack Obama, building new settlements on Arab land, knowing that no American administration will dare stand up to the pro-Israeli lobby.

While predictions about Iraq are difficult, this is not the case in Afghanistan where, according to the Pentagon, each soldier deployed costs one million dollars per year, in a war that is probably unwinnable and is likely to go on for at least five years.
The Mandela Miracle is fading is South Africa, there is no change in Zimbabwe, and, according to Transparency International, corruption in Africa, and the rest of the world, is on the rise. In Latin America, the exit in December 2010 of President Lula da Silva, the great mediator, will mean a rise in regional tensions.
Asia is the only area of growth, with China unstoppable, and the other economies generally rebounding.

In addition, the new century has seen the emergence of problems previously unknown at the global level. We are in a phase of full-on globalisation but do not know how to control it.

Rise in poverty
The crisis set off by financial speculation has created another 100 million poor, according to the World Bank. However, the powers that be have learned no lesson from this, choosing to save the current flawed system at any cost rather than reform it to make it more responsible; the price tag was $18 billion, equal to all aid to the Third World over the last 150 years. The decision was made —by omission — to make no changes other than a few cosmetic adjustments.
The banks have eliminated only 50 per cent of the toxic assets that caused the crisis, while the quantity of derivatives, which also played a significant role, is now six times larger than the Gross World Product.

All that is certain is that the states that intervened, and  the US most of all, are now staggering under massively larger deficits and unprecedented unemployment, while the experts predict the US housing crisis will get worse and cite the insufficiency of the programmes introduced by Obama for the millions of Americans who have lost or are losing their homes.

One of the central challenges in the age of globalisation is creating formulas for governing. Europe, though it is a region in decline, had the opportunity to give itself leadership commensurate with the times. The approval of a new constitutional treaty after long years of negotiations finally provided for designation of a president and a foreign affairs representative for the European Union. Unfortunately the squalid power play among the 27 member countries resulted in the naming to the new posts of  inexperienced figures hardly capable of giving the EU the leadership it needs.

The painful drama of petty egotism in Brussels followed another major failure of the international community: the Rome Conference on World Food Security. Almost no high-level figures attended and no effort was made to formulate an agreement to reduce hunger, which now affects one of every six people, according to the most optimistic sources. Reducing hunger is one of the fundamental Millennium Development Objectives adopted unanimously by heads of state at the 2000 UN General Assembly.
Meanwhile the rapid deterioration of the earth leaves everyone, rich and poor, in the same boat.

The Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, which begins on Dec 7, promises to achieve even less than the Food Security meeting. We already know that it will not produce an agreement equal to the current challenges; all that is expected are a few positive declarations that can form the basis for future meetings — and no concrete decisions. Meanwhile more and more scientific evidence emerges each day on how we are heading off a cliff. One day we see photos of the Kilimanjaro without snow; then we read that champagne producers are buying land in south England, or that Greenland is becoming an exporter of cabbage, or the Mediterranean is infected with tropical fish. The oceans are losing their capacity to absorb carbon because they have absorbed too much already.

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