Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Earthland: Seeing the world as a nation

The pre-conference programme of the 2008 EADI General conference closed with the Dudley Seers public lecture by Tariq Banuri. He presented a view of the world as one country. He started his premise with the view that if the world were a country it would be considered an unstable state. If we wanted to seek the skills to formulate global policy, we would be best served by finding those with experience in developing countries, as the Earthland as he called it would be a developing country.

Mr. Banuri suggested that this global world was older than some might think. Whilst globalization had it’s roots in the 1990s, the collective view of the world first took hold in 1962. He argued that a community only strengthens when there is a death in the family, and Rachel Carsons book 'Silent Spring' was the first global best seller to show the fragility of the Earth and encourage a global solution to the threat caused to the planet. The visioning of this fragility was brought home with the publishing in 1972 of the blue planet photos emphasizing the eggshell fragility of the planet in space.

If the world was a nation, it would be one of the most unequal, with the ratios of wealth and space being as extreme as as South Africa in the 1970s at the height of apartheid. Whilst incomes in the North average 32,000 dollars per person, barely exceed one twentieth of this in the South.

A number of global regimes exist covering the areas of trade, finance and security and most recently global approaches to climate change, and the strength of these has grown in the last twenty years.

The inequalities were not changing 20% of the population of Earthland receive 82.7% of the income. Although there are many views that the operation of Earthland changes, with new technologies, communication and governance, the reality of the inequalities does not.

The key message was that we take responsibility for our planet, we understand better the skills needed to govern and we understand that inter country inequality has been increasing. He finished by suggesting that we approach one of the biggest threats to the planet, that of climate change, through development and support for growth in the South, rather than through global carbon taxes and restrictions on these countries. It was important to invest in the transition to renewable sources in the South and not just enforce unaffordable changes through legislation.

As an opening to the EADI General Conference on global governance, this lecture provided an image of an unjust badly governed world with many areas for improvement, and emphasized that many of the answers lay in understanding the developing world and addressing global challenges through tackling inequality and supporting development.

by Chris Addison

Read more stories from the conference and visit the conference blog.