The ceremony marking the transfer of the Presidency of the Group of 77 and China at the UN for 2017 was the occasion for a significant presentation by Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador. President Correa came to the UN event to welcome his country assuming the Presidency. He is by training an economist.
Correa has been at UN headquarters on several other occasions On one of these occasions, in 2009 Correa attended the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development held by the UN General Assembly from June 25 – June 30. (1) Correa’s presentation at that conference outlined the need for the construction of a new international financial architecture for the multipolar world. In his talk, Correa urged member nations of the UN, “We must take off the straight jacket of unipolarity.” He explained why it would not be adequate to reform the Bretton Woods institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as the same organizations that were responsible for the crisis could not be turned to in order to make the changes needed to prevent further crises.
He proposed the need for “the different, the exploited and vilified, the majority of us (to) demand transparency, and truth at the time of revealing who was at the origin of today’s crisis, who plundered the peoples, who benefited from these adjustment processes, from illegitimate debts, coup d’etats, subterfuges, and institutional illegalities.”
He maintained that the source of the 2008 crisis was the deregulated environment which “encouraged the growth of subprime loans, resulting in increased volatility and subsequently stock markets crashing.” To deal with the underlying causes of the crisis he argued that there was a need for people to “demand democracy” and “the world of peace and justice, only made possible through the respect for the sovereignty of the people.”
In his presentation this year to the G77 on January 13, 2017, Correa thanked the members of the Latin American and Caribbean region for nominating Ecuador for this responsibility. He referred to a research report that describes how .7% of the world’s population has 45.6% of the world’s wealth. The problem this highlights, Correa explained was that, “Unfortunately the world is organized not by human beings, but by the empire of capital.” He described how in the 18th Century during the period of the Industrial Revolution there was a savage capitalism unleashed where workers were at their machines for long hours and there was much devastation as a result of the poor conditions of labor. Nevertheless he pointed out that it was possible to stop such brutal exploitation through “collective action” where regulation was brought in to “limit” the abuses.
With globalization, however, he proposed such collective action does not yet exist. Referring to what in Ecuador is called “the social economy of knowledge” he explained that poor nations don’t need charity. They need to find ways to avoid the privatization of knowledge. With the diffusion of knowledge, science and technology can develop and spread. The more people use science and technology, the better.
Also he pointed to the problem of media which provides information from private, for-profit businesses, media which use their headlines and content to undermine political processes replacing the rule of law with the state of opinions.
Correa posed the question about whether the elites or the great majorities rule society, whether capital or human beings, whether the market or society?
While Correa’s presentation to the G77 is posted online at the G77 website, it is only posted in Spanish. But for those who don’t speak Spanish there is a webcast of the English translation done by the UN when Correa gave the talk. Correa’s presentation at the G77 ceremony represents a rare reminder of the efforts by some member nations of the UN to create a new financial architecture, one which will serve the majority of the people rather than only capital.
Ending his talk, Correa offered a quote from the Uruguayan writer and author Eduardo Galeano who is author of “The Open Veins of Latin America.” Galeano wrote:
“Utopia lies at the horizon
When I draw nearer by two steps,
It retreats two steps.
If I proceed ten steps toward it, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead.
No matter how far I go, I can never reach it.
What, then, is the purpose of utopia?
It is to cause us to advance.”
Just at a time when there is a new Secretary-General at the UN, and a change of administration in the US, Correa’s presentation at the UN to the G77 demonstrates that there is a broader analysis of the economic and financial foundations of society than is usually explored or discussed at the UN. This broader analysis provides a basis for the G77 to create an alternative model which will serve the interests of the broad majority of people.
1) Ronda Hauben, G192 Meeting at the UN Presents Needed Alternative to G8 and G20, blogs.taz.de/netizenblog, 7-13-2009.
2) Rafael Correa, “’UNA MEJOR ORGANIZACIÓN PLANETARIA’ PRESENTACIÓN DEL PAÍS”
Discurso del Presidente Constitucional de la República del Ecuador, S.E. Sr. Rafael Correa Delgado, en la Ceremonia de Traspaso de la Presidencia del Grupo de los 77 (New York, 13 January 2017)
3) See http://webtv.un.org/search/formal-handover-of-the-chairmanship-of-the-group-of-77-from-thailand-to-ecuador/5281531786001?term=group%20of%2077