Economic cooperation with rich countries does not help poor

6 October 2005

Economic cooperation with rich countries does not help poor

"If we don't ask the cat to feed the mice instead of eating them, why should economic cooperation with the world's richest countries be a suitable instrument for helping the world's poor and powerless?" SP Senator Tiny Kox put this question this week to Donald J. Johnston, Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) during the autumn session of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

The OECD is the economic cooperation organisation of thirty rich countries. It originated in the postwar Marshall Plan through which the United States financed the reconstruction of Europe, receiving in return recognition as the world's economic, military and political leader. Later Japan, South Korea, Canada and Mexico joined the economic alliance.

The OECD countries together control three-quarters of world trade and are home to almost all of the five-hundred biggest multinationals. With more than twenty percent of the world's population within their borders, the thirty OECD member states to a large extent determine the lives and wellbeing of a hundred percent of the world's population.

The OECD produces economic analysis, reports, advice notes and treaties for its member states and the countries with which they cooperate. Through the work of the OECD, neoliberal globalisation has been promoted across the world, to the great satisfaction of the United States, which remains the OECD's chief sponsor, covering fifty percent of its costs.

Once a year the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe serves as an international parliamentary supervisory instrument for assessing the work and direction of the OECD, being joined in this task by parliamentary delegations from the non-European OECD states. Remarkably enough the Americans are always missing from this gathering, which Senator Kox sees as a clear signal that the United States sees no need for such supervision. It would be wise, he argues, to recognise that and no longer serve as a parliamentary façade for the OECD.

Tiny Kox“No-one believes that George Bush listens to what we say here,” says Kox, “and that goes for Chirac and the German Chancellor, whoever that turns out to be. We should therefore look for better ways to monitor the OECD or better still work towards the closing down of this leftover from the postwar era. The OECD says that in general everything is going well in a world economy under its influence. But the Earth's poor have not noticed that this is the case, while the destruction of nature and the environment through uncontrolled economic growth goes ever further."

As spokesman for the political group of the United European Left, Senator Kox voted against proposals which mean business as usual for the OECD, proposals which won the support of a large majority, including the centre-left Socialist group.

The Council of Europe also this week discussed measures to prevent the European Union, through its policies in relation to non-member states, making the work of the Council of Europe superfluous. According to Kox, “This would just cost more and bring more problems.” He argued that it should be borne in mind that the European Union would always prioritise its own interests in its relations with neighbouring countries. "Now that the Union has developed into a megalomaniac neoliberal project, its plans won't always turn out well for these countries and the people who live in them. The voters in France and the Netherlands have shown that they don't believe any more in the Union's neoliberal approach. We should show that we, as the Council of Europe, feel the same way. We must take care that the Council of Europe does not become merely an EU-plus and that all member states continue to be treated equally, that the EU is not given an advantageous position."

The Council of Europe this week elected a new Commissioner for Human Rights. The Swede Thomas Hammerberg succeeded the Spaniard Alvaro Gil-Robles. His election was supported by members of the Dutch delegation from the SP, as well as those of GroenLinks (the Green Left) and PvdA (Labour Party).

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