Evo’s Manifesto

December 3, 2008

Bolivian President Evo Morales has released a manifesto of sorts regarding climate change and human development. It’s an impassioned call for an international agreement which ensures drastic cuts in global emissions while allowing a form of development which does not compromise the world’s ecosystems, maintains the cultural integrity of indigenous peoples and avoids the kind of inequalities that neo-liberal models of development have generated.

It’s a piece that I broadly agree with, and it’s urgently needed. It should be required reading for all delegates at the UN conference on clumate change that is currently ongoing in Poznan, Poland, as it should be for all of those who are concerned about the global environment. That should, assuming a level of sanity that it is sometimes hard to do, include virtually all of us.

The full text can be found here, at the Climate and Capitalism blog. Morales makes over twenty recommendations to global policy makers, but the ones which caught my eye (and roused my hopes) included:

“Strict fulfilment by 2012 of the commitments of the developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least by 5% below the 1990 levels.” It is easy to forget that the Kyoto Protocol stipulated a 5 percent cut below 1990 levels, as no government in the world has delivered it. It is important that poorer nations hammer away at the hypocrisy behind rich nations now stonewalling on emissions reductions, if sacrifices aren’t made by developing nations.

As Morales adds, “It is unacceptable that the countries that polluted the planet throughout the course of history make statements about larger reductions in the future while not complying with their present commitments.”

Secondly, Morales stresses the centrality of technology transfer to a fair and workable agreement (China is particularly adamant on this point as well). To achieve this, he calls for “an Integral Financial Mechanism to support developing countries” to fund both adaptation and mitigation efforts in poorer nations, which should be capitalized by the allocation of 1 percent of GDP in developed nations. This, he requests, would be additional to current development aid, which stands below the 0.7 percent of GDP recommended as a minimum by the UN back in 1970.

Morales gives this idea a crucial twist, however, by adding that “Financing must not be concentrated just in some developed countries but has to give priority to the countries that have contributed less to greenhouse gas emissions, those that preserve nature and are suffering the impact of climate change.”

This would cause some problems for nations like China which has accumulated an atrocious environmental record in its breakneck pursuit of the western development model. The level of planning and regulation that such a measure would involve can come, according to Evo, from a financial body under UN authority, but whose “management must be collective, transparent and non-bureaucratic.”

In striking contrast to the bureaucracies of the World Bank and IMF, “Its decisions must be made by all member countries, especially by developing countries, and not by the donors or bureaucratic administrators.”

Thirdly, Morales is very clear in stating that ” Innovation and technology related to climate changes must be within the public domain, not under any private monopolistic patent regime that obstructs and makes technology transfer more expensive to developing countries.”

“Intellectual property rights” are critical to blocking the dissemination of useful and appropriate mitigation and adaptation technologies across the world. They are, as Morales notes, regarded as “sacred” by the current (and tottering) regime of international regulation. This sanctity has been bought by the lobbyists of major corporations, not least among them Microsoft, whose founder Bill Gates masquerades as a friend to the global poor. Yet his dogmatic adherence to IP, which maintains Windows’ monopoly against all comers, must be jettisoned.

Instead, Morales suggests, the protection of those property rights, where human welfare is not compromised, could be regulated by “World Environment and Climate Change Organisation to which multilateral trade and financial organisations are subordinated.”

Finally, Morales makes a point that we all need to take to heart. Alongside policy prescriptions and new institutions, he reminds us that “The best mechanism to confront the challenge of climate change are not market mechanisms, but conscious, motivated and well organised human beings endowed with an identity of their own.” Mentioning this in the context of protecting the knowledge and cultures of indigenous people – who live sustainably – he is also calling for a radically democratic overhaul of the notion of development.

He has a vision of community led, sustainable, non-bureaucratic development that is buttressed democratic international institutions. This is what we should be aiming for as the world slowly grapples with the immense challenge posed by climate change, and other looming ecological catastrophes.

As Morales concludes, in a manner that puts leaders like Gordon Brown to shame, “Humankind is capable of saving the Earth if we recover the principles of solidarity, complementarity and harmony with nature in contraposition to the reign of competition, profits and rampant consumption of natural resources.”


One Response to “Evo’s Manifesto”

  1. […] there is an opportunity for the nations of the world to discuss and deal with future crises. The manifesto suggested by Bolivian president Evo Morales would be a great starting point, if the aim is to […]

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