The coming years I want to try to reach a number of goals on different topics. This can be done by influencing governments, citizens and companies, together with the organisations which you can find at Ďlinksí. The topics on which I have priorities are:
- Environment and sustainable development
- Agriculture, nature, landscape and animal welfare
- WTO, EU, US and international trade policy; stop the privatisation and liberalization of basic needs
- International solidarity and prevention of conflicts and wars
Environment and sustainable development
- Sustainability means a liveable earth as a basis for a economic and social stable society on the long term. This is also the best guarantee to prevent conflicts in future about natural resources. I expect that especially these conflicts will increase this century. This means that policy in future must focus on reaching the coming conditions for a liveable earth:
- closed cycles of fresh water, minerals in agriculture and raw materials in industry, this prevents depletion at one side and pollution at the other side;
- sustainable energy, so stop use of fossil fuels and nuclear energy;
- conservation of the biodiversity of animals, plants and micro-organism; stop extinction.
Explanation: By this priority a connection is made between the ecological, social and economic dimension of a sustainable development. By testing future policy on this priorities, we can stop all measures and policy which still have negative effects on these conditions.
- Producers are responsible for pollution and depletion of natural resources during the complete lifecycle of their products, so including mining and gaining of fossil fuels and deposal of waste.
Explanation: Many processing and industrial companies take no responsibility for the phase of mining and agricultural production (especially not in developing countries). Especially mining, gaining of fossil fuels and agriculture for export have many negative effects for the environment, nature and local population (in developing countries).
- The price of products has to include all costs, so including all environmental costs (withdrawal of non renewable and slow renewable resources, and pollution), and all prices which guarantee a socially acceptable produced product. Also the calculation of GDP and economic growth needs to include all negative effects on environment and social aspects (for example labour conditions, criminality, accidents, human health). By doing this negative effects will get a price and will work negative instead of positive for GDP.
Explanation: This is part of the free market theory which is the guideline for the present-day economy. Even neoliberals donít deny this internalisation of costs, the problem is that very little policy is made on this priority.
- The balance between government and the market has to be restored. The task of the government is to protect the interests of citizens and nature in their own country and abroad. Companies need to make profit, I wonít deny this. But especially when basic needs are involved, we need a strong governments which supplies the norms and laws for the market. We need to argue against rhetoric that this is bad for economy, and that companies will leave the country. As long as countries refuse to import products or services which donít meet or the laws and regulation to their companies, we donít have to be afraid of false competition.
- The government has to raise much more awareness of citizens and companies, to enhance decrease of consumption, and get this out of the alternative circuit. This awareness has to increase on the fields of energy- and water saving, less use of cars, buy environmental and social friendly products and prevention of garbage. A measure could be to (financially) support ecoteams (groups of consumers who want to change their consumption behaviour). From my own experience I know that the social situation in a group makes me much more motivated to change behaviour on the long term.
Explanation: Financial incentives are not enough to change human behaviour in the long run. People should get by raising awareness by governments or NGOís, also get Ďproblemsí with their consciousness or social environment, before they will change their behaviour.
Sustainable development should be integrated in education, starting with elementary school. By doing this students can develop an integrated vision on the economic, social, ecological and cultural dimensions of a sustainable society. The same should happen in research and development; we need more interdisciplinary research, in which economic feasible is connected with the effects for the environment for current and future generations.
Explanation: In current education but also in public opinion (partly as a effect of education) too much emphasis is made on only the economy (for example on GDP), without taking into account the negative effects for different people on earth (for example on supply of basic needs), nature and environment and future generations.
The government should make a (financial) program to stimulate a sustainable economy. Examples of this are development of sustainable technologies, information- and communication technologies, and self sufficient (region bound) agriculture and projects where living and working is done at the same location.
By doing this countries can keep their economic growth going, especially when they try to be a frontrunner in this sustainable economy, and get comparative advantages. Especially regional and self sufficient economies can be good examples of economies which place environmental and social aspects central in their decisions, while they still are economical feasible.
Agriculture, nature, landscape and animal welfare
- The decrease in amount of farmers has to be stopped, to let rural economies survive and keep a nice landscape. To reach this we have to change EU- and WTO policy (see later), but also supply alternative ways of income to farmers, so we get a multi functional agricultural sector. Possibilities next to the production function are: regional production and marketing, combination of health care (including mental illness, elderly people, long term jobless people) and farming, agricultural tourism, sustainable energy production, water management, nature and landscape conservation.
The retail sector in the EU has developed the EUREP-GAP-system, which means that products have to meet the standards of the country of production, instead of the country of sale. So this means false competition for the farmers in the country of sale, whose farmers have to meet higher standards. So this EUREP-GAP-system has to be reformed, only the independent government can develop standards, and check products to meet this standards. On food safety we can not let the processing industry and retail sector check their own products, we need independent checks by the governments. The privatization of this government service was wrong policy.
- Inside the EU we need to harmonise the laws and standards on food safety, environment and animal welfare, on a higher level. Products which are sold by retailers and shops have to meet the same standards as the standards which farmers in the EU have to meet, to prevent false competition and a race to the bottom, where industry and retail look only for the lowest price. The latter has also many negative effects for the environment and nature in developing countries, where export agriculture is competing with food production for the use of scarce natural resources. This stimulates also farmers in the EU to make a change to a more sustainable agriculture, without taking the risk to be competed out of the market.
Explanation: Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands (Milieudefensie) took samples on different times and shops of vegetables and fruit, and found out that many products have too high levels of residues of pesticides, and found residues of pesticides which are prohibited in the Netherlands.
Import, trade and possession of animals which are caught wild in nature, needs to be prohibited. This means an expansion of the CITES-law. The maintenance and enforcement of the CITES-law needs to be increased, by increasing the amount of checks and employees.
Explanation: Itís ethical unacceptable that the nature is robbed of species (until extinction), and these animals have to live in small cages outside their natural environment, to meet luxury consumption needs of people (to be socially accepted).
In the Netherlands the government has cut the expenses for enforcement of these laws.
- Genetically modification of plants and animals in agriculture is and/or stays prohibited (in the EU). Import of genetically manipulated agricultural products (including animal feed) is also prohibited.
Explanation: Their are many negative effects and risks connected to GMOís for human health, the environment and nature. Only multinational corporation which sell these seed mostly in combination with pesticides profit from GMOís. Small farmers are getting more dependent on these companies, and are not allowed to save their own seeds. So the effect will be that more farmers will get bankrupt, if they cannot pay back debts which they made to buy these GMO-seeds and pesticides. All evidence says that GMOís donít raise production, and are even negative for global food security especially because they stimulate production of export crops (by big scale farmers) instead of food crops for own consumption (by small scale farmers).
To stimulate global food security we need among other things: reform of international trade, and financial -, economic - and social policy changes, land reform needs to be stimulated, Low External Input Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) needs to be stimulated and corruption needs to be fought against. GMOís are part of the problem not of the solution, to combat hunger.
- See also WTO, EU and international trade policy.
WTO, EU, US and international trade policy; stop privatization en liberalization of basic needs
- From an economic, social and environmental point of view we need to stop the liberalization of trade in agricultural products. Within the WTO-negotiations on the Agreement on Agriculture, food sovereignty needs to be the standard. This means that countries have the right to produce their own food by their own farmers, and so can protect their farmers by imposing and maintaining import tariffs against dumping and low quality imports. In the South as well as in the North the best is to produce food regional. An exception has to be made for tropical (food) products, which can be exported to the North as long as farmers in the South receive a fair price for products which meet high environmental and social standards. This means that international laws on labour (ILO), environment (UN), and national and EU-laws (on food safety and animal welfare) need to be respected. This also means that farmers in the North and South get a price for their products which includes all costs to produce this environmental and social friendly products. To reach this goal we need to organise and/or maintain international production control for a number of strategic and important crops, for example for coffee, tea, cocoa, rubber, palm oil.
For example: The trade in the liberalized trade of coffee shows that small coffee farmers in the South are the losers of the current overproduction, while consumers in the North donít have any profit of this. In 2003 the historical lowest price level for raw coffee was reached, this meant many bankrupt farmers in the South, but almost no decrease of prices for coffee in Northern shops and restaurants. So all profit is taken by the multinationals in trade and processing, and retail, which have a policy to even expand the production of raw coffee.)
Also the fairest way to help the least developed countries is to give these countries export quota, for which they get a high price, for example for sugar exports to the EU. The sugar quota system for African Caribbean Pacific (ACP)-countries has to be maintained and expanded with some Least Developed Countries which have enough natural resources to produce sugar cane while not competing with their own food production.
Explanation: The goal of the Agreement on Agriculture was to promote the right to export, to open up new markets in the South, and to get raw materials at the cheapest possible way. No surprise because in the EU as well as in the US the negotiation positions were written by people of multinationals like Cargill.
The system of income subsidies as a partly compensation for reduction of prices in EU and the US, stimulates overproduction, low prices and dumping in developing countries. So itís not enough to stop export subsidies, but to end all subsidies. In return the EU and the US can protect their own markets, and are going to produce especially for their own consumption. Of course some countries cannot supply enough food for their own population, so some overproduction and trade is necessary. But this new system means that countries can produce and trade when they want, not because they have to trade because multinationals and large scale farmers want to raise their profits, at the expense of small and middle big farmers in North and South who are forced to compete against each other.
By this end of liberalization we can also prevent many environmental problems like global warming (because of all the transport by world wide trade, and an industrialised agriculture), depletion of fresh water resources and soils, soil erosion, salination of soils (by unsustainable irrigation for export agriculture), destruction of nature for export agriculture, and pollution of soils in the North (because too much dung). Itís also unacceptable that developing countries use their scarce natural resources to supply the luxury consumption in the North, instead of feeding their own population.
- By this ending of subsidies in the EU and US, money will come available to pay farmers who deliver extraordinary green services to society on environment (for example biological farming), nature and landscape conservation. These farmers receive payments which covers all costs they made, and most preferable long term contracts are made. This system of payment for green services is especially important for the new EU-members like Poland, where many farmers still are small scale, and work in nice landscapes with biodiversity which is lost in many West European countries. If these farmers donít get access to these payments, in a few years time many farmers will stop, agriculture will get more industrialised and modernised, and nature and landscape will be lost.
A part of the current EU-budget can also be used for compensation of people with low incomes for a slightly higher food price, because we protect our EU-borders against products which donít meet our quality standards. So for a few products the price might raise. This raising of pricing could be little because already now big differences exist between the price farmers get, and the price people pay in shops because of lack of competition between companies in processing, food industry and retail. So a few companies have a big power against many farmers at one side, and many consumers at the other side.
Explanation: By reforming of the EU-budget in this way, we can save a lot of money, the money which is spent is really going to help small and middle scale farming, environment, landscape, nature and consumers, and is not used to compete against small farmers in developing countries. The base of (arable and dairy) agriculture is no longer subsidies, but payment for products which meet all standards, and which are mostly consumed in the EU, for a price which includes all costs and small profit.
In this way we also stop the double standards for farmers in Western and Eastern Europe, which through current policy get only equal treatment by 2012. Which means that many farms will be closed, and the people are forced to migrate to cities or western Europe. For example: unemployment rates in Poland are 20%, while 2 million farmers are threatened to abandon their farms if current EU-policy is not changed.
- Supply of basic needs like food, water, energy, healthcare, housing, transport and education is (at least partly) a responsibility for governments. Privatization of services which involve basic needs should be stopped and be turned back to government control. Also the liberalization of trade in these services by the GATS-agreement as part of the WTO, needs to be stopped. The EU and the US need also to stop the pushing for this service liberalization in bilateral and regional trade agreements with developing countries.
Explanation: As part of the new world religion neo liberalism, multinationals together with high government officials, World bank and IMF are pushing for this privatization and liberalization. Their rhetoric is that the consumer of the 21st century wants more choice, and that privatization leads to more efficiency and lower consumer prices. The reality is that especially in developing countries government officials got very rich by privatization, that the costs didnít decrease, and that prices for these basic needs mostly increased while the service levels decreased. So (in future) only people whit high purchasing power have access to these basic needs.
For example: the privatization in the Netherlands lead to higher prices and lower services in public transport (especially trains), and whole residential quarters in cities where once affordable houses stood are demolished to build high quality houses and offices. So for people with low incomes itís getting more and more difficult to find houses for rent. The same is happening already in healthcare and education. And because of liberalization in supply of energy, we are now using electricity from nuclear power plants from France and coal power plants from Germany, while supply of sustainable energy is getting more and more expensive.
The WTO has to stop negotiations about the new (Singapore) issues: investment, government procurements, competition and trade facilitation. Especially the former two are disastrous for national companies, and are part of giving away countries sovereignty to trans national companies. Liberalization of investment means that trans national investors can sue governments which make laws and policies to protect the interests of their people and their environment and nature.
So also the pushing for liberalization of investments in bilateral and regional trade agreements has to stop.
Explanation: Especially the US is pushing for liberalization of investments in bilateral trade agreements (FTAís), with countries like Thailand. The already concluded FTA between the US and Chile shows the very negative effects for the society in Chile. (See also www.ftawatch.org/eng .)
- The developing countries need much more independent assistance while negotiating with much more powerful western countries about bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements. Also because of their dependency to western countries, World bank and IMF, they have very little bargaining power, and mostly are left out of the secret green rooms where the most powerful countries make the decisions. They are forced to sign under the threat of for example lower export quota, lower or no debt relief or development aid. (See also international solidarity).
International solidarity and prevention of conflicts and wars
- The Netherlands and other western countries stop to support the current Ďwar on terrorismí. In many countries this war on terrorism leads to prosecution of (leftwing) opposition members, moderate Moslems and members of ethnic minorities, while saying that they are terrorists. The effect is more hate between people and terrorism. Still the US and not the UN is leading this war, so their own (economic) interests (especially access to oil, testing of new weapons, supporting Israel) are more important than human rights, and social and environmental international treaties.
- The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries-initiative, to relief debts for the Least Developed Countries, has to be extended to most developing countries, for a bigger amount of their debts, in a faster pace, and without the current conditions. These current conditions look like the conditions of the very harmful Structural Adjustment Programs of IMF and World bank. The only condition for debt relief should be that developing countries use the money they can save, for poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Explanation: The developing countries pay about 250 billion dollar a year to the North (commercial banks, governments, World bank and IMF) because of these debts, which were stimulated by western banks, by dictators, for unsustainable infrastructure, weapons and so on. At the same time the total amount of development aid from North to South is 50 billion dollar, so 5 times less.
Before talking about even more extraction of their scarce natural resources (mostly raw materials, so low prices and little local employment) for our luxury consumption, under the rhetoric of market access and economic development, we could help this countries much more effective by relieving their debts.
- Export credits to western companies are only given when they export products or services which lead to a sustainable development in the developing countries which are involved. Also parliaments need to get access to the information around these export credits.
Explanation: In the current situation export credit lead to higher debts of developing countries, while no transparency exists about whether these products and services lead to a sustainable development. In fact mostly very expensive and unnecessary infrastructure, harmful mining and fossil fuel winning, delivery of weapons are part of these export credits.
- The UN gets like the WTO the possibility to impose economic sanctions on countries which donít live up to the social and environmental treaties they signed. At the current situation multilateral, regional and bilateral treaties on trade liberalization are much more powerful in international policy and as a result have a chilling effect on social and environmental policy. Countries are getting more and more afraid to get sued at the WTO-panel to make new laws to protect their own citizens, environment and nature.
- The World bank stops financing projects who donít meet sustainable standards or donít reduce poverty, like projects in mining, fossil fuel winning, export agriculture and water dams.
Explanation: By supplying loans to these projects, which are mostly very bad for local populations (especially ethnic minorities) and nature, private banks and trans national companies are stimulated to also take part in these projects. Mostly a loan of the World bank is even a condition for these companies to also take part.
- Tariff escalation (higher import taxes for processed and industry products than for raw materials and unprocessed agricultural products) from developing countries needs to stop. As a result of the WTO tariff escalation increased. By stopping this tariff escalation, developing countries get a chance to produce more high value products, which stimulate their economies, because they have a comparative advantage because of low labour prices. This also stops the very unfavourable terms of trade for these countries. Already for decades they are forced to sell raw materials and unprocessed agricultural products for low prices, while importing industrial Ė and processed products which prices raise every year.
- The condition within Structural Adjustment Programs that developing countries have to abolish import taxes to protect their economy, has to disappear. In general all conditions of these SAPís which are ineffective for society and economy in developing countries need to be abolished.
Explanation: These SAPís and the already mentioned trade and investment agreements are all forms of neo colonism in developing countries. In this way the interests of Northern countries (especially the interest of their trans national companies) prevail above the interest of the local population, economy and nature and environment.
- Their should be a recognition that a sustainable development, in which the interests of economy, society, religion and culture and environment are equally important, is the most effective way to prevent conflicts and wars. This is the starting point, selling and using of weapons is the ending point. Currently itís the other way around.