U.N. debates ‘sustainable development goals’ as world crisis grows

Heads of state attended a United Nations conference in New York City in late April to address Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Another gathering focused on the status of governments’ actions to curb climate change.

The SDG program was adopted in 2015 after the Millennium Development Goals lapsed. The MDG set objectives of eliminating poverty and raising incomes beginning in 2000; the deadline was extended 15 years.

During the first decade of the 21st century, significant economic growth occurred in leading states in Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific. Rising prices for oil, natural gas, strategic minerals and other commodities produced by so-called “developing countries” fueled profits for transnational corporations and governments in states where these resources were extracted and exported.

Income generation in postcolonial and neocolonial states encouraged foreign direct investment in industrial production, technology transfers and greater cooperation among governments in the Global South. Household incomes rose in many regions of Africa, Latin American and the Asia-Pacific.  

Political alliances among these states brought forward the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa Summit (BRICS), the Africa-South America Summit (ASAS) and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

The distribution of wealth generated during the new millennium was not equitable. Wealthy social groups arose, while smaller enterprise owners and their workers experienced improvements in living standards.

Much debt that had crippled the African continent during the 1980s and 1990s was written off and refinanced, giving the appearance of substantial development that would extend into the future. Further deregulation of the international financial industry provided credit for corporate investments and  household consumption.

Rapid economic reversal

By the end of 2010, expansion of the credit-based economy was causing leading investment firms and banks to close. Western capitalist governments and central banks were compelled to bail out financial institutions with trillions of dollars and euros.

This phenomenon’s effect in the U.S., Western Europe and China was not immediately apparent to many governments in Africa. Nevertheless, leading capitalist states’ strategic interests conflicted with those of emerging economies.

Washington has been emphasizing domestic production of oil and natural gas in the U.S., prompting a precipitous price decline of these major exports in Nigeria, Russia, Venezuela and Brazil. South Africa — where the extraction of gold, diamonds, platinum, iron ore and coal was the engine of growth under the racist settler-colonialist system — witnessed major capital flight and job losses.

There was a clear political agenda, too. Imperialists perceived the regional blocs of FOCAC, BRICS and the rejuvenated Non-Aligned Movement as threats to their hegemony in international exchange and the balance of military and economic forces.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe

Mugabe says, ‘Stop the sanctions!’

At the U.N. High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving Sustainable Development Goals on April 21, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe criticized imperialism’s economic sanctions that have robbed Zimbabwe of over $42 billion in revenue since the millennium began, hampering the country from reaching the MDGs. He placed the sanctions’ impact in the context of the economic crises facing former colonial and neocolonial countries.

Mugabe said an urgent situation faced the majority of the world’s peoples and hoped that “the critical lessons of the Millennium Development Goals will instruct us … particularly on the imperative of moving swiftly from commitments to action, to assure success in our common and individual efforts.”  (Zimbabwe Herald, April 22)

Mugabe stressed, “Recent revelations have shone light on the schemes … that deprive governments of huge financial resources which can be channeled towards development.” He called for international cooperation to  stamp out “financial engineering schemes that siphon resources from use for public good.”

“For us in Africa,” noted Mugabe, “illicit flows, estimated at $60 billion a year, further hemorrhage the limited financial resources at our disposal. This area needs urgent resolution to ensure that an improvement in domestic resource mobilization efforts contributes to national coffers, and not to lining the pockets of those illegally transferring these resources from our countries.”

The U.S. government has been stiffening sanctions against Zimbabwe by prohibiting transactions involving dozens of institutions and individuals as part of an imperialist scheme to interfere in Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections, reported the state-owned Sunday Mail on April 24. The newspaper has uncovered evidence that Washington is blocking Visa and MasterCard usage for all Zimbabweans on a list of “Politically Exposed Persons.”

Banks operating in Zimbabwe have been warned of “stiff penalties” for people and institutions that do not carry out the sanctions. In February, Barclays Bank was fined $2.5 million for conducting financial transactions involving Zimbabweans and others on the list.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rouseff resolute

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was subjected to an impeachment vote in the lower house of Congress on April 17, told the international audience at the U.N. climate change conference that she would fight to remain in power.  The attack on her is part of a politically motivated assault on the Workers’ Party in Brazil, which maintains the largest bloc within the legislative body.

Rousseff blamed Brazil’s wealthy class for the “illegal attempt” to force her from office. She indicated she would appeal to Mercosur, the regional bloc of South American states, to suspend Brazil if she does not survive a Senate vote in May.  

Mercosur’s platform includes a clause which says that if elected governments in member-states are overthrown, they can be suspended from participating in regional meetings, and economic sanctions can be imposed. Paraguay was suspended in 2012.  

At a New York press conference, Rousseff said she “would appeal to the democracy clause if there were, from now on, a rupture of what I consider democratic process,” and will fight the “coup” with all her strength. (Reuters, April 22)