4.3 Test areas for
change, a preliminary check list
4.3.1 How would work change?
- Change of sexual division of labor: men would do as much
unpaid work as women
- Subsistence production would have priority over commodity
- Today, subsistence production subsidizes the market (money)
economy. This must be reversed, liberating (decolonizing) subsistence production so that
wage labor and the market (money) economy subsidize the larger social and economic
4.3.2 What are characteristics of sustainable
- It must be regained as a tool to enhance life, nurture, care,
share, not to dominate and distort relationships. Technology should value the knowledge
available among people.
- New forms of technology are needed to make regions more
independent from outside energy sources (bio-mass-based production systems).
4.3.3 What are the "moral"
features of a sustainable economy?
- The economy respects the limits of nature.
- The economy is just one sub-system of the sustainable society,
not the reverse. This calls for changes in economic relations based on cost-benefit
calculations and competition.
- The economy must serve the core-life system.
- It is a decentralized, regional economy.
- The goal of a sustainable economy is to support the
sustainable society in producing and regenerating life on the planet as a whole.
4.3.4 How would trade and markets be different?
- Local and regional markets would serve local needs.
- The primary function of local markets would be to satisfy
subsistence needs of all.
- Local markets would also preserve the diversity of products
and resist cultural homogenization.
- Long-distance trade would not be based on meeting subsistence
4.3.5 Changes in the concept of need and sufficiency
- A new concept of satisfaction of needs must be based on direct
satisfaction of all human needs and not the permanent accumulation of capital and material
surpluses by fewer and fewer people.
- A sustainable economy requires new and equitable relations
between rural and urban areas, producers and consumers, between cultures, countries and
- The principle of self-reliance with regard to food security is
fundamental to a sustainable economy.
- The important concept and practice of the commons can be
reclaimed to resist the injustice linked to privatization and commercialization of nature.
- Money would be a means of circulation but cease to be a means
4.3.6 Features of sustainable culture and education
- Culture would not be considered a "luxury" and work
a "necessity." Culture, economy, work, politics, and ethics would be
- Culture would be the expression of each ones creativity,
not limited to experts.
- Culture would encourage the diversity and richness of local
traditions and, in turn, the rootedness of people.
- Education would strengthen and maintain the core-life system
and responsibility for the future.
4.4 Some features of
international and global sustainability
Section 2 of this report painted a
disheartening picture of what UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali calls the
"crisis in human security" with strong international dimensions. The question is
posed as to whether the crisis is fundamentally insoluble at the global level. Although
there are no quick fixes; and each option involves a trade-off of one sort or another,
considered attention to poverty, unemployment and social exclusion exists on the
international level. Elements of potential solutions have been placed on the table at the
World Summit for Social Development (6-12 March 1995) and in other international, regional
and local-conferences. Some of the short- to medium-term solutions focus on the following
- The 20/20 proposal: 20% of ODA to be matched by 20% of the
national budget of the recipient country earmarked for basic social programs.
- Nobel laureate James Tobins proposal to install an
uniform tax on international currency transactions (the Tobin Tax). The proposed 0.5%-1%
tax is minuscule on the large scale of foreign exchange transactions. But many
researchers, including Tobin himself, argue that this tax could yield between $360 to $720
billion a year (some go as high as $1500 billion). Though governments have been unwilling
to support the proposal, polls show that some currency traders would accept a tax of up to
.003% . This would be a start.
- A third area for revenue is the taxation on trade in financial
derivatives, arms; carbon combustion emissions, international air and freight transport;
and taxation of the use of the global commons such as the electromagnetic spectrum which
serves as a means of international telecommunication; outer space (geostationary and lower
orbits; the southern oceans.
- Finally, long terms solutions require a shift from the
narrow focus on economic growth to sustainable development. The basic starting point for
this must be a set of international comprehensive programs to eradicate poverty. This
program could be financed by the instrument discussed above.
UN research points out that the total cost of
improving the lives of one billion children, women and men currently living in poverty is
$30 to $40 billion annually over the next five years, based on estimates from UNDP,
UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO as follows:
|United Nations, The 20/20 Initiative
Figures in US$ billion per year
|basic health care
|reproductive health & family planning
|low cost water supply and sanitation
|TOTAL US$ billion per year
In addition to supporting
programs to eradicate poverty, the transition towards sustainability requires:
- meaningful and sustainable job creation strategies
- equality/equity between men and women in society
- slowing of population growth
- debt cancellation
- programs for capacity building: National government monetary and
fiscal policies should promote and enhance the local and environmentally sustainable
activities of women, peasants (small farmers) and the poor
- mechanism and process for all people to participate in the economic,
environmental and social decision making in the community, region and country
- drastic reduction in the present excessive consumption of world
resources by the North
- radical reconceptualization and redistribution of work in society,
leading to another kind of labor-division in the world as a whole.
4.5 An illustration:
roles for international organizations
In the context of work and sustainability,
some specific actions may be envisioned at the international level:
- In the context of equity in relationships between countries, there is
need to assess the impact of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) on
developing countries and to work for implementation of the Conventions on the Biological
Diversity and Desertification which are especially critical to the southern continents.
- A joint WTO/ILO Advisory Body should be established to oversee
implementation of the GATT social clause. Periodically, or on the basis of complaints,
such an Advisory Body would review the application of standards contained in the seven
basic international workers standards in law and practice (N.B. Such a review
process requires only minor adaptation of existing procedures.) Should a review indicate
that changes in law and practice are required, i) the Advisory Body through the ILO would
recommend such changes, offer technical or other resource assistance, to assist countries
to reach the minimum standards, and ii) a further report on developments would be made;
iii) if the government continued to fail to meet its commitments, the issue would be
referred to the WTO Council for action. [See preparatory paper. Labour Standards,
Workers, and the Ecumenical Movement. Alan Matheson]
A strong counterbalance vis à vis the World Trade
Organization is needed, and any attempts to backtrack on environmental agreements and
already existing minimal international labor standards in the various ILO conventions must
be vigorously opposed.
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