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Issue No. 37 (September 2002) -- Mark Satin, Editor

Forget socialism and protectionism
here comes "planetary humanism"

Not only is a new global governance system arising (see cover story above), so is a new political point of view or ideology.

If you believe the press, there are only two contending ideologies right now: “corporate capitalism,” and the witches’ brew of socialism, anarchism, identity politics, technophobia, and economic protectionism that burst forth on the streets of Seattle.

All over the world, though, a third point of view is arising, which Paul Gilroy (African-American Studies professor at Yale, in his book Against Race) recently christened “Planetary Humanism.”

Planetary Humanism blames human consciousness -- rather than “capitalism” or “globalization” -- for the problems we face. It seeks to bring governments, corporations, and civil society organizations together (that’s T-O-G-E-T-H-E-R) to address those problems.

It’s “planetary” because it encourages us to care equally about all peoples, whether Tennesseeans or Tanzanians. It’s “humanist” because it encourages us to welcome contributions to human well-being from a politically and culturally disparate mix of sources -- “soft power” and hard law, intermediate technology and biotechnology, wind energy and nuclear energy, nonprofits and transnationals. . . .

In black and white

One of the best places to watch Planetary Humanism arise is in the dozens of alternative manifestos, platforms, declarations, and agendas that have bedecked the planet over the last three years.

About two-thirds of what these manifestos contain is abstract rhetoric, anti-capitalist bilge, or sentiments so pure that they make you want to weep (“Avoid military activities damaging to the environment,” says the Earth Charter).

But because these manifestos are vast uneven puddings, Planetary Humanist ideas occupy the other one-third of the space. Savvy, grounded ideas you can hardly do without if you want to build a better world.

Another great place to watch Planetary Humanism arise is in our most prestigious foreign policy journals.

There you’ve got a situation that’s the mirror-image of the manifestos. About two-thirds of recent articles are your standard status-quo-preserving, power-structure-kissing, academic-greasy-pole-climbing fare.

But the other one-third are Planetary Humanist to the core, extraordinarily thoughtful attempts to clear the ground for a better world.

First cut

So far, nobody has tried to pull together Planetary Humanist ideas from all the different manifestos and all the different foreign policy journals.

What I’ve done here isn’t nearly that ambitious. It’s more like a “first cut” at that task, and an extremely selective and abbreviated one, at that.

I just wanted to capture something of the flavor of the Planetary Humanist perspective as it’s emerging circa 2001.

So I’ve only cited articles appearing in our two most prominent foreign policy journals, Foreign Affairs (“FA”) and Foreign Policy (“FP”), and only after January 1998.

And I’ve only raided six of our most interesting contemporary manifestos (all available at www.radicalmiddle.com, then click on “21st Century Manifestos”):

-- Commission on Global Governance’s Millennium Year and the Reform Process (hereinafter “CGG”), 50 single-spaced pages of “recommendations” in the areas of civil society and the world economy. Drafters consisted principally of members of the Commission, an extraordinary group of 28 idealistic world leaders ranging from Wangari Maathai (coordinator of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya) to Brian Urquhart (former Under Secretary-General for Special Political Affairs at the U.N.);

-- EarthAction’s Call for a Safer World (“EA”), seven overarching proposals drawn from U.N. discussions and drafted anonymously (presumably by EarthAction execs) on behalf of EarthAction’s network of 1,800 “citizen groups” in 144 countries. Yes, EarthAction is the organization that features Leonardo DiCaprio in its ads;

-- Earth Charter Initiative’s Earth Charter (“EC”), 16 principles hammered out over the last nine years by hundreds of groups and thousands of individuals around the world. Process was launched at the U.N.’s Rio Earth Summit by some of the more politically and/or ethically minded CSO reps in attendance there;

-- Global Action to Prevent War’s Program (“GA”), a comprehensive platform for making armed conflict “increasingly rare,” with some sections focusing on broad-brush institutional changes and others on actions you can take right now. Text is in something like its 15th iteration; it’s being batted around by groups, interested individuals, and an International Steering Committee spearheaded by people like world order scholar Saul Mendlovitz and nuclear freeze heroine Randy Forsberg;

-- Millennium Forum’s Declaration and Agenda for Action (“MF”), a political platform-like document that addresses some recommendations to the U.N., some to governments, and some to “civil society.” Product of the efforts of over 1,300 people from over 1,000 civil society organizations (and 113 countries) who got together in New York last year while the U.N. was drafting a supposedly less imaginative millennial document;

-- One World Trust’s Charter 99 (“C99”), 12 proposals pulled together by mostly British one-worlders in consultation with the United Nations Association, the Association of World Federalists, and other groups. Prominent signatories range from Third Way advocate Anthony Giddens (RAM #1) to Post-Corporate World advocate David Korten (#2) to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Nadine Gordimer.

So, to begin. . . .


1. Promote global feminism. Cultural relativism be damned -- international institutions should promote “gender equality” (C99). Beyond that, they should promote the “active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, [and] civic life” as “decision makers” and “leaders” (EC).

More subtly, societies should recognize and make use of women’s unique strengths, such as their “unique ability to bridge seemingly insurmountable divides” at peace negotiations (Swanee Hunt, FP).

2. Promote democracy. Development assistance programs should promote “not only elections, but also the creation of legislatures, judiciaries, executive agencies, independent media, trade unions, and a plethora of nongovernmental organizations” (John Shattuck, FA).

3. Promote human rights. International institutions should take the lead in protecting “freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and dissent” (EC). “Rather than fearing the development of human rights law, Washington should embrace it” (Kenneth Roth, FA).

4. Reform the U.N. Security Council. Make it “more representative of the international community by expanding its membership, and more likely to undertake decisive . . . action by restricting the use of the veto” (GA).

Agreement to eliminate the veto is “not likely in the short term. However, informal voluntary agreement among the five permanent members . . . to use the veto sparingly might be achieved” (GA).

For example, “If the U.S., the undisputed lone superpower, indicated a willingness to discipline the use of its veto, it could then ask other permanent members to do the same” (Richard Butler, FA).

5. Create a “people’s assembly” at the U.N. “Ideally, some popularly elected assembly should take precedence over the General Assembly. . . . A desirable interim step would be the creation of a Parliamentary Assembly, with its membership selected through an election process, to advise the General Assembly” (GA).

“Any [such] body . . . should conduct its business in an open, democratic manner” (MF).

6a. Open the U.N. to systemic input from nonprofits. “CSOs should be given access to all formal meetings of U.N. bodies open to all member states” (CGG). Even the Security Council “should regularize procedures for gaining input from civil society groups with relevant expertise” (CGG).

It’s important to “increase the participation of CSOs from developing countries in U.N.-related meetings and conferences. A privately administered, voluntary fund should be established to support [developing-country CSOs and] especially to enable them to take part in the activities and information networks of global society and the U.N.” (CGG).

6b. Open the U.N. to systemic input from corporations. The U.N. “should recognize that the private sector has more to offer besides capital -- notably expertise and experience on many functional, financial and managerial questions” (CGG).


7. Promote peace education. All governments should “establish peace education -- including coping with domestic conflict -- . . . at all levels from pre-school through university” (MF).

8. Create regional security organizations. “There will not be an effective world security system until [a] world-encompassing series of universal-membership regional security organizations [such as OAS, OAU, SEATO] gain in capability and form a coherent whole coordinated within the U.N. system. [We envisage] regional peacekeeping brigades, strengthened regional machinery for mediation and reconciliation, . . . regional human rights and judicial machinery . . .” (GA).

9. Practice preventive diplomacy. “The time to prevent armed conflict is before it starts” (EA). “[D]iplomacy, mediation, sweeteners, and threats to encourage accommodation” should all be tried (Ted Gurr, FA).

The U.N. should “establish a corps of at least 50 professionally trained mediators for more effective conflict prevention” (MF), and the General Assembly should establish a permanent Conflict Prevention Committee to propose solutions early (GA).

“[S]enior American bureaucrats and embassy personnel should be allowed greater flexibility and resources to initiate preventive diplomacy, including offering to broker domestic disputes and to provide quick support from democracy-building programs” (John Stremlau, FA).

10. Create a U.N. rapid reaction force. “In some cases, even the best diplomacy will fail” (EA). Therefore, “to prevent the escalation of internal conflicts, the U.N. should establish . . . a standing force of 2,000-5,000 volunteer civilian policemen and policewomen” (GA).

“To be effective, such a force needs to be . . . armed” (EA).

Service in U.N. mediation or police forces “should be recognized as an alternative to military conscription or other national service” (GA).

11. Criminalize all new weapons of mass destruction. The further development of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons should “become a universal crime, opening the way to prosecute and extradite individual offenders wherever they may be found around the world” (Ashton Carter, FA).

12. Strengthen the World Court. Ultimately, all nations should “accept compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice” over international disputes (C99), and “in the absence of voluntary compliance, the U.N. Security Council should enforce ICJ decisions” (MF).

“A complementary or alternative approach would be for the U.N. Security Council . . . to seek the legal advice of the ICJ . . . as a basis for seeking dispute-settlement in areas of tension and conflict. As a [prior] step, the Security Council could call upon parties to a conflict or dispute to seek international arbitration” (GA).


13. Establish strong global environmental institutions. We need an “International Environmental Court to enforce international treaties on the environment and protect the global commons” (C99).

Or we need a “globally representative Environment Council with comparable powers [to the U.N. Security Council but] without the veto for powerful countries. . . . Decisions of the Environment Council could be subject to approval by the U.N. General Assembly” (EA).

Or we need a Global Environmental Organization separate from the U.N. “to address the need for rules on ecological interdependence, just like the WTO addresses the need for rules on commercial interdependence” (Ford Runge, FA).

14. Pursue the biotech option on behalf of the world’s poor. Biotech “can engineer plants and animals with highly specific pest and disease resistances. [It can] increase rice production in Asia by 10-25% within the next decade. [It] could also improve nutrition. . . . [I]f GM crops or animal vaccines make farm and grazing lands more productive, there will be less need to plow up or graze more fragile lands in the future” (Robert Paarlberg, FA).

Public research into biotech must be strengthened, “because its fruits can be passed on to small farmers at cost or -- via government channels -- free of charge” (Klaus Leisinger, FP). And the private sector should be induced to transfer “patented intellectual property” to public research institutes in developing countries on “very favorable licensing terms” or for free (Leisinger, FP).

“New investments in locally generated [GM] technology represent not just a path to sustainable food security for the rural poor [in developing countries]; in today’s knowledge-driven world, such investments are increasingly the key to independence itself” (Paarlberg, FA).

15. Levy “green taxes.” To move decisively toward sustainability, begin “[i]nternaliz[ing] the full environmental and social costs of goods and services in the selling price” (EC).

16. Promote clean alternatives to fossil fuels. Promote the development of “solar and wind” energy sources (EC). Meanwhile, note that “[g]enetically engineered biocatalysts and new processing techniques” are dramatically reducing the price of ethanol (James Woolsey, FA). Note also that “nuclear safety [has] improved significantly since 1990” and that the production cost of nuclear energy has plummeted (Richard Rhodes, FA).

17. Protect indigenous peoples. “Affirm the right of indigenous peoples to their spirituality, knowledge, lands and resources and to their related practice of sustainable livelihoods” (EC).

18. Protect animals. “Prevent cruelty to animals kept in human societies. . . . Protect wild animals from methods of hunting, trapping, and fishing that cause extreme . . . or avoidable suffering” (EC).


19. Encourage good corporate citizenship. Use the glare of publicity to induce transnational corporations (TNCs) to take responsibility for their labor, environmental, and human rights practices, and for those of their foreign subcontractors (Debora Spar, FA). Use publicity to induce TNCs to accept -- and then live by -- one of the many excellent “codes of corporate conduct” now available (Spar, FA).

20. Open rich-country markets on behalf of the world’s poor. “Poor-country access to rich-country markets is crucial both for long-term development and for pulling the hardest-hit emerging markets out of . . . crisis. Wealthy countries should make it their joint responsibility to absorb developing countries’ goods even if this risks temporarily skewing their trade balances” (James Speth, FA, emphasis added).

This will “require the dismantling of protectionist regimes in the U.S. and European Union for sugar, peanuts, textiles, and other commodities in which many developing countries hold comparative advantages” (Runge, FA).

“For starters, America should slash its trade barriers in agriculture and textiles in return for a global accord on intellectual property rights” (David Sanger, FA).

21. Provide micro-credit to the world’s poor. Governments should help poor people obtain “access to credit” for use in their small start-up businesses. “This is the sure way of creating jobs for all” (MF).

22. Inaugurate global taxation for global development. Give global institutions an “independent source of revenue such as taxation of foreign exchange transactions [the “Tobin tax”], aircraft and shipping fuels, arms sales . . .” (C99).

Fees could be “levied for uses of the ‘global commons’ (the atmosphere, the oceans, and outer space). . . . [A] levy of just 0.05% on international currency transfers could generate approx. $150 billion as well as help . . . calm the volatile currency markets” (EA).

23. Swap debt for development. Instead of simply forgiving Third World debt, “the international community . . . should use alternative debt relief mechanisms such as debt-for-development swaps. In such a swap, debtor governments agree . . . to redirect funds allocated to paying back foreign debt, to governance and social services [instead]” (Speth, FA).

24. Welcome the economic and cultural hybridization that globalization brings. “McDonald’s appeals to China’s new elites because its food is safe, clean, and reliable. Western intellectuals may scoff at McDonald’s for its unrelenting monotony, but in many parts of the world (including China) this is precisely what consumers find so attractive. . . .

“One might also turn the lens around and take a close look at American society. . . . Chinese food is everywhere. . . . Mandarin is fast becoming a dominant language in American research laboratories, and Chinese films draw ever more enthusiastic audiences. . . . Whose culture is it, anyway? If you have to ask, you have already missed the boat” (James L. Watson, FA).


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