The Global Citizens Plan

Here are nine strategies, drawn from the writings and ruminations of environmental and social justice leaders. Once implemented, they could redefine globalization as an opportunity for people everywhere to share ideas, visions and technologies for living well and in harmony with nature.

by Anne Zorc, reprinted from Co-op America Quarterly
hat can we do?
As citizens and workers, consumers and activists, people around the world - once solely focused on local, regional or national agendas - are confronting the negative social and environmental effects of globalization and creating strategies for global change. They are dedicated to harnessing the forces of globalization - and its vehicle, trade - for people and the planet.

1. Establish codes of conduct for transnational corporations.

Codes of conduct must hold corporations accountable to communities, workers, citizens, consumers and society at large. These codes, already promoted by international grassroots coalitions, require disclosure of information concerning hazardous wastes and prohibit corporate actions like interference with union organizing.
Public pressure and international organizing could encourage corporations to adhere to codes of conduct. Applied globally, such grassroots tactics - when accompanied by disclosure - could drive corporations to act responsibly. Where necessary, agreements between governments must force corporations to comply with codes.

2. Adjust prices to reflect true costs

Every product's price tag should reflect not only the direct cost of production, but also the product's ultimate cost to the environment, worker health, and future generations through "green fees." Products using nonrenewable resources and polluting production methods would carry higher green fees and cost more than products made from renewable resources through alternative energy. Competition would force the higher priced unsustainable products and practices out of business. These price adjustments must be made in concert with other measures (like rebates for low-income people) that close rather than increase, the gap between the haves and have nots.

3. Adopt fair trade practices

"Trade is neither inherently good nor bad," says Sandra Postel of Worldwatch Institute. But "free" trade too often compels industrialized countries to lower their standards and wages to compete with developing nations. It too often fosters overconsumption by creating a mirage of unlimited natural resources "out there."
Fair trade, on the other hand, raises environmental standards internationally and improves working and living conditions for citizens. We must urge counties to adopt fair trade standards.
A global "Most Sustainable Nation" principle would use the logic of free market economics to enforce fair trade standards and ensure a level playing field between countries. Nations that prohibit worker exploitation and steward their resources would have low or no tariffs added to their goods. High tariffs would increase the price of products from nations that practice unsus-tainable production.

4. Reduce consumption and resource use

Reducing consumption is central to the plan to save our planet and achieve a more just distribution of the world's resources. Americans comprise only five percent of the world's population yet consume 30 percent of the world's resources. If population control is the biggest challenge for developing countries, then reduction of consumption is a similar hurdle for industrialized nations.
Overconsumption is the driving force of globalization as companies in industrialized countries increase sales by replacing American-style consumption habits worldwide. Reducing consumption also means increasing efficiency. In The Ecology of Commerce, Paul Hawken challenges us: "Reduce absolute consumption of energy and natural resources in the North by 80 percent within the next half century." That's less than two percent per year.

5. Measure our true wealth

Economists use models, concepts and statistics that measure economies solely on their growth, regardless of the cost and effect that growth ultimately has on society. "A country that cut down its trees, sold them as wood chips, and gambled away the money would appear richer in terms of Gross National Product (GNP) per person," The Economist once noted.
International and national indicators that measure the true wealth of economies - valuing the worth of unused natural resources, investment in infrastructure and education, and a reasonable cost of living - have been created by economists like Hazel Henderson, Herman Daly and John Cobb, Jr. Sustainable community groups from Seattle to Chattanooga are implementing indicators that measure these factors on a local level. These models must be adopted by governments and economists worldwide.

6. Strengthen local rights.

We must create a community of communities that is local and human-scale. "The roots of the ecological crises lie in the alienation of the right of local communities to have a say in environmental decisions. The reversal of ecological decline depends upon strengthening local rights, says Vandana Shiva, a leading environmentalist from India.
While a global economy demands some form of global governance, people must avoid concentration of power at the national and global level. National governments must empower communities to make policy and exercise control over their resources where possible.
To restore economic power to communities, we must revive the latent power of the charter, through which local governments grant corporations permission to operate.

7. Reexamine wealth.

Nations must work together to close the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. Minimum wages, collective bargaining progressive taxation and welfare programs are tools used by developed nations to redistribute wealth.
International efforts to promote micro-enterprise could become an integral part of global redistribution by funding community ownership on a large scale. Increasing small-scale co-ops, worker-owned firms, and neighborhood and municipally owned corporations would redistribute ownership and wealth to people as well as provide security and self-reliance.
However, neither industrialized countries' tax and welfare policies nor micro-development projects are enough to close the gap between the haves and have nots. We must generate creative discussion on how to ensure economic security and a basic level of life quality for all.

8. Reform of international institutions.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have promoted and financed too many inequitable and unsustainable development projects in developing countries. The growing disparity between the wealthy and the impoverished and the destruction of natural resources are too often the results. Grassroots coalitions-such as the 50 Years is Enough campaign launched for the World Bank's 50th Anniversary celebration this fall-are working to reform and democratize these global monetary institutions. The United Nations and national governments must be compelled to implement reforms quickly.

9. Add your own here. Learn. Listen. Think.

Chart your own plan. Provoke your thoughts and those of your co-workers, friends, relatives and elected of officials. As Vaclav Havel once said, "From whichever angle I look, I always arrive at the conclusion that salvation can only come through a profound awakening of the present-day man to his very own personal and, at the same time, global responsibility.

These strategies were drawn from the following people and their works: Jeremy Brecher, from his upcoming book Global Village or Global Pillage (draft of which first appeared in The Nation, December, 1993); Alisa Gravitz, executive director, Co-op America; Paul Hawken, from The Ecology of Commerce; Economist Hazel Henderson; Herman E. Daly and John Cobb,Jr., from For the Common Good; and Gar Alperovitz, president of the National Center for Economic Alternatives and fellow for the Institute for Policy Studies.