The Global Citizens Plan
by Anne Zorc, reprinted from Co-op America Quarterly
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.