‘Global partnership for sustainable development
in the context of the post-2015 development agenda’
Dr. Ghulam-Nabi Fai
May 12, 2014
I am honored by the opportunity to share my views with such an esteemed audience who are participating in the ‘United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’ at UN headquarters in New York. The issue of global sustainable development is the issue of the twenty-first century. Never before have so many suffered amidst liberty and luxury for the few. The wealth of single individuals exceeds the wealth of many nations. In highly developed countries, the number of persons living past 80 years is soaring. In deprived and convulsed countries, the average longevity is but half that age. While citizens of some African and Asian countries are starving, the rich countries are beset with obesity. Discrepancies of these types are morally disturbing. The United Nations is ideally suited to ending these shocking inequalities because it hosts all the nations of the world and endows each with identical voting power in the General Assembly. The poorest and the weakest are equal to the richest and the strongest.
(1). The most urgent approach to promoting global partnership for sustainable development is the ending of warfare. War, whether intramural or international, wreaks havoc on the elements necessary for health, housing, education, employment, the rule of law, the environment, and happiness generally.
i. War is enormously expensive. It diverts resources from schools, hospitals, roads, and telecommunications to AK-47s, Kalashnikovs, missiles, bombs, and artillery shells. Moreover, wars regularly entail the use of child soldiers, for example, in Sierra Leone, Angola, Sri Lanka, and Sudan. The children are deprived of educational opportunities. Their skills in killing are non-transferable to a civilian economy. Many are maimed and become permanently disabled from productive employment. Others become emotionally and psychologically disturbed, an ailment that routinely finds expression in criminal or sister anti-social behavior. By killing or deracinating the flower of youth, war keeps a country immersed in misery and underdevelopment;
ii. War also arrests economic development. Capital flight is staggering. Foreign investment withers. Infrastructure is destroyed. Lawlessness hikes the risks of any business enterprise. The consequence is widespread poverty;
iii. War also fosters disease and physical ailments. Individuals are more susceptible to crippling bacterial and viral illnesses when their housing and food is shortchanged. Further, war destroys hospitals and handicaps the supply of medicine. Medical workers frequently shy from dangerous conditions. And refugee camps are notorious for insalubrious quarters;
iv. War also creates a culture antithetical to democracy and the rule of law. It teaches that disputes should be resolved by the bullet in lieu of the ballot box. It engenders suspicion and distrust that confound democratic politics resting on a confidence that elections will be free, fair, and accurate;
v. I admit that denunciation of warfare is easier than prevention. The Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 outlawed aggressive war. But wars of aggression soon followed in Manchuria and Ethiopia. But if mankind can assemble knowledge to send men to the moon and Land Rovers to Mars, the knowledge necessary to end wars cannot be far behind. As is said in the Song of Solomon, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Accordingly, the United Nations should summon all Nobel Peace Prize winners to devise principles of international law and conduct that will abolish the scourge of war from the face of the planet. These exceptionally gifted individuals can be trusted to succeed by standing on the shoulders of other great men and women who have crusaded for the cause of universal peace, justice, and non-violence. The goal may be ambitious. But as Robert Browning versified, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
(2). The second urgent global sustainable development objective should be universal literacy and education. As Socrates explained, the unexamined life is not worth living. Or as philosopher Sam Johnson amplified, there is the same difference between the learned and unlearned as between the living and the dead. These observations are made not to deride or degrade the uneducated, but to underscore the criticality of education to making life morally meaningful and fulfilling between ashes to ashes and dust-to-dust.
i. Education is also human capital that fuels economic growth. A
worker’s productivity and compensation general rise commensurate with educational achievement. In addition, education correlates with a worker’s ability to shift jobs and master new skills in an ever-changing global economy. Education also is a central ingredient to self-government and freedom. As United States President Thomas Jefferson lectured, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be;”
ii. Mean-spirited and wicked politicians regularly exploit ill-educated voters to pursue divisive racial, ethnic, or religious agendas. That explains why free and compulsory public school education is a feature of every flourishing democracy;
iii. The United Nations should thus develop educational yardsticks that a nation must satisfy to receive economic or military aid from third parties, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The yardsticks should be incorporated in a treaty to be ratified by all United Nations members. Moreover, every United Nations official and employee should be required to donate 0.5% of his or her salary to sponsor the education of a child in poverty. A civilization lives by symbols, and what could be more inspiring than United Nations personnel sacrificing on behalf of underprivileged children;
iv. The idea of educational yardsticks with teeth creates an agonizing moral dilemma. Suppose a misgoverned nation falls short. Economic aid ends, but the suffering is felt by the common citizen, not the typically coddled rulers. That juxtaposition seems unjust and immoral at first glance. But think of the consequences of continuing aid to a brutal government, either directly or through international or private indigenous organizations. The aid relieves misery, and dulls the popular incentive to revolt and to install a more enlightened regime that would eagerly educate the nation’s citizens. Future generations would forever inherit an uneducated nation and despotic government. Morality in public life should be the greatest good for the greatest number. And to decline sanctions on a living generation despite the greater wretchedness visited on posterity would seem to fail that test.
(3). Third on the global sustainable development agenda should be the elimination of poverty and the securing for every man, woman, and child a right to flourishing health, a clean environment, comfortable housing, and nutritious food. The goal is not a choice but a moral obligation. A preferred position for the poor is the North Star of all religions. Thus, rich countries should transfer much of their riches to poor countries.
i. The rich should cancel debts;
ii. They should provide at least 1 percent of gross domestic product for international humanitarian assistance;
iii. They should eliminate all tariffs, quotas, or other trade restrictions on imports from impoverished nations;
iv. They should grant royalty free licenses on intellectual property, such as patents or copyrights;
v. They should provide tax credits for donations to poverty-stricken nations;
vi. But poor nations must undertake reciprocal actions;
vii. They should embrace free enterprise and privatization;
viii. They should fiercely punish public corruption;
ix. They should embrace low tax schedules and strict spending limitations;
X. They should celebrate the rule of law and enshrine independent and
impartial judicial systems;
xi. They should entertain the employment of private customs collectors to thwart a prevalent source of corruption and anti-competitive behavior;
xii. And they should permit the free importation and exportation of capital and labor to fuel an economic takeoff;
xiii. There is no moral excuse for regimes in poor nations to forfeit the rich self-help opportunities for economic growth. As Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan teach, economic prosperity turns more on human capital and the rule of law than on the flukes of natural resources. Think of some oil rich nations mired in misery and destitution.
(4). A fourth global sustainable development should be the eradication of AIDS. It has been characterized by no less an authority as the United States Central Intelligence Agency as a national security priority. And AIDS is a question of virtual survival for some nations. In Africa, for instance, the incidence of AIDs or HIV infection are staggering.
i. The ramifications of the AIDS crisis are enormous. It create