23. Sub-national governments and non-state actors shall exercise leadership in solving global problems.

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Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Nation states are the political entities that supposedly make the vast majority of decisions about urgent matters of global importance. Nations have armies. Nations make treaties with other nations to regulate travel through their skies. Nations make the rules for trading with each other. Nations police their borders and decide who may cross them. It is nations that have votes in the United Nations and other multilateral global institutions. Indeed, it is easy to assume that only nations can determine how the climate will be managed.

That would be a mistaken idea. Other polities also have influence over the temperature of our planet. States and provinces build expressways, for example, as well as control electric grids; enact laws about the emission standards for cars; and maintain forests and waterways. A complete list of provincial powers would fill pages.

Municipalities also exercise great political control over the practices prevailing locally. For example, it is city councils and their agencies that run cities’ buses and subways; choose the type of bulbs to be used in street lights; collect and dispose of trash; enforce building codes; maintain sanitation standards of restaurants; run public schools, libraries and hospitals; purify the tap water; and decide whether or not a proposed casino or race track may be built.

Indeed, subnational governments may have as much control over the factors behind global warming as national governments. Admittedly, it would be foolish to underestimate the importance of nation states in regulating the environment and setting tax rates that incentivize the crucial activities of individuals and businesses. When Donald Trump declared that the United States would quit the Paris Agreement, there were huge consequences. On the other hand, he has not been able to do as much damage to the environment and climate as he intended. Why not? Because, whereas foreign and military policy are decided by the nation’s top executives, the environment is greatly influenced by local practices that provinces and municipalities regulate.

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George Monbiot recently wrote this opinion piece, which was published in The Guardian. I thought that it would be of interest and have relevance to Project Save the World.

Title: What Does ‘National Defence’ Mean In A Pandemic? It’s No Time To Buy Fighter Jets
Author: Monbiot, George
Publication(s): The Guardian
Date: 8 April 2020
Link: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/08/national-defence-corona-pandemic-fighter-jets

Article Excerpt(s):

“We are defending ourselves against the wrong threats. For decades, UK governments have been fighting not just the last war but a redundant notion of war, spending hundreds of billions against imaginary hazards. At the same time, as we have become horribly aware over the past few weeks, they have neglected real and urgent dangers.

A month ago, just as the coronavirus began racing across the UK, the government boasted that it had raised military spending by £2bn to £41.5bn. Our military force, it claimed, was “the tip of the spear for a resurgent Global Britain”.

Most of this money will be spent on equipment and infrastructure. The UK is acquiring 138 new F-35 aircraft. According to the manufacturers, Lockheed, this “supersonic, multi-role” fighter “represents a quantum leap in air-dominance capability”. It “has the range and flexibility to win, again and again”. But win against what? Can it bomb the coronavirus? Can its “advanced stealth, integrated avionics, sensor fusion and superior logistics support” defeat climate breakdown? It is of as much use in solving the world’s complex and pressing problems as a jackhammer is to a watch-mender.

The most likely role for such weaponry is to wage elective wars in distant nations. Even in these circumstances, the F-35 could be outdated before it is deployed. The decisive weapons in such conflicts are likely now to be drones, not jets. It might have “multiple capabilities”, but all this means is that the UK will bring a Swiss army knife to a gunfight.

Last month Ben Wallace, the British defence secretary, gave a speech in which he characterised international law as “a straitjacket of permissions and authorities that make it hard for us to respond”. And he claimed, like any 19th-century colonial official, that the UK’s intervention abroad is “a force for good”. We have, apparently, “a moral imperative” to address conflict and instability overseas.

In reality, for the past 17 years the UK’s intervention abroad has been one of the major causes of conflict and instability. This nation’s involvement in the Iraq war has helped to cause collapse, continued fighting and the rise of terrorist groups. Our current contribution is to supply the hardware and training Saudi Arabia currently deploys in Yemen. Yemen is now suffering a humanitarian crisis: starvation caused by the Saudi blockade, and epidemics of cholera, diphtheria and other infectious diseases. Saudi Arabia has used British weaponry to bomb schools, markets and hospitals. Yemen’s health system is collapsing, just as Covid-19 is about to strike.

Last year, as a result of these atrocities, the UK’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia were ruled unlawful in the court of appeal. The court instructed the UK government to stop issuing new licences and to review its past decisions. There has been no review. When it was caught issuing new licences for weapon sales to the kingdom, the UK government claimed it had done so “inadvertently”. British bombs and rockets, fired by British jets, many of them deliberately targeting civilians, continue to rain misery on the world’s most vulnerable people. But this trade in death has been worth £5bn to UK companies since the war in Yemen began, so it continues to be supported by the government, in defiance of both UK and international law. This is not defence. This is mass murder and the perpetuation of conflict.

The great majority of the UK’s “defence” capabilities have no defensive purpose. There is no strategic reason to spend 2% of our GDP on military force. Other countries spend far less, and are just as secure. Nato’s tepid conflicts with Russia, stoked by each other’s paranoia, would be better resolved by diplomatic means. But people such as Wallace talk of only “adversaries” rather than of potential – and necessary – allies in confronting common threats.

That £41.5bn spent on the military is more than twice as much money as the UK spends on preventing climate and ecological breakdown – which are not just potential threats but current emergencies. It is hundreds of times more, as we are now discovering, than the government has spent on preparing for pandemics. We now know that both the UK and US governments ignored warnings about the potential scale and impacts of pandemics, and failed to invest in genuine national defence: extra capacity in the health system, beds, training, ventilators and protective equipment. Even when the disease began to spread, they downplayed its likely effects. They attend, lavishly and zealously, to imaginary threats, while neglecting real ones.

We need a complete reassessment of what security means. China’s dispatch of specialists to the UK to help treat the coronavirus makes a nonsense of Wallace’s attempts to portray that country as our “adversary”. Yes, like Russia’s and Iran’s, its government competes with western governments for spheres of influence and resources. But in confronting genuine threats to humanity and the rest of life on Earth, there should be more that brings us together that sets us apart.

If ever there were a time for brokering peace, this is it. If ever there were a time for nations such as the UK and the US to meet their disarmament commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and work with Russia and China to put their wasted billions to better use, this is it. If ever there were a time to reassess the genuine threats to our security and separate them from the self-interested aims of the weapons industry, this is it.

Yet our governments’ primary effort is to enhance their power at the expense of other countries. In failing to address our real and common threats, we are our own adversaries.”

Don’t forget nonviolent actors such as Peace Brigades International, Christian Peacemaker Teams, etc, and the important role they play in nonviolent accompaniment / mediation in conflict zones.

The SDGs: What Local Governments Need to Know

On 25 September 2015, the Member States of the United Nations agreed on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals, the global agenda that was pursued from 2000 to 2015, and will guide global action on sustainable development until 2030.


What are we talking about when we talk about “subnational” governments?

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez | August 26, 2015

Over the last 25 years, the relevance of local governments (states, provinces, municipalities, etc.) in Latin America has been constantly increasing.

The process started with a wave of decentralization, particularly in the education and health sectors, followed by the increasing of other responsibilities of local governments (with the accompanying budget!), and most recently topped off by the allocation of additional investment resources fueled by the commodities boom of the mid-2000s. Currently, in some countries, half of the national budget is now allocated to lower levels of governments .

(Photo: Municipality of Guatapé in Colombia. Adrienne Hathaway / World Bank)

What are we talking about when we talk about “subnational” governments? [2]

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez | August 26, 2015


Municipalities and provincial government matter too. Imagine being in charge of keeping order on Mulberry Street in New York when it looked like this.