Overview: Enabling Measures

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Five Enabling Measures: Outline of Contributions

Enabling Measures (EM) are broad indirect measures that are required to activate the proposed twenty Platform for Survival policies. In this sense they are unlike the twenty planks that are designed to directly address five existential threats. The EM are, therefore, more complex and less precise in their formulation. They may describe clear policy change, but they are also inevitably about large-scale framework adjustments and structural shifts.

For example, whereas plank #9 calls on all states to “adopt norms and procedures for the production, recovery, and recycling of materials”, the related enabling measures could include #21, financial institutional support for a recycling transition, #22, civil society involvement in stimulating and monitoring governments, #23, cities and provincial/state level articulation and implementation of policy, and #24, activist shareholders pressing for changes to corporate standards. There are even broader security implications that relate through EM#25, including a durable global survival ethic.

Not every policy proposal among the core twenty (#1-#20) contemplates collective transformation at the “enabling” level (#21-#25), but the latter are integrally linked with each other and all the existential threats. Global change will require both a practical and philosophical shift in governance and public attitudes. Similarly, publics will affect and be impacted by governments.

The five enabling measures cover wide swaths of categories and were developed to collect and integrate dozens of individual proposed “measures” into coherent groups. This effort was not without some controversy, but the logic of the resulting “five” is worth thinking deeply about. They are, paraphrased, covering these constituencies: Sustainable finance; civil society influence; sub-national governance; investment decision-making; and security. All have bottom up and top down relevance and implications, but citizens must encourage (by voting, through activism and advocacy) and governments must act (on their own, by leading, and in cooperation with others at the local, regional and global levels.)

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25. Social movements and states shall prioritize Sustainable Common Security to address shared global challenges.

Rapporteur: Dr. H. Peter Langille | hpl@globalcommonsecurity.org ©

It’s time to pull together for Sustainable Common Security

Sustainable common security is an umbrella concept to help with the deeper understanding and cooperative action now urgently required to address shared global challenges, human and environmental needs. There are wider objectives, including to:

  1. revitalize idealism, a ‘one-world’ perspective and work for a better world;
  2. clarify the links between insecurity, the climate crisis, capitalism, militarism and inequality;
  3. build solidarity and cooperation toward a movement of movements;
  4. challenge constant preparation for more war as the central approach to national security;
  5. develop viable, sustainable policy options for peace and conflict, human rights and socio-economic justice, disarmament and development, military transformation and economic conversion, with a priority accorded to a global peace system and, arguably most important;
  6. encourage the substantive system shifts and transformations now needed.

Five global systems are now dysfunctional and failing. People need radical leaps from an unsustainable economic system to a Green New Deal; from a high-risk, high-cost war system to a global peace system; from a competitive, self-help sovereign state system to a caring and cooperative system of local and global governance.

The concept of sustainable common security is a synthesis drawing from both the imminent common security imperative of preventing worse and the sustainable security emphasis on the deeper causes. As an effort to address both immediate security needs while motivating and mobilizing for sustainable solutions, this is a modestly more comprehensive and broader umbrella for wider related effort. It’s also one to complement rather than diminish work on either approach. The emphasis is on ‘pulling together’ for a more just and safer world. In short, sustainable common security is a useful organizing principle for progressive internationalism.

The urgent need

In the words of the Dalai Lama, “your right to life, and the right to life of your children are no longer secure.”(1) Recently, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres wrote that, “… we are in a race for our lives, and we are losing.”(2)
People and the planet are in jeopardy. Five deeply integrated global systems are failing to deliver security.

The Eco-System

Climate change is accelerating.(3) Recently, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change indicated a slim 12-year period is all that remains before devastating effects become irreversible.(4) Now, the commitments levels supported in the 2015 Paris Agreement(5) are clearly insufficient, but those are still not being met.(6)

Climate change is also described as the ultimate threat multiplier.(7) Already, it adversely effects not only the rising incidence of powerful hurricanes and cyclones, but entire regions and the survival of people. More refugees, fragile states and armed conflicts are early symptoms of worse ahead.(8) The economic system that drove most of the damage may deny responsibility, but that’s likely to come at a high cost too.

The results are evident: the extinction of living species(9); increasing temperatures for a decade(10); the increasing extremism of weather; destruction of habitat; a surge of 68.6 million forcibly displaced people world-wide(11); and a three-fold increase in civil wars.(12)

Joseph Stiglitz stresses the urgent need for a bold response writing: “the climate emergency is our third world war. Our lives and civilization as we know it are at stake, just as they were in the second world war.”(13)

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24. Investors and regulators shall compel all businesses to comply with the U.N. Global Compact.

Rapporteur: Robin Collins

I. Corporate Responsibility and the Connection to Existential Threats

There are many debates around the kind of economy the globe needs to best service a growing population of seven billion people in over 190 countries, with a wide range of talents, cultures, laws and levels of democracy. This plank is not intended to solve the problem of economic systems. Rather it collects some of the levers at hand (international and national investors and regulators) and points to some of the institutional and legal mechanisms they can draw upon to compel businesses to meet necessary human rights and climate standards. Many will, as they must, reference international Conventions and the SDG framework, because these are the agreeable tools the international community has agreed to. This short piece is not intended to be a comprehensive outline of measures or mechanisms, but it offers some examples of progress and required attention in the areas of the UN Global Compact, the International Labour Organization, Fair Trade, and Shareholder/Investor Activism and Ethical Investment practices.

The United Nations Global Compact

The UN Global Compact was created in 2006 to “mobilize a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders to create the world we want”. It is funded by The Foundation for the Global Compact, a U.S.-based non-profit organization, incorporated in New York State, that was established to financially support the GC through fundraising (from the global business community and broader private sector) and promotion of its Ten Principles (see below). The philosophy of the UNGC is that public-private collaboration will resolve “pressing global problems”. The achievement of this mission the GC, which is now made up of […], promotes doing business responsibly “by aligning strategies and operations with Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption; and taking strategic actions to advance broader societal goals, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation.
All ten of the Ten Principles are sourced from existing international agreements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ILO’s labour rights principles, the Rio Declaration and the UN Convention Against Corruption.

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

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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22. All multilateral institutions shall heed the demands of international civil society alliances for justice.

Rapporteurs: Robin Collins, Karen Hamilton and Fergus Watt

Some Takeaways:

  • Civil Society should concentrate on informing the public, to pressure governments
  • International Campaigns are influential when they are credible, expert and sophisticated
  • There is a place for both CSO activism, and CSO collaboration with governments
  • Civil society alliances must understand how multilateral institutions make and alter policy
  • Observe: Interconnectedness of issues.
  • Democracies have obligations to listen to civil society. What about autocracies and undemocratic governments?
  • International civil society, working with small and medium governments through the UN General Assembly, has the ability to drive change, even without big powers.
  • The international system is still based on sovereign governments as the primary actors. A good idea without a critical mass of governments in support won’t get very far.
  • Civil society can mobilize public and political support across boundaries and with various stakeholder constituencies in ways that governments can’t.
  • Civil society organization is much more effective when there is a high degree of prior agreement among constituent CSOs on the outcome(s) being pursued. The more focused the campaign, the more effective the outcomes.

This overview focuses on multilateral institutions that relate to existential threats such as war/nuclear war (peace and disarmament) and climate change.

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21. All states shall support SDGs, tax wealth and financial transactions, and redistribute funds equitably.

Rapporteur: Shane Roberts

1. SDGs and the Redistribution of Wealth for “Saving the World in a Hurry”

The six threats of the Project to “save the world” are described as “causally inter-dependent” and requiring “systemic change”. This points to a complex world, where any problem, cause, effect or solution related to each threat may be given a simple label that masks an underlying complexity, e.g. in a mesh of chicken-and-egg dilemmas about where to start: everywhere at once?

So it is with the Project’s roster of solutions, wherein plank #21 in part states that “All states shall support SDGs” and in so many words arguably calls for a redistribution of global wealth. Between the SDGs and the notion of redistributing wealth, we have landed in a sea of complexity – theoretical and practical. To start with, what are the SDGs, and what might one mean by “wealth” and mechanisms for its redistribution?

In 2015, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved a historically ambitious 35-page plan entitled Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It comprises 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” or “SDGs” (listed below) along with 169 associated targets that are sweeping in scope and call for actions to raise the quality of life for people in both developing and developed countries, and to secure a decent future for all of us.

The SDGs are a constellation of entwined objectives for making a better world for all – a multi-pronged approach to interlocking problems confronting societies in greater and lesser degrees around the globe. While achieving any Goal will have monetary costs, the Goals in the first instance, i.e. as stated, are effectively non-monetary ‘instruments’ (means and measures) for transferring to have-nots various non-capital equivalents of “wealth” tied to quality of life. At the same time, the aim of many Goals is to empower individuals and communities to be able in the future to earn/acquire wealth (or what it can buy) on their own and maintain an ongoing capability to do so (e.g. see how instrumentally #4 is tied to #s 2, 3, 5 and 8) all the while in an eco-sustainable way.

So how could the SDGs stave off any of our six existential threats?

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Rapporteur: Robin Collins

2. Universal Basic Income

Why UBI?

For the purposes of this short introduction, we see UBI as one of several mechanisms that can be used to fundamentally stabilize living conditions, and thus alleviate factors that contribute to several existential threats in the Platform for Survival, including climate change and conflict that can lead to war/nuclear war. As economist Myron Frankman points out,

“’Everyone’ seems to be talking about basic income, but generally at the level of sub-national units and with at best a very hesitant pilot project with conditionalities and exceptions. These rarely lead to the establishment of a full-blown commitment. There is no conviction that this should be a right of residents or citizens of a well-defined political unit, whether local, sub-national or national. Meanwhile many types of employment are disappearing. Environmental displacements of human populations are becoming more frequent with diminishing opportunities for resettlement. The Mediterranean Sea has become a veritable graveyard. We barely trouble to do more than shake our heads when we read of the latest genocide, such as that of the Rohingya.

“A planet-wide unconditional citizen’s income and open borders should be seen as critical conditions for human survival in a world where we are connected electronically but physically separated by border walls and increasingly subjected to unpredictably destructive natural forces which humanity has unleashed. ‘When the dust finally settles, we may realize that the attainment of substantive global democracy, peace, and justice was the cultural impact of the electronic process.’ Basic income and open borders facilitated by the ‘electronic process’ may well be the only option to humanity to weather the unpredictable disruptions that lie ahead.”(1)

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Rapporteur: Robin Collins(14)

2. The Tobin Tax is One Painless Way to Redistribute Global Wealth

Tobin’s Tax in brief

Much human interaction has been increasingly globalized. That includes participation in financial investment, communications and trade, some of which involves negative planet-wide environmental, military and development impacts. Yet taxation has overall remained in the domain of national jurisdictions – primarily because national governments have been reluctant to give up their sovereign control over tax revenues. There are political implications to international taxation being levied by international institutions, although no more so than the international spheres already commanding virtually every other human activity. As was pointed out in one 1996 study on the potential for generating international taxation revenue, “economic liberalization and the internationalization of markets, especially that of financial markets, have affected the taxation capacity of nation-states. Global taxes, such as the Tobin tax, applied across all countries, could help restore some of the taxation power governments have lost in these globalization processes.”(15)

James Tobin, in 1972 at Princeton University, proposed a levy on international currency transactions as a way to “preserve some possibilities of autonomy in national or continental monetary policies” that were wracked by the anarchy of money markets. He initially proposed that a 1%, and later a 0.5% tax on currency conversions should be considered a means to deter rampant quick-turnaround currency speculation, and as a bonus, also a way to generate significant revenue through a relatively small penalty.

The problem of currency speculation worsened dramatically since the days when Nobel laureate Tobin’s idea was given an admittedly poor reception. In the early 1970s the global daily turnaround in foreign exchange markets added up to US$18 Billion. Twenty years later, the average daily movement of currency exchanges was $1.3 Trillion. In 2016, it was US$5.4 Trillion. To highlight the speculative aspect and scale of this movement, one can compare the annual global trade in goods and services – in other words, real products – which in 2017 was US$23 Trillion.

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