A reply from the Bundeskoordination Internationalismus (BUKO) to the NGO G8 Policy Document. (1)
In March 2007, over 40 Non-governmental Organisations signed a policy document for the G8-Summit in Heiligendamm that asks the governments of the G8 to fulfil demands on various issues, for instance climate change and resources, world trade or development aid in Africa. We criticise the political perspective and the content of this policy document, because it breaks with a consensus that has been met by a broad alliance in the mobilisation for the protests at Heiligendamm: the central element of this consensus is to delegitimise the G8 instead of addressing demands to them – from A like Africa to Z like zone of free trade.
Focus on Trade
The orientation of the document is a political step backwards. The necessary radical social transformations cannot only be achieved by “good arguments”, calling for state actors has been proven as ineffective. The document implies that governments could and should be convinced to change the world for the better. Governments and the G8 are thus seen as part of the solution rather than as part of the problem. The political and economical structures of the world order, which are enforced and secured by the governments are not mentioned in the document. Instead of criticizing the concentration of power and the underlying power relations, these structures are confirmed by these demands.
The NGOs signing this policy document fall behind the critique and reflection of their own role in the nineties, and some NGOs are absolutely aware of this debate, and thus they themselves become part of the power structures.
The following three examples show the problematic orientation of the document:
The demand for a different climate policy basically reflects the implementation of the Kyoto-protocol and an effective use of resources. This maintains the existing dominant structures instead of demanding a more radical “change of course”. The signing NGOs are serving governmental propaganda. The German Government pretends to leads the way internationally in the field of climate protection, however, on the national level and within the EU it pursues the interests of the German car industry. Climate change is not primarily an ecological but rather a social and political problem. Governmental politics are part of a competition for resources and an environment which is adjusted to capitalist appropriation. The ruling production and consumption patterns and the related power relations are not challenged. A radically different climate and energy policy does not hope for the insight of governments and energy companies but focuses on an alternative, truly decentralised supply of energy.
The chapter on resources in the NGO policy document reveals consistency with the powerful. The paper reads: “The days of cheap raw materials are over”. Actually, “cheap resources” never existed, on the contrary, the people living in the countries of origin always paid a high price for “our resources”.
The NGOs claim that the G8 governments should review their politics towards Africa and that they should be more attentive towards distributive politics and the strengthening of the role of the civil society. Adopting progressive terms of the current development discourse conceals that the primary aim is the exploitation of resources, and that the prevailing form of integration into the capitalist world market, which will be promoted further by the G8 governments, is the main problem. Instead of developmental paternalism, social struggles must be considered and profound alternatives must be derived from them.
The political regression finally becomes apparent in the fact that the successes of the anti-globalisation movement are not mentioned. As a matter of fact, the social dynamics and the urge for transformation emerged mainly from protests as in Seattle or Genoa, the Social Forums, campaigns and the self-organisation of movements. In contrast, the political perspective of this policy document suggests that the disagreement between the existing system, or its political representatives and their critics, is only about details but that there is a general consent about aims and the course of necessary transformations.
We will not be going to Heiligendamm just to demand promises from the G8 which we would have to remind them of in two years. These demands would be counter-productive and the planned protests would be undermined by such diluted demands.
We will go to Heiligendamm to massively block the G8.
Bundeskoordination Internationalismus (Federal Co-ordination on Internationalism in Germany, BUKO)
Testing the Credibility of the powerful: concrete action for environment and development! – Policy paper of international Non-Governmental Organisations for the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, 6 – 8 June 2007