March Madness in Monterrey
Billed as a conference to help the world's poor, the UN's Monterrey summit was not just about money, taxation, debt, or even development. It was also about power.
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's classic poem, "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner," a seaman tells of the catastrophes that befall his ship after he kills an albatross. Eventually his superstitious shipmates, dying of starvation and thirst, blame their troubles on him, claiming that his killing of the seabird has brought a curse upon them. They force the mariner to wear the body of the albatross hanging from his neck, until all but the mariner himself eventually starve to death. Thanks to Coleridge's timeless poem, the albatross has become a symbol of unnecessary burdens and the power of superstitious fear.
It is, therefore, ironically appropriate that the organizers of the UN's International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD), held in Monterrey, Mexico, during the third week in March, should have chosen the albatross as their symbol. During the weeklong conference, sundry academics, social planners, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and Third-World potentates directed a chorus of accusations and frivolous charges against the world's wealthy countries, especially the United States, for their alleged role in the misfortunes afflicting the world's poor.
You've heard it all before: Rich nations
must take responsibility for all of the ills of the underdeveloped
countries, because the greed and selfishness of the rich countries are to
blame for the plight of Africa, Asia, and Latin America in the first
place. In Monterrey, however, the rhetoric was shriller, and the pressure
more acute than ever before to hang the Third-World development albatross
around the collective neck of the wealthy nations, or more accurately,
their taxpaying citizenry.
As is usual with the international development gang, the site they chose for their latest shindig is about as far from the truly underdeveloped third world as you can get, this side of Silicon Valley. Monterrey, Mexico, set in a subtropical valley studded with joshua trees and palms, with a stunning backdrop of towering peaks, is a paragon of Third World success. The people of Monterrey have the architects of NAFTA and the WTO to thank in part for their relative prosperity; the road from the airport to the downtown is lined with American factories which offer full employment and superior working conditions to thousands of Mexicans -- at the expense of American workers who've seen their livelihoods shipped south of the border. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, the accelerating outflow of factories and jobs from the first world to the third, the world's elite -- from besuited billionaires and heads of state to clamoring left-wing NGOs -- gathered in Monterrey to discuss how to siphon still more jobs and capital from developed nations. The main agenda of the entire conference can easily be summed up: More American taxes, in the form of foreign aid, must be sent to the afflicted nations of the Third World, and a regime of international taxation must be implemented, under the auspices of the UN, to rectify the alleged inequities between the global haves and have-nots (see page 15).
The conference was held at the vast Cintermex center, located in Fundidora (Foundry) Park, the site of a huge steel foundry that once contributed heavily to the Monterrey economy, but is now a rusting ruin. Security was extraordinarily tight around Cintermex, because of the potential threat of terrorists, pickpockets, anarchists, rowdy demonstrators -- and journalists. The burly UN policemen patrolling the complex were under orders to restrict journalists' access to the meetings being conducted in the conference center on the third floor, except for brief visits, under heavy escort, to the various plenary sessions. We were generally permitted to stay only for five or ten minutes to take pictures of the plenary and were then bundled back down to the first floor to await any sanitized tidbits thrown our way in carefully choreographed press conferences. At one such press conference, UN spokeswoman Susan Markham informed us that a decision had been made to bar the press from all round table meetings "in order to allow for frank and open discussions." In other words, the internationalists making decisions about "global governance" and the tax monies of the hard-pressed American middle class -- all in the name of "the people," of course -- wanted to make sure that the people themselves don't find out what they're up to.
International Welfare Schemes
The guiding document of the conference was the Monterrey Consensus, a 16-page statement of purpose drafted beforehand to frame the terms of the debate, to set policy guidelines, and, above all, to encourage consensus -- as the title implies -- among the various state delegations and NGOs in attendance. The Consensus offers a veritable smorgasbord of taxpayer-funded international welfare schemes, outlined in the typically dense argot of the internationalist mafia. For example, section 41 stipulates that "a substantial increase in ODA [Official Development Assistance] and other resources will be required if developing countries are to achieve the internationally agreed development goals and objectives.... To build support for ODA, we will cooperate to further improve policies and development strategies, both nationally and internationally, to enhance aid effectiveness." Translation: We need far more taxpayer-funded foreign aid from the wealthy countries than is currently given, and we must establish an international regime to achieve this in a systematic way. By the way, "Official Development Assistance" is globalese for government-to-government aid.
More revealing still are the numerous documents and technical notes that were used to prepare the final draft of the Monterrey Consensus. From Technical Note No. 3, we learn that references to "innovative sources of finance" in section 44 of the Monterrey Consensus are a euphemism for global taxation. "International tax cooperation," including "enhanced dialogue among national tax authorities," mentioned in section 64, are cloaked references to an envisioned UN-run international tax organization that would eventually include not only provisions for setting uniform levels and guidelines for national taxation, but would even incorporate an "international system of coded identification for all individual and corporate income taxpayers" (Technical Note No. 1, section H.) Where the Monterrey Consensus is concerned, it is emphatically true that the devil is in the details.
Just before the conference, President Bush, in the company of foreign-policy savant Bono of the rock group U2, announced during a speech to the Inter-American Development Bank a steep increase in American foreign aid, to the tune of five billion taxpayer dollars over the next three years -- effectively putting the lie to any lingering claims of his fiscal conservatism. (Days later, the Bush administration revised the amount upward.) But that still wasn't enough, according to an overwhelming majority of conference participants. Delegates from poor countries and NGOs alike insisted, stridently and repeatedly, that all developed nations contribute at least 0.7 percent of their GDP in ODA, echoing the text of the Monterrey Consensus. Former President Jimmy Carter, speaking to the press in Monterrey, lambasted the United States for its supposed stinginess. "The level of development assistance given to poor countries is extremely low. It's embarrassingly low. In the United States we give 1/1000th of our gross national product to overseas development assistance. The Europeans give about three times that much, as does Japan. That is just a drop in the bucket compared to what's needed," Carter said.
The Monterrey Consensus figure of 0.7 percent of the gross domestic product to be given as foreign aid is not only arbitrary, but fantastically high; only five nations (Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Luxembourg) have matched or exceeded it in the last two years, while the much-maligned United States weighs in at a current rate of 0.1 percent (22nd in the world), according to official figures. Of course, this figure is very narrowly defined; ignored are the billions of dollars in aid via IMF and World Bank loans and grants (subsidized in large part by the U.S. government), payment of UN membership dues, and the burgeoning cost of U.S. military peacekeeping all over the world, not to mention our many bases, such as those in western Europe and Japan, that have protected the likes of Denmark and Norway from Russian aggression for decades. In fact, the total amount of American taxpayer money that ultimately goes to benefit foreign governments is impossible to calculate, but is doubtless much higher than the current amount of roughly $10 billion per annum. If the United States were to meet the standards of the Monterrey Consensus, that amount would grow sevenfold, to $70 billion. As it is, President Bush's new proposal amounts to a whopping $9.99 billion in additional foreign aid over the next three years alone, and $5 billion extra per year thereafter.
Then there's the issue of debt cancellation, which has moved to the front burner since the Argentine default. Numerous heads of state, other government delegates, and a coalition of NGOs demanded debt relief or outright cancellation of debts for the poorer nations, as a way to start afresh in the wake of debt crises in Argentina, Turkey, and many other countries. "External debt relief can play a key role in liberating resources [for] sustainable growth and development.... [W]e welcome initiatives that have been undertaken to reduce outstanding indebtedness and invite further national and international measures in that regard, including … debt cancellation," states the Monterrey Consensus in Section 48. "We demand cancellation of the debts of the countries of the South. Given that the co-responsibility for debt lies with the creditors we demand a fair and transparent process of arbitration that protects human rights and the environment," insisted a statement presented to the plenary session of the conference by the NGO Global Forum.
Left unnoticed in statements like these is that much of the most severe national indebtedness is found in wealthy countries like Japan and the United States itself. How can the U.S., which as of April 2, 2002, had a debt load of $6,005,511,463,777.25, according to Treasury Department statistics, even consider using taxpayer funds to alleviate the debt of other financially-strapped countries? And where in the U.S. Constitution is Congress granted the authority to use tax monies for foreign aid in the first place?
In effect, the Monterrey conference was about a massive new drive for wealth redistribution, via both foreign aid and global taxation. The United States can never give enough to satisfy the adherents of the international socialist creed. At its root, however, the Monterrey conference is not about money, nor taxation, nor debt, nor even development. It's about power, the power to micromanage the smallest details of the life of every human being. As long as the United States continues to participate in, and, to one degree or another, support events like the Monterrey conference, we will be under unrelenting pressure to submit to the interests of those wanting to exercise such power.
Source: The New AMERICAN - April 22, 2002