Wednesday, December 07, 2011

International Development: Of Willy Brandt, Development and Peace

By Jutta Wolf
Courtesy IDN-InDepth NewsReport

BERLIN (IDN) - "Now grows together what belongs together." Though this famous public statement by Willy Brandt in the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall pointed to new vistas opening up for Germans living in post-war divided Germany, it held out the hope that the world would warm up to genuine international cooperation obstructed by the Cold War chill.

Three years before the Berlin Wall came down, the Foundation for Development and Peace (known as SEF by its German acronym) had been set up at the initiative of Nobel laureate (1971) and former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. Its founders indeed undertook a historic mission:

"We are united by the vision of a world without borders and without prejudice, without hunger or fear of destruction. We know that this vision will not become a reality today or tomorrow. But we wish to commit ourselves to making our way, step by step, towards that goal. The future of humankind depends on regarding ourselves as world citizens and on our acting with a sense of global responsibility."

"We share the vision of the founders," says Karin Kortmann, former state secretary in the German ministry of economic cooperation and current chair of the Foundation's Executive Committee, as it celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary. Significantly, the Foundation was set up in what the United Nations had designated the 'International Year of Peace.'

The same year, recalls Kortmann, Mikhail Gorbachev at the 27th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party CPSU in February 1986 launched the momentous 'Glasnost' (openness), 'Perestroika' (restructuring) and 'Uskorenie' (acceleration of economic development.

'Brandt Report'

The SEF derived impetus from a landmark report titled 'North-South: A Programme for Survival', published in 1980 by the Independent Commission on International Development Issues, also known as the North-South Commission, chaired by Willy Brandt.

Popularly known as the 'Brandt Report', it was acknowledged as the most comprehensive and broad based analysis of the various issues of global development. It set out a vision for genuine partnership between North and South, and called for a new definition of North-South relations.

The report received much publicity and wide ranging acceptance as the best way forward for governments worldwide to reduce the growing economic disparities between the rich North and developing South. But the proposals put forward by its eminent and diverse range of members from industrialized and major developing countries were never adopted by governments due to the Cold War and a resulting lack of political will to act on these compelling issues.

In 1985, Brandt was honoured in New York for his commitment to the Third World. At the award ceremony, he declared that national attempts at crisis management were no longer an adequate response to the global dimension of the problems: "The globalization of risks and challenges – war, chaos, self-destruction – requires a kind of 'world domestic policy' that extends not just beyond the parish pump, but also far beyond national borders."

Brandt availed of the Third World award to set up the Development and Peace Foundation – with the support of some of the leading German political thinkers, development experts and academics such as Kurt Biedenkopf, Ralf Dahrendorf, Uwe Holtz and Dieter Senghaas.

Especially after the end of the Cold War, there was widespread hope that "a just and peaceful world is attainable now," says Michèle Roth, the Foundation's Executive Director. This hope is spreading out again today, given the upheaval in the Middle East, she adds, which was an important reason for the SEF to avail of its 25th anniversary celebrations in Berlin on November 24, 2011 to review Brandt's vision in the light of new challenges, most of which owe their roots to old challenges.

'North-South: A Programme for Survival'

'North-South: A Programme for Survival' presented the shared-interests thesis and articulated policy options. It made recommendations to transcend problems associated with the operations of transnational corporations, food and agricultural production and distribution, declining terms of trade for primary commodity exporters, Northern protectionism, high energy prices, population growth and movements, the international financial and monetary system, unsustainable foreign debt loads, low levels of development assistance, and the high costs of the arms race.

While most of these issues continue to plague developing economies, some have over the years inundated the industrialized world.

The Report's central pillar was an emergency program to end poverty in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) that would require an additional $4 billion in aid flows per year over twenty years. To meet this goal developed nations were challenged to make foreign aid equivalent to 1 percent of their GDP by the year 2000. Between 2001 and 2008, the aid given to LDCs amounted to less than 0.2 percent of the developed countries Gross National Product.

According to the UN, 75 percent of the population in 48 countries with a total population of 880 million makes less than $2 a day or less than $900 a year. These countries continue to have the lowest per capita incomes and the highest population growth rates. They are the most off track in the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the UN millennium development goals, and are at the bottom of the human development index rankings. Among the LDCs, 33 are located in Africa, 14 in the Asia-Pacific region and one in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The North-South report also called for a new international division of labour to redistribute productive resources and incomes to the Global South. As well, the report advocated the creation of a comprehensive international trade organization that would incorporate development concerns. The record of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has been far from commendable.

In 2005 the Commission for Africa led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair sought to further Brandt's vision by reasserting the view that world leaders have a mutual interest in African development and updating Brandt's policy prescriptions – with hardly encouraging results.

With this in view, the Foundation provides an international forum for a high-level exchange on peace and development issues, advances political agenda-setting on the challenges of globalization, builds bridges between political decision-makers and practitioners, academic experts, key figures from the business community and civil society actors, presents tangible policy recommendations for political and civil society actors, addresses political strategies of international, national, regional and local actors, integrates the views of the Global South into policy debates, and offers access to a large network of international experts.

The cross-party Foundation works on a number of longer-term project series on specific issues such as Global Governance, Global Ressource Management - A Challenge for Peace, Development and Environmental Policy as well as Human Security and Responsibility to Protect.

The SEF has close cooperation with the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF), founded in 1990. INEF is an Institute of the University of Duisburg-Essen (Faculty of Social Sciences). It is the only German research institute working on questions at the intersection of peace and development and combines basic with applied research and public policy consulting.

A research department of the University of Duisburg-Essen, the Institute has an excellent reputation both at home and abroad as a think-tank on world affairs. The aim of the Institute, headed first by Franz Nuscheler and meanwhile by Tobias Debiel, is to help shape the national, European and international debate on global interdependences and Global Governance, and provide impetus for political action based on global responsibility.

Its major areas of activity include a research programme on key aspects of Global Governance; studies on development strategies and global structural policy and on political violence and non-military conflict transformation; and projects on the dynamics and development of the world economy. The INEF and its research staff are also actively involved in various leading international research networks.

The INEF promotes the Foundation's activities by providing academic support for collaborative projects. These include, in particular, GLOBAL TRENDS and the joint work on issues of the ONE World and Policy Paper series. [IDN-InDepthNews