The 4th World Social Forum on Health and Social Security just took place February 3rd to 6th in Dakar, Senegal. This initiative occurs two months after the 1st World Conference for the Development of Universal Social Security Systems in Brasilia, Brazil.
In most countries of the world, save perhaps a handful, there are serious set backs for the rights to prevention and access to high-level health care for most people. All European and African countries are affected by this decline.
Several decisions were taken to fight back at this WSF on Health and Social Security along the following lines :
• To promote the principles of universality and solidarity for health systems and high level of social protection for all is urgently needed. Bernard Teper (UFAL) emphasized that “targeting policies” – which are sometimes justified in cases of special emergencies- should only be tolerated if they respect the principles of universal systems and not be targeting as charity, in violation of the need for universality and solidarity1.
• To create a political laboratory to enable, on one hand, to better define the words and the arguments used (health, social security, social protection sphere, constitutional freedoms, equality, equity), because it is clear that the militants around the world use the same phrases with different meanings, and, on the other hand, to identify possible leads, country by country, to move towards universal systems with a high level of social protection everywhere and for everyone . These tracks will of course take into account all parameters (demography, medical and paramedical health facilities proximity and health structures of excellence, funding, social and environmental determinants of health, etc.).
• Before the 2nd World Conference planned for 2013, to set up national and regional health forums. Armando de Negri proposed a regional conference for the Latin American region, accepted with enthusiasm by all
South Americans in attendance, including Colombian and Brazilian representatives.
Bernard Teper, on behalf of UFAL, proposed to experiment with the creation of a North- South Francophone forum that would bring together Belgium, France, Maghreb and Sub-Saharan African countries . This proposal was well received by African countries representatives in attendance, especially in the Morocco delegation composed of trade unionists, feminists and associations for the Right to health, and from the Senegalese and Guineans present, among whom many youth « boosted » by the Tunisian and Egyptian example.
• An International Advisory Board would be created to put together experiences, debates and decision making. On the sidelines of the plenary sessions, discussions were held on the feasibility of public meetings, popular education training courses and popular universities cycles in African countries. Contacts have been made to evaluate the feasibility.
Time for change. Nearly one hundred participants and delegates contributed to this WSF on Health and Universal Systems which takes place at a time when:
- Neoliberal policies (deregulation, mounting unemployment or under-employment) push more and more workers into the informal sector of the economy2. This causes difficulties for social contributions whether through taxes, or based on the social contribution based on wage earners and employers (the French system) which can only exist in the formal sector. This is very harmful because it is a system of social protection funded by social contributions, which is most resilient to economic crises (as long as the formal sector of the economy is maintained) and a better sharing of wealth at the point of production is a good rampart to attempts by companies to shift profits overseas.
- The tricky reforms setting with a mix of contribution caps and tax cuts mean, in reality, that the popular strata in the formal sector finance more of its share than the affluent into the social security system contrary to the principle of solidarity3.
- Financing through taxes and social contributions still insufficient, many focus on the collection or setting up of international taxes. Without denying the interest of international taxes, we should denounce the illusion that they could replace the funding from national taxes and social contributions.
The problem with present day fast turning financial capitalism is that international assistance only represents a small portion of budgets in those countries facing difficulties and that it is always accompanied by compensatory anti social policies (structural adjustment plans imposed by the multilateral organizations that are part of world governance) and the discrepancies in power relations are such that any proceeds of such taxes. instead of going to social protection - could well be used to help as speculators in trouble as during 2008-2009.
By analyzing the participation in this 4th FSMS, we can estimate however that the number of countries present was too low and much work must be done to broaden participation of social movements in World Social Forums on Health, from a larger number of countries. Researchers have their place in the FSMS, but they cannot replace trade unions and associations involved in the struggle in these countries. As for the tone of this 4th FSMS, where different currents were represented, the anti-liberal left seemed to represent the majority, while a minority seemed to think that we can count on existing governments and institutions.
In conclusion: this 4th FSMS has beautiful potential, but needs much work. Will it be able to rise to the challenge?
by Bernard Teper,
Director of the Popular Education Section / UFAL
- ‘Targeting policies’ have historically been associated with the World Bank approach to health in LMICs and their destructive aspects have been well documented by, among others, the former director of UNRISD, Dr Thandika Mkandawire. [↩]
- The concept of informal sector (or ‘un- structured’ sector) is defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Such activities are beyond any kind of taxation, control or even just counting. They live on the margins of conventional production of goods and services and escape all regulation. They represent an indispensable complement to neoliberal policies, and the latter policies encourage its spread and use of low-skilled low paid ‘un-regulated’ labor force. [↩]
- Simultanous settting of of safety nets for the very very poor or migrant – targeting policy- feed resentments among the working people and feeds into the extreme right populist movement, with the mistaken belief that the problem is the burden of these ‘other’ people rather than the burden of the tax exception and social charges cuts for the wealthy and corporate sector. [↩]
S.E. Mr Pedro Pàez Perez,
Plenipotentiary Ambassador, Republic of Ecuador
President of the Ecuadorian Technical Commission for a New Regional Financial Architecture
Former Minister for Economic Policy Coordination of Ecuador.
Interview conducted at the UNCTAD symposium “Responding to Global Crisis: New Development Paths”, to which we participated. The interview was conducted by G. Upham and JJ Monot, was inspired by a private conversation, partly in French and partly in English, as S.E. Mr Pedro Pàez Perez, speaks several languages)
Q : What brought you to this UNCTAD symposium ? We heard the economist Jomo K.S. (Assistant General Secretary of ECOSOC) speak of the necessary struggle against the all powerful lobby of financiers.
H.E. Pedro Pàez Perez : Indeed, our purpose during this UNCTAD event was to explore valid alternative solutions to the concentrated power of financial markets. There is still confusion on the real problems. Many people remain prisoners of the neo-liberal mind set. Yet, today, what we do need is more room for technical debates.
The crisis has created a humongous challenge, that of examining all viable logical and productive paths. So far monopoly ultra-liberal capitalism is precluding millions of productive projects from coming into existence because of the requirements of high interest rates and of high rates of profit; this constant search for speculative gains is leaving millions of people out of work.
Q : Mainstream economics are deadly for people, is that your message?
H.E. Pedro Pàez Perez : Truly! The major cover up for this state of affair is the talk about the ‘general equilibrium’, the talk of ‘comparative advantage’ or of ‘the best distribution of income’. They say it’s a ‘free enterprise’ system, but for whom? Instead of a system of private initiative, in reality the system is made to prevent billions of people from engaging in their own private initiative! People are expropriated from their right to personal initiative by a small mafia of powerful owners, the same who are warmongering. Neo-classical economics are reducing, in fact shrinking, national sovereignty, emptying democracy of its content, and bringing wages down!
Q: Listening here to African farmers, to the struggle of countries, we are struck by the widening gap between the great opportunities in science and economic development which populations aspire to and the misery maintained by this world order…
H.E. Pedro Pàez Perez : Lots of advances in science represent opportunities for people, people who have a right to undertake projects, aspirations.. In the Andean, the Indians have a name for a concept of self realisation ‘SUMAK KAUSAY’. “Self realisation” is an English approximation: the notion does not imply an ‘individual’ (qua individual) notion, but rather that of self fulfilment, the sense of a human being’s self-achievement.
Q: You presented in UNCTAD here concerted steps towards that goal?
H.E. Pedro Pàez Perez : Absolutely. In Latin America we have been building a regional financial architecture, it is a necessary- albeit not sufficient- condition to change the power system in terms of capabilities.
Today we are facing a colossal expropriation. We are trying to provide an answer to 21rst century capitalism in order to have a real margin of manoeuvre. That implies a new concept of national sovereignty to realize the mandate of people so they stop being the puppet of circumstances.
What this regional financial architecture entails is :
- A new type of development bank,
- A new type of central bank
- And a new type of monetary space with a common currency, co-existing national currencies and local community currencies.
All with regional management.
One of the issues is the possibility of regional SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) with international reserve assets, we need to create regional monetary blocs- this will multiply the possibilities in a ‘fractal’ fashion – the monetary blocs can then be used to fight poverty, combat starvation, for clean energy, to create jobs, to allow people to undertake initiatives and enterprises.
And if we can liberate Latin America from the threat of speculative attacks on currencies, then we can free massive Latin American currency reserves for our own development. (Note a.)
Q: In view of that, the talk of money allegedly needed Nord- South for the Millenium development Goals is a bit hypocritical, don’t you think? This afternoon, the session started with the image of Erik Reinert’s Book “How Rich Countries Got Rich … and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor.
H.E. Pedro Pàez Perez : I would add that if we don’t create these regional monetary arrangements, than we just have ‘welfare colonialism’ as you said Erik Reinert called the paths proposed to reach the Millennium Development Goals. (note b.) Jomo K.S. spoke of the huge financiers’ power lobby putting pressure to prevent governments from making the right decisions and he is correct. We should learn from history. This lobbing process to concentrate capital and power goes back to Venetian banking schools, they go back to 11th and 12th century. These practices are several centuries old and have always led to disaster. The author Brodel showed that the capitalism of northern Europe was inspired by Venitian banking; Vallenstein showed that the Netherlands have been the inspiration for England .. The street called “Lombard Street” in the center of London is testimony to this history. Financial crisis due to unbridled speculation practices systematically lead to disasters and never ending wars and epidemics for entire populations.
We are in a crisis like this, a bifurcation in history. Either we choose a humanistic and solidarity based solution to the crisis of capitalism, or it will be like a cyclone, with the same conquests and catastrophes as in the past. The system is dysfunctional, it only serves to enhance speculation, to foster illicit drug traffic, because credit management is in the hands of the financial power, the systems creates slavery type of relations, and actual production is stifled by this financial dictatorship.
How can we justify the control of the private over the public? Where is democracy?
Q: You rightly put emphasis on the control of credit, currency issue where many, even among protesters, speak naively of ‘lack of money ‘ for social spending, for foreign assistance…
H.E. Pedro Pàez Perez : Credit is a public good, a common good. This crisis affects unemployment, businesses, families .. and plays on the guilt of its victims. In reality, the effects are exogenous to the actual situation of the country, of the small or medium size business, of the family. The South is penalized by finance. The activity of funding should be, must be, a public, cooperative function of the people’s economy. Take an example: the Nigerian oil is paid by Chile in dollars via the international markets, why? This breaks the mechanisms of solidarity and cooperation of nation-states. This induces a systemic erosion of nation-states.
Small States, colonial creations, emptied the promises of Bretton Woods from the start. And what remained of the Bretton Woods institutions has been buried by the United States when they have decoupled the dollar from the gold standard.
We need to have the capacity to draw on Special Drawing Rights – only regional SDRs – for the actual production, for small and medium size enterprises, for farmers, social actors and to prohibit speculative transactions.
Note a.) This issue has been raised a lot in UNCTAD and ECOSOC meetings, many a developing nations have echoed economist Jomo K. Sundaram, who stressed how even powerful developing nations like Argentina live under constant fear of speculative attacks on their currency. Governments hoard large amounts of money to protect themselves as a result, depriving the people from credit. There is an outline of the symposium on the UNCTAD website, but unfortunately it glosses over the very poignant and very polemical content of the views presented . http://www.unctad.info/en/Public-Symposium-2010
Note b.) Post-autistic economics review. Issue no. 30, 21 March 2005
Development and Social Goals: Balancing Aid and Development to Prevent ‘Welfare Colonialism’1
Erik S. Reinert (The Other Canon Foundation, Norway & Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia)
This paper was prepared for the High-Level United Nations Development Conference on Millennium Development Goals, New York, March 14 and 15, 2005.
Available on the web at : http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue30/contents30.htm
The Tobin Taxe proposal, made so popular by the French large network ATTAC, is heard again in the UN meetings today, including at the WHA, but while its rational was to cut back on speculation, the tax proposal has become a proposal – including by some ATTAC supporters- to just raise more money for the poor as if the problem of poverty in the world was something having to do with ‘lack of money’. “Pedro” was called among friends sets the matter straight. The financing of economic activity has nothing to do with the individual housewife managing the ‘fixed’ amount of money available. Instead, for national economies the problem lies whenever there is a loss of the State government over monetary matters and issuance of credit. We noted that Jomo K.S. who made a dramatic speech on the need to combat the finance lobby, commented in passing that even Angela Merkel was beginning to grasp the problem- this was a week before Germany took the decision to outlaw short term speculative sales. We will continue to cover this crucial debate.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
FRIDAY 4th and SATURDAY 5th JUNE 2010
Problematics: The recent scandal of the H1N1 virus vaccine puts in light the narrow connections between the pharmaceutical industry lobbies, the governments and an institution which should has the priority to service Humanity and not the big laboratories: the World Health Organization (WHO). The mechanism involved in is well known today:
The laboratories and their agents in various structures and commissions didn’t take care of it, as some of them were already applying for patents of a vaccine against the H1N1 virus since… 2007.
The intrusion of private interests in public health is not new. Of course, by its sheer size, Health markets do attract greed: 3 000 billions of dollars per year, and close to 10% of the global GDP.
If UNO considers Health as a World’s public property, Drugs industry is also an industry, and, moreover, a private industry.
That industry has a sulphurous reputation. Taking advantage of the rules of the world trade organization (WTO), and notably of the global agreement on aspects of the intellectual property rights bound to trade (ADPIC), it has, in the past, tempted to prevent by all means and with the support of governments as United States’ one, any antiviral generics production in developing countries.
A world size campaign was necessary to roll it back.
Today, it wages an intense lobbying so that the “anti – forgery” commercial agreement (ACAC or ACTA in English), under discussion, would consider as “forged” all drugs produced outside of the completely unfair patents official system.
This symposium intends to reveal the connections between the drugs industry and public health policies, at national as well as at international levels.
It will also deal with the ways & means to free Health and Social Security systems of the grasp of lobbies and of the market paradigms. A falsely competitive market in this very case, because it is governed by rulings which, by the slant of the patents, are entirely in favor of the laboratories of the main economic Powers.
VENDREDI 4 ET SAMEDI 5 JUIN 2010
Le récent scandale du vaccin contre le virus H1N1 a mis en lumière l’imbrication étroite entre les lobbies de l’industrie pharmaceutique, les gouvernements et une institution qui devrait être a priori au service de l’humanité et non des laboratoires : l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS). Le mécanisme mis en œuvre est aujourd’hui connu : campagne de presse à l’échelle mondiale pour alerter sur l’apparition de la grippe A ; mise en place dans beaucoup de pays, et notamment en France, de plans de lutte contre la pandémie avec achat d’énormes quantités de vaccins et de produits accessoires ; médiatisation exceptionnelle, alors qu’il s’avère rapidement que la grippe fait nettement moins de victimes que les grippes saisonnières habituelles.
VIERNES 4 y SÁBADO 5 el 2010 de JUNIO
Problematica: El reciente escándalo de la vacuna contra el virus H1N1 pone en la luz las conexiones estrechas entre los gremios de la industria farmacéutica, los gobiernos y una institución que deberia guardar la prioridad para ayudar a la Humanidad y no los laboratorios grandes: la Organización Mundial de Salud (OMS). El mecanismo involucrado en es bien conocido hoy:
Los laboratorios y sus agentes en las varias estructuras y comisiones no cuidaron de él, como algunos de ellos ya estaba solicitando patentes de una vacuna contra el virus de H1N1 desde que… 2007.
La intrusión de intereses privados en la salud pública no es nueva. Claro, por sus grandes tamaños, los mercados de la Salud atraen la codicia: 3 000 billones de dólares por año, y cerca de 10% del PIB global.