Sharing the pie

Development Policy27 Jun 2011Jojanneke Spoor

Susan George is Chairperson of TNI. She introduces the 2011 Fellows Meeting.


When talking about sharing the pie, dividing resources, what are your expectations of the Rio+20 Summit?

I don’t expect much from any official conference.

In your book you mention that popular movements are the only way of dealing with the current crises. Is the Arab spring showing us the way?

Most politics in the Arab region are amazingly national. For the international issues, which are finance and climate change, you have to act through different actors. This is beginning to happen in the movement against climate change. In Copenhagen we saw social and ecological movements come together – groups that weren’t used to working together. And that marriage has now been consummated. What we are missing – for the moment – are some of these nationalist human dignity movements in the Arab world. Hopefully, as they become more conscious of what the issues are and the problems they’ll have to confront – assuming that they take power – they will prove to be more internationalist than the governments that are now negotiating our future.

The climate talks have disintegrated into a totally nationalistic battle. China takes a position as China. The United States takes a position according to US interests. There is no thought at all of what’s good for the world, for people everywhere. This is a terrible lag. I can’t see any other agent than a broad social movement confronting this. We have problems there. We are not united. My main fear is that we don’t have time to wait for the political developments and cohesion of the social movement.

How do the social movements of today compare to those of ten years ago?

Infinitely better. But we are against extremely powerful forces who are playing an enormously short-term game. Depressing. And it may be fatal.

You suggest that scholars should change their focus. Studying the poor didn’t yield any improvements.

We have to focus on the rich. The UN has been studying the poor to death. We know everything there is to know about the poor. Studying millionaires however, or the derivative associations, the lobbies in Brussels, that’s less popular. But there is improvement there too. There is a very good movement on trade and trade negotiations. There are Alter EU, a very cohesive Water Movement, Trade Unions. It’s not a dead field. There’s hope.