Building a Global Progressive Movement and Developing a Global Progressive Agenda by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, (Abridged presentation by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe)
Thursday, 06 October 2005

This meeting comes at an important juncture in the development of the global progressive movement, which we believe encompasses both progressive governments as well as progressive organisations in civil society.

As progressives, we face many challenges but one of the most important is to develop a common progressive agenda that resonates with the people. Given the weaknesses of the progressive movement in Africa and the failure of many progressive political parties in Europe and elsewhere to win elections we are vulnerable.

It is our view that progressives have to look critically at a number of important factors including:

  • The dominance of one major power and the absence of a balance of power in the global system;
  • The continuing move to unilateralism and the weakening of the multilateral system;
  • The stark failure of the attempts at UN reforms and the apparent failure on a way forward to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs);
  • The failure of progressives to develop a response to globalization;
  • Progressive political parties developing a people centered agenda and engaging in a more dynamic and creative fashion to increase political participation and counter any discontent people may have with progressive politics and policies.

We are also of the view that the failure of the UN reforms coupled with the lack of consensus on the way forward to meeting the MDGs signals weaknesses in the current approach to multilateralism. These failures open up space for the development and consolidation of a global progressive movement encompassing all sectors of society including both progressive governments as well as progressive social movements, including the progressives in the religious and cultural movements. Such a progressive movement must be broad in scope but must be organized and galvanized along principled lines.

The development of such a movement is an essential precondition for a renewed multilateralism. We can then begin afresh the process of articulating reforms of multilateral bodies. In addition to the reform of the UN and international financial institutions, we also support the transformation of other multilateral institutions - the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, the Socialist International, G-77 + China

The development of a progressive agenda must be comprehensive and must include the socio-economic and political domains. At a minimum what defines a progressive agenda is a central concern with social justice and injustice; exclusion and inclusion; human rights and the denial of human rights; a clear role for the developmental state; a determined effort of deal with market related and market induced inequalities; providing equality of opportunities; developing social cohesion; promoting peace and stability regionally and globally; promoting sustainable growth and development; ecological and environmental sustainability; and dealing with the glaring unequal division of wealth on global, national regional and national levels. This commitment to progressive politics requires us to deal first and foremost with poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment.

As progressives therefore we need to understand the relationship between our domestic policies and our foreign policies. Given the reality of the socio-economic and political reach of globalization, we as progressives need to work for the strengthening of a global progressive movement that can utilize the forces of globalization for progressive political change. In May 2004, President Thabo Mbeki suggested that "perhaps the time has come for the emergence of a united movement of the people's of the world that would come together to work for the creation of a new world order". And of course the President was calling for a new world order built on a progressive agenda.

In South Africa, as you know, our concerns have not only been confined to the borders of our own nation state. Our President has clearly articulated a vision for the continent of Africa that is embodied in his conception of the African Renaissance. It is a vision that also compels us to promote peace and stability in our region and in Africa as a whole.

The progressive agenda must be built on the following fundamental pillars:

  1. Forging a people's contract between state and citizens;

  2. A sustained re-entry of the state into social programmes and land reforms that positively impact on the socio-economic well being of people;

  3. A concern for social justice; and

  4. Economic reciprocity based on equitable trade and trading policies between and among nation states of the South and the North that redress the legacy of underdevelopment of nations of the South.

In the era of unprecedented globalisation from which countries of the South have generally benefited little, these principles must be our compass. They can assist progressives to deal with a number of incredibly intractable problems. We have identified and clustered them as follows:

  1. The fight against poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment;
  2. The fight for peace security and stability;
  3. Restructuring the global balance of power;
  4. The fight against terrorism.
  5. The promotion of sustainable environmental practices.
  6. Good governance and democracy.

The Fight Against Poverty, Unemployment and Underdevelopment:

As progressives, are we concerned with the alleviation or the eradication of poverty? Secondly, how do we see the relationship between social programs to alleviate poverty in the short term and a more structural approach to the eradication of poverty (via a combination of income support as well as a more sustained and sustainable economic growth strategy in rural and urban areas, in the current economic growth nodes as well as the marginalised towns and villages in our country.)? In other words, what public policy path or paths do we choose as we go forward - income supports that perpetuate dependency or a combination of living incomes and a living wage in tandem with the economic empowerment and revitalisation of our marginalised rural communities where the overwhelming numbers of our impoverished people live?

The statistics are alarming, some of these were listed yesterday.

Therefore, UN Member States in the Millennium Declaration agreed to "spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected". This commitment was later codified in the eight time bound measurable targets of the Millennium Declaration Goals.

These are ambitious but highly achievable goals. They are achievable only if there is a global sense of solidarity, and purposeful global co-operation by an organised progressive movement. The achievement of these goals can not happen without the galvanisation of political will first among progressive governments.

In 2000 the historic Millennium Summit Declaration proclaimed that "we believe that the central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for all the world's people. For, while globalization offers great opportunities, at present its benefits are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly distributed. We recognize that developing countries and countries with economies in transition face special difficulties in responding to this central challenge. Thus, only through broad and sustained efforts to create a shared future, based upon our common humanity in all its diversity, can globalization be made fully inclusive and equitable."

The Declaration identified fundamental values that were essential to international relations in the twenty-first century, these included:

  • Freedom
  • Equality
  • Solidarity
  • Tolerance
  • Respect for nature
  • Shared responsibility

This Declaration was enthusiastically welcomed by billions of the poor and the marginalised.

What progress has been made since the Millennium Summit?

The world's leaders gathered in September 2004 at the United Nations (UN) to shape an international agenda for the UN that would rally all nations on a common cause for global stability and development. What is clear from the proceedings is that the challenges confronting our continent are reflective of a more general crisis in the global system. As President Mbeki recalled the immense hope that our peoples had at the dawning of the new millennium for greater peace and stability and for the positive possibilities of globalisation to benefit all of humanity, He pointed to disillusionment that these goals and aspirations may be elusive unless more urgent political action is taken by the developed member states to take the necessary steps to achieve full implementation of our resolutions.

For Africa the debate once again brought into sharp focus the reality that Africa is a continent where poverty is on the increase, unemployment is rife and underdevelopment has to be overcome. However, consider some statistics on debt:

  • According to a latest study of UNCTAD debt continues to impact decisively on our developmental efforts.
  • Between 1970 and 2002 Africa received $340 billion in loans, it paid back plus minus $550 billion in principal and interest, it still had a debt stock of $29 billion at the end of 2002.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa, received $294 billion in loans from 1970 - 2002, paid out $268 billion in debt service and still has a debt stock of $210 billion.
  • Add to this other capital outflows, some legal but most illegal, as well as the brain drain and one gets some sense of the transfer of resources from the world's poorest continent to the richest countries of the world.

The report also contests the popular view that our debt problems are simply the legacy of irresponsible and corrupt governments. While this is part of the explanation, especially in the period of the Cold War and neo-colonialism, other factors such as exogenous shocks, commodity dependence, poorly designed reform programmes in many cases imposed from outside, and the actions of creditors have all contributed decisively to Africa's debt crisis.

Most of the debt accumulated between 1988 and 1995 under the guidance of structural adjustment programmes official lending was to implement these programmes. Currently it appears that MDG won't be met by Africa. At the present rate of development it will take Africa over 100 years to meet the MDGs.

The second major challenge humanity faces is global and regional peace and security:
Within the context of the End of Cold War and the emergence of one superpower and the world is more dangerous than ever.

What is the reality we have to contend with presently:

  • The absence of a balance of power in the global system
  • No common vision of global security
  • The weakening of the multilateral system
  • The transformation of global priorities
  • The transformation of the very nature of war as witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Space war" is also becoming a reality.
  • Unprecedented growth of Anti-Americanism
  • Terrorism and their potential links with weapons of mass destruction

Where is Africa now?

In 1998, 14 countries in the region had experienced armed conflict or civil strife, 11 were under political crisis or turbulence and only 15 enjoyed more or less stable political conditions. Then all countries were signatories of the 1999 Algiers Declaration. The number of military coups has diminished. At present six African countries are in situations of armed conflict and very few others are facing a political crisis. 23 countries have acceded to the APRM, which was established to assess, monitor and promote good political, economic and corporate governance and human rights observance.

We have made progress, but Africa is not immune to:

  • Politics of oil
  • New scramble for Africa
  • Regime Change

and we still face serious challenges.

  • DRC
  • Burundi
  • Sudan
  • Cote d' Ivoire

African responses includes

  • Sustainable development in the interest of the people
  • Good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, commitment to solve differences through peaceful means
  • Peace and Security Council
  • African Standby Force
  • Committee of the Wise
  • Early Warning System
  • SA changing the SADC organ dealing with politics and security

Africa's response in terms of NEPAD

The development and adoption of NEPAD is confirmation of the emergence of a growing number of progressive leaders and the increase of their influence. In addition the development of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is a uniquely African contribution to peer accountability and responsive and responsible government. Our government is currently engaged with the APRM. These are leaders who are not only visionaries, but also people of action who are committed to driving the implementation of their vision and plans. It is this development that makes the transformation movement both sustainable and irreversible.

The sectoral programmes of NEPAD cover many priorities, such as agriculture, science and technology, human development, industrialization, transport, environment, economic integration, etc. Taken in totality, they address the important objectives of self-reliance and the internal and regional integration. Furthermore, they cover new areas that were not very urgent priorities when Lagos Plan was drawn up, viz conflict prevention, management and resolution, political economic and corporate governance, protection and promotion of democracy and human rights and people-centred development.

NEPAD has placed African priorities such as agriculture, infrastructure, ICT, research and development, health, institution and capacity building, firmly on the international agenda, thus changing the dominant development paradigm that has for so long been imposed on our continent.

We most definitely need to find ways of developing the progressive forces in Africa in order to respond to these challenges, intertalia, developing a progressive alternative to the Washington consensus and neo-liberal agenda, to enable us to successfully deal with poverty and under-development, to deal with other central challenges identified in this paper, and to ensure that NEPAD realizes its full potential

Positing the Progressive Alternative

We are witnessing the failure of the Washington consensus and the neo liberal paradigm. Undoubtedly, the neo-liberal reorganization of the social welfare state in many countries has come at a considerable cost - the erosion of the social fabric of many societies in both the global north and the global South. This erosion has led to the increased marginalization of those who are economically and socially vulnerable and has led to their exclusion from the centre of society. We agree with Walker and Walker (1997: 8) who see social exclusion as "… a comprehensive formulation, which refers to the dynamic process of being shut out…"

So what is the alternative?

The new world order that is emerging is unsustainable. In the interests of humanity we must urgently strive to build an international movement to fight for a world of peace, democracy, freedom from poverty, non-racism and non-sexism. We must address the concerns of the billions of people in the world who are marginalized. We must reject the tendency to accept as inevitable the legacy of the neo-liberal paradigm and of right wing political dominance that is committed to marginalizing the masses.

The North must recognize that the South can not be force fed democracy. Democracy and democratic institutions of governance and administration must emerge from within societies. It is this regard that we view with a measure of skepticism the attempts to graft onto Afghanistan and Iraq neo-liberal conception of democracy.

We must also recognise that good governance and administration must be viewed in the context of the fight against poverty, unemployment, the need for living incomes and underdevelopment. The failure of socio-economic transformation in the South, including closing the gaps between the first and second economies on a global, regional and national scale, will spell disaster for democracy and progressive politics as a whole. Global poverty constitutes the deepest and most dangerous structural fault in the contemporary world economy and global societies. It constitutes the most challenging structural fault. Logically, this means that the correction of this fault has to be at the centre of the politics, policies and programmes of progressive thinking.

As a start we must challenge the hegemony of the neo-liberal conservative paradigm, which worships the "market" and puts emphasis on the private as opposed to the public, the individual as opposed to the collective and the individual as opposed to the state. They believe in each for him or herself and devil takes the hindmost. This demands that the market must be given free reign to operate as it will. We are constantly warned that all of us must accept the rules of liberalization, privatization, absolute protection of private property rights, and deregulation.

We contend that it is not possible to solve the problem of global poverty solely through reliance on the "market". We need to rearticulate the need for a strong developmental state that works to mitigate the disastrous effects of the global and national market places on the poor.

This challenge to the status quo and to put in place something wholly new requires not only the full participation of progressive governments but the mobilization of the people of the world in their social movements behind an agreed-upon world agenda as a collective global agent for change.

Progressives around the world need to work in co-operation to ensure:

  • A progressive alternative to the Washington Consensus and the neo-liberal paradigm.
  • The eradication of global poverty and unemployment with the immediate objective of meeting the targets of the MDG
  • The African Agenda re people centred sustainable development and concrete support for NEPAD
  • The cancellation of debt of poor countries
  • A just economic order including the termination of agricultural subsidies and trade barriers
  • We deal constructively with the two issues that threaten world peace and security; the Middle East conflict and Iraq.
  • Support for peace, democracy and sovereign independence of Iraq.
  • Support for the Middle East Peace Process. In the context of a two-state solution we must mobilise against the Separation Wall, withdrawal from all occupied territories, end of new settlements and extra judicial killings and suicide bombings. We must intensify efforts to put the Road Map back on track.
  • Terrorism
  • WMD
  • Sustainable energy security
  • HIV and AIDS and other communicable diseases including drugs and treatment at affordable prices
  • Environmental degradation and climate warming
  • Gender equality [as an over-riding issue]

These and other campaigns will only be successful if we occupy the political space created by the failure to reform the United Nations and other multilateral bodies. As a precursor to renewing and strengthening multilateralism we must strengthen the global progressive movement. This demands that we develop a global progressive agenda to become more relevant and effective and ensure that people's pressure is put on governments to achieve the objectives we have identified.


As progressives we need to radically rethink democracy, political participation and citizenship. Minister Essop Pahad recently noted that "Democracy and the very institutions of democracy including political parties, institutions of governance and the illusion of political participation via a ballot cast every 4 or 5 years need to be democratized. Progressives need to start promoting notions of "democratic citizenship", the "democratization of democracy"; inclusive political practices and they need to promote strong organizations in civil society. Progressives also need to be far more assertive about their conception of the developmental state as a corrective to the excesses of the marketplace and as the legitimate repository of the will and aspirations of the majority".

In South Africa we know only too well the relationship between international solidarity, political participation and civic engagement. We know from our history the importance and significance of building bridges of political solidarity at the grass roots level and internationally. And we also know the galvanizing effect of articulating a vision of a non-racist non-sexist society. These could well be among our most important contributions to the growth of the global progressive movement.

In short it is absolutely essential we develop and promote the vision of inclusive societies where there is equality of opportunity for all and where we develop the talents and capacities of all who live in our respective societies. Our vision must be of a non-racist, non-sexist, democratic world that is that belongs to all who live in it, North and South, black and white, rich and poor, able-bodied and disabled, male and female.

Thank you.


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