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last modified March 27, 2013 by admin

Davos peddles ‘pure evil’

Over the past ten years, there has not been a lot of love between the World Economic Forum (WEF-Davos) and the World Social Forum (FSM).  Both assemblies decry the legitimacy of the other, and each has gone their own way.  To a large extent, their paths have not directly crossed, despite each assembly being aware of the other’s presence and existence.

The paranoia of the Davos assembly has been amply demonstrated by their latest, glossy, 60-page publication,  downloadable here http://civil20.org/upload/iblock/b13/WEF_FutureRoleCivilSociety_Report_2013.pdf

The future role of civil society’ paints a bleak picture indeed.  Neoliberal economic models have been around since the 1990s and before, and many governments are familiar (even experienced) with their mechanisms of privatisation, outsourcing, public-private partnerships and the like.  The Davos document defines a context for civil society as government + business operating very much together, with rarely the need for third-party intervention.  Civil society’s role is to be the glue that holds government + business together, whenever there is a difference of opinion, a state/market failure or a parting of the ways.

The evilness of this concept is self-evident.  Neither governments nor business would seek to behave responsibly, because civil society could clean up the mess, or live with the consequences.  There would be no need for Corporate Social Responsibility or a social safety net.  Social and environmental costs of such irresponsible behaviour would not be funded by investments; as externalities, they would be left to civil society to make do.  We are already seeing such behaviours amongst BRICS proposals for accelerated development, with only Brazil demonstrating a modicum of social and environmental conscience.

The Davos assembly detests sitting at the same table as civil society to negotiate costs and benefits.  As ‘glue’, civil society would be silenced, without legitimacy in UN contexts as well.  The future role of civil society may well be between government + business, but it cannot be silenced.

This future role was recently demonstrated on the high seas off Antarctica, as symbolised in the attachment. Further details of the incident are available here, http://www.seashepherd.org.au/news-and-media/2013/02/25/tensions-rise-in-clash-with-the-japanese-whalers-1504

[see Japanese coast guard launches flash grenade at Bob Barker attachment]

The thirty-eight volunteer crew of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s vessel Bob Barker belong to civil society. Last month, they were sandwiched between a whaling mothership of a government agency and a fully-laden bunker oiler that was contracted by its private owner under a flag-of-convenience.  The oiler (on right) was illegally operating in a whale sanctuary, and the mothership buffeted the protest vessel against the oiler.  Rather than as ‘glue’, the Bob Barker was the ‘meat in the sandwich’, with the captain adamant to maintain his course, despite the obvious risks of attempts by both other ships to sink them.  A very appropriate metaphor.

Whilst not cumulative, the scenario is better portrayed as

government + civil society + business

Both government and business will need to communicate and negotiate with civil society, as they have not done before.  Davos’ glue metaphor clearly does not apply.