“Debt repayments are at their highest level since 2001 and are set to get worse as fuel prices surge and the catastrophic effects of climate change begin to have an increasingly large impact on nations in the Global South”
By Fraser McGuire
On Friday, July 8th, hundreds of people watched the Arise Festival 2022 Session – ‘Justice for the Global South: tackling climate chaos, ending the debt, vaccines for all’. You can read the report-back, or watch the meeting in full below:
The event was chaired by Fraser Amos, who is currently the student rep on Young Labour’s National Committee and is now standing to be the chair of the new Labour Students as part of the Socialist Future slate. During the event speakers from organisations including Global Justice Now, Just Stop Oil and War on Want came together to highlight the critical issues of vaccine apartheid, climate change and debt crises which greatly threaten the Global South.
Fraser began by explaining that the socialist ideas supported by the current Young Labour National Committee and the Socialist Future slate, are “totally inseparable” from the ideas of internationalism and anti-imperialism.
Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now spoke on the importance of fighting inequality of access to covid medicines. He explained that about 20 percent of people across the African continent have received a covid vaccination, and in the lowest income countries this is less than 15 percent, meanwhile Western nations including the UK have had to throw away vaccines over the past two years as they bought more vaccines than they could use.
Showing the hypocrisy of reduced global vaccine production because of intellectual property rights, Dearden explained that “a handful of TNCs wanted to keep control of the recipes and of the underlying technology”, even though much of the technology used to fight covid was developed by the public sector. Discussing how much more effective the global response to covid could have been, he noted that the Bangladeshi government announced that they possessed the capacity to produce hundreds of millions of vaccines a year if the recipes and technology had been shared. Dearden commented on the inherently authoritarian nature of the global system dominated by huge corporations and the super-rich, further emphasising how important vaccine and healthcare equality is to winning justice for the Global South.
Heidi Chow from Debt Justice, opened by explaining the massive importance of tackling the global debt crisis, both by cancelling debt for nations in the Global South who have repaid their original debt many times over, and by undertaking a fundamental change in the way the global debt system functions. Chow noted that debt repayments are at their highest level since 2001 and are set to get worse as fuel prices surge and the catastrophic effects of climate change begin to have an increasingly large impact on nations in the Global South, which are “on the front line against the climate crisis”.
Chow outlined the fact that the accumulation of significant debt by developing nations has strong roots in the former colonial system and was also used by the West as a political tool during the Cold War, furthermore the current system of debt diverts wealth away from low-income nations into Europe and North America. Stressing the importance of debt cancellation as a method of ending the ‘colonial-style’ relationship between developed nations in the Global North and developing nations in the Global South, Chow referenced the fact that many loans include conditions which are used to control the economies of nations in the Global South and coerce them to implement deregulation, austerity, and privatisation. The UN has said that over 101 countries are still reliant on the export of raw materials- most of these across the Global South – which pushes these nations to become dependent on loans from the West and more vulnerable to fluctuations in the global commodity market.
Zoe Cohen, speaking on behalf of the Just Stop Oil, began by emphasising their international work as part of a larger coalition called A22 which operates in more than 12 countries in the Global North. She explained that Just Stop Oil has a clear message – for the UK government to end all new licensing and investments in fossil fuels – and that Just Stop Oil is willing to do “everything non-violently possible” to force the government to act.
Cohen remarked that “many, many more of us need to be prepared to take some level of personal risk” to fight the climate crisis in the UK and revealed that more than 450 Just Stop Oil supporters acted across the country in April- successfully disrupting over 50% of fuel supplies. Expressing regret at the fact that the disruption has a negative impact on the lives of ordinary people, she pointed out that it is still necessary as history has shown that civil resistance without some form of significant economic disruption has little genuine impact on change, and that right now four UK Just Stop Oil activists, including one who is 21, are currently in prison. Noting that the worst effects of climate change over the next few decades will disproportionately effect nations in the Global South, Cohen stated that it is highly important that we understand the colonial character of the climate crisis. Stressing the importance of civil resistance again, Cohen encouraged those watching the event to attend the Just Stop Oil coalition march in London on the 23rd of July.
Asad Rehman spoke on behalf of War on Want, and began by focusing on the important point that modern ‘racialised capitalism’ has been shaped by centuries of oppression – from slavery, imperialism, and colonialism to today’s “brutal neoliberalism”. He continued by highlighting that capitalism hasn’t just created a deeply unequal world but now threatens the very survival of humanity on our planet, as governments and major corporations continually fail to effectively contribute to fighting the climate crisis.
Rehman then referenced the most recent United Nations IPCC report on the climate crisis, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership”, as it exposes the hypocrisy of western governments including the EU, UK and US who continue to support investment in non-renewable energy sources despite having the greatest historical responsibility for carbon emissions. Rehman points out that every rich country, including the UK, is “promoting the narrative of Net Zero 2050”, which is gambling on the possibility that we might be able to somehow dial back temperatures through unproven technologies, in the meantime giving a “license to pollute” for the fossil fuel industry and industrial agribusiness.
Fraser Amos finished the event by thanking the participants, encouraging young labour members and student members of the Labour Party to support the Socialist Future Slate in the upcoming internal elections, and thanking the Arise festival team for holding such important, narrative shaping events.
- Fraser McGuire is Vice Chair, Derbyshire Dales CLP and is running to be East Midlands Young Labour representative – follow him on twitter here.
- “Justice for the Global South: tackling climate chaos, ending the debt, vaccines for all” was hosted by Arise Festival on July 8th, 2022. Watch it back here.
- You can view all past and upcoming Arise Festival 2022 session on Linktree here.
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