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Human rights, structural adjustment and

world disorder

July 8, 2015, 12:00 pm


An EU flag waves in front of the ancient temple of
Parthenon atop the Acropolis hill in Athens on July 7, 2015. Eurozone
leaders will hold an emergency summit in Brussels on July 7 to discuss the
fallout from Greek voters defiant "No" to further austerity measures, with
the countrys Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras set to unveil new proposals for
talks. AFP
The Greek case is highly instructive from the point of view of the close
observer of international politics and economics because it is a country
which was well within the Western bloc for decades, but is now, seemingly,
initiating a series of paradigm shifts in the structuring of its economy as
well as of its international political relations. The massive No vote from
the Greeks to the EU austerity measures indicates that they have suffered
considerable hardships over the years under the relevant structural
adjustment programmes, but from now on what would the Greek
authorities have to offer their public instead of this tough economic
reforms regime? What, in short, is awaiting the Greeks by way of a
suitable alternative economic development model?
While the knee-jerk reaction of even some progressive sections of world
opinion is to enthusiastically welcome the No vote in the recently
conducted referendum in Greece over its economic woes, the issue to be
addressed by the latter, sooner rather later, is how it intends to fend for
itself, now that it has refused the bail-out package offered by the EU and
other relevant quarters. Greece would need to sustain itself with the
dignity expected of a sovereign state and this would emerge as a core
issue for the country in the days ahead.

Socialist-leaning Greek Prime Minister Alexis


Tsipras has already earned some glowing accolades
from mainly socialist countries of Latin America for
his refusal to accept a further austerity-oriented
reforms package from the EU for continued
financial assistance by the latter but where would
Greece go from here? If Greece is to remain within
the EU, it would need to accept the austerity measures spelt out for it by
the EU and IMF and thereby go further along the thorny path of economic
structural adjustment, but if it refuses to do so, Greece would have no
choice but to part company with the EU and pursue an independent
development path. Is Greece sufficiently prepared for this course of action?
This too is a challenge of considerable magnitude.
The Greek case is highly instructive from the point of view of the close
observer of international politics and economics because it is a country
which was well within the Western bloc for decades, but is now, seemingly,
initiating a series of paradigm shifts in the structuring of its economy as
well as of its international political relations. The massive No vote from
the Greeks to the EU austerity measures indicates that they have suffered
considerable hardships over the years under the relevant structural
adjustment programmes, but from now on what would the Greek
authorities have to offer their public instead of this tough economic
reforms regime? What, in short, is awaiting the Greeks by way of a
suitable alternative economic development model?
Fortunately, some thought-provoking inputs to this dilemma have come
from the UN and other quarters which are perceptive of the issues at hand.
They are quite right when they say that structural adjustment and
connected austerity measures cannot come at the cost of human rights.
This has been pointed out to the EU. And the EU has been also reminded
of its democratic and humanism heritage by no less a quarter than the
Greeks themselves. For instance, an euphoric No vote advocate was
quoted as saying: This is a victory for the Greek people, a chance for
Europe.... Spain and then Portugal should follow this path. Were for a
Europe of the people.
These concerns of the UN have been heightened by the news that over the
past few months the Greek public has been severely affected by scarcities
of essentials, such as, food and medicine, as a result of the austerity
measures Greece has been subjected to. Accordingly, the vital interests of
the people could in no way be compromised, regardless of the policy

measures adopted to meet the current economic crisis.


It follows that the EU cannot advocate too austere an economic reforms
programme for Greece if the latter wishes to negotiate with the EU and
chooses to stay within its fold. On the other hand, if Greece prefers to
initiate a development programme entirely of its own with a socialist bent,
it would need to be deeply sensitive to the requirement for strengthening
human rights, coupled with progressively ushering peoples empowerment.
Under either dispensation, what is seen as development cannot be at the
expense of human rights and human needs.
Greece could, perhaps, take a leaf from Argentina which defaulted on its
international debts but pursued an independent growth path. Today,
Argentina could be mentioned alongside Brazil as a Latin American country
which has emerged as a veritable epitome of vibrant growth of the global
South. But these emergent economies of Latin America would need to
ensure that human rights and peoples empowerment are not
compromised in the growth process.
The Greek crisis comes at a time when the global South could be seen as
increasingly flexing its economic muscle against the backdrop of a
materially weakening global North. There is the launching of the Chineseled Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, for example, which is seen as
posing a major challenge to the IMF and World Bank, which have been the
basis of the West-inspired world financial system since the ending of World
War Two. May be, cash-strapped countries, such as Greece, would now opt
to deal more with the AIIS and other financial institutions of the South and
increasingly link with the emergent economies of that part of the world,
thereby seeking to lessen their dependence on the global North for their
economic and security needs.
As mentioned, Greece has won the backing of some socialist countries of
Latin America, but in the absence of the South coming together on a
development path and policy crafted on socialist lines, countries of the
developing world, including crisis-hit economies, such as Greece, would
need to link-up with the global South on the basis of economic
pragmatism. And it is economic pragmatism and not rigidly defined
economic ideologies which are triggering the material successes of
economic blocs such as BRICS. That is, economic liberalization and not
socialist planning is mainly at the root of our current economic success
stories, such as BRICS.
Accordingly, there is no question of the world seeing a resurgence of sorts

of socialism, although it is socialism and not capitalism which has the


greater potential of ushering equity. It is market liberalization which is
accounting for the bulk of global economic growth and those countries
which are desirous of traversing the path of prosperity are expected by
the WTO and its allied institutions to open their economies and see the
capturing of markets abroad as holding one of the main keys to
development.
However, sections of the international community are right in seeing the
sustenance of human rights as integral to development. Without that all
important human rights component development would only trigger
inequities which in turn would help in perpetrating conflict and war which
are the stuff and substance of anarchy and world disorder.
Posted by Thavam