Bilderberg and the G8: Where is everybody else?

Over the past several weeks two informal groups of (mainly) men convened in Fermanagh and Hertfordshire to discuss amongst other things;  advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance, promoting greater transparency, Nationalism and populism, US foreign policy,  Africa’s challenges, the US and European economies, cyber-warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats, as well as the politics of the European Union and the Middle East.  All contemporary issues of great import, all central to relations across the globe over the next decade, all necessary debates that must be undertaken, some with great urgency.

Bilderberg an entirely private body, chaired by Henri de Castries, Chair and CEO of AXA Group meets yearly. With representatives from the major global companies including Deutshe Group, Goldman Sachs, Hoover, Michelin, Royal Dutch, Evercore, Heineken, Novartis, representatives of Governments and Parliament from amongst others, the UK, Switzerland,  Norway, Italy, the US, Turkey as well as France, and educational bodies such as Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Kings London and Leiden, the traditionally extremely secretive event rivals Davos (The World Economic Forum) as the most important gathering of global economic leaders. The G8 on the other hand, is made up of eight states; Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, USA and UK. These states hold four out the five permanent seats on the Security Council, the US holds the veto at the IMF and World Bank while the others combined entirely control their operation suggesting already high levels of control over these inter-governmental organisations. Which might make one think that they might use the decision-making infrastructures of these organisations, but in reality, for convenience it would appear, they by-pass all. Both Bilderberg and the G8 are self-selecting, entirely private and while the Bilderberg group does not issue communiqués or declarations as the G8 does, both hold significant sway over both economic and political global policy.

Obvious critiques of jamborees such as Davos and Bilderberg include the mendacious character of global economic power being invested with legitimacy by both governmental and media attendance and attention at these yearly meetings. Further, the complete lack of transparency and the worthlessness of actual knowledge regarding how much decision-making power and influence they, in reality, maintain, a point which stokes both conspiracy and controversy, sets-up an influential, though completely unanswerable, pair of bodies. Over the past decade both the media and various Governments have courted these events, setting up camp alongside these global companies and presenting the meetings as holding much influence, often without consideration of the implications of such, over economic and political policy. While obviously media coverage should be welcomed as highlighting the fact these events even take place. Yet, too often, the coverage adds only to the mystique and glamour of these meetings without serious questions on the entirely undemocratic character of money holding such influence being raised.

The G8 is another beast altogether. As lovely as Lough Erne looks on global screens (including mocking up shops to look busy rather than revealing the extent of the effect of the downturn on Northern Ireland’s economy) Washington D.C. the home of both the IMF and the World Bank, Geneva the site of the WTO, or indeed New York the home of the UN, surely should suffice as ready-made venues, dare it be said, already paid for, for debates on the topics set out before the G8 summit. But, clearly the G8 would rather discuss global policy without the messiness of other states’ involvement. The democratic deficit within international law has been much debated but self-selecting groups such as the G8 or its counterpart the G20 only serves to further alienate those who claim that while universal membership is almost present in the key global organisations, actual decision-making really still stands in the hands of the West. Whilst China, Brazil and India are emergent powers, the actual decision-making lies elsewhere. Side-stepping formal bodies, formed after much deliberation and debate is fast becoming the modus operandi. Particularly in the case of the IMF where decisions are often made at G8 and G20 Summits on its behalf, or the UN, where the steps for peace in Syria were discussed in Fermanagh, serves to set out to pasture, these inter-governmental bodies. Bodies, which for all their institutional failures, at the very least, allow all states to be present and to speak. Yet, there appears to be little outcry or debate, informality and boy’s clubs appear to be easy straightforward bodies, where everyone agrees in an avuncular manner what is best for the rest of the world. The growth in number and influence of informal points of global decision-making must become a point of concern.

Bilderberg and the G8: Where is everybody else?

The G8 comes to Ireland

The UK has announced that, next June, the G8 Summit will be held in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. This will probably be the most powerful international meeting ever to be held on the island. Coming during a period that sees Ireland’s Presidency of the OSCE, Ireland holding the Presidency of the EU Council, the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in April in London and the election of Ireland to the UN Human Rights Council during 2013-2015, it seems that the next 12-18 months appears to hold many opportunities for Ireland to not only present itself globally but also to positively influence some of the policy decisions made at the world’s most important regional and global organisations. Of these opportunities the G8 Summit probably offers some of the more interesting possibilities for Ireland to influence global policy at a body in which it, and most other states, rarely get seats. The last time Ireland held the Presidency of the Council of Europe, and thus attended a G8, was in 2004 when most commentary seemed to be based around Bertie Ahern’s choice of yellow trouser than anything more substantial.

The G8 remains one of the more nebulous quasi-organisations in the world. Its influence on organisations such as the IMF, World Bank or WTO can be profound. Continue reading “The G8 comes to Ireland”

The G8 comes to Ireland

Tánaiste's address to the General Assembly and the Annual Meetings of the UN, IMF and World Bank

The time of year has come around again, when speeches are made to the world via the UN General Assembly and the IMF and World Bank have their annual meetings in Washington D.C.. We have covered these speeches previously here and Darren has covered the most pressing issue before the UN, Palestinian statehood, here.  This post sets out the other issues which have been central to annual meeting at the General Assembly, as well as the meetings of the IMF and World Bank.

One of the more interesting calls made at the General Assembly relate to all three organisations and that is China’s proposal that the G20 play a bigger role in global economic governance. The G20 are a group of 19 countries plus the European Union who meet to discuss and make proposals for economic change. This is entirely informal institution, whose membership is entirely based upon economic weight and influence. The G20 already play an extremely important role in global economic regulation, for example, the  more major reforms that have gone before the IMF over the past few years regarding the financial crisis have been discussed at the G20.  Continue reading “Tánaiste's address to the General Assembly and the Annual Meetings of the UN, IMF and World Bank”

Tánaiste's address to the General Assembly and the Annual Meetings of the UN, IMF and World Bank

Guest Post: Who's Breaching Whose Peace?: R (Moos & Mclure) v Commissioner of the Police

Human Rights in Ireland is delighted to welcome this guest post by Gilbert Leung, kindly reposted from Critical Legal Thinking.

On 14 April 2011, the High Court of England and Wales ruled, in R (on the application of Joshua Moos and Hannah McClure) v The Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis, that the police had acted unlawfully in “containing” (aka kettling) certain G20 protestors on 1 April 2009. It made clear that the police must be in reasonable apprehension of an “imminent breach of the peace” before taking “preventative action”. Preventative action includes kettling, but only “as a last resort catering for situations about to descend into violence”. That the police cannot arbitrarily kettle protestors can be seen as good news for political activists. The bad news, for those who see kettling as an always unjustifiably brutal form of collective punishment, is that the High Court affirmed its legality under the conditions stated above. And with these conditions, there is always room for interpretation.

For example, in defining the word “imminence”, the judges said that it simply meant a breach of the peace was “likely to happen”. At the same time, they admitted that any determination of likelihood “may be applied with a degree of flexibility” by the police. Add to this the necessity for reasonable apprehension (what is reasonable?), it becomes clear that you don’t have to look too far to see that significant discretion is still retained by the police. How this bears out in practice is yet to be seen, but certain signs point towards a state of peace––officially the Queen’s peace––that is constitutively haunted by a violence that is sometimes latent, hidden and silently simmering, and at other times overt, furious and bloody.
Continue reading “Guest Post: Who's Breaching Whose Peace?: R (Moos & Mclure) v Commissioner of the Police”

Guest Post: Who's Breaching Whose Peace?: R (Moos & Mclure) v Commissioner of the Police

IMF's Executive Board Approves Ireland's Loan

On Thursday last,  the IMF announced that the Executive Board had approved Ireland’s loan of €22.5 Billion. I have already posted on the structure of the IMF here while Darren has discussed the legal implications of the acceptance of a loan here and here.  According to Dominique Strauss Kahn, Managing Director of the IMF and potential future candidate for President in France,“[t]he Irish authorities have designed an ambitious package to address the economic crisis facing the nation”  The announcement set out three objectives for the EU-IMF package:

•Identify those banks that remain viable and return them to health through downsizing and reorganization.

•Recapitalize banks and encourage them to rely on deposit inflows and market-based funding.

•Strengthen bank supervision and introduce a comprehensive bank resolution framework.

This largely focuses upon the re-organisation of the Irish banking system, though the announcement also mentioned restoring the health of public finances and restoring the Irish economy to health. The concentration on the banking system reflects the wider focus of the IMF, announced pre the November G20 meeting in South Korea, to re-structuring the global banking system to improve oversight and aid in its overall surveillance objective. Continue reading “IMF's Executive Board Approves Ireland's Loan”

IMF's Executive Board Approves Ireland's Loan

Civil Disobedience: Protest, Violence and Anarchy

DuVall summarises the American abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s thought: ‘if submission were replaced by civil resistance, the people could pierce the shroud of oppression, shifting power in a way that few in the world would have comprehended.’ The starting point for civil disobedience is injustice. However, the question always placed at the feet of those who resist by breaking the law, is whether such acts can ever be right. Civil disobedience became a major question for political theory in the US in the sixties and seventies. I want to suggest that two of the issues raised in that debate can usefully be drawn out here. Firstly, there is the question of whether civil disobedience is non-violent by definition. And secondly, there is the question of whether civil disobedience requires a sort of existential choice between security and order. (For further discussion of these points and more, see ‘The Defense of Conscience – A Limited Right to Resist’, which this piece draws upon).

Let me begin with the definitional debate. Bedau states ‘Anyone commits an act of civil disobedience if and only if he acts illegally, publicly, non-violently, and conscientiously with the intent to frustrate (one of) the laws, policies, or decisions of his government.’ Continue reading “Civil Disobedience: Protest, Violence and Anarchy”

Civil Disobedience: Protest, Violence and Anarchy

The IMF and Economic Crises – an ABC

As the IMF is now a consistently central news item in Ireland and elsewhere, it is crucial that there be general understanding of the nature and functions of the organisation.

The International Monetary Fund was established alongside the World Bank in 1944, as part of the Bretton Woods institutions. The Bretton Woods institutions were intended to ensure that the economic maelstrom that occured in the inter-war period would not happen again. The third institution, the International Trade Organisation, was never established and international trade was largely covered by the GATT until the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995.

The main aims of the IMF are to promote international monetary cooperation, exchange rate stability, orderly exchange arrangements as well as to provide temporary financial assistance to countries in the case that their balance of payments become unstable.  In achieving these aims it has gone through several transformations, from regulating fixed exchange rates, when world currencies were fixed at one rate tied to the dollar, to today’s system where currencies float according to the health of their economies. Continue reading “The IMF and Economic Crises – an ABC”

The IMF and Economic Crises – an ABC