Governments should serve their citizens
At the time of this interview, Barry Coates was the Director of WDM - the World Development Movement, a London-based NGO which campaigns with an international network of partners to tackle the root causes of poverty, by lobbying governments and companies to change the policies that keep people poor. He is now a boardmember of the Global Campaign for Climate Action involving national and global organisations collaborating to mobilise civil society and galvanise public opinion in support of transformational change and rapid action to save the planet from dangerous levels of climate change.
The Global Campaign for Climate Action manages the TckTckTck campaign representing hundreds of millions of people united by a desire to see a strong global deal on climate change. Barry is also the Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.
This video is not available online. Full transcript (365 words, slightly edited
How do you feel about this World Summit
on Sustainable Development?
Politicians started the summit with a process of lowering
everyone's expectations about what could be achieved. And the expectations,
by the end, ended up even far lower than that. There was substantially
nothing that was achieved that would make a tangible difference
to people - particularly the poor in the world - or the environment.
What we had was a series of rather re-cycled words from
other agreements that they just repeated. And most of the effort
from NGOs and civil society lobbying here was to try and prevent
moves backwards. The trade agenda completely dominated the agenda.
And the World Trade Organisation agreements were allowed to completely
trump sustainable development.
So what we had is essentially the World Trade Organisation
in a superior position to the United Nations, and that's exactly
the wrong way around! We should be insisting that trade serves the
aims of sustainable development, rather than the other way round
What do you think can be done practically
now, for NGOs and governments to move ahead?
There are massive campaigns, social movements in countries
around the world against liberalisation and globalisation. Before
any more international summits can take place, we need these campaigns
to convince governments to act in the interests of their people,
in the interest of the planet, rather than the self-interest of
the corporations in their country, and rather than playing these
petty political games that have completely marred this World Summit
on Sustainable Development.
Do you think that citizens and civil
society have real power and ability to make a difference?
I think the power has to be with the citizens and civil
society. What we've seen here is essentially governments colluding
with big business to follow an agenda which gives overt power to
big business to deliver water supplies to the poor through privatisation,
to deliver electricity, telecommunications etc. That's what a lot
of these partnership agreements that have been announced here have
been all about. And instead, civil society movements need to re-claim
those services so that they are made publicly accountable and so
that we get affordable essential services for the poor.