22 November 2023
14h00 - 16h00 CET
This is the last in a series of three conversations in which SRI explores the effect of economic politics on human rights, specifically sexual rights. The first, in September, examined the link between sexual rights and histories and legacies of colonial exploitation and their neoliberal afterlives; the second conversation, in October, focused on the tactics and effects of coercive economic measures.
No one should be fooled by the festive atmosphere of these celebrations. Outside there is anguish and fear, insecurity about jobs and… a ‘life of quiet desperation’.
– Rubens Ricupero, UNCTAD Secretary-General, on GATT’s 50th anniversary, 1998
The policies of the World Trade Organization (formerly GATT), unequal bilateral trade agreements, loans from the IMF and the WB (which require the opening of domestic economies to market capitalism), structural adjustment towards privatisation, aid conditionality, and the slashing of social protections and services were key tools in promoting the new economic world order that was put in place after WWII.
As explored in our second conversation, economic debt, sanctions, and other coercive measures are key tools for continuing the colonial exploitation of the majority of the world’s population, nearly half of which lives in countries that spend more on interest payments than on health or education – even as the number of billionaires in the world continues to grow.
Following the logic of intersectional oppression, the sexual and gender rights of women and queer people from all working class communities everywhere, and particularly from marginalised groups, only appear as aspirations in the workplans of NGOs. The extent of deprivation and the force of ideological domination is such that basic rights and entitlements, such as access to contraception and abortion, sexuality education, and consensual marriage are out of reach for women living in conditions of economic precarity and privation, which are sold to them as being natural or fated. Yet, there are extremely well-resourced political and economic institutions whose mandate is to facilitate and promote the global economic world order that systematically steals from the poor to reward the rich.
What then are these systems? How are they held in check or kept accountable, and by whom? What is the relationship among global governance systems and structures, economic policies, including aid, and ‘the international order’, including international law? Do United Nations binding treaties lead to accountability within international economic systems? What would a rights-based economy look like?
This conversation is a step towards trying to demystify the economic systems and institutions that drive the neoliberal world order, and to demonstrate links between economic injustice and a range of rights related to gender, sex, and sexuality. It is also an attempt to think of socio-political and economic alternatives to this order through examining movements and experiments in different parts of the world.