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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Simon Maxwell and Dirk Messner, "A new global order: Bretton Woods II...and San Francisco II," openDemocracy, November 12, 2008.

  The forces in support of the status quo are considerable.

Global leaders are preparing to meet in Washington on 15 November 2008 for a summit of the G20 group of states and representatives of leading international financial institutions. The gathering is being ambitiously named "Bretton Woods II" - echoing the conference on 1-22 July 1944 which established the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). With George W Bush presiding, and Barak Obama waiting in the wings, the delegates' task will be to fix a global financial system which has failed with spectacular and highly damaging results. They need to succeed. However, they also need to realise that financial failure is symptomatic of more fundamental failures and fissures in the global order. Fixing the plumbing will be of little help if the house is falling down.

This, by the way, was also true in 1944. The Bretton Woods conference was officially the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. Elsewhere - at Dumbarton Oaks on 21 August-7 October 1944, and in San Francisco on 25 April-26 June 1945 - the political framework for the United Nations was being established and the charter written. These grew out of the vision of Franklin D Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, first expressed in the Atlantic Charter in August 1941. A financial initiative set in the context of a vision of global peace and progress: is that not the kind of platform needed today?

Certainly, the challenges are of a scale to match those of the 1940s.

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