Roland Weyl, First Vice President IADL


When the IADL proposed a DNIEO at its Athens Congress in 1984, it was in relation to the inequality between former colonised (developing) countries and the developed ones.

Now, all the peoples of the world (even the US) are suffering cuts in their living standards to pay the so-called debt to the so-called markets.  At different levels, all peoples are now colonized.

On an international scale, we see the misery of peoples increasing in order to pay for the increasing profits of financial institutions.  Every major serious issue facing the world today can be traced to this reality.

For progressives, this reality is one of the greatest challenges we face.  How should democratic lawyers respond?

Economists offer many theories about what went wrong and what should be done about it but most of them ignore the fact that economic reform does not occur spontaneously; it depends on who holds power over the economy.

It is the duty of lawyers to contribute to thinking about how such power can be exercised.

The Issue of Power

Humanity today faces the challenge of the alternatives of the old (feudal, then capitalist) power over people, and the power of the people.  (cf. Demo-cracy, from the ancient Greek “kratos” = power and “Demou” = of the people, and Lincoln’s “Government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

A historic and revolutionary step was taken when the UN Charter proclaimed the reformulation of the old vertical power over the peoples into a new horizontal and cooperative power of the peoples: “We the Peoples of the United Nations determined … to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom … to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security …. Accordingly, our respective governments have agreed to the present Charter …”

While the Charter is based on the right of all peoples to self determination, and an international society based on universality and equality, experience shows that the UN does not operate that way, and has been hijacked by the few into a tool of power over peoples (with outrageous violations of the Charter).  This brings us to the International Economic Order (or rather Disorder), and how it got that way.

The peoples of the world need an instrument of their power, for both internal administration and international relations.  That instrument is the State.  If they dispensed with their State, they would have to create something else, with the same problems.  So the question is not the State itself but who exercises power by controlling the State.  In reality, both domestically and internationally, States do not function as instruments of their people, but are misappropriated by financial powers as their instruments over the people.  This holds true internally when they practise austerity to pay external debts, and it is true internationally in their behaviour at the UN.

This brings us back to the basic point: while the UN Charter proclaims the power of the peoples, this only relates to political power and not economic power.

We must never forget that the IMF, WB, WTO are not part of the United Nations framework.  While the UN launched a new era proclaiming the sovereignty of peoples, under universality and equality, the economic order was launched outside the Charter by the Bretton Woods agreement, creating IFIs, which are neither universal, nor equal. So we may describe this economic order as an “outlaw”!

Then comes the issue of Human Rights. At first the 1948 Universal Declaration concerned only civil and political rights. But after two decades, it appeared obvious that these rights could not be enjoyed without economic, social and cultural rights, leading to the Second Generation of Human Rights.

It is the same for the right to power.  The peoples have only had the First Generation and it is not enough.  It is meaningless without a Second Generation; economic power.

We should note that this truth was officially assumed at the UN in the context of the decolonisation process.  The peoples who won independence won new states, politically independent, but this political independence was worthless without economic independence.  Therefore the GA adopted the 1971 Resolution on the Right of Peoples to their Natural Resources. But it soon became apparent that this was ineffective in the face of the law of the global market.

So it must be clear that international law can be implemented and respected only in the context of an economic order that accords with the Charter.

Which Institutions are Required for a DNIEO?

This is the hardest but the most important task for lawyers; to conceive instrumentalities for putting international economic power in the hands of cooperating sovereign peoples.

It is a gigantic goal, but no more so than was the abolition of slavery.  Perhaps it will take decades, but what is important now is to acknowledge the necessity.  For example, why should medical drugs or food come under the authority of the WTO instead of WHO and FAO?  We need to define the ideal necessary structures to aim for, and the step-by-step measures along the way, as targets of the struggle of the Peoples using their political power as guaranteed by the Charter.

In aiming for this goal, the fruitful creativity of lawyers (and non-lawyers) is essential for, and must find a place at, such a conference.