Wednesday, December 12, 2012

If you were an international organization with 50 billion dollars over 4 years, which human problems would you address?

I watched the speech by Bjorn Lomborg and took interest in how the largest world problems were ranked by the Copenhagen Consensus according to the cost efficiency of addressing those problems, and the fact that climate change was ranked near the bottom of the list. As Bjorn instructs his audience, I followed instructions and choose my areas to invest the hypothetical 50 billion dollars. As an IO, the three areas I selected to address were: the 800 million people starving, the 2 billion people lacking sanitation, and the 140 million illiterate adults. Why did I select these areas over the other problem areas? I felt as with the hypothetically provided economic assistance in these areas that the nation-state governments being assisted could possibly regulate the humanitarian efforts on prevention and treatment, instead of allowing foreign capital investment to infringe into the equation offering short-term solutions that would create more debt, strip natural resources and cause even worse levels of the existing problems in the long term.

I agreed with Lomborg and the Copenhagen Consensus that prevention is more cost efficient and advantageous for the future in these problem areas than treatment, but looking at the top 4 ‘best problems’ that the panel of economists found to address (HIV/AIDS, Malnutrition, Free Trade and poverty, and Malaria), I could not help but struggle to think of ways to keep the private sector out:

HIV/AIDs: Perhaps prevention techniques may help somewhat, but the private sector owns the medical equipment and technologies, the production and capital to mass produce required medicines, and contraceptive technologies.

Malnutrition and Poverty (free trade): we have already studied how the IMF, World Bank and WTO have the capitalist global system on lock down. These international partners will not help a nation-state unless loan conditions clear a path for private sector investment profits and the stripping of natural resources are part of the deal. If you are not a member of these hegemonic IOs and IGOs, you are left isolated in the global cold.

Malaria: Again the private sector has a monopoly on most medical technologies and poverty stricken nation-states do not have the capital to build hospitals or obtain technology (unless they receive international loans with conditions).

The realistic truth is that 50 billion dollars over a four year period is not going to make much positive change as long as the United States is issuing out between 52 to 60 billion dollars in “so-called” aid across the globe to achieve and protect political and economic interests. Foreign aid is not only conducted in this manner by the U.S., it is also conducted by members of the European Union and the members of the UN Security Council to protect their nation-state interests. As an IO, you could do your best to invest the 50 billion dollars in humanitarian causes for the future of the planet, but with the global, political and economic hegemon of the United Nations security council member states unchallengeable, as soon as those humanitarian efforts began to conflict with privatized international capital interests or political government alliances (which could come in many forms: protection of GDP and domestic exports, influence on member states from domestic or international corporations or organizations, protection of regional military hegemonies, or endless other political/economic possibilities), your efforts will more than likely be blocked from success, economically strangled or out-funded, slandered within the international public perspective, condemned, or outlawed internationally by a UN resolution). To do the most humanitarian good for the most inexpensive cost within the international global system, it would be most productive to spend the 50 billion dollars in an area where there are no capital interests involved at all (if that is even possible).

Copenhagen Consensus Project Website. (Accessed on December 12, 2012 from

Lomborg, Bjorn. Global Priorities Bigger Than Climate Change. (Accessed on December 12, 2012 from

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