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Justice and International Institutions


Britain has in recent years established a leadership position challenging the injustices of global poverty.


Delegates felt that justice was none negotiable and Britain should stand out more resolutely for justice in international agreements.


International Institutions should move to a more equitable distribution of power and control and to a more open and transparent decision making process.


Delegates were agreed that Britain had established a very valuable position of leadership internationally with respect to ‘International Development’, particularly through addressing the global problems of poverty and placing the injustice of poverty high on the political agenda. The government’s leadership role is illustrated by its new initiatives on and support of debt cancellation, increases in both the quantity and quality of aid programmes and the focus on poverty at the G8 summit in 2005. The importance of the UK’s position, in terms of influencing other affluent countries to aspire to meet similar levels of support, cannot be underestimated. 

Justice for the world’s poor is at the heart of and the driving force behind the campaigns and initiatives to tackle global poverty. In discussing the leadership issue the primary concern was that a leadership role demanded that issues of principle should not be compromised to expediency. Justice is not negotiable! Every time justice is compromised to achieve a political deal the integrity of the leadership is eroded. The consensus of the delegates was that Britain had the opportunity and the respect to insist on sustaining the core principles of justice, of speaking out and exposing injustices in international institutions. Delegates felt that Britain risked eroding its position of leadership every time it compromised its principles or tried to sustain hypocritical positions. In circumstances in which it proves impossible to negotiate a just agreement, Britain should not seek to pretend that it is just, but should set out clearly the areas of concern and scope for future improvement. The practice of presenting every agreement as a success and trying to gloss over the failures undermines the integrity of Britain’s position in standing up for justice. 

International Institutions

Globally justice rests in the hands of the many international institutions and multilateral bodies that have been established. Historically most of these institutions were established by an elite group of countries who dominated the economic and military bases of power, their structures and leadership were established to reflect that power base. In contrast, politically, much weight is given to the importance of democracy and universal suffrage, reflecting respect for the individual and the individual’s control of their own destiny. Some institutions have sought to distribute power more widely through their structure (for example the WTO is, at least in principle, based on consensus with every country carrying an equal vote). Nevertheless, either through the historic voting structures or through the abuse of political patronage, the majority of institutions are controlled by the world’s economic powers and the interests of developing countries are not adequately respected or influential.  

Delegates took the view that justice in international institutions would never be achieved whilst control and policy formulation is in the hands of elite countries who are able to exert their economic power in the decision-making process. The institutions need to be reformed to reflect the aspirations of all countries and to empower those in greatest need of global justice. To assist in the transformation, delegates felt that institutions needed to be more open and transparent, in both their appointments and their proceedings. Delegates looked to the British Government to show leadership in this reform, to promote the transfer of power to a more equitable basis and to facilitate and protect the interests of the less well developed economies.

Updated 23 September 2007   

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