The price of failure at today’s G20 summit would be “beyond catastrophic”, anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof warned today.
If the leaders of the world’s most powerful economies do not agree measures today to protect the poorest countries from depression, they could usher in a new era of global disorder, said the LiveAid founder who has become one of the foremost advocates of global justice on aid and trade.
Geldof said that the sums needed to protect developing countries from the worst ravages of the global economic downturn were dwarfed by the billions being poured by the rich world into shoring up its own banks.
While he applauded the actions of demonstrators who have taken to the streets of London over the past two days to protest against the excesses of the banks, Geldof said they needed to recognise that globalisation was a reality and the route out of poverty for hundreds of millions of people was the restoration of economic expansion and trade.
“The price of failure is beyond comprehension,” Geldof told reporters at the ExCeL centre.
“The price of failure is existential, which is why maybe today there won’t be this race to the commonly-agreed reductionist bottom line of national interst that normally happens.
“Normally in summits you get a nice agreement but nobody takes it seriously. We had better take it very seriously indeed.”
He warned that the erection of protetionist trade barriers by rich countries would have spillover effects increasing instability around the globe.
Protectionism would deny developing countries income from trade, sparking mass unemployment and extreme deprivation which could cause unrest and put immense pressure on their governments to resort to force to defend their positions.
“A retreat into protectionism is a retreat to militarism and national bankruptcy,” said Geldof. “We will ruin countries and in their ruin they will strike out. That is what happens.
“We require the exact opposite of protectionism. We require expansionism. Where can we expand into and take part in trade? The great triumph of the 21st century is the lifting of 400 million people in China out of extreme poverty through trade.
“What is significant about this crisis is the lack of trade. It has shut down and we are losing jobs.”
He added: “It’s quite right that there are thousands of people protesting about bankers sticking their noses in the trough while regulators looked the other way and governments smiled as the tax take grew.
“But the truth is that they may as well protest against themselves, because we sucked on the tit of free money and the bloated bubble that burst was us.”
In a globalised world, defending the interests of the poor is now in the self-interest of rich nations, said Geldof.
“If we are to have a proper lifestyle for ourselves and our kids we need to understand that globalisation is not some abstraction. It is a reality. Global inter-connectedness is not going away. It requires co-operation.
“Looking strictly to the national interest is impossible, reductionist, unnecessary. Global co-operation must be the political paradigm for the 21st century or else watch out for the new global disorder.”