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Jubilee Australia's Resource Centre

Economic Justice

How should we change the economic rules of the game to make them more fair for developing countries?

Even though we live in a globalised world, the actions of governments still matter. The actions of governments, either directly or through the institutions they control, can either improve or worsen economic injustice.

They do this by implementing rules that serve the needs of the most vulnerable people in developing countries. What sort of rules does this include?

First, it includes rules about lending and borrowing across borders, and rules about what to do when a sovereign states becomes bankrupt. These rules make up the sovereign debt regime. They are currently controlled mainly by the IMF and the World Bank.

Second, rules about what counts as aid and how aid money is spent. And rules which make it easier or harder for multinationals to avoid paying taxes to much-needed developing countries. These rules are mainly agreed at the OECD.

Third, rules about intellectual property across borders, and about the rights corporations have that do business in other countries, and about what countries can or cannot do to protect their vulnerable industries from outside competition. These rules used to be made at the WTO, but are now mainly done through regional and bilateral trade agreements.

It is governments who meet at the UN, who attend the G20, who meet at the OECD, who control the IMF and the World Bank. Governments also make decisions about what trade agreements to enter into (and which to avoid) and how to direct spending in their own aid programs.

The Australian Government can push for and adopt rules in these matters that help vulnerable groups and people, including those in our region, or hurt them. So what is it doing, and what needs to change?

The Australia Institute