Frequently asked questions
The following list of FAQ’s provides an overview about STWR as an organisation, and outlines some of the main queries and misconceptions that often arise in discussions on economic sharing.
Questions about the organisation:
- What are your aims and objectives as an organisation?
- How is STWR different to other organisations?
- Are you affiliated with any political, ideological or religious organisations?
- How are you funded?
Questions about economic sharing:
- Why does STWR advocate for sharing on a global basis?
- Should sharing be implemented voluntarily?
- Is sharing a new economic ideology?
- Is sharing another form of socialism or communism?
- Is it realistic for people to advocate for economic sharing as a solution to global crises?
- Can sharing and free market capitalism coexist?
- Is STWR calling for the establishment of a world government?
Questions about the organisation
We have two broad objectives as an organisation:
- To make a clear case for implementing economic sharing as a pragmatic solution to the multiple global crises that governments are currently failing to address. These include hunger, poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental destruction and conflict over the world’s natural resources.
- To mobilise a diverse movement of global citizens who agree on the need for a fairer and more equitable distribution of the world’s resources. As part of a growing worldwide movement for social and environmental justice, we aim to stimulate public debate and influence national and international policy discussions in line with the principles of sharing and cooperation.
To help achieve these goals, this website presents an overview of why it is necessary to share resources globally and how this could be achieved. An online statement outlines the need for a fairer distribution of wealth, power and resources both within and between nations, which can be endorsed by individuals and organisations who want to add their voice to the global call for economic sharing. The reports and articles we publish on our website provide further information and research about our organisational objectives and activties.
Policy solutions proposed by most organisations usually relate to a specific problem, a limited number of issues or purely national concerns. Share The World's Resources (STWR) does not seek to address any single issue or advocate for a specific set of policies or ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions. Through our website and activities we attempt to explicate how various forms of economic sharing can address the root causes of a broad range of major crises, from global inequality and climate change to resource wars.
Despite the failure of governments to deal with these and other pressing global issues, the crucial missing factor is a worldwide call for change that can unite citizens and civil society organisations on a common platform. Our aim is to show how the principle of sharing presents, in simple terms, a way forward that can help connect progressive campaigners and provide a practical tool for influencing political and economic reform, acting as both a guide for policymakers as well as a rallying platform for activists.
STWR is not associated with or funded by any political or religious organisations, nor any special interest groups. There are various other organisations advocating for sharing in one form or another, but STWR has no direct affiliation to any such groups.
STWR’s financial resources are provided entirely by private donations from individual supporters. We do not accept donations from profit-making organisations or special interest groups and all our funding is unrestricted, i.e. provided without any conditions as to how it should be utilised. This leaves STWR free to pursue its objectives without external influence or pressure.
If you would like to support us financially, please follow this link for more information or contact us by emailing info [at] sharing.org
Questions about economic sharing
Essentially, sharing is a simple process that is widely evident in the world around us and familiar to people of all nations. Hence it is not an idea that belongs to any one particular organisation or that applies exclusively to a specific issue. In a general sense, it is also not hard to see how economic sharing can be applied as a solution to a range of urgent global crises that the international community is currently failing to tackle.
The three broad areas that STWR focuses on in particular are global poverty and growing levels of inequality; climate change and the environmental crisis more broadly; and conflict over natural resources. The nature of these crises vary considerably and so do the range of solutions needed to address them comprehensively. However, it stands to reason that it will ultimately be impossible to address these interlocking issues unless we find ways of sharing wealth, power and resources more equitably and sustainably both within and between countries.
Given the breadth of the reforms needed to address the world's intractable problems, STWR is not calling for a new structural blueprint or a specific set of laws or policies for exactly how the international community should implement any process of economic sharing. The principle of sharing is an extremely versatile concept and we therefore seek to demonstrate the full range of policies that could embody economic sharing on both the national and global level, and explain how these policies could help address global crises.
There is an important role that sharing can play on a personal and voluntary level, and there are many examples of voluntary sharing that can be drawn upon (see list further down). However, economic sharing also relates to how resources are distributed within societies, and how nations promote social and economic justice and safeguard the environment. For this reason, any economic reforms guided by the principle of sharing need to be driven by governments and agreed on a democratic basis. This of course assumes that we are talking about democratically elected governments adopting such policies as part of their mandate. Our perception at STWR - as informed by the popular protests currently unfolding across the world - is that citizens will increasingly call on their governments to share wealth, power and resources more equitably.
Any new economic arrangements based upon the principle of sharing will require representative governments to act democratically and cooperatively in a bid to balance their national interests with the interests of people in all countries, which clearly makes a case for negotiating any such global reforms through the United Nations. Since global governance institutions are not currently working on behalf of humanity as a whole, there is also clearly a need for dramatic overhaul of the United Nations and other intergovernmental bodies (in particular the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO).
There remains an overriding tendency of policymakers to see the world through the lens of outmoded economic ideologies, which often leads to the generalisation that sharing is a form of socialism and is therefore anti-capitalist. This common misinterpretation occurs when people think in terms of existing ideological concepts, which only permits a narrow interpretation of what the principle of sharing really means in practice.
In fact, there are many different ways in which the principle of sharing manifests in the world around us and in our daily lives. For example, it is possible to describe sharing in such terms as:
- An observable principle in nature
- A predominant trait of human beings for which there is much scientific and anthropological evidence
- A common thread in spiritual and religious traditions
- A mode of social interaction that people in all countries engage in on a daily basis
Even these few examples may illustrate how sharing is a natural human behaviour, and it is high time that this simple principle was applied to our economic and political structures in response to meeting basic human needs. But it is not necessary to turn sharing into an ideological construct or conceptual framework that is accompanied by a specific set of policies or procedures. On the contrary, the principle of sharing holds the potential to act as a guide for political and economic reform based on the need to ensure a fair and sustainable distribution of resources, both nationally and globally. Unlike the current model of corporate globalisation that drives the world economy, the concept of economic sharing should not be seen as an alternative ‘one-size-fits-all' approach to trade and development.
The process of economic sharing is very different to the ideology of socialism or the practice of communism in the 20th Century. As outlined above, sharing is a universal principle in the human and natural world that, when related to political relations and economic systems, cannot be reduced to one specific set of policies or procedures. Unlike socialism or communism, it is also an inclusive concept that does not preclude the existence of forms of capitalism or other systems of economic organisation. Moreover, sharing is a pragmatic solution to the world’s problems as it must be implemented in response to the grave crises we face as a community of nations. Unlike the existing or past examples of socialism or communism, this means that an effective process of economic sharing must take place within a global as well as a national context.
These basic points may help to illustrate why the rationale for economic sharing is quite different to the ideological motivations of those adherents of socialist or purely market economics. It is also important to note how economic sharing is being promoted in many existing policy ideas that are not the outcome of a socialist or communist agenda. For example, we can understand economic sharing as:
- The basis of many community activities, cooperative business models and traditional forms of land management/trusteeship.
- The basis of all charitable giving and philanthropic activities.
- The principle behind redistributive tax systems and public spending on social welfare and essential services.
- The basis of international humanitarian and disaster relief, and Official Development Assistance (ODA).
- A key aspect of the Marshall Plan in the late 1940s, which was an effective exercise in cross-border economic sharing.
- Central to numerous UN treaties based on the ‘common heritage of mankind' precedent in international law.
It is difficult to argue that the above examples constitute forms of socialism or communism as they are so broad ranging and are all implemented within the existing market-based economic framework.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that neither pure capitalism nor socialism alone can provide lasting solutions to the world's problems. Humanity urgently needs to move beyond the rather restrictive ideologies of the past and embrace solutions that meet the needs of people in all nations without transgressing environmental limits - and this will be impossible without some degree of economic sharing.
Sharing political power more democratically, both within countries and globally, is a particularly important aspect of this transition. Whereas communism concentrated political power in the state and capitalism concentrates economic power in corporations and the ultra-wealthy, any process of economic sharing requires distributing both political and economic power more fairly among all citizens.
There are numerous examples of how economic sharing is already being advocated as a solution to both national and global crises, even if the concept of sharing is not readily discussed in economic and political terms. These include:
- The burgeoning number of popular campaigns across the world which are, to a greater or lesser extent, a call for sharing. This includes, for example: campaigns against tax avoidance and economic austerity, or public mobilisations that demand more spending on essential public services (i.e. the recent demonstrations in Brazil/the European anti-austerity movement/student protests against tuition fees, etc.); mass popular protests against inequality and for social and economic justice, including many of the Arab Spring protests, the Occupy movement, the Indignados, etc; or protests by indigenous people for protection of/equal rights to land and natural resources.
- The focus on the principle of equity in addressing climate change, which is one of the greatest stumbling blocks in climate change negotiations. Many progressive analysts argue for an equitable sharing of atmospheric and development space as the key to resolving the impasse in the global climate talks.
- The various proposals from within the ‘commons' movement to manage the world's resources as a trust, such as the Sky Trust as advocated by Peter Barnes or the proposals outlined by the Global Commons Trust.
- The call for a global social protection floor for all the world's poor that is being promoted by many agencies within the United Nations.
- The many campaigns for more aid, fairer trade and debt cancellation that are predicated on a fairer distribution of the world's resources.
These examples among many others also underline how sharing is not a radical or socialist idea but is rather a pragmatic solution to some of the world's most urgent problems. They also indicate how the concept of sharing is rapidly gaining relevance in policy circles, and is slowly beginning to grip the mass public consciousness.
Whereas economic sharing is clearly not an ideology, the economic model that prioritises the role of markets above all other forms of economic organisation has definitely come to be a powerful and very dominant ideology, particularly amongst economists and policymakers. As the multiple crises we face make clear, it is also one that has largely failed to address the social, economic, environmental and resource security needs of the planet as a whole.
There is a strong argument to be made for reigning in markets when they become too powerful and disconnected from everyday lives; when their negative social or environmental impacts outweigh their benefits to society; or when they benefit the few at the expense of the majority. This naturally requires regulation and government intervention in order to rebalance the excessive influence of market forces in society. On a national level, for example, this necessitates a rethinking of the ongoing privatisation of essential goods and services, as well as an urgent rethinking of the pursuit of economic growth as the main goal of policymaking. Similarly at the international level, drastic reforms to existing mechanisms of international trade and finance are needed if the poorest people are to be guaranteed access to the essentials of life as a human right. Among other reforms, this also necessitates rolling back the intellectual property rights regime, especially in relation to food and medicine.
Within a society based predominantly on free market economic principles, any such process of sharing or redistribution is likely to seem radical and may cause conflict and opposition from those who stand to lose the most from such changes. From this perspective, there is certainly a friction between policies that embody the principle of sharing and the functioning of free markets. But this friction is largely a consequence of the context within which economic sharing has to take place today, when the viability of our economies and societies hinges on the premise that we need to consume more, make more profit, accumulate more wealth and continually increase GDP. Many who defend the importance of free markets in society might consider interventions such as progressive taxation or other basic forms of economic sharing as being inimical to the purely market-based approach to distributing resources.
If the international community can rethink the basis of our economic systems and move towards a world where wealth, power and resources are shared more equitably and sustainably, there is no reason why market forces cannot continue to play a key role in society, albeit to a far lesser extent than is currently the case. Admittedly, co-creating a world where resources are shared on an international basis is a huge challenge that will constitute a great transition for humanity. The social upheavals and global crises we face are no doubt symptomatic of the difficulties involved in this transition - but they also point towards the growing need and demand for economic sharing in all its forms.
A world government is not a prerequisite for economic sharing to take place on a global scale, nor is it desirable to establish an overarching state body that centralises political power in a global institution. However, central to the process of reforming an unsustainable and highly competitive global economy is the establishment of democratic, inclusive and representative global governance systems. This has little to do with a world government; global governance bodies have been central to the way we organise the world economy since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945.
Although global regulatory oversight is essential for achieving social and environmental justice within a globalised economic system, todays dominant global governance institutions (such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organisation) are all widely criticised as being undemocratic, closely aligned to the interests of wealthy countries and global financial markets, and ideologically driven in their pursuit of a ‘neoliberal’, free market agenda.
As the preeminent debating chamber for the international community, the United Nations General Assembly could play a key role in reforming these institutions and establishing a more inclusive global governance framework. A reformed UN system could not only act as the forum for nations to negotiate new economic arrangements, but it could also oversee the establishment of truly democratic global governance institutions that facilitate a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources and the stewardship of the global commons.
Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon, flickr creative commons