Observatory on Debt in Globalization
The Observatory on Debt in Globalization (ODG) is a centre for research into North-South relations and the generation of debt between communities contracted as part of the current process of globalisation. It takes a multi-disciplinary approach to studying the mechanisms associated with the financial debt (foreign debt) owed by the poorest countries on the Periphery of the economic system, to the countries in the Centre, and, in particular, to the Spanish State and the European Union.
At the same time it also studies the other forms of “foreign debt” contracted by the Centre countries and owed to the countries on the Periphery, such as ecological debt, historical debt and social debt. It is currently expanding its activities to include other spheres of what we call anti-cooperation, meaning those transnational processes and mechanisms that, within the framework of international relations, generate negative impacts in the Global South. One line of work in which the ODG has considerable experience is the study of the dynamics and impacts of Spanish transnational capital in Latin America and the Caribbean.
ODG has been an advisor to both the Spanish and Catalan Parliaments on external responsibilities during the shaping of the Debt Law, the Environmental Responsibility Law, the reform of FAD loans into the new FIEM/FONPRODE laws and the Catalan “Conservation of Biodiversity and the Natural Environment Law”. It has also produced notable publications tackling the impacts of Spanish investments in Latin America and the Caribbean, finance policies linked to the internationalisation of Spanish business, specially on the Spanish ECA, CESCE, and the mechanisms that generate both financial and ecological debt. ODG works stronly with the state-wide campaign on Debt “Who owes who?” (QdQ according to its Spanish acronym), and is active also in 20 networks at the Spanish and international level.
What are ODG's aims?
The Observatory aims to be both a tool and a dynamic. As a tool, through the web, published documentation and news, it collects together, systematically organises and analyses the most important political events and the discourses of the most important actors responsible for the problem of external financial debt and other North-South debts. The main framework for this is vigilant monitoring of the Spanish State and the private sector in the process of globalisation. As a dynamic its role is one of coordination and of encouraging strategic activities such as the real time monitoring of the political decisions related to the debt taken by State institutions; applied research into the impacts of those policies in the South; the organisation of seminars, training courses and self-training; the publication of articles, reports and awareness raising books in a variety of different media; and, finally, connecting the universities with the emerging critical social movements and the NGOs.
The subjects of this monitoring will principally be the Spanish government, the Spanish transnationals, Spanish merchant banking, the political parties of the Spanish Parliament, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), and the administrations of the countries of the Periphery. In addition, we will analyse the impacts of the policies designed by these actors on the world's populations and their immediate environment. Finally the alternatives proposed by the world's organised civil societies will be taken into account.
These systematic processes, among which we find the enormous flow of capital that is expatriated from the Periphery to the Centre as a result of foreign financial debt, have a decisive effect on the everyday lives of all the citizens of the Global South. This often escapes our notice. Building awareness of this situation and uniting it with an understanding of the impacts, and a rewriting of the arguments is, today more than ever, vital for those who suffer hunger or are marginalised by the system. We, the social movements, the critical NGOs, the political parties of the opposition and other sensitive political actors, urgently need new instruments for research and the social monitoring of the main actors in globalization, in order to do our job better. This is why we believe an instrument like the Observatory is necessary. It can quickly provide some of the analysis and documented proof of the disconcerting democratic deficits of this globalisation, whenever the need arises.
Who are we and where are we coming from?
The ODG is a project born in 2000 as an initiative of the Citizens' Network for the Abolition of the External Debt (RCADE by its Spanish initials), following the Social Consultation on the Abolition of the External Debt. The ODG emerged from the need for immediate access to accurate, rigorous and critical information in order to support our trainings, awareness raising and lobbying activities. Since its beginnings it has been housed by and received the support of the UNESCO Chair on Sustainability at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC). We continue to work from there today, developing a large part of the research we do. In 2004 the “Observatory on Debt in Globalisation Network” (XODG) was created as an association to facilitate the tasks of training, public condemnation and the creation of political pressure.
The ODG team is made up of aheterogeneous network of people who work and collaborate on the Observatory's different areas of activity (research, training, awareness raising and the creation of political pressure) and thematic axes. This network is an open space, welcoming all those who can and want to contribute their grain of sand to meeting ODGs aims and objectives.