Humanizing Globalization

By Lamy, Pascal | International Trade Forum, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Humanizing Globalization


Lamy, Pascal, International Trade Forum


We need to address the "double face" of globalization and work towards sustainable economic and social development for all people.

More and more people demand that we "humanize" globalization. In rich and poor countries, there is a widely-held perception that globalization has negative effects on some individuals. Increasingly, the public is of the view that we cannot ignore these effects.

What is globalization?

Globalization is a fundamental transformation in societies that is enabling individuals, corporations and states to influence actions around the world - faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before. Like the industrial revolution of the 19th century, today's technological revolution is rapidly recombining economic and social forces worldwide. The effects of globalization are clear to see in trade, but they go beyond. Globalization has pared back many barriers and has the potential to expand freedom, democracy, innovation and social and cultural exchanges while offering outstanding opportunities for dialogue and understanding.

But some very worrisome phenomena are also a product of globalization: the scarcity of energy resources; the deterioration of the environment and resultant natural disasters; the spread of pandemics; the growing interdependence of economies and financial markets and the ensuing complexity of analysis, forecasts and predictability; and the migratory movements provoked by insecurity, poverty or political instability.

It can be argued that in some instances, globalization has reinforced the strong and further weakened the already weak. It is this double face of globalization that we must address if we want to humanize it. To do this, we need to "reform" globalization, by putting more emphasis on sustainable economic and social development for all people.

Nobody would dispute that there is a widening gap between the scale of global challenges, such as the environment, pandemics and others described above, and traditional ways of working out solutions. A notion of individual powerlessness and of political constraints upon governments is one striking consequence of this gap. And it is eroding trust in national systems of governance and weakening people's legitimate hopes of being able to influence their future, both of which are crucial for the sustainability of democratic systems.

Yet it is not globalization that creates this feeling of anxiety, but rather the absence of means to tackle the effects of globalization appropriately. To address global challenges we need more governance at the global level.

Global governance can help society achieve its common purpose with equity and justice. Our growing interdependence requires that our laws, our social norms and values, and other mechanisms for framing human behaviour - family, education, culture and religion, to name but a few - be examined, understood and brought together as coherently as possible to ensure collective and effective sustainable development.

Towards a "world community"

To support the interdependence of our world, we need, in my view, at least three elements:

* First, we need common values. Values allow our feeling of belonging to a world community to coexist alongside national specificities. A debate about collective values, regional or universal, then becomes a necessity. This debate on shared values may allow us to define the common goals or benefits that we would like to promote and defend together on a global scale. These collective values provide the basis for world governance.

* Second, we need actors with sufficient legitimacy to raise public interest in the debate, who can take responsibility for its outcome and who can be held accountable. We must also ensure that the collective interests of all people are taken into account in our management of international relations and in the way we operate our regional and global systems of values, rights and obligations.

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