2004 Globalisation

Globalisation something to welcome and to enjoy?

The question of this first plenary debate can not be answered without at least some clarity and common understanding about the definition of globalisation. I borrow the definition that I found at the website of this festival: Globalisation is the process of increasing integration on global level. A rather formal one without moral qualifications.

Coffee-cooperatives in Honduras and Guatemala welcome globalisation as a possibility to work together with fair trade partners and getting a fair price for their production instead of being dependent of middle-men who are exploiting them.

Small farmers in Northern Brazil will curse globalisation because they are evicted from their small plots in order to make space for big soja-farms to feed United States and European cattle.

Human rights activists in Nigeria welcome globalisation as a way of getting international support for Amina Lawal to obstruct the death penalty verdict by the sharia-court.

Bio-diversity activist in Zambia are cursing globalization for not safeguarding their property-rights on domestic varieties and the threat of imports of gmo’s.

IT-professionals in Mumbai, sweatshopworkers in the sportswear business, women’s activists in South Africa, cotton-farmers in Burkina Faso. All of them are affected by globalisation but in different ways and with different appreciation.

Globalisation is about people: even at the individual level it should have a meaningful contribution to someone’s life. At the Mundial Festival last week-end in Tilburg Cordaid gave visitors the opportunity to chat with schoolchildren in Cape Town and street-children in Vijayawada in India. Parents of a school in The Hague send letters and postcards to grandmothers in South-Africa to support them in their responsibility for their grandchildren, who are orphans because of the Aids-pandemic.

Globalisation is about countries and multilateral institutions, about agreements to fight poverty (like the Millennium Development Goals; MDG’s) and commitments – financially and politically – to succeed them. But what we see is that an initiative of the Dutch minister of Development Cooperation to broaden up the criteria for development aid for financing military interventions can cause on a worldwide scale a strong pollution of development aid.

I want to make two critical comments on globalisation,

The first one is that it doesn’t include the informal sector. Globalisation concentrates at formal economic and financial relations. There is a gap between the formal and the informal layers in global discussions. And most of the poor are involved in the informal sector. It is not enough to claim that the solution of globalisation at the formal level will create the conditions for the informal sector to improve. When we don’t include the poor and their informal arrangements, globalisation will stay a upper class discussion. Let’s look for example at the urban sector. By itself it is related to globalisation. Millions of poor are living their, fighting to survive and to participate. One of our Cordaid-partners Shack Dwellers International, active in improvement of urban livelihood, is a good example of an international movement that brings together a lot of local and nation shack dwellers organisations, and develops a variety of participatory strategies to get people involved. A global grass-root organisation of the informal sector, whose voice should be heard more often and louder in the globalisation-arena.

My second comment is that globalisation has become an overarching theme in development. It sometimes create the  picture of good guys and bad guys: the rich countries of the world being the perpetrators and the poor countries of the world being the victims, depending on concessions the northern countries want to grant to them. And it creates the impression that the solution of injustice and inequality in the world lies in the Northern hemisphere: if they only should change the rules of the globalising economy ….. The globalisation-debate must be linked to the empowerment-issue. Without a stronger developing world – stronger on all levels – there will be no global balance. The example of the develop[ping countries in Cancun standing firmly together against the pressure of the United States and the European Union and the success of Brazil in the cotton-case at the WTO, makes clear that developing countries can play a key-role in change. David can defeat Goliath.

This position on globalisation is influenced by the four principles of the catholic social teaching:

  • The principle of the common goods, which states that the goods of the earth belong to the human community as a whole. Sharing the richness of the earth should be the basis of globalisation
  • The principle of subsidiarity which means that we should not bring responsibilities on a higher level than necessary: what can be ruled and regulated on national level should not be dealt with on the international. In the process of globalisation too many issues are defined as subject of international regulations. The autonomy of national en regional governments has eroded without necessity.
  • The principle of solidarity that we should support those who are in need and who are in a deprived position. Globalisation should recognize that the developing world needs our solidarity before they should be submitted to a full fledge competition.
  • The principle that every man and women, whoever she is, wherever she lives and whatever she does, is known and loved by God: everyone counts and can make a difference.

Globalisation is too important to leave it in the hands of bankers, economists and politicians. It’s in everyone’s hand. We have to make choices or to participate in choices and to influence them. As a consumer, as a voter, as a employee, as member of a church.

As this festival puts it: Everyone is a world leader.