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Global Economy > Can Globalization 'Go Social'?

Better globalization through
the eyes of the people

The World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization was established at the International Labor Organization to address some of the challenges in making “the world safer, fair, ethical, inclusive and prosperous for the majority, not just for a few, within countries and between countries.” In the 21-member commission’s first report, Co-Chairs Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, and Benjamin William Mkapa, President of Tanzania, explain why the time to do so is now.

Currently, globalization is a divisive subject. It verges on a dialogue of the deaf, both nationally and internationally. Yet the future of our countries, and the destiny of our globe, demands that we all rethink globalization. This report is timely. The debate is changing. Old convictions and ideologies have been tested by experience, and changed by example. People are open to a fresh start. Now is the time for leadership, to move from sterile debate to positive action.

FIGURE 1:
• GDP per capita in the poorest and the richest countries

FIGURE 2:
• GDP per capita in the poorest and the richest countries

We…have looked at globalization through the eyes of the people, rising above our constituencies and capturing faithfully the hopes and fears of our shared humanity. Many recognize the opportunities for a better life that globalization presents. We believe their hopes are realizable, but only if globalization is subjected to better governance at all levels. More people than ever before do not want to be left behind by the globalization train; but they want to be sure where it is heading, and that it is traveling at a survivable speed.

Our driving spirit has been to make globalization a positive force for all people and countries. We propose no panaceas or simple solutions; instead we suggest a new perspective.

We believe the dominant perspective on globalization must shift more from a narrow preoccupation with markets to a broader preoccupation with people. Globalization must be brought from the high pedestal of corporate boardrooms and cabinet meetings to meet the needs of people in the communities in which they live. The social dimension of globalization is about jobs, health and education—but it goes far beyond these. It is the dimension of globalization which people experience in their daily life and work: the totality of their aspirations for democratic participation and material prosperity. A better globalization is the key to a better and secure life for people everywhere in the 21st century.

We also propose a process by which such a perspective can be realized at all levels, beginning with empowered local communities and improved and more accountable national governance; fair global rules applied fairly; and global institutions that are more pro-people.

We propose a series of actions—each small in themselves. Yet taken together they will set in train a process to achieve this goal by stimulating and energizing the networks of people and ideas and the economic and social interactions of globalization itself. We seek a process of globalization with a strong social dimension based on universally shared values, and respect for human rights and individual dignity; one that is fair, inclusive, democratically governed and provides opportunities and tangible benefits for all countries and people.

To this end we call for:

• A focus on people. The cornerstone of a fairer globalization lies in meeting the demands of all people for: respect for their rights, cultural identity and autonomy; decent work; and the empowerment of the local communities they live in. Gender equality is essential.

• A democratic and effective State. The State must have the capability to manage integration into the global economy, and provide social and economic opportunity and security.

• Sustainable development. The quest for a fair globalization must be underpinned by the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of economic development, social development and environmental protection at the local, national, regional and global levels.

• Productive and equitable markets. This requires sound institutions to promote opportunity and enterprise in a well-functioning market economy.

• Fair rules. The rules of the global economy must offer equitable opportunity and access for all countries and recognize the diversity in national capacities and develop-mental needs.

• Globalization with solidarity. There is a shared responsibility to assist countries and people excluded from or disadvantaged by globalization. Globalization must help to overcome inequality both within and between countries and contribute to the elimination of poverty.

• Greater accountability to people. Public and private actors at all levels with power to influence the outcomes of globalization must be democratically accountable for the policies they pursue and the actions they take. They must deliver on their commitments and use their power with respect for others.

• Deeper partnerships. Many actors are engaged in the realization of global social and economic goals—international organizations, governments and parliaments, business, labor, civil society and many others. Dialogue and partnership among them is an essential democratic instrument to create a better world.

• An effective United Nations. A stronger and more efficient multilateral system is the key instrument to create a democratic, legitimate and coherent framework for globalization.

Excerpted from the Preface and Introduction to “A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All,” published by the International Labor Organization in February 2004.