In Global Peace Through The Global University System
2003 Ed. by T. Varis, T. Utsumi, and W. R. Klemm
University of Tampere, Hameenlinna, Finland
GLOBALISATION - THREATS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland
An address at the University for Peace in Costa Rica on 28 November 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Understanding globalisation is an essential key in order to make sense of today's world. Understanding the mechanism and complexity of globalisation and its impact on the conditions of our every-day life is equally important for all of us regardless of whether our postal address is Latin America, Costa Rica, Europe or Finland. Of course the complex nature of globalisation sets its own preconditions and challenges to the aim of making sense of globalisation and, furthermore, making sense of today's world. However, one shall not overestimate the power of a very common and often heard argument that globalisation is such a complex phenomenon that understanding its essence is impossible. On the contrary, the essence of globalisation can be comprehended. In my view, one fruitful starting point in understanding globalisation is to try to point out, identify and realise the possible threats and opportunities linked to it.
Although globalisation as a concept is rather new, in many senses it can be seen as a continuation of internationalisation and interdependence that has taken place already for hundreds of years. What has given a new impetus to the process of internationalisation is the development of new technologies, particularly information and communication technologies, which has multiplied its effects and presented us with vastly enhanced opportunities, but also new challenges. Globalisation is not only unavoidable but a process, which, on the whole, opens up more positive prospects than new threats. Internationalisation, deepening of the international division of labour and opening markets have been conducive to a more effective use of the limited resources governed by mankind, accelerated economic growth, and increased wealth and welfare of nations. However, one should also be aware of the fact that although globalisation creates a new type of political and economic interdependence and thus opens up paths for positive development in terms of wealth and prosperity, there are also threats that must be taken into consideration and dealt with.
The most important challenge related to globalisation is the fact that the increase of wealth and prosperity is being distributed more unequally than before, between and inside countries and regions as well as globally. This challenge is common to both the developing and developed countries and one, which also is of concern to us in Finland.
Furthermore, a growing number of people face complete marginalisation and risk ending up in abject poverty. If globalisation is allowed to increase inequality and marginalisation within our countries, it will also strengthen social polarity within societies. This polarity, in turn, can cause societal crisis or even armed conflicts. Needless to say that such patterns of development are definitely not in our interest.
It is also important to be aware of the fact that globalisation based on neo-liberal free-market values can intensify environmental damage. It can also be socially damaging, destroying sustainable communities and threatening established welfare systems, which can never be replaced by purely market-based solutions. It can also threaten core labour standards and weaken trade unions, as well as national and minority cultures.
What can then be done? I think a common approach is necessary. We live in a world where global market forces (even more threatening because of their anonymity) undermine or dilute the instruments we have historically employed to steer our economies and redistribute wealth. Globalisation thus poses a demand to develop strong new democratic policies and institutions for international and global governance. I am of the opinion that that international and global governance must be developed in the United Nations. The United Nations is the most universal forum for global governance. Therefore, it also should be one of the central actors in managing globalisation. In addition to actions on a global level, we must also recognize the importance of the regional level such as the European Union or the various integration projects taking place in North, Central and South America. In answering the many multinational challenges created by globalisation the role of cooperation between national governments will be growing - not diminishing. Therefore, global governance is about action both at universal and regional level.
It would be nice to be able to say that we have already established the institutions for global governance. Unfortunately many people see organisations such as the European Union or the World Trade Organisation as being the problem, rather than the solution. If voters are to be persuaded otherwise, it is necessary for these institutions to take a new direction. Their decisions and actions must show that they are helping to take us towards better and more equitable government of the global forces now re-shaping our world.
Against this background, I am delighted that as a result of WTO-summit in Doha the next round of new negotiations will put special emphasis on development issues. The outcome of the next round can be considered a success only if it can be rightly called the Development Round. In the case of the WTO, of course lots of work remains to be done, lots of issues remains to be solved, but important is that direction is right - towards better global governance.
It is imperative that we work hard to bridge the increasing gap between the politics of representative democracy and international organisations on the one hand, and the perceptions of our electorates regarding our ability and will to deliver results on the other.
In this respect it is not enough to arrange well-intentioned dialogues, on the one hand, between the governing institutions (the European Commission or Parliament, the WTO, the World Bank) and "civil society" (NGOs, trades unions, activist groups) and, on the other hand, between "North" and "South." This kind of dialogue is still based on a "Them and Us" dichotomy.
Instead, we need to bring back the undivided "We" into politics and decision-making at all levels. This has to be the shared responsibility of social movements and political parties, not just governments and institutions. It goes without saying that the undivided "We" must refer to all of us whether living in North or South.
Globalisation is obviously not only about threats, but it is also about opportunities. One opportunity or rather challenge related to globalisation, which I wish to raise is the question of human rights. Globalisation has vastly increased the possibility for freedom of speech and expression to bloom. It has opened access to new communication technologies which repressive governments can no longer censor or control. It is now more difficult for perpetrators to cover-up violations of human rights, and for others to ignore such repression without reacting. Therefore, it can be argued that globalisation has increased the transparency of all human action. In the case of human rights this is an enormous achievement.
Another positive outcome of globalisation is the increase of multiculturalism. More effective communication technologies have improved our knowledge of different cultures, countries and peoples. Internationalisation and multiculturalism have positive impact on the functioning of societies regardless of their geographical location. Multiculturalism is thus an opportunity, not a threat.
The respect of cultural diversity and human rights are a fundamental basis for stability and security. A great number of local and regional conflicts arise from an environment characterised by human rights violations, ethnic disputes or repression of minorities. The promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law functions as a mechanism to prevent conflicts. The same is true with post-conflict peace-building. The respect of human rights is one of the most important basis for finding a sustainable solution to actual and potential conflicts.
In promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, education plays a significant role. The importance of education in all societal action both locally and globally is indisputable. As we are gathered here at the University for Peace, I wish to emphasize that today the demand for higher education has been growing enormously in the world as a whole as part of the creation of a global "knowledge society." The strengthening of universities and higher education in the Third World is part of the process of creating more equitable basis for the fair participation in and access to globalisation by the Third World. The universities have an ethical duty to contribute to the social and economic development of the diverse societies, which compose concrete humanity. Areas of research and training should not be determined by the political, economic and scientific elites of rich countries only but by the interests of peoples in the world as a whole in the spirit of the United Nations.
Such an aim towards equality together with the respect of diversity and human rights is key to a better future - both locally and globally. In Finland, our human rights policy has focused, among others, on the promotion of the rights of minorities. It is essential that minority groups can participate in the decision-making concerning their own affairs. In my view, this principle should be carefully kept in mind when discussing globalisation. The point here is that people can participate in decision-making.
At the moment, however, it seems that many people feel that globalisation is about forces and events out of their control, beyond their reach. In other words, many see that they have no possibilities to influence on the decision-making and that the important decisions shaping their lives are made in secret cabinets to which the entrance is denied. Democracy threatens to lose its legitimacy unless it is capable of responding also and expressly to the challenges of globalisation, which have undermined the possibilities of national governments to steer the development of the economy and societies by political means so as to meet people's expectations. This is an important challenge that we must face in order to manage properly the complexity of globalisation.
The identification of threats and opportunities of globalisation is still in process, although the discussion has continued already almost twenty years. In fact, the speed of the globalisation process has been so rapid that traditional politics and democracy have not been able so far to guide the process. In many senses the ordinary citizens as well as states lack the proper means to govern globalisation and to create common rules for its development. It is indeed important that ordinary citizens feel that globalisation is somewhat under control and that the possible threats could be prevented or at least mitigated.
However, one thing is certain. In order to guide globalisation onto the right track, the efforts of international organisations and national governments as well as civil society are needed. Therefore I wish to challenge each one of us - whether living, for instance in, Costa Rica or Finland - into a more constructive and open discussion on globalisation. Together the proper management of the complexity of globalisation is possible. Therefore, let us speak about "We" rather than "Us" and "Them."
Author Biographical Sketch
Dr. Erkki Tuomioja
Minister for Foreign Affairs
00161 Helsinki, Finland
Dr. Erkki Tuomioja is the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland (from 2000 to present) and was the Minister of Trade and Industry (from 1999 to 2000). Member of parliament Social-Democratic Party 1970-79 and from 1991- present; Vice-Chairman of the SDP parliamentary group 1991-96, Chairman 1996-99; Chairman of the Grand (European Affairs) Committee 1995-99; Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee 1970-79, 1991-99.
Erkki Tuomioja worked as a journalist before being elected to parliament. He was Deputy Mayor in Helsinki 1979-91. He has a Ph.D. in political science, B.Sc. in economics and holds a lectureship in political history in the University of Helsinki.
Erkki Tuomioja is author of 18 books, including Europe and the Nordic Fringe written in English and published in 1991.