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Rethinking Globalization: Nirvana or Armageddon? Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Andi, Indonesia Aug 29, 2005
Human Rights , Culture , Global Citizenship   Opinions
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Globalization remains a paradox in our world today. It brings about dramatic economic growth and advancement of technology, but at the same time also causes unprecedented human and ecological problems. Anthony Giddens (1999) describes this situation as being like a runaway "juggernaut" with all of us being trapped in it - neither able to control the course nor stop it. We may become wealthier and have a better life, but we also suffer from the "manufactured risks" like new diseases and computer viruses. As a result of globalization, foreign trade and investment have grown dramatically. Inequality remains and the gap both within and between rich and poor countries continue to widen.

In 1960, one fifth of the world's people who live in the richest countries had thirty times more income than the fifth living in the poorest countries. By 1997, this income gap had more than doubled to 74:1. One-fifth of the world's people live in the high-income countries that have 86 percent of the world's gross domestic product (GDP), whereas the poorest fifth received only 1 percent (UNDP, 2002). Over US $1.5 trillion is exchanged every day in currency markets around the world. About 95 percent of this total represents speculative transactions that fail to benefit the world's poorest countries. The real beneficiaries of globalization seem to be the transnational corporations. Of the top 100 companies, 51 are transnational corporations. The combined sales of the world's top 200 companies surpass the combined economies of 182 countries (Hertz, 2001). It is clear that since globalization has both positive and negative consequences on the development of societies, it has become a constitutive factor. It is a result of and at the same time also a source of change.

Globalization is an irreversible process and therefore it hardly makes sense to adopt a defensive approach in combating this phenomenon. What is much more important is the creation and further refinement of operative and institutional tools. This does not mean that in order to accept globalization as a "force majeure" that we are entirely at the mercy of, but rather to articulate that we can control it more efficiently by defining a democratic and humane form of global governance.

Over the past thirty years there have been 2 billion people added to the world's population, mostly in developing countries, and with this growth comes substantial gains in human welfare. This included the cutting in half of the infant mortality rate in low and middle income countries from 11 percent of live births to 6 percent, illiteracy among adults fell from 47 percent to 25 percent and for women it fell from 57 percent to 32 percent. Real per capita income (in population-weighted 1995 dollars) rose from $989 in 1980 to $1,354 in 2000.

Some social and environmental trends associated with past development strategies in the majority of countries are not sustainable. There are still 1.2 billion people living on less than $1 a day. The average income in the richest 20 countries is 37 times that in the poorest 20. This ratio has doubled in the past 40 years, mainly due to the lack of growth in the poorest countries. More than a billion people in low and middle-income countries do not have access to safe water and 2 billion do not have adequate sanitation, subjecting them to avoidable disease and premature death (WB, 2002).

In Indonesia, absolute poverty (those who live with less than $2 a day) was reduced to 16 percent of population, and only 12 percent of the population above 15 years old is illiterate. Although this might be seen as an improvement it is important that we do not forget that infant mortality still touches 31 per 1,000 live births, child malnutrition affects 25 percent of the total number of children under 5 years and access to improved water sources is only available to 78 percent of the population. How should we understand this situation? And how should we place the people -- all humankind -- within the dynamics of globalization?

In order for us to clearly understand this phenomenon, it is important for us to understand the fundamentals. In order to discuss globalization we need to talk about the consequential impacts of business and financial power on society. The reason is clear: all empirical evidence shows that the present character of globalization in cultural, social or political aspects stands on the massive expansion of business and financial power. The fact that it involves the exercise of power does not mean that globalization is inherently "bad" since the problem is not the presence or absence of the power (for that is a constant factor in life), but rather the way the power is used. The issue surrounding globalization is not about being "pro" or "anti". It is about how one identifies the consequential powers involved in globalization and then how one devises accountability movements aimed at those socially consequential powers. In practice this is closely related to what we understand as development.

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Iam a one of Indonesian young peoples has always been worry about condition my country in face with globalization and poverty, Iam a former activist student 1998, when falling down President Soeharto because my activity with student movement made me drop out from university, iam only get a diploma college from trisakti university, Jakarta. my activity now is given a education and empowerment for peasent and poor peoples, interfaith dialogue and be a speakers at students training.
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