Ethics, Actors, and Global Economic Architecture

Jun 9, 1999

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In light of the recent crises in the global economy, the reform of global economic architecture has become a dominant concern of international public policy. Many have criticized the system of rules that govern the current world economy, arguing that they prevent some peoples and countries from achieving economic growth while allowing others to prosper. Further, some have pointed out that when and where economic growth has in fact occurred, it has generally led to greater inequality. Thus both the success and, more recently, the failures of the current global economic system – and globalization more generally – have given rise to social justice concerns.

In an effort to address the issue of social justice in the world economy, the Carnegie Council held a workshop on Ethics, Actors, and Global Economic Architecture at the Pocantico Conference Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund on June 3-5, 1999. The workshop brought together scholars and representatives of international organizations (IOs), national governments, the business sector, trade unions, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The workshop gave participants an opportunity to examine the perceptions of and priorities for social justice from their vantage point as actors involved in globalization. While this meeting focused on the perspectives of actors in North America (the United States, Canada, and Mexico), future workshops will present views on globalization in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

Each participant (representing an "actor group") was asked the following questions:

  1. What does the actor perceive to be the problems of social justice, in the globalization context?

  2. What are the actor’s goals regarding social justice/social responsibility?

  3. What does the actor believe are the opportunities and challenges of the current global economic architecture vis-à-vis the social good?

  4. How would the actor suggest changing the incentives of the present global economic architecture in order to realize the actor’s goals for social justice/social responsibility?

The aim of this series of questions was to examine the values of each actor as they related to both globalization and social justice/social responsibility.

Five key points emerged from the workshop:

  1. there is a growing number of actors involved in the globalized economy and in the pursuit of social justice; of particular note is the rise of NGOs;

  2. Economic actors are increasingly interdependent, creating complexity but offering scope for new relationships between government, business, and interest groups on issues of social justice;

  3. Global economic actors may need to rethink the appropriate division of labor in the world economy, to ensure positive social outcomes;

the capacity of actors, particularly state actors, has changed, with profound consequences for the achievement of social justice goals; and

All actors now need to address issues of legitimacy in their global economic activities.

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