Toward a "Social Foreign Policy" with Asia: The Relevance of Social Problems to International Affairs & Challenges of Globalization

Jun 5, 1998

Human Rights Dialogue (1994–2005): Series 1, Number 11 (Summer 1998)

Globalization poses four major challenges that will have to be addressed by governments, civil society, and other policy actors.

  • One is to ensure that the benefits of globalization extend to all countries. That will certainly not happen automatically.
  • The second is to deal with the fear that globalization leads to instability, which is particularly marked in the developing world.
  • The third challenge is to address the very real fear in the industrial world that increased global competition will lead inexorably to a race to the bottom in wages, labor rights, employment practices, and the environment.
  • And finally, globalization and all of the complicated problems related to it must not be used as excuses to avoid searching for new ways to cooperate in the overall interest of countries and people.

Several implications for civil society, for governments and for multinational institutions stem from the challenges of globalization.

  • Civil society organizations concerned with development have traditionally focused on aid and resource transfers; they now are going to have to broaden their agenda to deal with the much more complex issues of trade and investment, international financial flows, environment, and migration, among others. Civil society organizations in the old industrial countries also will have to deal with the backlash against global ization, which is producing a growing unwillingness to support multilateral cooperation.
  • Governments are going to have to decide what they mean by “civil society” and to identify new ways of dealing with its organizations. At the Overseas Development Council, we define civil society broadly to encompass not only development and advocacy groups, but also corporations, financial institutions, think tanks, foundations, and a range of other groups that are not part of government. But governments and other actors need to decide whether civil society is simply an effective—and even cheap—way of delivering social programs, or whether it is good in and of itself, an essential component of a democratic society. In other words, they are going to have to be much more precise about the purposes of working with civil society groups and about how they fund them.
    Then, there is a whole set of critical questions for the multilateral institutions, particularly concerning participation and transparency. These issues are extremely difficult because these remain governmental institutions, and governments often do not welcome the participation of civil society in decisions.
  • Finally, there is a need for high-level political discussions among leaders from the old industrial countries, the emerging economies, and the countries that risk marginalization by globalization. We are urging the Group of Eight this year in London to call for a new summit on globalization in order to begin a discussion of maximizing its benefits and minimizing its costs.

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