Globalization’s Good News, October 2000

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© Hazel Henderson, October, 2000
(1012 Words)

Globalization’s Good News

Prague, Europe’s architectural gem, crossroads of many cultures, is also a mecca of creativity and futuristic dialogue – thanks to the Czechs’ playwright President, Vaclav Havel. Prague buzzed with controversies between Czechs and Austrians over the start-up of the Temelin nuclear reactor – while the strains of the New Orleans Dixieland Jazz Band in the old town square rang in my ears. The fourth Forum 2000, hosted by Havel, brought a fresh array of leaders, Nobel prize winners and eclectic thinkers to continue the Forum’s dialogues on globalization.

Prague was still removing graffiti and mending broken windows after the anti-globalization protests staged during the recent meetings of the World Bank and the IMF. This minor damage caused by a small number of agitators was deplored by the non-violent majority of civic groups. They urged the bankers to focus on poverty, debt relief, human rights, equity and less polluting forms of development.

Forum 2000 has documented many of the same issues of misguided development and unregulated globalization of markets. Havel invited anti-globalization groups to a meeting in Prague Castle to air their proposals. A spokesman for Czech protest groups was also invited to address Forum 2000 as it continued debating both bad and good aspects of globalization.

Against the backdrop of the Sharm el Sheikh Summit on the mid-East, Forum participants assigned one of their group, Marin Soares, former Prime Minister of Portugal, to visit the region as an observer and meet with leaders of Israel and Palestine. Nobelist Wole Soyinka of Nigeria and others called for the internationalization of Jerusalem, “a spiritual site of significance to all humanity” under a United Nations (UN) mandate.

The Forum’s agenda for 2000 focused on the role of education, science and the arts. Sociologist, Anthony Giddens, Director of the London School of Economics expanded on his “Third Way” alternatives to both socialism and capitalism. He saw the new internet economy as continuing to displace campus-based education and globalization as driven by communications more than by economics. Cautioning the participants against “lazy rhetoric” on globalization, Giddens offered some of his own — insisting that more economic growth was essential to help the poor. Such “Washington Consensus” rhetoric was challenged by equally distinguished academics, Manfred Max-Neef, Rector of Austral University in Chile, India’s Ambassador Karan Singh, physicist Fritjof Capra, Hans van Ginkel, Rector of the United Nations University and others.

Examples were cited of the good news in globalization:

Philosopher Jostein Gaarder, author of best seller, Sophie’s World told how the unique culture of his native Norway had enabled this textbook in Norwegian to be translated into many languages and sell 20 million copies. Norway’s laws support such local cultural endeavors, subsidizing folk schools, writers and small bookstores. Sophie’s World attracted a major publisher, whose founder, Lord Weidenfeld of the UK, was present to enjoy the story.
The Student Forum 2000 network, spanning universities around the world via the internet, brought their chosen representatives from many countries to join the dialogue. They saw the future “networked world” as fostering human understanding, tolerance and the savoring of multicultural diversity.
Communications technologies and mass media – while misused today by commercialism, violent and degrading content – was still seen as a force for bringing humans to greater awareness and understanding. World music innovator, Peter Gabriel, shared his visions of how such stylistic melding enriched all cultures through “hybridization.” Many agreed that no culture was “pure” anyway -just as no human “race” is pure. Such tendencies to try to wall off societies were seen as counterproductive – dooming their populations to ignorance and intolerance.
Spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama, affirmed the common basis all major religions share. They all noted the many recent ecumenical gatherings exploring their common agenda: peace, poverty eradication, debt relief, social justice and environmental stewardship.
The evolution of global norms, standards and international agreements on universal human rights, core labor standards, environmental monitoring and protection, the conventions on Forests, Climate and Biodiversity – all brokered by the UN. This most democratic world body and forum for addressing all those global concerns beyond the reach of any individual nation, was seen as indispensable and to be strengthened.
The evolution of global ethics as many scholars, philosophers, politicians, students, civic groups and even corporations convene over codes of conduct and moral principles suitable for our now-interdependent human family. Another conference “Corporate Ethics and Globalization” in Prague included Boeing, BASF, Levi Strauss, Nortel, Texas Instruments and Texaco sharing their corporate policies on such ethical issues as corruption, unfair labor practices, pollution, etc… Often standards are voluntary, developed in partnership with appropriate government agencies, user groups and civic society. From the global grassroots the Earth Charter has emerged, after ten years of circulation worldwide, which outlines human responsibilities to each other, all species and the planetary biosphere.
The globalization of democracy, the growing empowerment of citizens, minority groups and women. This trend can be amplified by positive media coverage, focusing on truthful portrayals of all such groups and their aspirations and achievements. Such media coverage has helped topple dictators, as in the unforgettable scenes in Belgrade focused on President Kostunica’s peaceful accession to power in Yugoslavia.

Prince E1 Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, F.W. DeKlerk, former President of South Africa and Shimon Peres of Israel, all spoke movingly of their searches for human rights, democracy and peace. They stressed that truth and reconciliation processes are essential to help societies face past injustices. Formal inquiry, apology, atonement, restitution and public service allow for gradual healing, forgiveness and restoration of civic trust.

Many of the artists and writers cited the freedoms of the press and arts as rights which also called for personal and institutional responsibilities to the truth. Vaclav Havel and his colleague, Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation challenge us to go beyond the current globalization debate. Experiencing the deepening dialogue and empathy of Forum 2000 rekindled our hopes for the new century.

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HAZEL HENDERSON, author, futurist and consultant on sustainable development, participates in Forum 2000. Her latest book is Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy. www.hazelhenderson.com.

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