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Roundtable Looks Toward Globalization's "Other" Problems

15 February, New Delhi– Promoting sustainable development in a globalizing world is among the major challenges that must be addressed when world leaders meet at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa this August.

The issue of globalization was one of ten clusters of issues that were contained in a text prepared by Preparatory Committee Chairman Dr. Emil Salim. This text will serve as the basis for negotiations at the next PrepCom for the Johannesburg Summit.

Yet while much of the international discussion on globalization has been focusing on the economic issues that drive globalization, such as trade and investment, finance and technology, a group of 30 experts who met at a roundtable in New Delhi, organized by the Summit Secretariat and hosted by the Government of India, took a broader view by examining a wide-range of factors that have prevented globalization from working to the benefit of all countries and people.

The issues discussed in the roundtable include barriers to trade in goods and services, barriers to the movement of labour, and the lack of national accountability for actions that harm the global environment. The internationalization of crime-or the "dark side" of globalization -- was also discussed, along with the failure of globalization to reach out to the poor people who have so far been excluded from its benefits. According to the participants of the roundtable, these factors have contributed to increasing inequalities, have heightened the risks for international security, and need to be addressed through international action.

Johannesburg Summit Secretary-General Nitin Desai told the roundtable participants that the Summit was linked to the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Conference held at Doha, Qatar, in November 2001, where the first steps were taken to put development at the centre of the trade agenda, and to the International Conference on Financing for Development to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, in March 2002, which will place development at the centre of the global financing agenda.

In deciding on practical steps for strengthening the implementation of Agenda 21, Desai said, the Johannesburg Summit must build on the outcomes of Doha and Monterrey. He added that "Johannesburg will be a test for determining whether we can make globalization work for sustainable development, and whether it can be managed to spread its benefits more widely." This is why, he said, only the Johannesburg Summit has the potential to address some of globalization's "other" problems, including those discussed by the New Delhi roundtable.

Globalization, according to roundtable participants, has caused an increased alienation between civil society and the political system and, to address the situation, efforts were needed to establish trust among governments, civil society and markets in order to promote sustainable development.

According to the participants, increased travel and the growth of the mass media and the Internet have also contributed to tensions among national and regional cultures and value systems in a globalizing world, and have been perceived by some as potentially threatening cultures and values and stimulating a process of "homogenization" and "standardization" of cultures and values instead of inclusion, integration and tolerance.

The internationalization of crime was an important theme of the discussion. The illicit drug trade, human trafficking, illegal diamond trading and money laundering have imposed a heavy cost on countries in terms of their effects on the economy, the environment and the social fabric of society. In addition, the participants suggested that international drug trafficking was closely integrated with illegal money flows, the illegal arms trade and human trafficking, as well as with violence and, in some cases, terrorism. Other criminal activity that has thrived in the globalized setting includes illegal logging, which has led to destruction of forests, loss in biodiversity and pollution.

The roundtable participants recognized that barriers to the movement of capital, goods and services across national borders had been eased, but that barriers that restrict the movement of labour had not changed. At the same time, the participants acknowledged that the creative use of human capital was a precondition for a sustainable future and was crucial for better positioning of countries in a globalizing economy.

A report on the New Delhi roundtable, which contains the main points of discussion and presents proposals for action that derived from the meeting, will be made available at the next Summit PrepCom and will be posted at www.johannesburgsummit.org.

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24 August 2006