New globalization report: Three mega-trends expected to impact our future

Globalization has impacted people and communities across the globe and has significantly influenced sustainable development. Fueled by fast-paced changes in technology and the increased mobility of goods, services, capital and labour, over the past decades globalization has greatly changed economies, societies and the natural environment and has made our world more interconnected than ever before.

These trends have presented a wealth of opportunities. Globalization and increased economic interdependence have accompanied — and facilitated — rapid economic growth in many countries and regions, helping world GDP grow from around 50 trillion USD in 2000 to 75 trillion USD in 2016. Yet, globalization has also presented significant challenges, including an uneven distribution of its benefits and costs.

“To ensure that globalization can be leveraged to support inclusive economic growth and sustainable development, it is essential to analyze the current system as well as emerging trends to devise policy solutions addressing them,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General, as he introduced the Secretary-General’s new report “Fulfilling the promise of globalization: advancing sustainable development in an interconnected world.”

Speaking before the UN General Assembly’s Second Committee on 13 October 2017, Mr. Liu highlighted three mega-trends related to globalization: “Shifts in production and labor markets; rapid advances in technology; and climate change.” These trends are expected to shape and influence our future.

The first mega-trend refers to the impact that production changes have had on labour markets, including through outsourcing and mechanization, which have spurred job losses, particularly in manufacturing sectors. These trends in labour markets are associated with higher rates of income inequality, which has increased in a majority of countries across the globe.

The second mega-trend is closely connected to the first, as it relates to the fast-moving development and advancement of new technologies, including in information and communications and artificial intelligence, that have also affected the world of work. While these innovations can act as catalysts for sustainable development, countries that do not have access to them are at risk of being left behind.

Globalization and its effect on climate change is the third emerging mega-trend. The report highlights that many trends closely linked to globalization, including economic activity, lifestyle changes and urbanization, all have an impact on our environment and may contribute to climate change.

“The report of the Secretary-General emphasizes that globalization can be a powerful driver of economic growth, but to achieve sustainable development, globalization must work for all,” Mr. Liu said, stressing also that “global agreements can play a key role in strengthening the benefits of globalization.”

Such global agreements are already in place with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Mr. Liu described them as “a normative action plan to address many of the challenges associated with globalization.”

Mr. Liu underlined the need to localize global agreements to better respond to the challenges that globalization poses in different contexts and stressed the role of the UN in these efforts.

“It is suggested that the United Nations should continue to support Member States in devising country-specific policy approaches to manage globalization in the pursuit of the 2030 Agenda,” Mr. Liu said.

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