New UN decision makes fair globalization a core issue of the world agenda in 2005

Achieving a fair globalization is now firmly implanted on the world agenda. With the adoption of a resolution at its most recent session, the UN General Assembly gave new impetus to global efforts to implement the recommendations of the report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization. In this feature, we examine how this move provides new reasons for hope that globalization can work much better in coming years to help reduce poverty for families, local communities and people around the world.

Article | 06 January 2005

GENEVA – The recent resolution of the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/59/57) makes achieving a fully inclusive and equitable globalization a core issue on the international economic and social development agendas.

It also gives new significance to the ILO's contributions to the Millennium Declaration's aim of ensuring that globalization becomes a positive force for the people of the entire world.

Under the resolution, the wider challenges and opportunities linked to globalization will be part of the Millennium Declaration's comprehensive review in 2005. They will also be included in the ten-year review this year of the World Summit for Social Development, by the UN Commission on Social Development.

These are steps forward since the impacts of globalization were not yet fully visible during the Millennium Summit's preparatory phases.

In February 2004, the case for an inclusive and equitable globalization was forcefully argued in a report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (WCSDG), set up by the ILO. The report entitled, "A Fair Globalization, Creating Opportunities for All" proposed key paths and solutions to make globalization more beneficial for people everywhere.

Some thirty Heads of State and Governments welcomed the report at a UN special event in September 2004 on "A Fair Globalization: Implementing the Millennium Declaration". The event was hosted by the World Commission Co-Chairs, Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Tanzanian President Benjamin William Mkapa, with ILO Director-General Juan Somavia acting as moderator.

One of the outcomes was the adoption on 2 December 2004 of the General Assembly resolution tabled by the United Republic of Tanzania and the Republic of Finland, with support from 74 other co-sponsoring Member States.

The resolution asks UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to take the World Commission's report into account in his comprehensive assessment of implementation of Millennium Summit decisions, prepared for the high level review at next year's UNGA. It calls on relevant UN agencies and other multilateral institutions to provide information to the Secretary-General on their activities to promote an inclusive and equitable globalization. Thus, the resolution takes the first steps towards bringing all concerned international bodies into a more coherent, better coordinated and less fragmented multilateral framework for managing globalization.

From the ILO's perspective, the issues of a fair globalization and decent work are inextricably tied together. Explaining the ties, ILO Director-General Juan Somavia told a World Bank meeting in 2004, "Opening up opportunities for decent work is linked to spreading the benefits of globalization. And most people who feel excluded do not have an ideological resistance to globalization. They approach it in a very practical way ‘I'm going to like it if I see and feel the benefits. But don't tell me to embrace it when I don't see those benefits in my life, in my family, in my community, in my own future. I want a globalization that works for me.'"

The World Commission's report emphasizes that globalization is fair when it creates opportunities for all while creating progressively better jobs. Globalization must help to reduce poverty and encourage prosperity through enterprise development, open markets, business, investment and trade.

Annan put this succinctly when he said at the UN special event, "The best anti-poverty program is employment and the best road to economic empowerment and social well-being lies in decent work".

The ILO sees decent work as the common thread of globalization because it is a truly global goal, shared by all societies and implemented according to the possibilities and opportunities of each country. It stands on four pillars – employment and enterprise creation, rights at work, basic social protection and a functioning system of dialogue among governments with employers and workers organizations. These are also the foundations of a fair and inclusive globalization.

The question is how to make globalization beneficial for all people, especially in developing countries. The report considers that it has great potential for good because of its ability to promote open societies, open economies and a freer exchange of goods, knowledge and ideas.

However, current workings of globalization are "ethically unacceptable and politically unsustainable" leading to unbalanced outcomes. They are in many respects a seedbed of global insecurity. Policy changes are needed to bridge the gap between what globalization is capable of delivering and what is actually being delivered.

The report makes a strong case for reforms, starting from home and sustained with support from fair international rules in trade, finance, debt and migration as well as answerable institutions and sustainable global growth policies.

The new General Assembly resolution could make it easier to move towards these outcomes with the help of appropriate national strategies, backed by multilateral structures that can generate fair opportunities for all.