Focus globalisation on people, not profit

A few weeks ago the world rather dubiously celebrated the birth of the sixth billionth citizen on planet Earth.

At the end of the first millennium, the world’s population was estimated to be about 300 million. At the beginning of this century it was 2.5 billion. During the lifetime of those graduating from post-secondary education right now the population of the world could reach ten billion.

During the last two hundred years of this millennium, while the world’s population was exploding, we and our predecessors built the cumbersome but powerful industrial society. With it went a global scramble for raw materials, markets, new products and cheap labour. As a result, prodigious wealth has been created, the world’s most devastating wars have been fought and a mountain of new technology has been developed.

If, as reported in the UN’s first Human Development Report in 1990, the purpose of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and happy lives, the industrial society has really only worked for about 20 per cent of the world’s population.

Earlier this year, Professor Phillip Harter of Stanford University School of Medicine published material which helps with an analysis of the shape of the world after two hundred years of industrial development and progress.

He points out that if we could shrink the world’s population of six billion to a village of precisely 100 with all existing human ratios and relationships remaining the same it would look as follows:

• There would be fifty-seven Asians, twenty-one Europeans, fourteen from the Western hemisphere and eight Africans

• Fifty-two would be female

• Seventy would be non-white

• Six people would posses 59 per cent of the world’s wealth and all of them would be from the USA

• Eighty would live in substandard housing

• Seventy would be unable to read

• Fifty would suffer malnutrition

• One would own a computer

• Perhaps two would have had a university education.

As we work at a frenetic pace to build the new information society based upon a global online knowledge economy, one wonders if the distribution of wealth and opportunity will be more equitable at the end of the twenty-first century.

Globalisation is more than the flow of money and commodities – it is the growing interdependence of the world’s people. It is a process which is integrating, not just the economy, but culture, technology and governance.

Globalisation in itself is not new but the new actors, new tools, new rules and new markets make the world of the global knowledge economy very different.

The challenge of globalisation in the new century is to preserve the advantages of global markets and competition but also provide enough space for human, community and environmental resources to ensure that globalisation works for people not just for profits.

This would be globalization with:

• Ethics – less violation of human rights

• Equity – less disparity within and between nations

• Inclusion – less marginalization of people

• Human security – less instability of societies and less vulnerability of people.

• Sustainability – less environmental destruction.

The challenge is to find the rules, the policies, the leaders and the institutions for more effective governance at the local, regional, national and global level.

• Mal Bryce is a former WA Deputy Premier and Minister of Technology.

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