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Bank assesses globalisation facts and fears

10 September 2001

“Some anxieties are well-founded,” agrees a major new World Bank report that outlines evidence and an agenda for action on globalisation*. As expected, it is generally supportive of the economic impacts of globalisation. It is, however, refreshingly honest about some of the problems it causes – both economic, for example to certain sets of workers, and in other respects. It quotes a recent poll in which over half of respondents expressed fears that globalisation threatens their country’s culture, while a third urged further attention to human rights and the environment.

The report states, “Without policies to foster local and other cultural traditions, globalisation may well lead to a dominance of American culture”. National anti-trust regulators have “severe challenges” in coping with monopolies and oligopolies. Whilst global trade rules may enhance the power of developing countries, “there is a danger that the rules come to favour the strong”, for example in intellectual property rights. On global warming the report points out that the emissions of carbon dioxide from major economies “should not continue unrestrained”.

The 21-point “agenda for action” may, however, appear optimistic to many. The Bank argues that the problems it identifies can be solved through collective action. Climate change can be resolved through the Kyoto Protocol and/or emission trading mechanisms. Rich countries can open their markets to poor country exports. For “some countries that will never industrialise”, the report suggests “global action to provide large aid inflows over a long period; to provide opportunities for workers to emigrate to neighbouring globalising countries and to rich countries”.

It is unclear from where the political will is likely to emerge to support such actions. The Bank does, however, pay protesters the compliment of agreeing that “in part this agenda overlaps with the agenda of the streets”, and that global civil society can “become a powerful impetus to collective action on poverty and the environment”.

World Bank Research website

See also: The Case Against the Global Economy, Earthscan 2001

*All quotations taken from July draft. Final draft expected to be the same. Not available at time of going to print.