Mary Robinson on globalisation

16 March 2007 at 1:39 am | Posted in News | Leave a comment

The following is an except of an online Q&A session bewteen Mary Robinson, chair of The Ethical Globalization Initiative Logo, and International Herald Tribune readers on the blog – Managing Globalisation by Daniel Altman. Mrs Robinson fielded questions relating to globalisation, the work of Realizing Rights and Dafur. Please visit the blog for the full account.

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President Robinson writes:

I am grateful for all the thoughtful questions and comments. A number of them concern issues more closely associated with my previous work as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Since this blog looks specifically at globalization, I will focus on questions concerning that theme. But I feel I must say a few words in response to the questions on Darfur, which is the most serious human rights situation today.

Only 18 months ago, the world’s governments endorsed the principle that where a government totally fails to protect the lives of its people there would be a wider “responsibility to protect” which would commit the international community to intervening – diplomatically, economically and even militarily in specific circumstances – to protect civilians. It was heralded as a step forward for humanity – a clear signal that the atrocities of the 20th century belonged to history, and would not happen again.

Yet almost four years since the conflict in Darfur began, the situation is worsening by the month. The Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May 2006 did not include all rebel factions, and the violence has increased dramatically in the months since. As a result most of the humanitarian and development non-government organizations have had to withdraw from large parts of Darfur and operate as best they can from the capital, El Fasher. This leaves the civilian population displaced and highly vulnerable, so we may be facing an even worse human tragedy.

We need to focus on what can be done now to save innocent lives, and in particular to stop the terrible violence against women and girls, in Darfur. One step that could be taken immediately is to impose targeted sanctions on individuals from all sides of the conflict, starting with those identified in the United Nations’ Commission of Enquiry and Panel of Experts reports. These could include travel bans on the individuals and their families, and asset freezes. Another measure that would have a swift impact is the extension of the United Nations arms embargo beyond Darfur to the whole of Sudan, other than the territory controlled by the Government of Southern Sudan.

The bottom line is that such actions require stronger engagement and leadership on the part of governments from the global North and South, including China and Russia. There is a shared responsibility to act which must be recognized. We must take collective action at every level possible to protect the people of Darfur from further massive violations of fundamental human rights.

Now, the questions and answers:Q. Does the degree of inequality among developing countries make globalization a very risky process for most of them? Do all the policies of variable exchange rates, free trade agreements without compensation for subsidies of developed countries to the agricultural sector, and the free movement of capital make developing countries more unstable?Manuel Gilberto Rosas
Colombia
A. Thanks for your questions, Manuel. You raise an important point in flagging the inequalities among developing countries themselves. We see this playing out at the moment within the World Trade Organization and efforts to restart the Doha round of negotiations. India and Brazil are the two developing countries in the so-called “G-4” group – the United States and European Union being the other key actors involved in trying to find a way forward on the most difficult issues such as agriculture. Larger developing countries such as India, Brazil, China and South Africa obviously want to be supportive of wider developing country concerns, but are in a much different position than, for instance, most African countries, who continue to feel marginalized in a negotiation round which was supposed to be focused on the needs of all developing countries.

The central challenge continues to be forging a globalization process which recognizes in concrete ways the idea of shared responsibility. Lifting millions of people out of poverty has nothing to do with charity. It is about fairness. It is about creating national and global conditions which support rather than undermine the right to a decent livelihood and a sustainable future for all people. The poorest countries need policy space to build the sectors of their economies that can benefit from international trade and also enhanced regional trade. They need support to build that capacity, as is proposed in the recent report on Aid for Trade which is linked to the Doha Round. Without a fairer, more ethical approach to globalization, which takes a longer and broader view of national interest, and sees our fates as being increasingly interconnected, then I fear many developing countries will become more unstable economically and socially in the coming decades.

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