ILO: World Commission Sets Path for Global Governance

May 3 2004

Roberto Savio

Geneva may — ILO’s groundbreaking report “A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for Allâ€? is not merely an intellectual exercise reflecting on the state of the ongoing globalization process. Rather it is a consensually approved document that lays down a number of measures to be taken by both international organizations and governments on a global basis.

The document was submitted by the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, a wide-ranging and representative body comprising Nobel laureates, politicians, social and economic experts, businessmen, and organized labor, academia and civil society representatives.

Although quite broad, these measures clearly spell out the objectives and the necessary steps to achieve them.

The Commission believes the benefits of globalization can be extended to more people and more equitably among nations. The document concedes that the problems with globalization are not due to the process itself, but to deficiencies in its governance.

The document highlight that changes should be made across a broad front, ranging from reforms in the global economic system to improving governance at the decentralized level. Although it is acknowledged that the task should begin at the lower level, more direct indications are given to international bodies.

With its analysis, the report sends a clear and critical message to many of the most relevant international bodies and “powerful countries� while presenting them with a set of wide-ranging recommendations to be implemented immediately.

The assessment of the situation of global governance is overwhelmingly negative. Concerns are expressed regarding the underperformance of the multilateral system, responsible for drafting and implementing international policies, noting that it “lacks policy coherence as a whole and is not sufficiently democratic, transparent and accountable�.

The report stresses that it is largely “powerful countries� and “powerful players� that are to be blamed for the state of affairs. They dictate the rules and policies that shape the system of global governance, while leaving no space for the most vulnerable, therefore causing a democratic deficit.

Simultaneously, developing countries should have “increased representation in the decision-making bodies of the Bretton-Woods Institutions� while working methods in the World Trade Organization (WTO) should allow them to fully participate in negotiations.

Regarding the functioning of the global market, the report calls on international institutions to promote opportunity and enterprise with fair rules that recognize the diversity in national capacities and development needs.

The growing interdependence in economic relations, pushed forward by new technologies and more open policies, is carrying an increasing “social and political interaction among organizations and individuals across the world� notes the report.

However, “Market opening measures and financial and economic considerations predominate over social ones� assesses the report. This is confirmed by the fact that global rules and policies on trade and finance don’t allow much space for policy autonomy in developing countries, which are forced to sacrifice social well-being for economic imperatives.

In a critical tone, the authors of the report demand that in the future policies should be elaborated taking into consideration specific national or regional circumstances, namely the level of development. Existing rules are said to be restricting agricultural growth and industrial development, and are unable to maintain financial and economic stability.

Within the current system goods in which developing countries have “comparative advantages� see their access to the global market limited by “unfair barriers�. The Commission proposes positive discrimination measures for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to foster their export capabilities.

Part of the problem would also lie in FDI rules. The document proposes that in order to limit problems caused by incentive competition, a “development-friendly multilateral framework for FDI� is in order. A forum comprising a broad range of interests, and balancing both rights and responsibilities, would handle negotiations.

Closely related to a “global growth strategy� that would downscale economic tensions among countries and facilitate market access by developing countries strategy, an ambitious proposal by the Commission foresees the creation of a “Parliamentary Group� that would act as a watch-dog for international organizations and would ensure consistency in economic, social and environmental policies.

Secondly, the report makes a complimentary proposal for regular “Policy Coherence Initiatives� with the same purpose. These initiatives would be launched by the appropriate international bodies and should address a variety of issues, such as “global growth, investment, and employment creation�, empowerment of women, education, health, food security and human settlements.

Finally the Commission proposes multi-stakeholder “Policy Development Dialogues�, launched by the same bodies, to “further consider and develop key policy proposals� on issues such as migration, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), social protection and accountability.

Nonetheless, the Commission argues that the key issue in reforming global governance would be the transformation of the United Nations, which is in a privileged position and “uniquely equipped� to create a “democratic, legitimate and coherent framework for globalization�.

To this end the authors perceive a need for the UN to become stronger and more effective, while improving the quality of its governance policy, particularly regarding democratic representation, decision-making processes, accountability and policy coherence. The UN is also urged to organize a “Globalization Policy Forum� along with its specialized agencies to produce periodical reviews on globalizations’ social impact.

By presenting such an extensive set of proposals, the Commission is sending an unmistakable signal to the world: If global governance is not improved in the following decades, this will not be as a consequence of lack of ideas, but the foreseeable result of a lack of will.

“Other News” is a personal initiative seeking to provide information that should be in the media but is not, because of commercial criteria. It welcomes contributions from everybody. Work areas include information on global issues, north-south relations, gobernability of globalization. The “Other News” motto is a phrase which appeared on the wall of Barcelona’s old Customs Office, at the beginning of 2003:â€?What walls utter, media keeps silentâ€?. Roberto Savio

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