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Toward a Global Community?

How close are we to a real global community?

March 13, 2004

How close are we to a real global community?

The integration of the global economy is happening at many levels. But are its main drivers international organizations, governments, companies — or individuals? The International Labor Organization's World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization has weighed in on this debate. We present its findings.

Today, a myriad of actors, both state and non-state, play critically important roles in shaping the evolution of globalization.

In addition to the organizations of the United Nations system, other global actors include parliamentarians and local authorities, multinational corporations, trade unions, business groups and cooperatives.

Religious groups, academia, economic and social councils, foundations and charities, community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the media also play important roles in the world scene today.

Global networks bring together diverse groups, such as youth and consumer associations, farmers, scientists, teachers, lawyers and physicians, women and indigenous peoples.

These emerging networks increasingly relate to each other through bonds of common interest or conviction. Many initiatives are already under way to address common problems.

They range from the management of the Internet to issues of gender equality, migration, health and human security.

We can already discern some distinguishing features of these processes. They are usually defined in terms of specific issues.

They involve many actors, both state and non-state, interacting from the local to the global level.

In all cases, they are marked by expanding public dialogue and public participation. The new technologies and the networks they support are creating the conditions for expanding and innovative forms of interaction.

It is far too soon to call this assembly of various players a global community. It is far from being a unity.

There are great inequalities of power and influence. There is an often explosive diversity of opinions and interests. It is fragmented and incomplete, hardly touching the millions who live on the margin of subsistence.

Yet, the human interactions are multiplying — and the networks are becoming more dense. It is an evolution driven by globalization itself, by the increasing integration of trade and production, and by the expansion of communication, travel and exchange of ideas.

The potential for a more participatory and democratic system of global governance lies today more in the future evolution of these expanding networks of people and institutions — rather than in blueprints for world government or institutional re-engineering.

These networks complement — and extend beyond — the existing system of international organizations. They can be the seedbed of a future global community with shared interests and common goals.

The way forward is to encourage more systematic dialogues within and between these emerging networks of state and non-state actors in specific domains.
Such dialogue widens participation, builds consensus and identifies needs from the perspective of those most directly concerned. It helps mediate the inevitable tensions arising from economic transition and global adjustment.

It also provides a means of translating values into action through setting common objectives and fixing individual responsibilities. These dialogues need to take place at all levels. They are the basis for more coherent action to link economic growth with social progress.

Though interests often diverge, we believe that there is an increasing convergence of opinion throughout the world on the need for a more fair and inclusive globalization.

This convergence is based on growing awareness of our interdependence and the danger of inaction. Such awareness is being expanded and heightened by globalization itself. We base our confidence in the future on the power of this reality.

We believe that if the recommendations we propose are adopted in a reasonable period of time, globalization as we know it today can significantly change for the better — bringing benefit and stability to more people and countries.

Excerpted from The International Labor Organization’s World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization’s final report, “A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities for All,” published on February 24, 2004.

For more information and to see the full report, click here.