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Globalisation


Globalisation is an extensively used term. It can be defined in a number of' ways. Simply stated, it refers to the process of integrating local, national or regional phenomena into global ones. It is a composite process combining economic, technological, socio-cultural and political forces. It is more often used to describe the process of integration of national economies into international economy. Trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration and the spread of technology fuel such integration.

Globalisation is not a new phenomenon although some sources associate it with the start of the First World War. On a broader plane, it can be viewed as a long process spanning through countries of growth of civilisation. The process has accelerated during the last 50 years. Many cite examples of early forms of globalisation during the Roman Empire, Persian Empire and Han Dynasty and so on. Such examples also include the movements of the Muslim traders and explorers. During the 16th century Portugal's global exploration linked continents, economies and cultures of the globe.

Global trade, colonisation and enculturation quickly spread through the continents. This process is associated with what is known as the Age of Discovery. The process expanded further during the seventeenth century with the advent of the british east india company. France followed the same path of colonisation. The Company model was also emulated by Dutch East India Company (1602) and the Portuguese East India Company (1628).

The 19th century, described by some as The First Era of Globalisation, was characterised by rapid growth of trade and investment between the European imperial powers, their colonies, and later, the United States. Sub-Saharan Africa and Pacific Islands were incorporated into the world system.

The First Era of Globalisation ended in early Twentieth Century during the gold standard crisis and the Great Depression in the late 1920's and 1930's. The modern era of globalisation is perceived to have begun after the end of the Second World War. The leading politicians of the western world initiated this process. It found concrete shape through the Bretton Woods conference (1944). It was agreed to create a number of international institutions to initiate and oversee international commerce and finance as a part of globalisation process. Thus were founded the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank, 1945) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF, 1945). The General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT, 1946) lowered barriers to trade. It was later transformed into an institution called World Trade Organisation (WTO, 1995) which mediate trade disputes and set up homogeneous rules on international trade and commerce. In recent time came into being the development of bilateral and multi-lateral treaties such as Maastricht Treaty (1992), European Union (1993), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1994), South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC, 1985), South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA, 2004), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multisectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC, 1997), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, 1967). All such regional treaties further facilitate globalisation process.

It is comparatively easy to measure economic globalisation. It has four elements such as flow of goods and services, movement of labour people, capital i.e. inward and outward direct investment and technology. However, globalisation not being limited to economic phenomenon, some use three areas such as economic flows, social and political. In addition to the above three main indices, there are sub-indices also. These include actual economic flows, economic restrictions, data on personal contact, data on information flows, and data on cultural proximity. The above indices are used by a Swiss think tank KOF. Others have used different indices. The result of measuring will vary if the same set of indices is not used.

Globalisation can broadly be grouped into (a) industrial, (b) financial, (c) economic, (d) political, (e) information, (f) language, (g) competition, (h) ecological, (i) cultural, (j) social (k) technical, (l) legal/ethical and knowledge globalisation. Industrial globalisation is defined as growth of worldwide production markets leading to a wider access to a variety of foreign products for consumers and companies. In particular, it has also facilitated availability of materials and goods between and within countries. The emergence and rapid spread of readymade garments industries in Bangladesh and other developing countries are examples of industrial globalisation. Other examples include emergence of Export Processing Zones (EPZs) and/or special economic zones (SEZs) in the developing world. Financial globalisation refers to rise and spread of worldwide financial markets that have facilitated better access to external and internal borrowing. Absence of transnational regulatory regime has led to adverse impact and as has been shown by the global financial crisis of late 2008. Political globalisation is a term used by some to refer to the creation of global government. Its another form has led to formation of cartels of government such as UNO, Commonwealth, WTO, World Bank, IMF and so on.'

Rapid development of information technology has led to almost unhindered flow of information between and among states. These flows are instrumented through the advent and spread of fiber optic communication, satellites and increased availability of telephones and the Internet.

Globalisation of language is another aspect. As far as English is concerned its spread was earlier limited to countries emerging from British Commonwealth education system but overtime, it has become a major language of communication between and among countries of the world.

Another aspect of globalisation is worldwide competitive market for goods and services that dominate the business world. This phenomenon has forced the companies to upgrade these skills and use most advanced technology to ensure quality of world standard.

Ecological part of globalisation process refers to global environmental challenges arising from emerging issues like climate change, transnational water-sharing disputes and pollution, over fishing of the ocean and spread of invasive species. There are members of opposing arguments about this phenomenon. One of these, articulated through Kyoto Protocol, that much of the deterioration in environment have been caused by industrialised nations and that they have to compensate the developing countries to face this environment challenge. The second argument rests on the premise that many factories are built in the developing countries where there is less environmental regulation, capacity for enforcement is weak or absent. Thus increased flow of goods and services may increase pollution. At the same time, it is also argued that during the early stages of industrial development, the existence of a dirty stage is a reality that has to be faced. By the same logic, the developing countries should be allowed adequate time so that standard of industrialisation in such countries does not suffer.

The process of globalisation has further facilitated multi-culturism or cultural diversity. This impact of globalisation on culture has been facilitated by spread of information technology, larger spread of travel and tourism, immigration, worldwide sporting events in football, cricket and Olympic games and easy access to world media through internet and television.

Globalisation is changing the pattern of food habits, in particular among the young generation. Burgers and Pizza shops have now emerged in the urban centers of Bangladesh and other developing countries. Indeed rapid spread of multi-cultural restaurants in Bangladesh and other developing countries is an example.

In the social field, the process of globalisation has led to the emergence of non-governmental organisations (ngos). They share, along with or in partnership with the government agencies, the development activities. Some of the NGOs act as think-tanks and contribute to the process of public policy-making and of couscientisation process of the rural poor and the disadvantaged.

The contribution of the globalisation process to technical field is visible in global telecommunication infrastructure that helped in transnational data flows and also afforded protection to intellectual property rights through updating of copyright laws, trade mark and patents, and world trade agreements.

Finally, in the legal/ethical field, the globalisation process has indeed contributed to the upholding and further consolidating inalienable rights, and universally acceptable and cherished values of mankind. The creation of international criminal courts and international justice movements and the making of different United Nations instruments like Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Political Cultural and Civil Rights and those relating to women and children are few examples.

It is easy to provide a long list of the positive aspects of globalisation. There are negative aspects too. Critics argue that globalisation has not worked for many of the world's poor. It has not done much for environment. It has not conduced to the stability of the global economy. Among many critics and forums, Joseph E, Stiglitz has raised searching questions about the mono-truck approach to look upon globalisation as an unmixed blessing. The main plank of his argument is that 'the problem is not with globalisation, but with how it has been managed. For the management part he holds the global institutions of IMF, World Bank and WTO responsible. The rules set by these institutions are perceived to 'serve the interests of the advanced countries-and particular interests within those countries' to the exclusion of the developing countries. The industrialised countries also have approaches to globalisation 'from particular narrow mind-sets shaped by a particular vision of the economy and society. The voices of discontent have been reflected in the Doha round of WTO talks. The developing world now demands fair trade and not those based on set rules influenced by industrialised nations and instrumented through WTO. Demands are also voiced by independent think tanks including scholars to come to terms with realities of the developing world. Suggestions are now being given to reform economic policies of the World Bank and IMF. There are demands to recognise the human face of globalisation.

There is, however, no need to abandon globalisation but to put in place the human aspects of globalisation and to pace and sequence reform measures by adopting a gradualist approach to globalisation process. The most important element of globalisation processes at present is democratisation of the governing system. People's participation in state system is recognized as a key factor for the rationale of the existence of a state. This explains why the world bodies tend to support a movement of a community if it is pursued in establishing the human rights of the concerned community. Bangladesh war of liberation received world support on the basic ground that Bangalis were fighting for establishing their nationhood and human rights. [AMM Shawkat Ali]

Bibliography Amartya Sen (1999), Development as Freedom, Oxford University Press, Oxford; Joseph E Stiglitz (2003), Globalization and its Discontent, W.W. Norton and Company, New York