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 "What must governments do to ensure economic security for their citizens? How to shape globalisation to the benefit of all, and ensure that the poorest are not left behind? What role can education play in building tolerant, democratic and prosperous societies? How to ensure a quick come back in economic growth?"

These were among the important questions rhetorically posed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OACD) Secretary General Donald J. Johnston in his message to the OECD Forum 2002 in Paris between May 13-15 on the topic: Taking care of the fundamentals: Security, Equity, Education, and Growth. Johnston observed that substantial progress can only be made through co-operation across political boundaries involving the full range of society's stakeholders.

The annual forum brought together at the prestigious CNIT conference centre in the La Défence district of Paris some 50 speakers and dozens of participants from civil society, business, labour and educational institutions from all over the world. The conclusions of the presentations and interactive debate of the various panels, some of which ran simultanously, were, according to the OECD secretary-general, "to help shape the outcome of the OECD Ministerial meeting" on 15-16 May.

By far the most important topics on the agenda were globalisation, international trade, security and education. Panelists and participants from geographically and professionally diversified backgrounds traded their views, some times reaching consensus, while at other times parting ways.

GLOBALISATION

Also preparing the ground for the forum, Belgian minister of state for Foreign Affairs, Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck said: "Globalisation has undoubtedly brought great benefits to our countries and populations, and spurred their progress. Over the last fifty years, globalisation has led to six-fold rise in world output, thus contributing to major imrovements in the income of a substantial share of the world's citizens and to the creation of new resources which can help us tackle policy challenges in the field of human well being."

In addition to her role in speaking at some of the sessions, Neyts-Uyttebroeck was charged with the responsibility of reporting the main conclusions of the Forum discussions to the 15-16 May Ministerial meeting.

Neyts-Uyttebroeck's thinking was shared by Dr. Dae Whan Chang, president and Publisher, Korean Maeil Business Newspaper and Television, when he said "multi-national corporations, institutional investors, mostly developed countries and their peoples, but also developing countries-poor countries-are benefitting from direct foreign investment made in their countries.

Dr Chang, who was speaking on "Public Concerns About Globalisation" at the OECD forum, recalled the 1997 Asian financial crisis which South Korea was able to tackle and turn things around by implementing some financial reforms advised by the IMF. He however lamented the widening income gap between the haves and have-nots created by globalisation urging the need for what he called "the globalisation of globalisation".

In 1960, says Dr Chang, Korea was neck and neck with Ghana in ranking of poor countries but while Korea was very volatile, Ghana was very stable. He however noted that over 40 years down the line, in terms of the index on education, "Korea now has 160 2-year colleges, and 160 4-year colleges, and we've about 3.3 million college kids" with Ghana trailing far behind. "So unless we shorten the gap between the rich and poor countries we will have more demonstrations", he added.

Giving what he called a Canadian perspective on public attitudes towards globalisation, David Crane, Economics editor of the Toronto Star said it would be interesting to know "why it is that at the same time that the public appears to support many aspects of globalisation they also sympathisies with people who protest against globalisation".

Crane noted that with exports of goods and services accounting for 40% of his country's GDP, Canadians clearly see the benefits of trade, foreign investments, all of which, he says, bring new ideas, jobs, greater choice and better standard of living. Crane however observed that most Canadians support some form of capitalist market based systems but warned that they also have "strong attachments to a mixed economy" which has public interests as well.

"There is considerable concern nonetheless in Canada over the process of globalisation or deepening integration and the fear that an ideology of market fundamentalism and the kind of tax competition it can bring would mean a much reduced work for government that would result in loss of public goods, less effective democracy, and also loss of cultural identity, which for Canadians is very important", said Crane

Crane quickly summed up the bubbling issue of public concerns towards globalisation into the fact that it (globalisation) is driven by the free market laissez faire system often called the "Washington Consensus"; lack of concern over transparency and accountability often called the "Democratic Deficit"; societies feel deprived of the powers they need to influence their social and economic environment, and finally the concern over global inequality.

"The September 11 tragedy in New York led to more than 3000 deaths; without taking anything from that tragedy how much attention do we pay to the fact that more than 30,000 children around the world die every day due to poverty, disease and conflict", said Crane.

Going along with Crane in many ways, co-author of the controversial book:THE CASE AGAINST THE GLOBAL ECONOMY, Edward Goldsmith said what we see in the world today is not just free trade but "the creation of paradise by trans-national corporations (TNCs) which do not want to be subjected to constrains of any kind." These TNCs, he says, have systematically removed the constrains put in place to protect the interest of the poor, the unemployed, people in the third world, local communities and local economies.

"Let us don't forget that originally most developing countries-all African countries-were at least self-sufficient in food. What corporate power is trying to do is to actually transform these countries into nations of importers and exporters", said Goldsmith.

Taking a more radical approach to the public outcry against globalisation, Goldsmith said the economic problem of third world countries is made worse by forcing them to export food at prices determined by external forces even when they are facing food scarcity. "Export of food is the main cause of poverty and mal-nutrition in the third world....we are starving them, that is what the FAO is doing, now it is the WTO that has taken over...and by forcing them to export food we are forcing them to import food", said Goldsmith.

Goldsmith, who is also the founding editor of the UK- based THE ECOLOGIST, warned that in india for example most people depend on the farming communities where "about 700 million people are going to be condemned to destitution" if something is not done to reverse the situation. "We are creating in any case poverty on the scale we've never seen before, and it is not aid that would do any good". And to strenghten his argument, Goldsmith quoted Harrold Baker who says that "capital flight in the third world is at least two to three times higher than all the aid we give to the third world."

Commenting on the environmental concern, Goldsmith warned: "we are facing today the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced and we are doing nothing about it-and if we do nothing about it this planet would become unhabitable very shortly, and I'm talking about climate change; we are burning our forests, cutting them down, destroying our soil with industrial agriculture".

To survive the hocus pocus of the global economy, Goldsmith called for the return to localised type of farming rather than monocropping which maximises the interests of the big companies... "even development is not an option, today the problem is survival without development, we need to completely rethink everything we are doing if our children are going to survive on this planet," he added.

Laurence Parisot, Director General of the French Institute of Public Opinion, also had some unkind words against globalisation. Speaking on the French perspective of the phenomenon, Parisot cited a recent study put together by their organisation during the last presidential elections and published in the French daily, LE FIGARO, which shows that "47% of the French think their country has more to lose than gain from globalisation, and 41 % think otherwise.

On the political front, Parisot noted that the ruling political class, especially the parties in the Far Left and Far Right, is totally opposed to the whims and caprises of the global economy, which she said partly accounted for the surprise appearance of the Far Right Le Pen into the second round of the French presidential poll. Parisot also torched on a recent qualitative study in which her organisation discovered that for most French "globalisation is just another form of Americanisation."

"In another recent survey on who is the enemy number one in France during the recent presidential elections, most French, as expected, said it is international terrorism but 31% of those interviewed said it is the United States of America...for most French, the American world company imposes its point of view and its culture in an arrogant way", said Parisot, adding that in her view "the question of anti-Americanism should be clearly put on the table , if not, we risk many more demonstrations that would be difficult to handle."

Another scorching salvo against globalisation came from Mexican Parliamentary Speaker and President of the Latin American Parliament, Beatriz Parades Rangel when she said "scientific and technological revolution is one thing but growing unemployment is another and we don't see how we can come up with an equation that can present an appropriate solution to this problem for our societies." She warned that it is easy to recognise that globalisation is taking place in a world where people live in a state of unequal development adding that "in Latin America and the Carribeans , and of course in Mexico, it is very easy to see which are the segments of society that feel they have been left out of the benefits of globalisation".

But firing a counter from the floor, apparently aimed at the French representative on the panel, Laurence Parisot, one Robert Taylor commented on the much trumpeted idea of seeing public concern against globalisation as anti-Americanism and emphazised the enormous benefits that the world has accrued from globalisation.

"My proposal, and may be European countries should stop attacking America about this, is to improve and encourage the migration of labour across their borders; the USA in the 1990s had the biggest increase of migrant populations into its shores since the first world war and it was a precondition for the fantastic American economic performance in the 1990s instead of pandering to Le Pen and other fascists in Europe", said Taylor.