The human face of globalisation

In the last days of 2005, leading thinkers and scholars from around the world share their fears, hopes and expectations of 2006. Forty-nine of openDemocracy’s distinguished contributors, from Mariano Aguirre to Slavoj Zizek, Neal Ascherson to Jonathan Zittrain – offer their predictions for the coming year. Since this is openDemocracy, we did not expect them to agree. We were not disappointed. (Part Two)
Mary Robinson
22 December 2005


There are three areas I would like to see progress on in 2006.

The first is in trade and development. It is important to see the completion of the Doha round as a true development round. The Hong Kong meeting was disappointing because there was no evidence of a paradigm shift in approach towards making trade work for development. As Grant Aldonas, the former US Under Secretary for International Trade, put it, “you can’t negotiate a development round in the same way as you negotiate a trade round.” I saw little will in Hong Kong to look at the development impact of the negotiations.

The process is also opaque, complicated and lacking transparency. I was struck by how much time my Oxfam colleagues spent trying to find out what was happening in the meetings and then explaining it to the smaller delegations. It is not a fair process when smaller delegations can’t find out what’s going on in such areas as agriculture, Nama and services. So I hope in 2006 that it is recognised that there must be clear emphasis on the development impacts of trade as negotiations continue.

Second, I want to see health recognised as a human right, following the launch in London of the leaders’ statement “Everyone has the Right to Health”. This would change the dynamics of global health and would seriously scale up the priority given to health issues. It has been established that it makes a difference to government priorities in such areas as the immunisation of children. Treating health as a human right would require an emphasis on strengthening health systems in poorer countries where systems have been weakened by the World Bank/IMF structural adjustment policy including capping of the numbers of public employees.

Third, migration. I was a member of the Global Commission on International Migration that reported to Kofi Annan on 5 October. What I hope for in 2006 is a shift in mindset to one that values migration as positive both for the sending and the receiving countries. We should recognise the benefits of remittances, the benefits to the EU, with its declining and ageing populations, of inward migration, and to the US which has always been built on immigration.

We must delink the word illegal from the word migration, just as we have delinked the word illegitimate from the word child. Even undocumented migrants have rights under the treaties and conventions that have been ratified, at least in part, by most countries.

There will be a high-level dialogue in the UN general assembly in September 2006 on migration; sadly in 2005 the discussion got harsher in the EU and the US, with images of barbed wire in the Spanish enclaves in north Africa, an increase in the deaths of migrants by boat and US negative references to illegal aliens. Immigration is good for the country’s economy, but we have seen the reality of big walls, vigilantes and people dying in the desert. The commission’s report will, I hope, contribute to a change in attitude. It is only eighty-eight pages and available on the website www.GCIM.org. I hope that people will read it and understand that migration is the human face of globalisation.


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