Preamble - Facing the Challenges of Globalisation: Equity, Justice and Diversity

1. Preamble

Globalisation means different things to different people, which is one reason why opinions of it differ so dramatically. Some proponents see it as not only inevitable but fundamentally beneficial, if only we could distribute the benefits better. Yet many millions experience it not as progress, but as a disruptive, even destructive force.

There is not too little globalisation, nor is there too much - the wrong kind of globalisation has dominated. Corporate-led globalisation, that is, accelerated deregulation of commerce and investment, is the most advanced and the most destructive aspect of globalisation, and the aspect which cries out for the United Nation's guiding hand to bring it under control.

With corporate globalisation, there are winners and losers, and the decision about who wins or loses is currently made in a most undemocratic fashion. Corporate globalisation per se cannot foster improvements in democracy or respect for cultural diversity.

We must not assume that all people in all countries are best served by the same economic and technological agenda. This assumption can damage not only economies but cultures and politics as well. Multinational corporations influence the lives and welfare of billions of people, yet their accountability is limited largely to their shareholders, with their influence on national and international policy-making kept behind the scenes.

To many millions of people the great gains of science, medicine and technology, let alone access to the internet, might as well take place on another planet. Meanwhile, criminal groups take advantage of porous borders and powerful new technology for their own nefarious aims. Although we have more wealth and technology than ever before, the number of people living in poverty and dying of hunger is still growing. Many poor countries and poor people are increasingly marginalized. Increasing inequity is taking a particularly heavy toll on women. People's of colour are experiencing old and new forms of xenophobia as races jostle for positions in the undemocratic new world order. Although the cold war has ended, we are facing new threats to humanity such as the terror of potential nuclear wars and the crisis of environmental sustainability. Corporate driven globalisation puts the integrity of cultures at risk.

To treat people as statistics, such as in poverty and mortality statistics and to commodity them in some form has repercussions. Social realities such as unemployment, loss of identity, loss of the will to live, cannot be quantified. They are deep and profound factors of the soul and their effect is both individual and collective. Alcohol, drugs and suicide then become alternatives to living. This too often has been the situation with Indigenous peoples around the world in surviving the decimating and corroding impact of colonisation, and is becoming more pervasive throughout the world. Globalisation must never be allowed to fill the shoes of colonisation.

The very nature of globalisation deprives families and households headed by individual parents, most often women, of their formative and caring roles by placing on them unprecedented new and old burdens as they are forced into longer hours of paid and unpaid work.

The nature of the current economic globalisation process changes, and in fact weakens the role and the authority of governments, the building block of the UN. Through activities in the WTO, governments have become complicit in accelerating economic globalisation at the expense of their own people. While the UN must steer the current, corporate dominated forms of globalisation toward a human centred process, this will require the strengthening and democratisation of the UN as the legitimate forum of the global community. The question is how the UN will empower itself to reform this corporate driven globalisation process towards a human-centred globalisation that values equity, justice and diversity.

Globalisation of human rights and environmental standards will be aided by grassroots globalisation - the coming together of diverse movements for human rights, labor rights, health and environmental protection, and by governmental and intergovernmental support for those values above the value of free market economics.

The Millennium Assembly of the UN is a global forum that could provide powerful momentum for moving the agenda forward on the future of global governance. Civil society, or we the people, will be present in large numbers to witness this historic event. We commend to the heads of government who will be participating in the Millennium Summit, the concerns and proposals for action in facing the challenges of globalisation formulated at this UN NGO Millennium Forum. We also urge that these concerns and proposals be discussed and debated through public gatherings around the world leading up to the Summit so that the voices of we, the peoples of the United Nations, will also be heard on this historic occasion.