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Globalization Not Just Economics

"The Greater Caribbean This Week"  (1)

Norman Girvan>
About ACS>

Last week the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) held its 29th Session in Brasilia. Before it was a 380-page Report on Globalization and Development. Several of the Report's findings are of interest to the countries of the Greater Caribbean.

First, globalization is not just about economics. It has ethical, cultural and political dimensions. One of its most important aspects is the spread of "universal human values" as a result of international social movements. These are set out in a series of international declarations on civil, political, economic and social rights; on the rights of children and women; and on the environment.

Ethnic internationalism amongst people victimized by social, cultural and economic discrimination is the latest expression of this development. According to ECLAC there are 50 million indigenous (i.e. Amerindian) people and 150 million Afro-Latin and Afro-Caribbean people in Latin America and the Caribbean, many of whom live in the Greater Caribbean region.

Members of the two groups " have the worst economic and social indicators, enjoy very little cultural recognition and lack access to public decision-making circles ". The Report points to the need for states, governments and societies to accept and recognize the rights of members of ethnic groups through legislative action and targeted development policies.

Second, the Report shows that the economic side of globalization has been going on for at least the last 130 years. The first phase was from 1870 to 1913 and was cut short by the First World War and the crises that came after. The second phase was from 1945 to the early 1970s and came to an end with the floating of the dollar and the oil price shocks. The third phase started in 1973 and is still in process.

ECLAC's statistics, however, show that globalization has been accompanied by a growth of inequality in per capita income among countries. The only exception was in phase 2, when the income disparity decreased slightly.

In 1820, the less developed region of the world had an average per capita income that was 33.9 percent of the more developed region. By 1870 this had fallen to 18.3 percent, in 1913 to 11.1 percent and in 1950 to 6.8 percent. The ratio increased slightly to 7.6 percent in 1973 but by 1998 it had fallen back to 5.8 percent.

The latest phase of globalization has also seen worsening income inequality within countries, including most developed countries.

ECLAC attributes the widening gap to basic problems in the way that globalization has worked. For example, capital is basically free to move anywhere in the world but the movement of labor is highly restricted. Private international capital markets are very unstable and contribute to the vulnerability of developing countries. And transfer of technology to poorer countries is restricted by stringent intellectual property regimes.

The answer is to address the shortcomings of globalization; for example by full inclusion of international migration on the global agenda; by adequate management of private capital markets and by provision of " global public goods ", such as primary education and health care, on the basis of " common yet differentiated responsibilities ".

This principle was accepted at the 1992 Earth Summit in relation to the global environment. It now needs to be applied to the global economic and social order as a whole.

May 20, 2002

Revista INTER-FORUM is affiliated with (ICCAP)

Any reproduction in part or whole is strictly forbidden without the authors written authorization  








Professor Norman Girvan is Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States. 

  The views expressed are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Feedback can be sent to




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