Constructive Dialogue on Globalisation Issues
8 July 2002: Butchers' Hall, London
The final debate was electric
The final session of the day was a debate on the issues that were raised during the conference, and took place in the Great Hall. Two opposing views of globalisation and trade were quickly established during a debate on practices undertaken by multinational corporations, such as those represented at the conference. These debates were developed during the session and resulted in a lively and interesting discussion on the positive and negative sides to globalisation.
The beginning of the discussion, concerning multinational corporations, had been discussed during the day, for example in the form of work ethics, workers rights, pay and conditions. Many expressed their surprise at the extent to which such corporations want to help the countries they worked in, and the benefits that may be shared. However, others were adamant that multinational corporations did not necessarily benefit the countries that they worked in. Instead, that their main purpose was to maximise the return to shareholders, and that this was at odds with achieving social benefits. This discussion moved on to discuss the merits of triple bottom line reporting- financial, social and environmental - with the represented companies arguing its increasing importance within business both for a company's reputation and as a means of creating sustainable markets. Other delegates argued that the demand on companies to demonstrate an economic return was an essential part of capitalism and a growth model, and this led to pressure to keep wages low. This challenges both the principle of sustainability and efforts to eradicate absolute poverty.
A further area of discussion was trade, especially concerning free trade and fair trade. Tariffs were fundamental to this discussion which debated whether different approaches were needed to meet the circumstances faced by different countries. Whilst some argued that the rules on tariffs should be the same for all countries, others argued that developing countries were less able to compete in some markets than many developed countries and so should be afforded some protection. This discussion turned briefly to the examples of North Korea and Cuba and whether these represented a case for the benefits of closed economies. But the main theme of the debate centred on fair trade and the added cost that this may bring to the consumer. Opinion was divided on whether consumers would opt for an extra cost if the proceeds were to go directly to the producers. The confirmation by many participants that they spent £100 or more for designer label trainers added fuel to the debate, but failed to resolve the question of what people would actually be prepared to pay for when faced with a clear choice.
The stimulating debate was brought to a close with a final comment that it was unrealistic to say that fairer wages and conditions would benefit everyone, and it was argued that instead this could even make everyone 'poor'. There was much opposition to this, but the time had run out. The discussions continued energetically outside the Great Hall.
John Murray, DFID, said he 'wouldn't have expected students in general to agree on the 'big' issues, but it is vital we get them thinking and talking around them.'
Delegates attending included repesentatives from J Sainsbury, Company of World Traders, SGS, Trade Partners UK, Methodist Relief and Development Fund, Plantation and General Investments, ProbusBNW, UNICEF, Vodafone, Buckrise Enterprises, Norfolk Education and Action on Development, Save the Children's Right Angle.
... plus teachers and 140 students from these ten schools and colleges:
- John Ruskin College
- City and Islington College
- Broomfield School
- Hampstead Technology College
- Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College
- Wimbledon High School
- Haverstock School
- Ernest Bevin College
- London Nautical School
- Lady Margaret School
Rapporteurs were identified to record comments and observations from workshops to provide a basis for the plenary session.
A delegates' pack included:
- Programme for the day
- Workshop programme
- Students' notes (pro forma)
- Delegates list
- Globalisation: a compendium of views (available from the Worldaware website)
- Evaluation form
- Global Insights
- plus, for rapporteurs, copies of the workshop feedback form
Support form Worldaware staff and volunteers
In the preparation and conduct of the conference, a great deal of assistance was received in many ways from: Tony Boardman, Lucinda Campbell-Gray, Pom Daniells, Bob Ely, Andrew Fraser, Craig Jackson, Sir Jim Lester, Simon Scoones, Catherine Stocker, Bob Webster, Angus Willson.
Report compiled by Angus Willson and Catherine Stocker
Worldaware, 25 July 2002