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Americas forum asks, is globalisation still legitimate today?

Debating globalisation at the Forum of the Americas in Paris
Debating globalisation at the Forum of the Americas in Paris RFI/Bissada

Globalisation, its place in the world and how it can be used to achieve prosperity was the major topic at the inaugural conference of the Forum of the Americas, which opened in Paris on Thursday.


Globalisation is a topic that has its roots in economy, culture and politics, making it a difficult one to resolve in a two-day conference.

Angel Gurria, the secretary general of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) which hosted the meeting, believes it has brought many positive benefits over the past 20 years.

But it has also left many behind in its wake. In fact, he says that across the world, people are becoming poorer faster now than before globalisation.

Speaking to an audience of dignitaries, business people and reporters, Gurria added that we are moving in the wrong direction, with inequality growing.

One policy that can help is what Gurria refers to as a “national skills strategy”, a crucial way for countries to demonstrate they are willing to do what it takes to provide employment for their citizens.

What about migrants?

This taps into another element rooted in mass globalisation and economic downturn: migration.

What about all the economic migrants who have risked their lives to enter the Americas or Europe?

Many African countries have vowed to provide more training in useful skills for those being repatriated to their respective states in the hope that they can find economic stability at home rather than abroad.

Gurria says this is a step in the right direction since it signals that these states are aware of the problem now and willing to do something to address it.

Education for all

Education is also the key to boosting the global economy and making sure globalisation works again, officials at the conference argued.

According to Audrey Azoulay, the director general of the  UN's Paris-based cultural arm, Unesco, more efforts need to be made to arm every person with the weapon of education.

She also points to the growing problem of migrants and refugees missing out on education.

While efforts are made to provide basic needs, schooling even just reading and writing skills are overlooked, which in the long run will create greater gaps in inequality across the world.

Right and left reactions

According to Pascal Lamy, a former director-general of the World Trade Organisation who is now president emeritus at the Jacques Delors Institute, the phenomenon of globalisation must be reinvented.

In the 1990s, when globalisation began to emerge, Lamy says there was a major pushback from the political left, which believed it to be a movement against justice.

Now there is another pushback, but it is coming from the right.

They see globalisation as a threat to their identity. He points to the cases of US President Donald Trump, who was elected on a platform that was 100 percent about protectionist policies, and the rise of nationalist policies across Europe and elsewhere.

Lamy's answer?

He points to the first wave of globalisation at the end of the 19th century. This forced states to create welfare systems. He says this is what needs to be done: a complete reinvention of globalisation that looks after people across the world's borders.

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