Andorra 2016: Global Forces, Local Voices
Andorra 2016: Global Forces, Local Voices
Nizami Ganjavi International Center VIII High-Level Meeting
Andorra la Vella, 12th — 14th June 2016
Across the world, traditional political and economic paradigms are being challenged like never before by the forces of globalisation. New technologies and affordable travel have created opportunities for communication, trade and migration which would have seemed unimaginable mere decades ago. Anyone ‘armed’ with a smartphone and a big idea could be the next tech billionaire, and millions of people are turning to the online “sharing economy” to supplement – or even replace – traditional employment. International commerce and economic migration are bringing people together in unprecedented ways, and the internet has become the conduit for an emergent “global culture,” with English as its lingua franca.
The world is changing before our eyes, and the potential for humanity would appear to be vast. Yet cracks are apparent. As industry and capital become ever more mobile, businesses are increasingly drawn to the developing world, where precarious and low-paid employment remains rife. In the West, generous social benefits and workers’ rights appear increasingly unsustainable as a result, with national socio-economic policies now measured by their competitiveness in an emerging global marketplace. An unprecedented exchange of wealth and ideas should enrich all of us – yet the status quo disproportionately benefits an elite few, while ordinary people endure a global “race to the bottom.” Therefore, despite its great promise, for many people globalisation is increasingly synonymous with exploitation and inequality, as well as worryingly rapid change in the fabric of communities and societies. As such, is it time to re-think globalisation in the name of fairness?
In political terms, the repercussions of these concerns are already being felt. From economic migration to the outsourcing of labour, dissatisfaction with globalisation is rife, but rarely articulated as such; instead, voters embrace radical solutions which offer the promise of disrupting the status quo. In most established democracies, mainstream political parties – increasingly perceived as detached from the problems of ordinary people, or complicit in creating them – are losing ground to radical or populist movements. In the USA and much of Europe, voters increasingly identify with charismatic “non-politicians” who eschew establishment conventions in favour of protectionism and xenophobia. From Nigel Farage to Frauke Petry to Beppe Grillo, and the Marine Le Pen to Donald Trump, a brash appeal to identity as a bulwark against a globalised world is the common thread behind the popularity of all these figures. But what does this “Trump Effect” mean for pluralistic democracies in the modern world?
The repercussions of a rapidly-changing world are not limited to politics. Traditional business models are being challenged by numerous innovations which allow almost anyone to participate in the global market on their own terms. Entrepreneurship is being democratised by new technologies, start-ups are turning to the crowd for investment in lieu of banks perceived as unreliable or even untrustworthy, and more and more people are rejecting traditional “jobs for life” in favour of flexible working and career mobility. The so-called sharing economy – embodied by massively successful newcomers like Uber and AirBnB – allows an increasing number of people to supplement their income with nothing more than a smartphone. However, these businesses often operate in a legal and financial grey area, and those who “sell their time” to participate in the sharing economy enjoy little job security or social protections. Although this burgeoning flexibility offers new economic opportunities for individuals, its wider impact on fiscal health and poverty levels remains to be seen. How can governments embrace innovation while guaranteeing our standards of human development? Will the 21st century economy be built on a new golden age of entrepreneurship, or a global precariat?
As economics becomes increasingly personal, driven by new technological opportunities, and politics becomes increasingly resistant to plurality, what of governance itself? In Scotland and Catalonia, restless populations may yet redraw the map of Europe along ancient cultural frontiers; the conflicts in Ukraine, Georgia, and around Nagorno-Karabakh remind us of the challenges of international law surrounding sovereignty and self-determination, as well as its enforceability. The international challenges posed by globalisation demand effective global governance, which has disappointed many; popular mood favours individualism, regionalism, even isolationism. If the world embraces the opposing poles of local identity and international commerce, the state as a unit of governance seems to become less and less relevant. This is the moment for drawing the future world map, but what will it look like?
Building on the outcomes of the 4th Global Baku Forum in March 2016, the VIII High-Level Meeting will bring together over 40 former and current world leaders, as well as key experts, to discuss these and other pressing questions. The event will be hosted by the Nizami Ganjavi International Center in Andorra la Vella, in cooperation with the Fundació Julià Reig.