Setting aside the complexity of social relationships, globalisation in its current form and with its present content is based on a Western mindset that is neo-liberal in inspiration. Its most visible effects are the standardisation of human relationships and values and a cultural levelling. This production-based conception of globalisation takes a heavy toll on human societies and the environment. The ‘100% economic’ approach to globalisation, based on a Western vision of the world and justified by the doctrine of free-trade, has proven itself fundamentally exclusive, unjust and the cause of inequalities between countries and between social groups within countries. It has a profound impact on human societies, the foundations of their identity, their values and modes of consumption, in a word their life choices. International negotiations, in particular in the framework of the WTO, often generate tensions between States that are directly related to difficulties caused by globalisation. Developed countries are often in conflict amongst themselves, rich countries oppose emerging countries, or both groups are in conflict with poor countries. This continual conflict of interests, which keeps all parties involved in a sort of germinating economic war, is a reflection of the ‘conflictual’ nature of globalisation.
Because globalisation makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker, it is vital to combat the phenomenon’s negative impact on individuals and societies by putting people at the heart of the process. There are already some hesitant attempts to do so, for example the emphasis placed on corporate social responsibility or more generally the globalisation of labour laws. Clearly, we need to go further. In future, human beings and ecology must be the determining factors in international relations, in the economic and financial arenas as well as other areas. Such a perspective requires that we recognise and work toward the emergence of a pacified and equitable world community, based on solidarity and attentive to the fundamental rights of future generations. It means globalisation must be based on a shared ethical foundation. Yet also and above all it means a worldwide consensus must be built on a bedrock of civilisation that transcends—but does not deny—geo-anthropological and cultural particularisms.
It remains understood that cultural withdrawal and isolationism are not a credible response to the excesses and abuses of the dehumanised form of globalisation prevalent today. A true response can only come from a universal awareness of what is at stake, and of the global challenges (one of which is the development of Africa) that the entire planet must address. Concerted responses and a shared willingness to implement them are needed to meet these challenges, for the good of Humanity, which is rich with the diversity and creativity of its populations. A common destiny, diverse values and cultures: we must turn to the dialectic between the two to reshape globalisation and make it a source of true progress for Humanity.
The globalisation shaping the world today is synonymous with the explosion in international flows of goods and services, a result of the combined effects of vast new regional free-trade areas, the transport revolution and a worldwide reconfiguration of which countries are behind and which are ahead in terms of development. Flows of merchandise have of course increased exponentially, but so have flows of people, information and capital. These visible and less visible flows—with their often contradictory goals and consequences—now structure the planetary space.
Whether we are talking about migratory movements, technological transfers or capital flows, in its current form globalisation penalises poor countries and diminishes their chances of gaining access to these strategic resources, and thus of insuring the development and well-being of their populations. Technological transfers and capital flowing into Africa are at an all-time low. Not only does financial deregulation encourage speculation to the detriment of productive investment, but in the end it profits only the interconnected stock markets of the developed world. At the same time, South-North migration deprives Africa of its creative and productive forces and presages new divides.
New kinds of mobility, on the world scale, constitute a complex and ambivalent phenomenon. In the past few decades, migration has been exacerbated by the economic decline of poor countries and centrifugal forces linked to globalisation. The image of a ‘Western El Dorado’ is at the origin of many moves, with people attracted by the economic and cultural metropolises of the world-system. Unfortunately, when confronted with the migratory wave, developed countries have tended to stigmatise the phenomenon and turn it into a security problem, forgetting along the way that migration contributed significantly to the economic prosperity of the 1950’s.
So it is essential to prevent globalisation from marginalising developing countries—particularly in Africa—even further. It is the international community’s responsibility to regulate the progress of globalisation by developing ways to correct its adverse effects, in particular by developing strong governance institutions capable of regulating the world market and promoting a balance between the interests of North and South. The world economic system and international markets do not currently take the economic and social fragility of developing countries sufficiently into account, yet the volatility of international capital flows clearly contributes to unequal development and developing countries’ vulnerability in the face of global crises. International migration also needs to be redefined in terms of mobility and an opportunity for humanity. Finally, respect for social standards must be formally integrated in international trade, in a spirit of partnership, and a multinational and obligatory monitoring process set up to encourage the creation of a new and more equitable world order. In the new order, growth is no longer an end in itself, but at the service of man’s well-being, and globalisation is focused on the social dimension, the fight against inequality and poverty and environmental conservation.