Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Taking Globalization to Task

Leave it to Amnesty International to line out, in clear no-nonsense prose, specific examples of sickness brought on by drinking too much globalization Kool-Aid. Those interested in a more reduced version can turn to an article by Jimmy Burns for the Financial Times. Here is his lead:

The United Nations must develop international standards that hold big business accountable for its impact on human rights, Amnesty International says in its annual report published on Wednesday.

There is evidence in many parts of the world that “people are being tipped into poverty and trapped there by corrupt governments and greedy businesses”, Irene Khan, Amnesty’s secretary general, says in her foreword to the report.

Burns then goes on to cite several key examples from the report.

There is no doubting that this report needed to be written. The question is whether or not the United Nations is the governing body that can do anything about it. Like it or not, there is just too much cultural differentiation in the construal of the abstract concept of "human rights;" so the founding effort of the United Nations to produce a "declaration" of the concept has turned out, in practice, to be little more than symbolic. Unfortunately, this will probably all come down to the cynical question of who cares and how much; and there is no need for the United Nations to involve itself in that question. Amnesty International has probably already developed a set of standards. While it has no power of enforcement, it could offer them as the basis for a "seal of approval," for which any business could apply. If this were taken seriously enough, then the power to grant and withdraw the seal would have an impact on how the business is perceived, which may then have a subsequent impact on its prosperity. If it were not taken seriously, then the world would have basically declared that human rights is just not the priority issue that it was declared to be when the United Nations was founded. This would not satisfy Amnesty International very much, but at least they would know the level of hypocrisy with which they are dealing.

No comments: