Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 13, 2002
Globalization benefits the few
The rich are getting richer fast - Keating
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Globalization, the movement of goods, services, ideas and capital across national borders, has brought the world closer together and has created unprecedented wealth. Today there are more billionaires in the world.
But as those attending the Social Justice Institute learned, the uneven spread of global trade and finance between different regions and circles of people has led to increased material inequalities within and between countries.
"The rich people are getting richer fast," University of Alberta professor Tom Keating told about 60 people attending the institute at St. Joseph's University College. The total wealth of the world's 200 richest individuals is $1,042 billion and accounts for more than the combined income of 41 per cent of the world people.
"The gap between the rich and the poor of the world is larger today than it has ever been," Keating said, noting that until 1996, the number of poor people was on the decline but by 1988 it was on the rise again.
He said today there are more than 1.3 billion chronically poor people in the world with nearly 50 per cent of the world's population living on less than $2 a day and about 30 per cent living on less than $1 a day. "Human poverty remains persistently high."
Keating, a political science professor, was one of two keynote speakers at the institute. The other one was Joe Gunn, director of social affairs for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Under the theme "Living Faithfully in a Troubled World," the institute also offered workshops and group discussion on globalization, the role of parishes and parishioners in the social justice field and the Christian response to acts of violence like the attacks of Sept. 11. St. Joseph's University College, the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Social Justice Institute and the Basilian Fathers sponsored the event.
Gunn spoke of the need to regulate globalization, whose benefits are only reaching a selected few from a few selected countries. "Left on its own the markets will not include the poorest people," he said, noting that 80 per cent of all foreign investment today comes from companies in Canada, the US, the European Union and Japan.
Using graphics and charts, Keating illustrated how the gap between the rich and the poor is also increasing within countries of the North like Canada and the US and countries of the South such as Mexico and the Philippines.
He said the richest 20 per cent of the world's population account for 86 percent of total private consumption while the world's poorest account for a mere 1.3 per cent. "We produce more food than ever before but there is an increase in hunger."
Furthermore, many countries have experienced a significant decline in public spending on health care and education, which has lead to an increase in diseases and in illiteracy rates. More than 175 million children do not have access to education, the vast majority of them girls.
About $4 billion are needed to make a dent in the AIDS epidemic but the rich countries prefer to spend the money on arms instead.
After a period of decline, military expenditure is slowly rising again and now stands at $780 billion, with the war in Afghanistan costing about $1 billion a month.
Keating urged participants, mostly Catholics, to help make this world a more just place by advocating for change and supporting those working for change. "Our role is to inform the community of what is going on," he said. "We must become a voice for those who have difficulty being heard."
"We are at a brand new moment. The world has become qualitatively different (as a result of globalization) and we need to think qualitatively different," said Gunn of the CCCB.
Instead of talking about poverty maybe we now have to talk about exclusion to reflect the changes brought on by globalization, he said, suggesting a move toward what he termed a "fundamental option for the excluded" of the world.
One thing people of faith have to do is include the excluded in their events, like newcomers, women, aboriginal people and youth, Gunn said. "We have to create new inclusions. As Gandhi said, we must model the change we desire."
The struggle for change in a globalized economy also calls for alliances with like-minded groups and with people of other faith traditions. People with international experience as well as knowledge of foreign languages such as Afghani and Arabic may also be required.
Gunn also called for a new attitude towards those who make a difference in our lives and in society, regardless of their faith and political affiliation.
"We should write and let them know about the impact they make in our lives."
The CCCB official also urged participants to look to the alternative media for information. With the help of participants, he came up with more than a dozen newspapers and Internet sites that provide a different perspective on world affairs, including the Western Catholic Reporter, the Prairie Messenger, the New Internationalist, the Activist and the Canadian bishops web site, www.cccb.ca.
Alberta is crucial in the battle against the evils of globalization not only because of the upcoming meeting of the G-8 countries in Kananaskis, but because the province leads a movement in Canada toward privatization of medical services and other public services, Gunn said.
Participant Quena Sanchez, 20, a member of St. Theresa Parish's social justice commission, said the institute opened her eyes. "Globalization has good and bad parts but people in the South only get the bad parts (such as poverty and disease)," she said. "I'm ready for action.