Keynote speech at the International Conference, Inside Globalization: Interpreting the New order at the University of Helsinki 10.5. 2007

While preparing my remarks here today I happened to find on my ancient computer an earlier lecture on globalization which I delivered from this very same podium slightly over eight years ago.  I was gratified to find that most if not all which I than said remains, to my mind at least, more or less valid today.

Perhaps this need to be said because for a rather long time we have been talking about globalization as something completely new and stressing the new nature of the challenges it poses, while already we are seeing the emergency of a new generation in our universities and elsewhere who are much more familiar with globalization and all sorts of things global, while the Cold War and Soviet Communism, to mention two items which dominated the thinking and discourse of my generation, are just ancient history as far as they are concerned.

But, contrary to what Henry Ford claimed, history is not bunk. As a historian myself I always stress the vital importance of knowing one’s history, because those who do not know where from and how they have arrived where they are, will be able to see or influence their future either. This does not mean that one should become a prisoner of your history, but those who do not know it and recognize their history will have even more difficulties in liberating themselves from its shackles.

Thus it is important to recognize, that the consequences of a global market, the growth of multinational corporations, the internationalization of capital markets and the increasing flows of transnational financial transactions, all of which lead ti a growing interdependence between countries and peoples, is not a new phenomenon. This kind of internationalization has taken place for centuries, even if it has not always progressed evenly – remember the over 30 year setback after 1914.

Nevertheless I think that it does make sense to talk about globalization as something, or at least somewhat distinct from the internationalization we have known for centuries. Already the accumulated quantitative changes in terms of trade interdependence, transnational investment and money flows can arguably be presented as having been transformed into qualitative change. And whereas the former forms of internationalization occurred in a pre-industrial or industrializing world, we are now living in an increasingly post-industrial world where the influence of new information and communication technology (ICT) has in many ways changed our societies as well as the nature of transnational exchange.

If I had to state the powerful factor behind the fall of the Soviet Empire and the collapse of communism I would opt for the micro-chip.

The old bogey of the power wielded by large-scale corporations has also receded,  as we are witnessing the emergence of truly global companies, not only in terms of their trade and production but also  in terms of ownership. And even those companies who still have a clearly identified home country are progressively less able and interested in resorting to the resources of their home governments to safeguard and further their interests, which of course was the norm during the heyday of gunboat diplomacy.

Last but not least I want to point to the decisive way in which population growth has changed the world. During my own lifetime I have seen the growth of the world’s population from 2,3 billion people to 6,3 billion today. And even if the rate or growth has started to decrease this figure will have reached at least 9 or even 10 billion before a levelling off will occur.

This has obviously had enormous consequences for the relationship between Humankind and his environment. With the accumulation of centuries of waste and pollutants into our environment we cannot

even know for certain what all the consequences will be, but it is safe to assume that we cannot hope to have more than a few decades at best to change the nature of Man’s interaction with his environment to meet the requirements of socially, economically and ecologically sustainable development.

Likewise population growth has also had vast implications for how human societies – states and nations – interact and work with each other. The option of going it alone with disregard for the interests of others is no longer available. Interdependence has, for better or worse, made this impossible.

For this reason it does not make sense to discuss globalization without taking into account the number one challenge of sustainable development we face in the world: Climate Change, diminishing fresh water resources and other environmental issues. Already it is difficult to discuss these without talking about the economy and social issues, but tomorrow we will be talking also about security – including hard military security – in connection with global environmental issues.

Neither does it make much sense to continue debating whether globalization is good or bad. It is an inevitable fact of life and rather than discussing the inherent ”good ”or ”bad ”in it, we should concentrate on gaining better understanding of the dynamics behind globalization and the practical and pragmatic issues of managing globalization. But for the record I can say that I regard globalization as something which is, on balance, a positive rather than a negative phenomenon, as measured by the potential it has for enhancing human security and the quality of life.

Increasing and deepening the international division of labour can bring concrete benefits in terms of enhanced growth, strengthened potential for the realization of Human Rights and better environmental management, increasing wealth and wellbeing. And this is not something which has been limited to the already more better off parts of the world. Perhaps the most overlooked  item of good news in the world has been the fact that hundreds of millions of  people have been lifted out of abject poverty and living in the shadow of recurring famines, particularly in China and India and elsewhere in Asia. This would not have been possible without taking advantage of the global markets created and opened by globalization

The challenge is, however, that these benefits are not distributed equally around the world or inside different societies with many people becoming distinctly losers in this development. On the contrary it seems that income and wealth differentials are increasing, both within countries and regions and between them.

The second huge challenge is exercising democratic control over the processes involved in globalization. In a sense this means giving an adequate answer to the question ”who is in charge?”.  While democracy has never in history been so widespread in terms of the absolute number of people and the relative proportion of all people in the world who can elect or dismiss their governments in more or less free and fair elections, there is also a growing feeling, particularly in the older and established democracies, that democratic elections have become irrelevant as those elected are not really in charge and increasingly resort to mouthing  the slogans of TINA – meaning  ”there is no alternative”-doctrine used to justify whatever is the current neo-liberal programme of the government in office.

Diminishing belief in the possibilities of democracy has led to growing voter apathy on the one hand, and increasing belief in the necessity of and justification for extra-parliamentary activism.

Democracy has been essentially a national project, and when the power of national governments to steer the economy have been eroded and taken over by international agreements and organisations and/or anonymous global market forces, they have been perceived to have become impotent. This perception corresponds to reality, even if this impotence has often been exaggerated with the intention of getting electorates to acquiesce more easily in what governments actually have themselves chosen and/or to dismiss the possibility for alternative choices.

Globalization calls for global democracy. I don’t mean that this could begin with a globally elected world parliament or even end in one, but national democratic institutions – which are still far from universal in member states of the UN – have not been able to come up with meaningful mechanisms for supernational democracy into the sphere of what necessarily is and will for the foreseeable future remain inter-governmental cooperation in international organisations. Only the European Union can with any credibility claim to have tried to address the issue of bringing democracy into its intergovernmental supernational decision-making. And in the EU it is, in my opinion, rather the efforts to involve the national parliaments of the members states in exercising control over the proceedings and decision-making in the Council more than the European Parliament as it exists today, that can enhance the inadequate democratic legitimacy of the union.

Democracy needs stable and legitimate institutions, but they are not enough. A vibrant civil society, free and accessible media and a fair distribution of resources for civic and political participation are also necessary. Here the globalization of civil society can be seen as having developed in some respects further than transnational institutions.

I make a specific point of mentioning the European Union because I regard the EU at present, with all its well-known faults and shortcomings ,as our best available instrument in endeavouring to achieve better management of globalization.

You may have noted, that I have said little about Interpreting the New Order, which is the subject of this conference, at least in comparison with managing globalization. As a lapsed social scientist I don’t want in any way to underestimate the importance of studying and interpreting globalization, or perhaps I should say different globalizations. I have, on many occasions, lamented the insufficient use of social sciences as an aid in decision-making. But this may not always be the fault if politicians, social scientists should also ask themselves, are they really engaged in producing the kind of knowledge and contributing to the kind of understanding which is needed if we wish to understand and manage globalization.

Ans what does managing globalization actually entail? One way of approaching the answer is to divide the fields of global management into issues related a) to the environment, b) to security, peace and crisis management, c) to human rights, democracy and the rule of law and d) to trade, development and the economy. This can be a helpful tool a kind of check-list although trying to separate these four fields from each other is of course misleading, as they all interact and influence each other. Although one can argue that dealing with the environment is the most important one as failure to address it will sooner or later make all the issues irrelevant, it is also true that we cannot deal with climate change and other environmental challenges unless we also approach them as security, democracy and economic issues.

 I think it is to the credit of the European Union that it can be identified as the international actor that has best understood the interdependence of all these aspects of globalization, and the need for a comprehensive approach to all of these at the same time.

This understanding is also necessary in order to avoid a one-sided dependence on only military instruments to provide security and as a tool in crisis management, or a misguided belief that democracy as such (and much less as an export article) is a panacea to all the ills affecting poor and/or culturally complex countries, or thinking that all you need is more development assistance and money to solve problems. If the Americans are good at using guns and missiles and the Europeans in writing cheques neither alone or even the two together are sufficient tools for crisis management

European thinking on security and globalization issues as embodied in the Union’s Security Strategy and other strategies and Finnish thinking as embodied in our White Paper on Security and Defence or in the Helsinki Process on Globalization and Democracy we have launched go well together.