Thursday, August 23, 2007

Globalization: a panacea?

I asked one of the Russian students in San Diego, "Why is Russia not joining the WTO?" He looked at me and said, "What will Russia get out of it?" I did not have a quick response to that but it made me think... Many ask similar questions that have as its source the dissatisfaction with 'internationalization' and globalization. In the 90s the rate of globalization was very speedy and disorganized. It left many countries and cultures marginalized, because its blessings were not shared with by many. Joseph Stiglitz captured the picture excellently in his famous "Globalization and its Discontents." Today, however, many have realized that globalization is not a choice but a reality. But why is it that people view globalization and one of its by-products-- growth and development of international organizations with such illusory expectations. Nobody promised that 'internationalization' would be panacea for all our troubles. Joining international organizations like the WTO entails not only benefits, but first of all obligations that often are difficult to carry out. For India it meant a fundamental restructuring of its manufacturing of generic drugs, due to the TRIPS agreement (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights). Just like a citizen of the civil society has obligations before the law and the society, a member of the international community also has heightened obligations before the world. So then what are the benefits? Going back to the question posed to me by the Russian student, the benefits are not quantifiable or ascertainable because 'internationalization' involves a process to direct domestic resources for the benefit not only of one's country but also at least not to the detriment of other countries. Perhaps, one can argue that only international cooperation can alleviate the problems in the world, etc. But once again globalization was never supposed to be a curing medicine to our wounds and of course, like every medicine it has its side effects... People should not view international organizations or the law for that matter from the perspective of a utilitarian, especially when the human rights law is concerned... Therefore, the question should not be 'what I would get out of it?' but 'how I can meet my obligations and be a team player with the international community.' Read Professor Anupam Chander's "Globalization and Distrust" for a compelling analysis of these issues.

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