The International Forum on Globalization (IFG) promotes equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable economies.We were formed in response to widespread concerns over economic globalization, a process dominated by international institutions and agreements unaccountable to democratic processes or national governments. Speaking the language of “free-trade” and poverty alleviation, organizations like the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank impose a development model which seems designed to benefit transnational corporations over workers; foreign investors over local businesses; and wealthy countries over developing nations. When the IFG first presented its globalization critique a decade ago, the economic globalization model was widely accepted. Today, the institutions of globalization are undergoing a crisis of legitimacy. Corporate scandals such as Enron and Worldcom, the failures of IMF and World Bank policies and programs, the recent break down of WTO negotiations, and other events reveal that the benefits of globalization that were promised by its advocates have not come to fruition.
Even the policy consensus that governed development thinking during most of the past two decades, the so-called Washington Consensus, has broken up with notable “defectors” such as former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz and the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University Jeffrey Sachs. From conservative circles, the Meltzer Commission, along with Walter Wriston, Henry Kissinger, and William Simon also have issued strong critiques against Bretton Woods institutions.
But perhaps the greatest indictment against globalization is the unprecedented global citizen movement that has emerged during the last decade, demonstrating that the benefits of globalization have gone to the few at the exclusion of many. This extraordinary alliance brings together numerous diverse groups and perspectives — union members, farmers, landless peasants, people of faith, women’s organizations, youth organizations, environmentalists, AIDS and other health activists, politicians, civil servants, immigrants, peace and human rights organizations, intellectuals, consumer advocates, and many others. While promoters of globalization proclaim that this model is the rising tide that will lift all boats, citizen movements find that it is instead lifting only yachts. In fact, the actual beneficiaries are obvious. In the United States, for example, during the period of the most rapid economic globalization — the 1990s — the top corporate executives of the largest global companies made salaries and gained options in the tens of millions of dollars (often in the hundreds of millions), while real wages of ordinary workers either remained stagnant or rose insignificantly.
The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) reports that American CEOs were paid an average of 458 times more than production workers in 2000, up from 104 times in 1991. The degree of wealth concentration of the world’s 475 billionaires is now worth the combined income of the bottom half of humanity. Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Program’s 1999 Human Development Report revealed that the gap between the wealthy and the poor both within and between countries is growing steadily larger. It notes inequities of the current global trading system as one of the key contributors to this trend. Even the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) concurred. In its Global Trends 2015 report, issued in 2000, the CIA maintained that globalization will create “an even wider gap between regional winners and losers than exists today. [Globalization’s] evolution will be rocky, marked by chronic volatility and a widening economic divide…deepening economic stagnation, political instability, and cultural alienation. [It] will foster political, ethnic, ideological, and religious extremism, along with the violence that often accompanies it.”
All over the world, evidence points to the failure of globalization and the so-called “free trade” policies of the last decade – loss of jobs and livelihoods, displacement of indigenous peoples, massive immigration, rapid environmental devastation and loss of biodiversity, increases in poverty and hunger, and many additional negative effects.