We live in a connected world, let’s harness that
While those who defend globalization can point to its many positive aspects, its critics stoke the fear of many in Europe and the US about jobs, the loss of national identity, and religious and cultural prejudices.
Whether in economics, politics, technology, or business, everyone has been looking at what globalization can give us or how it will harm us. Missing from all this was the simple fact that globalization is a reality irrespective of what you think of it, and that trying to run away from it is as senseless as trying to escape from the reality of gravity or trying to hide from the sun using a sieve.
Rejecting this reality does not mean that any country can free itself from it. Our world is interdependent, and the only options before us are how to maximize its benefits and reduce its negative impact as much as possible.
The past few months of the coronavirus pandemic have shown that, like it or not, this is what our world is now. One infected person in a city in China can cause billions around the world to lock themselves in their homes and economies to collapse on a global scale. This is simply an affirmation that globalization is a reality that we have no choice but to accept and face these issues together.
In fact, none of the most urgent issues facing the world now can be dealt with on a national level; climate change, pandemics, terrorism, capital flows, all are dependent on (and a product of) the reality of globalization.The weather, for example, doesn't stop at the border, and climate change cannot be faced by any nation alone. The same applies to all other critical issues, whether in health, technology, national security, trade, financial markets, the list goes on.
The bottom line is, no populist rhetoric or political demagoguery based on race, religion, ethnicity, or any other exclusionary irrationality, will ever be able to deny the facts. The choice is simple — protect people from the harmful consequences of their actions, or lead them to harvest any positive results. There is no time or logic to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that our political, economic, and social troubles are the fault of globalization and the “others.”
These past few weeks have clearly revealed a powerful truth; globalization is here and it is a fact of life.
The only real issue worth addressing now is: Do we retreat inwardly as some countries are now doing to face the coronavirus pandemic by closing borders, focusing all policies inward, and coming up with economic stimulus packages just for their own citizens, and convince ourselves that this is the way to protect ourselves? Or do we recognize the simple truth that we are all in this together, and no country can afford to face this alone or hope to protect itself if its neighbors fail to do so. A virus, no matter how hard we try to keep it out, does not ask permission or need a visa to transmit and immigrate very easily.
Sadly, as we have witnessed in the past few weeks, even countries that were thought of as a members of a community, the EU for example, are now behaving in such irrational ways, each for itself with no regard for others within that community. The futility of such thinking is self-evident, of course; no country, no matter how large or powerful, can seal itself off from the world, or future viruses or their devastating impact on life. We either are all healthy, or we will all suffer.
These past few weeks, I think, have clearly revealed a powerful truth; globalization is here and it is a fact of life. It will not go away just because someone decides to erect walls on borders.
Now is the time for all of us and for governments around the world to begin to think that, instead of engaging in senseless debates about globalization, we should use its positive aspects to our advantage and not allow ourselves to be at the mercy of its negative consequences.
Working as the globalized community that we actually are, we can turn it around, use it to achieve our combined benefits, address the most pressing challenges we face, and build a resilient world.
As Benjamin Franklin supposedly said after technically committing treason by signing the American Declaration of Independence: “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
*Hafed Al-Ghwell is a non-resident senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Institute at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is also senior adviser at the international economic consultancy Maxwell Stamp and at the geopolitical risk advisory firm Oxford Analytica, a member of the Strategic Advisory Solutions International Group in Washington DC and a former adviser to the board of the World Bank Group.