Michael Conlon, National Chair, Canadian Federation of Students
Nancy Riche, Secretary Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress
Rick Salutin, novelist, dramatist, columnist
Owens Wiwa, MD, MPH, Executive Director, Afrida
MODERATOR: Danielle Martin, Ontario Regional Representative, Canadian Federation of Medical Students
Synopsis by Melanie Martin
The goal of this panel was to discuss how the prosperity arising from globalization should be distributed for the benefit of all humanity. Each of the panelists spoke of the impact of globalization on the lives of individuals and on specific issues such as health, education and the environment.
This morning's panelists differed from In the Name of Prosperity panelists in that they believed the implications of globalization are neither neutral, nor innocent. Each of the speakers described how globalization disproportionately affects the poor and those who lack the political power and voice necessary to contribute to the process. They were all opponents of privatization and unrestricted liberalized trade. It was even asserted, by Rick Salutin, that through globalization society as a whole is losing some of what it means to be human as our collective intelligence and imagination decrease.
The first speaker, Mr. Michael Conlon, advanced the position of the Canadian Federation of Students that opposes the commodification of education. It is the Federation's contention that education is a right, not an industry and, therefore, it should not be liberalized. To this extent, the Canadian Federation of Students stands in solidarity with students from around the world in fighting against the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and for a more accountable trading regime.
Ms. Nancy Riche of the Canadian Labour Congress spoke next. She discussed some of the work that her organization has been doing to enhance the rights of workers worldwide. It is her belief that good unionized firms are prosperous and that it is possible for corporations to be both profitable and have a social conscience. Ms. Riche would like to see transnational corporations support conventions to eradicate child labour and assist by providing financing for affected families and education of their children. She also called for an end to export processing zones because in these tax havens workers have no rights and lack the ability to bargain collectively.
Dr. Owen Wiwa called upon corporations to cease their investment in countries that do not value and protect the human rights of their citizens. Dr. Wiwa questioned whether globalization improves or harms human health. He based his discussion upon his personal experience in Nigeria where he witnessed first hand how the bigger the transnational organization, the more power it exerted over the government. Dr. Wiwa explained how the profits derived by multi-national corporations from the resources and labour of developing countries are not reinvested in those states. He asks, what percentage of humanity is assisted by the process of globalization.
Mr. Rick Salutin was the final speaker. He discussed globalization from a philosophical viewpoint. Mr. Salutin proposed that the way in which society conceives of the concept of change has been altered dramatically in the past 40 years. In the 1960s, change was viewed as a positive force, to be used by the people to create a just and equitable world. Now, change is seen as an oppressive, uncontrollable force where resistance is futile. Mr. Salutin also addressed the need to place globalization in its broader historic framework, suggesting that we are not at the mercy of market forces and that in order to better understand the current phenomenon at work, public policy makers need to be empowered.
The general consensus arising from the question period was that in order to better manage and mitigate the effects of globalization, there needs to be more meaningful dialogue amongst stakeholders, so that all of humanity may benefit from innovation and prosperity.
Proceedings of the conference will be posted in due course. Audiotapes are available from Audio Archives & Duplicators Inc. at 905.889.6555 ext. 22, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Synopsis by: Melanie Martin