Scholarly article on topic 'Global Social Policy Forum'

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Global Social Policy
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Academic research paper on topic "Global Social Policy Forum"

Global Social Policy Forum


Editor's Introduction

It is intended that this section of the journal should facilitate debate on aspects of global social policy. It will also provide a platform for different interest groups and actors to share their perspectives on such matters. For the first issue of the journal a number of individuals associated with a range of international organizations and social movements were asked the following question, 'What are the most important and viable global governance reforms that could be campaigned for in the first decades of the twenty-first century that could lead to the securing of greater global justice? What, in other words, are the institutional steps now needed in the context of the present complex multilateralism to ensure that the social dimension of globalization is addressed in ways which lead to greater global equity and the enhanced meeting of human needs north and south?' The 10 responses to this request are printed below. The range of global social governance reform issues addressed is wide and representative. Although all of the contributors are associated with organizations none of the comments should necessarily be interpreted as expressing the views of those organizations. Comments are invited from readers on any or all of these initial propositions.


Focus on the Global South (

Step One to a Better World: Controlling Capital

(nicola bullard is Deputy Director of Focus on the Global South, a policy research and advocacy international organization based in Bangkok, Thailand.)

The predominant characteristic of our 'globalizing economy' is the unfettered power and movement of finance. Any mechanisms for global governance aimed at securing 'greater global justice' will come to nothing

Global Social Policy copyright © 2001 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, ca and New Delhi) vol. 1(1): 7-23. [1468-0181 (200104) 1:1; 7-23; 016330]

unless the problem - for it surely is a problem - of finance is addressed. Why is finance a problem?

First, finance is predominantly in private hands and therefore not subject to any kind of democratic control. Financial markets operate in response to 'market sentiment' and 'shareholder value' regardless of the political, social, economic and environmental consequences.

Second, the logic of finance is to maximize returns which means that it will gravitate to high interest sectors rather than those areas where most developing countries need it, such as infrastructure, health, education, social development and so on.

Third, the sheer volume and volatility of financial markets dwarf and batter the economies of many Third World countries. Often, governments are powerless to resist either speculative attacks on their currencies or to staunch the flow of national reserves should capital take flight.

Fourth, the tremendous boom in international finance is due partly to the great move to pension and mutual funds, both in the north and now, more frequently, in the south. This means that the long-term security of millions of working men and women is dependent on the continuing high returns of finance capital - security which could disappear in the blink of a Wall Street crash.

Fifth, as private financial flows to developing countries increase (in fact, just 20 countries get 80 percent of financial flows to the south) the amount of overseas development assistance (ODA) has been steadily declining. Third World governments are told that they should access financial markets to meet some of their development needs but this results in over-dependence on foreign finances, and often a poor match between investment rates of return and the cost of private finance.

Sixth, financial crises hurt the real economy to a greater extent than they have an effect on financial markets. The legacy of the 1997 Asian financial crisis is that unpayable private sector debt has been transferred to the public sector, leaving these countries with previously unimaginable debt/GDP ratios and foreshadowing a debt crisis of the future.

For these, and many other reasons, the first essential step in any agenda for greater global justice is to rein in the power of finance. This can be done at the national and international level through transactions taxes and capital controls. Only then can we start to restore the balance between finance and people.


International Council on Social Welfare (

Encourage Constructive Regionalism' and Strengthen the UN's ECOSOC

(julian disney is Immediate Past President of the ICSW an international non-

governmental organization operating throughout the world for the cause of social welfare, social justice and social development.)

First, regional groupings of governments should be encouraged to become more involved in policy issues that can enhance sustainable economic and social development. This will require them to be more cohesive and to accord more prominent roles to governmental and non-governmental experts on social policy issues, including civil society organizations (CSOs) at both national and international levels. The process has been under way for some time in Europe but is especially needed in the regions of the south.

This form of 'constructive regionalism' can provide a number of benefits. It can help countries to achieve economies of scale, to share experiences and resources, and to respond to local crises. It can help the less powerful countries, in particular, to develop collective expertise and negotiating power in global forums in order to protect their own interests, cultures and autonomy to a greater extent than they are likely to be able to achieve on their own. It can help strike a viable balance between globalization and local autonomy.

In some parts of the world, traditional continental groupings may be less effective for many purposes than sub-continental groupings of countries that share substantial similarities in circumstances and cultures. This applies, for example, to groupings such as the Southern African Development Community and the Association of South East Asian Nations. The European experience demonstrates, of course, that the drawing of appropriate boundaries is by no means a quick or easy process. In the quest for power and inclusiveness, regions may lose much of their cohesion, responsiveness and utility.

Second, the United Nations should play a much greater role in economic and social policy at the international level. It is the only global organization that has a sufficiently broad composition and mandate to play the 'whole of government' role of balancing competing interests that at the national level is the responsibility of legislatures, cabinets and heads of government. For example, its mandate is much wider than the WTO and its composition much more broadly representative than the G8.

It would be useful to focus especially on strengthening the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) system. This would require ECOSOC to play a substantially more assertive and expert role, especially on macro-economic issues. It would need to meet more frequently, involve higherlevel government representatives and increase its profile and activity at the regional level. It would also need to make greater use of non-governmental expertise, and civil society organizations would need to take a much greater interest in its activities rather than dismiss it as beyond redemption.

At present, the Council's membership of more than 50 countries makes it too large for the kind of detailed, frank and informal negotiations that are

often essential for resolution of the most important and contentious issues. Also, its structure does not strike a fair and realistic balance between the most populous or powerful countries and the growing number of very small countries. Whether on the Council itself or on key committees, there is much to be said for a structure consisting of the G8 countries, a similar number of the other most populous countries, and a similar number of representatives of regional groupings. This would approximate the composition of the Group of 20 that was established recently to oversee international financial policy, although the EU is the only regional grouping represented on that body.


Transnational Institute (

Towards International Economic and Social Rights for All Including Migrant Workers

(fiona dove is Director of the Transnational Institute, an international network of activist-scholars concerned to analyse and find viable solutions to global problems such as social injustice.)

A missing dimension and an increasingly crucial one is the international legal arena. This is, of course, a contested terrain, subject to the balance of forces - for or against certain interests - at any point of history. It is also an arena that holds enormous potential for establishing, upholding and enforcing universal principles of justice. While we are seeing an increasing tendency, particularly on the part of the USA, to move in the direction of greater unilateralism and, in some instances, flagrantly flouting established international law, we are also seeing a shift in the other direction, following on from the Pinochet precedent, whereby national and even local courts -e.g., the Scottish court in 1999 acquitting two anti-nuclear weapon activists on the grounds of the International Court of Justice ruling on the (il)legality of nuclear weapons in 1996 - are prepared to apply international law. There are a number of organizations looking at legal means for enforcing public accountability of transnational corporations for unethical or destructive business practices; looking at how to challenge the World Trade Organization's international trade law-making in contradiction with internationally agreed environmental and human rights conventions. We also need to figure out how to extend internationally accepted conceptions of human rights beyond political and civic rights to economic and social rights, and ask what kinds of systems would be required to enable ordinary citizens to directly access the international justice system. How to go beyond the current intergovernmental system of international justice?

Then there are questions around systems of political representation -whether at global or any other level. Do we see corporations, or for that matter, NGOs, as legitimate political representatives? If so, what are the implications for established systems of political representation/democracy from local to global level? But if not, what role do we see for such actors in the political realm?

Globalization has also been accompanied by unprecedented levels of trans-border migration, particularly in regions characterized by uneven development and one obviously dominant economy. Yet, whatever freedoms are being extended to trade and capital flows, there is no freedom of movement for labour. Migrant workers are subject to all manner of restriction, exploitation and even harassment in their host countries. They often have little or no labour or citizenship rights in their places of work, and may even lose certain citizenship rights in their countries of birth (e.g., right to vote - viz. South Africa and Philippines). Furthermore, as unemployment levels rise and social benefits diminish under neo-liberal economic governance, migrant workers are increasingly seen as a threat by sections of the national citizenry. What policy and institutional proposals can we suggest to promote and protect the full human rights, including labour, social, economic, and citizenship rights, of migrant workers?

suggested further reading

'Re-imagining the Future: Towards Democratic Governance - A Report of the Global Governance Reform Project', produced by Joseph Camilleri, La Trobe University (School of Sociology, Politics and Anthropology); Kamal Malhotra (Focus on the Global South, Thailand), Majid Tehranian, Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research, Tokyo and Honolulu, August 2000. It is available from Politics Department, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria 3083, Australia (tel: +61 3 9479 2287 fax: +61 3 9479 1997) for US$13. ISBN: 0646-39994-2.


Princeton University, USA (

For a General Assembly of the Peoples of the World

(richard falk is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University and author of On Humane Governance: Towards a New Global Politics.)

Prospects for global reform in the present period are shaped by the political dimensions of economic globalization. Such a reality is relatively new in international life, displacing the earlier priority accorded to issues directly relating to the dangers and consequences of international warfare. With the cold war over and the prospect of major wars on the decline, the focus of reformist attention is shifting to issues relating to the rise of market forces,

the bypassing of the state, and the emergence of global civil society. Such an economistic assessment should not be understood as supportive of the judgement that war-peace issues are of diminished importance for the quality of global governance. The abolition of weaponry of mass destruction is as important as during the Cold War years, although for somewhat different reasons, and the establishment of a peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations is an urgent world order priority.

Yet, it is my view that the defining challenge of the present historical moment relates to the disjunction between trends toward the democratization of state-society relations and the persistence of an anti-democratic structuring of world order. It is ironic that the United States Government that has staked its ideological identity and normative leadership on the promotion of constitutional governance for the states of the world has been the most determined adversary of all efforts to democratize the practice of world politics. This resistance to global democracy is doubly rooted in great power arrogance and the neo-liberal consensus, which exerts pressures to uphold unconditional sovereign rights and to maintain a minimally regulated world economy. The embodiment of global democracy involves such elements as the accountability of leaders, the transparency of global policymaking, the implementation of international law and human rights, and the participation of the peoples of the world in arenas of authority. The realization of global democracy is a project and process centered in the aspirations of global civil society, but critical for the achievement of global governance that gives proper emphasis to issues of fairness, sustainability, and compassion.

Against this background, I would single out the establishment of a global peoples' assembly or parliament as the most promising of reformist responses to this glaring global democratic deficit. In recent years, I have been collaborating with Andrew Strauss in formulating both the argument for such an innovation and the means by which it may be brought into existence. We have been heartened by the experience of the European Parliament, both its existence as a formal institution and its evolution over the years, moving from the sidelines of European regionalism toward the center of the system, creating a genuine voice for grassroots democracy. It is notable that Europe where the modern state system took shape several centuries ago is now the part of the world that has initiated the boldest experiment in the redesign of political community life. Regional governance for Europe is a suggestive middle way between the persistence of the state system and the dubious alternative of world government.

We believe that the climate of world opinion is increasingly receptive to the establishment of a global peoples' assembly or parliament, preferably, but not necessarily, situated within the United Nations system. One possibility would be to create a second assembly that was directly elected by the peoples of the world, possibly on a regional basis. If this proves impossible, due to opposition from the main geopolitical actors, then global civil society

should organize this legislative initiative with its own resources and energies. There exists a need to experiment with organizational forms and mechanisms to ensure as much 'representativeness' and effectiveness as possible in relation to the diverse identities of the world's peoples. Such an entity might be known, at least initially, as the General Assembly of the Peoples of the World.


Toward Greater Global Social Justice: A View from the World Bank

(robert holzmann and steen j0rgensen are Directors respectively of the Social Protection and Social Development sections of the World Bank.)

Greater global justice is a very important, ambitious and clearly needed objective in this new millennium. Almost everyone is likely to agree with the objective of attaining greater global equity by allowing more people to meet their basic human needs irrespective of where they happen to be born. However, there will likely be more dissonance regarding how to achieve this objective.

Globalization of trade in goods, services and factors of production and the increased inter-connectivity of economies and societies present enormous opportunities for developing countries and poor people within developing countries to prosper. In contrast, the resulting environment also brings risks and increases the number of possible outcomes. Technological changes help to accelerate the pace of development - and could help close the knowledge gap between rich and poor people - but at the same time tend to widen the gulf between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' both within and among countries. The capacity of governments to correct for unequal outcomes with fiscal means decreases as a result of globalization - precisely at the time when it is most needed. As a consequence of this inevitable process, governments will have to strive for greater global equity by using the new opportunities to leverage development while finding diverse mechanisms for dealing with the enhanced risk and limited means. This requires the use of informal and market-based measures as well as public ones. No single method will be sufficient to ensure better risk management, which leads to greater poverty reduction and social justice. Unequal ability to manage risk is one important element of global inequality.

In order to create opportunities, security and voice as main ingredients for lasting poverty reduction and greater global justice, the world needs to see:

1. more transparency and accountability of local and national governments,

international organizations (and the governments they represent) and also NGOs;

2. the use of benchmarking and public as well as market-driven standards (such as in the area of labor markets);

3. the access of developing countries not only to markets but also to knowledge and new technologies;

4. enhanced knowledge exchange among developing and developed countries about good and best practice of social policies to avoid mistakes and to encourage innovations;

5. poor people's ownership and enhanced management of social programs tailored to their needs; and last but not least

6. enhanced and sustainable financial flows from the rich to the poor countries. However, as a rising number of empirical studies demonstrate, these flows have to be received in an environment of good national policy in order to be beneficial and not detrimental.

It is not clear to us what the comparative advantage of new global institutions would be in these fields. Existing global institutions such as the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions can tackle many of these issues and hopefully lead the way in ensuring that development takes place in a manner consistent with poor people's aspirations. We need to see poor people as an asset in the fight against injustice, not a liability. If the global community buys into this simple principle and stops bickering about market or government failure, there is a good chance that we will see greater global justice in this century.

suggested further reading

World Bank (1999) Principles and Best Practice in Social Policy Issues and Areas for Public Action. Washington, DC; World Bank (2000) Poverty Reduction Strategy Sourcebook. Consultation draft. Washington, DC; World Bank (2000) Social Protection Sector Strategy: From Safety Net to Springboard. Human Development Network. Washington, DC; World Bank (2000) World Development Report 2000/1: Attacking Poverty. New York: Oxford University Press.


International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (

Ground Rules for the Global Economy

(james howard is Employment and Labour Standards Officer of the ICFTU, a confederation of national trade union centres each of which links together the trade unions of that particular country.)

Never since the present multilateral institutions were created has the contrast been so striking between the growing wealth and prosperity enjoyed

by a few and the increasing poverty experienced by a vastly greater number. That fact goes far to explaining the present crisis of confidence in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Such inequities within and between countries must be addressed to bring about sustainable social and economic development. The United Nations and its specialized agencies like the International Labour Organisation (ILO) should become the focal point for the critical changes needed in the twenty-first century. They must rise to the challenge of globalizing social justice. This means underpinning the global economy with a set of values and ground rules which ensure that the wealth created by globalization is spread equitably among and within nations; that working women and men have a fair share in globalization's benefits; and that the needs of ordinary citizens for decent jobs in safe, sustainable, peaceful environments are fulfilled.

The priority areas of this framework include:

• creating an enabling environment for progress, consistent with the principles of democracy, the exercise of fundamental rights and the observance of core labour standards;

• redefining macroeconomic policies so that they are consistent with social justice, shared prosperity, employment growth and poverty eradication;

• reorienting trade policies so that they are pro-development and ensure the observance of core labour standards as enshrined in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work;

• prioritizing employment growth as an essential element of poverty eradication strategies and ensuring that policies are consistent with the goal of gender equality;

• establishing consultative mechanisms to achieve effective involvement of trade unions and other civil society organizations in policy formulation and implementation at national and international levels, including the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank.

Achieving this framework requires that the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank incorporate social, development and environmental concerns effectively into their decision-making structures. This will entail a statutory commitment on their part to respect the conclusions of the major UN Summits of the past decade (Environment, Human Rights, Population, Social Development, Women, Human Settlements and Food) and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Implementation of these conclusions should be internalized in all their mechanisms and policies. Finally, they need to work equally for all their members and be seen to do so, by strengthening their internal transparency and democracy.

Finding the resources to achieve greater global equity will require, inter alia:

• support for strengthening of taxation systems and other domestic revenue-earning measures;

• a timetable within the donor community for meeting the target of 0.7 percent of GNP towards ODA;

• support for deeper, wider, faster debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries that respect human rights, with freed up resources targeted to poverty reduction and the provision of social services;

• agreement on measures for the taxation of foreign exchange transactions, with the proceeds devoted mostly to development assistance.


Social Policy and Development Secretariat of the United Nations (http://www

Constraining International Financial Markets

(john langmore is Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development within the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the UN.)

A decision included with the annual Australian budget some years ago involved what many people regarded as an inhuman reduction in access to unemployment benefit for 16- and 17-year olds. The Treasurer justified this as a way of demonstrating fiscal probity to financial markets. Later that day a Wall Street foreign exchange dealer speaking on Australian national radio confirmed that this decision had exactly that result: cutting income for an especially vulnerable group demonstrated that the government was determined to restrain expenditure!

This anecdote illustrates a crucial aspect of the current global structure, that one of the major impediments to national and international socially just development is the international financial market, for it is one of the most powerful forces in the world and is dominated by a pattern of ideas concerned only with narrowly focused economic interests. That ideology includes the imperative of unconstrained markets and minimizing public outlays and wages.

The capacity of the international financial market to determine the pace and pattern of economic growth and to enhance or threaten economic stability is greater than that of any other force. All governments are dominated and constrained by the preferences of private financial institutions and their operatives. Every government takes major economic and social policy decisions with their impact on financial markets in mind. This is one of the reasons for the erosion of the power of governments during the last quarter century.

It is therefore essential to find means of constraining the destabilizing capacity of financial markets and limiting their capacity to distort public policy while increasing their incentives to contribute more effectively to

development. One of a number of important initiatives would be introduction of a currency transactions tax - often called a Tobin tax. Nobel laureate in economics James Tobin suggested a couple of decades ago that a small levy on foreign exchange transactions would reduce both the volatility of financial flows and of exchange rates. Governments at dealing sites could collect an ad valorem tax from all foreign exchange transactions through banks and other dealers. Such a tax would discourage very short-term financial movements while making little impact on international investment or trade. Imposing a penalty tax on dealings with tax-free jurisdictions would minimize avoidance. The global daily currency turnover, of around US$1500billion in 1998, could well fall substantially if such a levy were introduced.

A low tax rate of 0.1 percent would generate substantial total revenue for governments of around US$150billion a year. This would provide significant additions to the revenue bases of all countries and particularly those in which currency trading is a substantial activity. Part of the international treaty that would be required to introduce the tax could be agreement on a formula for allocating part of the receipts for funding global public goods through the various international organizations such as the UN, World Bank and the IMF.

The impact of such a levy would include a marginal reduction in the capacity of international financial markets to influence national macroeconomics policy and perhaps the opportunity for a small global reduction in real interest rates, because of the reduction in the volatility of short-term financial flows. The agreement required for the application of a currency transactions tax would be a very significant step forward in international economic cooperation and in providing desperately needed resources for social development.


Social Development & Policy Group Ottawa (

The Need for a New Development Ethic and New Approaches to Social Policies

(daniel morales-gomez is Director of the Social Development and Policy Group, which exists to foster informed, innovative and sound decisions that lead to equitable, just and sustainable human development. It is based in Ottawa, Canada.)

Addressing the challenges of persistent poverty, structural inequality, and systemic inequity in the context of globalization requires us to break away from conventional models of social policy governance reforms that focus on the symptoms of poverty and exclusion. Today's views about the social dimension of globalization remain trapped in theoretical categories, conceptual dichotomies, and institutional frameworks that restrain rather than move forward social development thinking.

Social policy reforms in place suggest that structural social and political barriers often contribute to maintain rather than to change top-down governance patterns that reinforce international development agendas and pre-set approaches to change public policies which are not culturally adapted to the environment where they are applied. These dominant patterns of governance often ignore questions about the values and core assumptions in our understanding of development, and the ways we go about achieving it. There is a need to step outside the institutional boundaries that set the dogma of the current development universe and seek a new development ethic.

Current governance reforms are instrumental in creating comfort zones for international organizations and financial institutions, promoting development schemes and definitions of progress that maintain the fundamental order of the development universe of the past 50 years. Adding a 'human face' and a focus on poverty to the governance and social development discourse is perhaps politically appealing, but practically insufficient. At best, it provides a fertile ground for development professionals to positioning their views and actions at the 'cutting edge' of the known development order defined by the north. At worse, it creates the illusion that social development has taken a new turn driven by concerns other than those of the economy. Governance reforms from a social policy perspective may help to soften the negative impact of market liberalization but ultimately it continues to favour mainstream efficiency and market considerations in social investments. As a result, such reforms bring greater benefits to those sectors of society which are equipped to participate in policy decisions, to benefit from global and regional markets, to lobby politicians, and which have institutional representation in society.

There are at least four fundamental questions that need to be addressed to ensure that globalization leads to greater global justice: What is the relevance to the poor of the value assumptions guiding development and the role of social policy? What social and economic policies need to be designed which are relevant to the institutional and individual realities for development to occur? What institutional and human resource means are available or need to be built to make social, economic, and science and technology policies work in tandem? What is the type of society these policies intend to achieve given both the national ethos and the pressures from globalization?


CEPIA, The Civil Society Forum in the Americas (

A Human and Social Rights Agenda for MERCOSUR

(Jacqueline pitanguy is a Director of CEPIA, Citizenship Studies, Information and Action, which is a non-governmental, non-profit organization dedicated to developing projects that promote human and citizenship rights. It is based in Brazil.)

Another way to phrase the question posed concerning global justice would be: Is it possible to change the global architecture of neo-liberal globalization whose logic, by definition, is oriented to maximize profits and not to redistribute wealth? Is it possible to increase and not to reduce inequalities and to integrate all in fair and non-discriminatory ways?

It is frightening to think of answers to these questions and it is paralyzing not to do so. The challenge is how to develop a social and human rights agenda that will not only accompany and underline economic market integration processes but change their nature, rebuilding the nexus between social justice and economics.

Since 1998 CEPIA, an organization based in Brazil, acting as secretariat of the Civil Society Forum in the Americas has been developing, along with other NGOs from the south cone of Latin America, a project whose goal is to develop and propose, to governments and the commercial sector, a social and human rights agenda for the MERCOSUR. Established in 1991, under the Treaty of Assuncion, this market is based on free trade agreements involving Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Chile and Bolivia were incorporated as expanded members.

These countries are responsible for an economy of approximately US$1 trillion dollars and around 230million people. With strong national differences they have, however, gone through similar political and economical processes during the last decades. Until the 1960s and early 1970s they were ruled by democratic civil governments - although the poor, the non-whites and women were largely excluded from situations of power. In the 1960s and 1970s, they all suffered coups d'état. As the military reinforced their power more and more the realm of justice and human rights in the south cone of Latin America was detached from the state and was located solely in the political discourse of civil society.

Civil society organizations of MERCOSUR countries are strong and visible actors. They played key roles in resisting dictatorship nationally and have interacted regionally, to reinforce democratic institutions and expand the democratic agenda, denouncing the increasing gap between rich and poor, and bringing other dimensions of inequality such as gender and race and ethnicity to the public debate.

As MERCOSUR becomes an increasingly important process of economic integration (as a mean in itself and as an instrument to empower the south cone in FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas] negotiations) we see the urgency of civil society organizations participating as strong and visible interlocutors at the discussion table. So far this discussion has involved basically only governments and the commercial sectors, with a secondary presence of labor unions.

A social and human rights agenda for MERCOSUR is a viable institutional instrument to address the social dimension of economic markets, a kind of passport to regional citizenship, including labor and capital regulations but

going beyond this to incorporate issues related to gender and racial equity, to sexual and reproductive rights, to environmental protection. This agenda is a political instrument of negotiation. Its power increases as the recognition grows that there is a global impasse in the neo-liberal agenda. As civil society organizations create, replicate, exchange and improve such an agenda, they will contribute to a more holistic approach to global processes based on an ethic of solidarity and social justice.


ILO's Socio-Economic Security Programme (

Governance and Social Protection: Promoting Economic Security

(guy standing is Director, Socio-Economic Security Programme, International Labour Organisation. This comment is made in a personal capacity, and should not be attributed to the ILO.)

In thinking of what to address in this note, three themes kept forcing themselves to the front of my mind, all of which seem apt for a new journal on global policy. The Editor asked for reflections, and it seemed appropriate to resist giving a statement of our vision of the twenty-first century. In a short note, that could seem fatuous or superficial. The three points are rather closer to current concerns, particularly for a new journal.

The first is rather fundamental, and is more invidious than we care to admit. We live in an era when analysis and policy debates are conducted increasingly through euphemisms and metaphors. No organization, consultant, management guru or social scientist seems immune to the appeal to indulge in the art of devising buzzwords and colourful images. There is nothing new in this; in the sixteenth century, Francis Bacon warned of the idols of the marketplace of ideas, and in the 1960s Raymond Williams wrote a delightful book on keywords. But the use of euphemisms has become more pervasive and cynical than ever before. Students should be required to take a course to prepare themselves for producing their share of euphemisms and for deciphering those that will come in their direction. All of us need to be prepared to peer through the fog.

The global governance debate is dogged by a search for acceptable words and a desire by those involved to avoid those that might cause concern. What is off the agenda, as taboo, is as intriguing as what is on it. We do not talk much of 'redistribution' or 'equality' these days because those words imply taking away from some to give to others, and have a whiff of even more taboo words. We should put both of them back where they belong, at the heart of international and national debate. By contrast, many words bandied about as if there is no need for definition should be used with

extreme care, or preferably eschewed altogether. In the evolution of this journal, editors and readers alike must be on guard.

One could give a long list, and an attempt to do so is made elsewhere (Standing, 2000). A few examples will suffice. What, for instance, does the term 'social safety net' mean? The answer is that it is code for a selective approach to social protection, as opposed to a universal system. Abstractly, who could be against a safety net to catch all those falling off the globalizing economy? Yet in practice it has meant a pluralistic system, with means-testing and so on, which results in low take-up. Another example is 'active labour market policy'. This conjures up an image of virility: Who could favour being 'passive' if you could be 'active'? In fact, the term means obliging people to do certain activities if they want a state transfer. One could argue that active policy, by reducing the freedom to act, makes for passive people, cajoled to behave in ways deemed by officials to be in their best interest.

Recent candidates for euphemistic eulogy include 'social capital', a well-established but infinitely elastic notion that appeals to mainstream commentators and analysts because it has the word 'capital', and is implicitly non-subversive. For others, it seems to offer a way of 'bringing the state back in'. Creeping up the popularity stakes is 'empowerment'. For years the orthodox development and economics paradigm stipulated that it was vital to cut public spending, cut the state, switch public spending from social protection to 'human capital', and privatize. Whatever else these policies did, they increased the economic and social insecurities of millions of people. Given the cutbacks in public provision and the switch in functions, particularly when allied to calls by international agencies to 'deregulate' and 'remove rigidities', one would find it hard to dispute that the new policies and institutions promoted dis-empowerment. Now those same bodies are preaching the need for 'empowerment'. And, of course, there was the notion of 'deregulation', which has been a disgraceful euphemism. There is no such thing as a deregulated labour market. What has happened has been a shift from pro-collective, protective and empowering regulations to pro-individualistic regulations that increased inequalities and the incidence of poverty (in itself a euphemism).

This leads to the second theme. Which agencies were most instrumental in the type of reforms that have spread during the era of globalization? Leave aside whether those reforms were good or bad. How are those agencies to be held accountable? Do they operate the principles of 'good governance' - transparency, accountability and democracy - that they include as part of the 'conditionality' of financial and technical assistance? It should not be good enough that new senior staff change the words. As argued elsewhere, it is a dangerous illusion that there should be a single strategy at the international level, orchestrated by what Jo Stiglitz called 'the knowledge bank' or by any single entity.

The third theme that came to mind for a new journal is that there is reason for optimism at this time, of the spirit and of the mind. There are signs that we are entering a new progressive era, when politicians and analysts will be looking for means of re-embedding the economy in society, for reviving a sense of 'equality'. The fundamental question for global social policy is still the one that has lingered over past centuries: What should be equalized in a Good Society? This journal should be devoted to efforts that try to answer that question and the questions that stem from it.

Standing, G. (2000) 'The Babble of Euphemisms: Social Protection in "Transformed Labour Markets"', in A. Rainnie, A. Smith and A. Swain (eds) Work, Employment and Transition: Restructuring Livelihoods in Post-Communism. London: Routledge. The Socio-Economic Programme draws on a book, Standing, G. (1999) Global Labour Flexibility: Seeking Distributive Justice. Basingstoke: Macmillan.


International Monetary Fund (

A Proposal for a Global Social Protection Fund

(vito tanzi is Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF.)

Globalization and technological developments have created the conditions for greater mobility of factors of production. Capital, in particular, is seen as very mobile and countries that overtax it are often warned that they may experience capital outflows towards territories where capital is less taxed. Labor mobility has generally received much less attention and academic papers continue to assume that labor is immobile. Yet many countries have been experiencing large inflows of people who come in search of permanent or temporary work.

Many industrial countries have created systems of social protection for their citizens or for permanent immigrants who qualify. However, the combination of temporary or non-qualifying laborers, together with the often strict requirements to qualify for a country's social protection, is creating situations where an increasing number of individuals are falling through the cracks of established safety nets. This trend is likely to continue and the problem is likely to grow over time. Globalization is undoubtedly contributing to this phenomenon. It is unlikely that the industrial countries will relax the requirements to benefit from their established safety nets to incorporate these individuals. Financial pressures, and especially the possible negative impact on tax revenue coming from tax competition, will make the governments of the industrial countries unwilling to assume this additional burden.

The national focus of social protection in a world that is becoming more globalized is likely to lead to greater global injustice vis-à-vis some

vulnerable people unless important changes are made. These changes could come at the national or at the international levels. However, for the reasons indicated above, the national solution is not likely to occur. Thus, international alternatives must be considered.

Suppose that an international institution that could be called a Global Social Protection Fund, or perhaps an International Social Security Fund, could be created. This could become part of the existing family of international institutions. This Fund could be charged with developing safety nets for old age (i.e., pensions) for migrant workers and for other workers who are not able to qualify for national pensions. The Fund would receive contributions from the workers and possibly from their employers. These contributions would be some fixed proportion of the workers' wages, say 10 percent. The contribution rate would be fixed by the Fund, which would have international supervision and representation.

The money received by the Fund from the contributors would be invested by professional money managers. The investments would be international and, within specified risk constraints, the managers would aim for the highest possible rates of return. Ideally, the fixed administrative costs of running the Fund would be paid by the member countries that could be the international community. Individual retirement accounts would be established for each contributor. Each account would grow over time reflecting both the contributions by the workers (and the employers) and the earnings on these accounts. Obviously, the higher the rate of return on the investments, the faster the growth of the accounts.

A minimum retirement age would be established at which time the workers would have the choice of getting the full accumulated balances on an annuity; later retirement would be compensated actuarially by larger assets or annuities.

Obviously, many political, technical and administrative problems would have to be solved to set up such an institution and to make it work. These, however, do not seem insurmountable. With such an institution in place, the world would move one step closer toward the establishment of a global safety net. The establishment of a social safety net will also encourage a freer movement of labor, contributing to a more efficient use of labor worldwide.