Democratization and Human Rights: Is Globalization “good” or “bad” for human rights? Can Globalization protect or promote human rights in the South? By: Rany Ibrahim

28 07 2009

Democratization and Human Rights

Is Globalization “good” or “bad” for human rights? Can Globalization protect or promote human rights in the South?

By: Rany Ibrahim

Is Globalization “good” or “bad” for human rights? I firmly believe that Globalization is important to the development of human rights in the South. Thinkers and philosophers ask many interesting and shocking questions such Amartya Sen’s question “do poor people care about democracy and political rights?”[1] Of course they do, they are similar to their counterpart in the rich West? They are too busy and distracted trying to survive during their daily life activities. Poor people don’t have the privilege to allocate enough if any time to plan such progressive political democratic transformation. Human rights are an advanced social progress that tends to happen once a person or a society secures basic human needs, which are commonly linked to economic rights. Improving people’s conditions in poor society is a key to build a foundation for democracy and freedoms. In Howard-Hassmann (2005) historical examples, the West did not obliged by international law or protects human rights during its own era of economic expansion with activities such as slavery, expel surplus populations, and colonization of other parts of the world, and yet the West expect better from the South? The South will need Western help to avoid using unnecessary means to achieve its own economic development, which will help in improving human rights and speed the democratization process. Howard-Hassmann (2005) agrees that we should not expect non-Western nations to follow the exact same path to the protection of human rights that the Western world followed. Nevertheless, it will lay down the foundation for a healthy strong start.

Human rights are a global concept, with the idea that all human beings, apart from their political affiliations, do belong to a single universal community. The developments and advancements of global communication networks amplified the radius of human rights philosophy and increased access to democracy. The global social order entered a new chapter with the progression of human rights from international to cosmopolitan forms of justice with the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. A new phase in the evolution of the global civil society was developed along with capitalism, liberalism, and globalization. These elements have affected social change within the World’s societies towards adopting a new development agenda. This new development agenda has a normative ground that economic development will lead to democracy. In this context, Jean Grugel states in her article that:

“States in the developing world are encouraged to carry out political reforms which fit the current notion of economic development through open trading, global integration and marketisation: the new development paradigm consists essentially of market economics and democratisation, understood as the introduction of liberal institutional reform (Gill 1995).”[2] 

Nations are linked to the global order, and the current global order is linked to globalization – we cannot isolate one from another. The universal concept of human rights and the right of humanitarian interventions overrides state boarders, and that “the sovereign of the state to dispose of life, liberty, and property of its citizens or residents in not unconditional or unlimited (Benhabib, 2006:29),”[3] it is simply a present day fact.

What is Globalization? McGrew, and his colleagues defines globalization as “a process (or set of processes) that embodies a transformation in the spatial organization of social relations and transactions, generating transcontinental or interregional flows and networks of activity, interaction, and power.”[4] The reason that Globalization has been under attack is because it has been claimed that it is “eating up traditional societies, local values, and local economies” (Howard-Hassmann, 2005). It has been linked to many short or medium-term negative effects that are quicker to prominent than its long-term benefits.  A comparison would be that it’s like a drug that will cause headache now, however it will cure cancer eventually.  The relationship between globalization and human rights cannot be predicted over such a short-time. The First Great Transformation of the industrial revolution lasted about 200 years (Howard-Hassmann, 2005:10).[5] However, during the Second Great Transformation of Globalization and modern economies, and with the current pace of the global information and communication technologies, it should be reasonable to expect faster progress within developing nations. Globalization has been integrated into multiple courtiers and societies around the World’s. A recent example would be South Korea. South Korea took fifty years to complete a transition from a dictatorship to a democracy.

Stick and carrot models work at times; the World Bank defined that aid that is linked to good governance motivates states. Some aid-dependent African countries use political change, market-led economic reform, and democratization as a way to leverage international aid agencies. Globalization through political and economic reform will help home-grown movements to model human rights and democracy with their conditions and culture (Grugel, 1999).[6] Globalization relationship to human rights can be seen in Howard-Hassmann positive relationship model; it is the third and more complicated version with variables between wealth and human rights. In this model, Globalization opens up markets; markets are the basis of the liberal economic order; the liberal economic order is the basis of democracy; democracy is the basis of human rights (Howard-Hassmann, 2005:15).[7]  

 

Figure I (c) Globalization Causes Human Rights: The Simple Model Further Complicated:
“globalization “> markets “> liberal economic order “> democracy “> human rights”[8]

Globalization “cannot be stopped,” it’s a natural progression through time. Asking if Globalization is “good” or “bad” is irrelevant. We are in a world that international organizations, multinational, and national corporations plays an important role in the state. I see globalization from a positive point of view; I see globalization from “let’s help them help themselves” prospective not as it is portrayed and sometimes wrongly used to justify “shock treatments” while imposing change on an unwilling society, Iraq for example. Perhaps the South does not need to wait a few hundred years to reach or catch-up with the Western world basic standards of human rights. Let us think that maybe the South “Want” and “Need” these rights now. It’s a shame that we are debating the “Goals” as if it’s a necessary or not to have human rights, and not the “Means” that what can we do to help them reach human rights. Yes, Globalization has its own problems, but as the first Minister of the Economy in post-transition Poland explained the country’s choice of economic model: “Poland is too poor to attempt experiments; we are following models used elsewhere. The rich countries are free to experiment if they wish” (quoted in Maravall 1996:102).[9] South, Third World, and Developing Countries are too poor to attempt experiments. They would rather save their energy to solve their immediate necessary problems and follow and adjust to their needs to Western models of development. Elections, human rights and pacification policies are tagged onto economic liberalisation and viewed essentially as a consequence of it (Grugel, 1999).[10]

 

Bibliography


Benhabib, Seyla. Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty, and Democratic Iterations (Berkeley Tanner Lectures 2004), Oxford University Press (2006)

David Held & Anthony McGrew, with David Goldblatt & Jonathan Perraton, Globalization, 5 GLOBAL GOVERNANCE (1999).

Grugel, Jean. Development and Democratic Political Change in the South Journal of International Relations and Development: Volume 2, No. 4 (December 1999)

Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E.The Second Great Transformation: Human Rights Leapfrogging in the Era of Globalization Human Rights Quarterly 27.1 The Johns Hopkins University Press. (2005)

Maravall, Jose Maria. Democratisation and Economic Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1996) .

Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom. First Anchor Books (2000)

 


[1] Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom. First Anchor Books (2000) P151

[2] Grugel, Jean. Development and Democratic Political Change in the South Journal of International Relations and Development: Volume 2, No. 4 (December 1999)

[3]Benhabib, Seyla. Another Cosmopolitanism: Hospitality, Sovereignty, and Democratic Iterations (Berkeley Tanner Lectures 2004), Oxford University Press (2006) P29

[4] David Held & Anthony McGrew, with David Goldblatt & Jonathan Perraton, Globalization, 5 GLOBAL GOVERNANCE 483, 483 (1999).

[5] Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E.The Second Great Transformation: Human Rights Leapfrogging in the Era of Globalization Human Rights Quarterly 27.1 The Johns Hopkins University Press. (2005) p10

[6] Grugel, Jean. Development and Democratic Political Change in the South Journal of International Relations and Development: Volume 2, No. 4 (December 1999)

[7] Ibid p15

[8] Ibid p15

[9] Maravall, Jose Maria (1996) Democratisation and Economic Change. Oxford: Oxford University Press. P102

[10] Grugel, Jean. Development and Democratic Political Change in the South Journal of International Relations and Development: Volume 2, No. 4 (December 1999)


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