Globalization and Human Solidarity
by Tissa Balasuriya


Globalization and Human Solidarity

1. People’s Struggles

As I am writing this introduction, there are media reports of tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets of Prague against the sessions of the IMF in that city. Such protest marches are not new. There have been anti-IMF demonstrations in poor countries for some years. The most well known campaign in the rich countries was at Seattle in the USA in December 1999. It resulted in the IMF programme not being able to proceed at that stage.

Such well orchestrated exercise against the IMF and World Bank indicate that public opinion in the world is being formed and articulated concerning the unfavourable impact of their policies. They show further that large numbers of peoples are adopting strategies of action against some global agencies such as the TNCs (e.g. Nestle’s, McDonalds) that have an unfavourable impact on people’s lives. The communications and travel make people aware of the harm done by some policies to workers in rich countries and various interests such as workers, women and children, the environment in poor countries.

This awareness becomes a catalyst for public actions in both rich and poor countries for social change. The world media carry the news of such campaigns and generate similar or sympathetic actions elsewhere. This is a new phase in the consciousness raising of people throughout the world. It is an indication of the type of non-violent struggle to be expected in the coming decade.

These protest campaigns also reveal that the discontent against these agencies is not only from the poor in the poor countries, but also from groups of considerable power in the rich countries. This provides the background for potential global coalitions for bringing about changes in the world order set up under the UNO. It also shows the strength of nonviolent means for bringing about changes in very powerful agencies such as the IMF and WB and the TNCs. When people are convinced of the need of radical changes, they devise strategies within their means, and build alliances for given short term objectives.

Some groups are then prepared to face the risk such as of opposition by the police, barricades, arrest and even imprisonment and court trials. These in turn communicate their cause to a wider world audience provided by the print and electronic media. Their struggle is thus almost instantaneously communicated universally. Goals which seemed rather far-fetched and utopian a few decades ago, now seem realizable due to the very linking of peoples globally due to the modern means of communication. The impact of capitalistic globalization is bringing about a search for remedies to its evils.

2. Present Capitalist Globalization

It is now generally accepted by UN agencies such as UNOP, UNCTAD, UNICEF and ILO that the present globalization process inspired by motivation of profit maximization for capital is leading to increasing inequality and injustice in the world.

Poverty, unemployment and exclusion of the weaker sections of society are increasing even in the rich advanced countries.

The few very rich persons and the global corporations, TNCs, substantially control global production, marketing, prices of raw materials, advertising, the mass media, and consequent culture values of most peoples of the world. The “free market” is proposed and glorified as the solution for the world’s socio-economic problems. But the theoretical conditions required for the satisfactory operation of the free market do not exist in the real world due to the gross inequalities in capital, production, transportation and mass media ownership. The nation states and world political agencies are unable to bring about justice in these areas, as these bodies are being de-emphasized, disempowered, and in any case heavily influenced by the dominant TNCs and powerful countries.

3. Global Solidarity

Globalization is taking place within a socio-economic and historical background that is grossly unfavourable for the poor countries. This includes the:

-     centennial unfavourable and unfair of trade towards presently poor countries, former colonies

-     already accumulated inequalities

       imputed foreign debt and debt servicing by poor countries.

-     “other debt” of past colonizers, (not acknowledged by them)

-     land grab by colonizers, perpetuated under UN world order

-     technological advances benefiting the developed countries very significant changes in size of population of countries,

-     changing age composition of populations, ageing the West immigration laws limiting migration from poor countries

-     the prevailing understanding of human rights, that neglects socio-economic rights of peoples


The discussion of globalization usually takes account of the economic factors of the present global order, the communications revolution and the cultural impact of the mass media, but turns a blind eye to above longer term factors. They are implicitly taken for granted and considered just and justifiable. The UN system including the IMP, WB, WTO are also considered legitimate and part of the world order. The fact they are dominated by the developed countries, their officials and the TNCs inspired by the powerful “free market” ideology is not usually referred to in the evaluation of their contribution to world development.

4. World Apartheid and Racial Justice

While appreciating the immense value of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights we must work for its amplification to include global racial justice as in relation to population and land and resources. There should be provision for the adjustment of land distribution and use to the changes in population. This will undoubtedly be part of the demanding and troublesome human agenda in the next few decades, as very significant changes in the distribution of world population have been and are taking place in the past century and in the coming decades.

The population of South Asia (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) has increased by 900 million since 1945, whereas Australia and Canada have still a combined population of less than 50 million. What was the justice in this situation?

While the Indian sub-continent of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with 387.3 million hectares of land will see a population increase of 531 million between 1998 and 2025, the three quasi sub-continents of Australia, Canada, and Russia and Ukraine with 3,437.1 million hectares of land will experience a population decrease of 9.3 millions. The Indian sub continent is an area of great malnutrition, in which a good number of the 800 million undernourished people of the world live.

The population of China increased from 927.8 million in 1975 to 1,255.7 million in 1998, and is estimated to be 1,417.7 million by 2015. This means an increase of 327.9 million in 23 years. (UNDP Human Development Report, 2000,OUP,2000) This has been at the human price of compelling this one fifth of the human race not to have more than one child per family. Between 1975 and 2015 there will be an estimated increase of 589.9 millions in China. But the land area of China will remain at 929.1 million hectares. Canada’s population is esteemed to remain around the 30 million or so in the next 25 years.

The population of China and the Indian sub-Continent will increase by 750 million between 1998 and 2025 while that of Canada, Australia and Russia with Ukraine will decrease by 9.3 million. Yet the land distribution is expected to remain the same as at present. Russia controls the immense land mass of North East Asia including Siberia, inherited from the colonial expansion of White Russia into Asia in the 19th century.

Due to population increases in the poorer countries, there is less land available for the agricultural population in spite of an increase in the total area under cultivation. On the other hand in the “developed regions” the decline in the agricultural population has led to an even more a favourable land / worker ratio. In 1976 North America had 232 million hectares of agricultural land and a land/worker ratio of 78.4 to 1. Whereas Asia and the Pacific, of the underdeveloped market economies, had 266 million hectares and a land/worker ratio of 0.98 to 1. The situation was worse in the Asian centrally planned economies, including China, with 141 million hectares of agricultural land and a land/worker ration of 0.51 to 1. These figures of course hide the hundreds of thousands of acres owned by Western and Japanese multinational corporations in the poor countries.

Inequities in the relationship of population to land will worsen in the coming decades, because the populations of the affluent countries are not growing at all, or not so rapidly as in the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Secondly, the white peoples or ‘more developed regions” have an ageing population. According to UN projections, the “more developed” countries, including Japan, will have 13.2 percent of their population over 64 years of age and only 21.5 percent below 15 years. In 2000 Russia has 12.7% of its population over 65 years of age and only 18% below 15 years. On the other hand the “less developed regions” will have only 4.6 percent above 64 years and 34.2 percent below 15 years.

It is estimated that Europe will need an additional population intake of about 75 million in the coming 50 years in order to maintain its work-force and provide for the pensions and social securities for its elderly population. To meet this need European immigration policies encourage the immigration of skilled youthful human power from the Southern countries. They thus obtained skilled and trained persons without paying any compensation to the poor countries for the effort involved in bringing them up to this stage. The USA, Canada and Australia follow similar immigration policies. This is a form of unrecompensed brain drain from the poor to the rich countries.

What is the justice in this situation? Where is the “free economy”, level playing fields”, and respect for human rights in this changing situation? The population-land ratio is the most blatant injustice in the world. White racism and its colonial and present immigration polices are the cause of grave imbalance. Human solidarity would require that humanity is able to use the resources of the earth for the good of all people in the world. There must be means by which this injustice can be remedied. Our struggle for human rights and our spirituality that requires that food be made available to the needy must bring about a change in this sad situation. But strangely even the well meaning UNDP reports do not highlight these aspects of the world’s inequality. They take the national frontiers as given. This is indeed a premise of the prevailing positive international opinion that would not want other nations to interfere with the internal problems of nations.

The world cannot postpone this problem for long. Peoples without land and food are likely to reach out toward uninhabited or sparsely inhabited lands. This has been the broad historical trend over the centuries.

Hardly any international body that deals with the problems of world development considers this aspect of the question seriously. Development and underdevelopment are regarded merely in terms of gross national product (GNP) or industrialization. Only the factors of population, capital and productivity are considered as variables. The present distribution of land is taken as an untouchable absolute.

The ideology and practice of capitalistic globalization is within the parameters of this world apartheid. Thus the idea of the “free market” does not operate in relation to people and land. There is no free or rationally planned and just mobility of people to the free and unused lands of the world. In this regard there is no invisible hand that brings about equilibrium between supply and demand of land and resources to people. On the contrary it is the visible force and migration laws of the superpowers that keep the land hungry persons from the empty spaces of the world occupied in the days of colonial expansion. The IMF, WB and WTO are not concerned with level playing fields or equilibrium of supply and demand in relation to land and population. This is an aspect of the utter hypocrisy of the dominant world system that passes for “developed”, just, democratic, peaceful and even Christian civilization.

The grave problem of AIDS is another factor in global injustice. The rich TNCs are reluctant to make the medicines for AIDS available to the poor (African) countries at affordable prices. They invoke the arguments of TRIPS, trade related intellectual property rights, to demand prices which the poor countries cannot afford, due to the heavy costs of research. But they do not think of the compensation that the USA has to pay Africa for the millions of slaves taken there forcibly from Africa by force during several centuries. Nor do they take into account the reparation due to Africa for the immeasurable contribution made by African slaves to the development of the USA. Even the bodies concerned with international justice or morality do not taken these factors into consideration in viewing this present challenge of combating AIDS.

The agglomeration of these forces of institutions, power, technology, money, markets, information, communication, culture, that operate globally favouring the already powerful, needs to be contested and transformed.

In these perspectives the entire rhetoric of spirituality, world justice, human rights, peace, debt payment and aid has to be rethought. There has to be a deconstruction of the dialogue on development and international law and justice. But since the rich powers and their academia and media condition the cultural framework of thinking on such issues, the just interests of the poor are not taken into account in the discussion of the rich as at the summit conferences of the G8. It is not highlighted even in the discourse among the governments of the poor peoples as in the Non-Aligned Movement.

5. Demands of Human Solidarity

Human solidarity requires all these issues be dealt with and where necessary transformed for the common good of all, beginning at the local level. Human fellowship demands a provision of the urgent needs of all human beings before the luxuries for a few. This entails a more equitable distribution of resources such as land, physical resources, capital, skills, knowledge and technology. Humanity must work out means for ensuring a genuine and effective concern for the needs of all, irrespective of prevailing distribution of power, wealth and incomes which is grossly unjust and unsustainable.

Human solidarity in the context of present day globalization necessitates a radical transformation of the world order and relationships among peoples in the direction of sharing of resources and caring for all. In addition to changes at the national and regional levels, there has to be transformations at the world level too. The free market system has to be regulated not to harm the weak and marginalized. There have to be means for an effective regulation of global mobile finance that can operate m a manner as to upset the economy of countries as in the South East and East Asian crisis in 1997.

The UN institutions including IMF, WB, WTO have to be reformed and reorganized to serve the common good of all, instead of adding to the present inequalities and inequities. This can be helped by a strengthening of a coalition of people-friendly UN agencies: such as the UNCTAD, ILO, UNDP, UNICEF. The people’s movements, linking across the national frontiers, can be networks for an alternative economic order, as demonstrated at Seattle.

For changes to be effective and lasting there would have to be not supportive national governments, but also a world authority order capable to implementing measures over and above the desires and powers of nation states. A sort of world parliament or global peoples’ assembly would be required to exercise a regulatory function on the socio-economic forces such as companies, financiers, markets, mass media. A world political authority would have to be buttressed with media. A world political authority would have to be buttressed with sufficient power to enforce its decisions. The present Security Council of the UNO is controlled by an dependent on the big powers and hence cannot have an impact if the big five are the wrongdoers.

6. Spirituality of global solidarity

It is in such a context that we can reflect on the personal and collective motivation that can foster the movements for transformation of the values of peoples and of the relationships and structures of the present capitalistic globalization. The role of religions and peoples’ movements can be very significant for the mobilization of the disadvantage groups throughout the world, around particular limited objectives. Hopefully such a trend will grow into a movement of vast human solidarity that becomes a powerful force for desirable personal and societal transformations. In this connection we offer some thoughts on the lines of humanistic and spiritual reflection that can be an inspiration for a global solidarity of peoples to strive for the common good of humanity.

Spirituality is a human quest for self-realization of the noblest aspirations, for holiness and perfection in union with the Transcendent, the Divine, to the extent possible in our earthly existence. It engages a person and a community in the effort to overcome selfishness, to care for others, to share with others what each one has so that the human happiness and fulfillment of all may be increasingly realized. The world’s religions and the best genuine humanistic thinking indicates that human happiness depends on the striving for love, sharing and understanding among persons and in society.

Since the realization of the conditions for human life are now very dependent on local as well as global forces, it is essential that those interested in spiritual development of persons be engaged in the global aspects of the human problems of living as of food, housing, employment, justice, peace and social cohesion in actual life. Otherwise, a mere individualistic spirituality in the context of global manipulation of human relationships by uncontrolled world forces such as white racism and the profit oriented transnational corporations, risks being a self delusion or deception and a conscious or unconscious betrayal of the human cause. Such an individualistic and a social spirituality would even be a danger in acquiescing in the existing and growing evil in the world.

Persons or groups seeking spiritual betterment, even in an isolated rural area, have to be conscious of the impact of global forces on the life of those around them. The food they buy may be imported from other countries. This in turn may affect production, employment and social contentment in one’s own country. Their spirituality has therefore to include an effort to better the situation locally, and this may involve a struggle against the forces of selfishness and evil that impinge on village life. In times past the spiritual seeker was more conscious of one’s locality but less on the bearing of worldwide forces on one’s home area, or of one’s own people on others.

Meditation, worship services, rituals, spiritual ministrations, counseling were all limited in their impact to the local realities. This was not quite adequate even in earlier times, as when Western Christian mystics meditated on the divine in colonial times but did not think of the evil being done by their fellow national and Christians in colonized regions.

Billions of prayers had no bearing on colonial exploitation or on slavery, or on the position of women in the Church or of the Dalits in Indian society. Unless spirituality includes the dimension of social liberation from evil forces such as wealth accumulation and exploitation, it will not be adequately related to integral human betterment in the real world.

As against glorified selfishness, the principle values of an alternative society should be the togetherness of all persons beyond divisions such as of gender, birth, income, wealth and status. There should be respect for all persons and a sharing of the earth’s resources among all persons and communities. This can be summed up as “human solidarity”, the search for the realization of the values of love and sharing that are expounded by all the world religions and humanistic ideologies.

7. Role and Responsibility of Christians

Among the world religions Christianity has the greatest obligation to help remedy the evils of present globalization due to several reasons:

Christianity, based on the liberational teaching and example of Jesus Christ and the Magnificat of Mary, has a radical spirituality of love of God and neighbour and consequent identification with the poor, oppressed, and excluded.

Christian moral theology and spirituality demand that the resources of the earth, provided by God for all humanity, be equitably and carefully used for the good of all persons and communities, present and future.

Christians have the most organized form of religious living, many of them meet every Sunday at the Eucharistic service, which recalls the Jesus message of universal love and sharing.

Some Christian churches claim to have the divine right to teach all peoples the (absolute) truth on matters of faith and morals.

The Christian teaching even encourages the conquest of countries for the spread of the faith.

Western Christians are the main beneficiaries of the present inequitable and unethical distribution of land to population. It is European powers that brought this about. Their rulers drew the map of the world according to their colonial expansion since 1492.

the TNCs are controlled mostly by persons who claim to be Christians, and are located mainly in countries which consider themselves Christian.

Christianity is the religion with the most numerous and most wide-spread body of followers or adherents throughout the world. If the Christian churches and their world wide membership seriously contested the evils of capitalistic globalization, there would be a very considerable impact on the entire world situation. It may be worthwhile recalling that most Christian churches strongly opposed Marxist Communist regimes from the Russian Revolution of 1917. A principle reason from this was the materialistic and atheistic philosophical background of Marxism and of Communist regimes. These governments often persecuted Christians, and did not tolerate religions. On the other hand capitalistic globalization generally tolerates Christianity and endeavours to make an ally of the Churches.

It is only when some church leaders took the side of the poor people, as did Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Fr. Michael Rodrigo of Sri Lanka, that capitalist dictators opposed them. The impact of the Catholic “Radio Veritas” was crucial in the support of the people’s struggle to overthrow Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine dictator.

To contribute towards such a development throughout the world many changes would be required in the churches also. Thus the clergy would have to be formed to be builders of human community, and even to participate in non-violent struggles for justice. Training will have to include social analysis, and formation in ways of contesting the structures of selfishness, of greed, Mammon and bringing about desirable change in values, relationships and structures. This is much different from the traditional formation for an intra-ecclesial male clerical ministry. The liturgy can be a powerful means of peoples’ conscientization and mobilization for local and regional action.

8. Role and responsibility of the Religions

Since religions are, or are considered, the principal agents of promoting spirituality, it is important that they pay attention to the global dimension of spirituality. The core values of the world religions advocate love and care for all persons and nature. They have generally evolved as communities that have been concerned with mostly personal and rural realities and their own self growth. The teachings of the religions have often times been adjusted to suit the dominant social order as of male domination, slavery, the class and caste system and not contested their evils over long periods of time.

Though their messages are universal and open to all persons and times, they have not generally been concerned with their application to global realities, especially in relation to the worldwide organization of socio-economic life. There are modern trends for making religions relevant to people’s integral needs. Some religious leaders as Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Ambedkhar and Martin Luther King have in their day contested these evils to some extent. They developed spiritualities and methodologies of nonviolent contestation of these evils based on their religious inspirations.

While religious fundamentalisms lead to unfortunate social conflicts, religious values can be the underpinning base for coalitions for world justice and peace. World religions, as international agencies with a message of justice and goodwill to all, have the opportunity and obligation to face this crisis of humanity. Religions, led by persons of good-will and generosity can be bases for global networking of the people of good-will. They must endeavour to work together for the realization for their core values and thus give meaning to the present search for human solidarity and the safeguarding of nature for future generations.

This is a more difficult task than that conceived by Karl Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto of 1847. Perhaps it is mainly the religions, with their liberational messages, that can inspire such total transformations of our societies in favour of the weak, poor, oppressed, outcastes and excluded. To bring about such changes the mind-set of people have to be influenced by a culture of inter-religious cooperation and human solidarity that cuts across all these divisive barriers. They can thus be both beneficiaries of a reformed globalization and contributors towards a more meaningful future for all peoples in our one world situation.