Balancing Globalisation: Seventh annual OECD Forum

22-23 May 2006
OECD Observer

“You cannot find a bigger, more complex and all-encompassing subject than that of ‘Balancing globalisation’ ”, said moderator David Eades of BBC World in his opening remarks to the 2006 OECD Forum. There are no simple answers to the challenges it poses either. In a light-hearted observation, Mr Eades suggests a clue might be found in Douglas Adams’ novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where the indecipherable answer to “Life, the Universe and Everything” was found to be the number 42.

Daunting as the theme of balancing globalisation may be, it did not prevent over 1,000 participants from diverse backgrounds–government, business, labour, environmental and other civil society groups, as well as the media–from gathering at the Kléber Centre de Conférences Internationales in Paris to grapple with a broad range of concerns.

As Kostas Karamanlis, prime minister of Greece and chair of the OECD ministerial meeting to which the Forum provides input, pointed out in his keynote address, while not everybody views globalisation as beneficial, “our common objectives are the achievement of benefits, their long-term sustainability and their equal distribution to all countries, so that citizens enjoy higher incomes and improved living standards.”

Duck-soo Han, deputy prime minister of Korea and his Australian counterpart, Mark Vaile, were among the many ministers at the Forum. Also speaking were Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, and Pascal Lamy, director-general, of the World Trade Organization. Dara Duguay from Citigroup, Yves-Thibault de Silguy of SUEZ, John J. Sweeney, leader of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University, Huguette Labelle, chair of Transparency International, and John Thornhill, editor of the European edition of the Financial Times, were also among some 90 speakers; a complete list is available at www.oecd.org/forum2006.

They led lively debates on how to revive European growth, on jobs and how to achieve social cohesion in a globalising economy, on the importance of investment for development, on new technology and on the by now pressing question of energy. On day two, focus turned to global financial markets, the influence of China on the world scene, metropolitan regions as driving forces behind globalisation, and trade negotiations under the Doha Development Agenda. A case was also made for the need to develop financial education–in effect, promoting literacy in markets and investment from an early age.

Globalisation is a vast question and engaging as they were, the OECD Forum debates could only touch the tip of the iceberg. Nonetheless, discussions did suggest that public support and acceptance of globalisation have grown since the rather turbulent protest days of 1999-2000. Much has been learned by all sides. Still, serious imbalances have emerged that policymakers must address if that level of public support is to be nurtured. RJC

Short daily summaries of each Forum session can be read at www.oecd.org/forum2006. Readers can also order their extended special Forum Highlights magazine by writing to observer@oecd.org

©OECD Observer No 256, July 2006




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