What is Democratic Globalization

The ideas about democratic globalism take many forms. There are many viewpoints concerning the definition, role and function of democratic globalization which make it difficult to find a single issue around which to build a conceptual framework. But the fundamental issues concern the rights and powers of the massive global enterprise in relation to the rights and well being of individuals in the world.

The major issues then become “Top Down” versus “Bottoms Up” or grassroots inputs. There is democratic function versus totalitarian or undemocratic function. There is the rational thinking of the elites versus the rational thinking of the people. There are the rights and benefits that accrue to the corporations, elites and whole governments and there are the rights and benefits that accrue to the individual.

The activities that are increasingly taking on a global form can be summarized as economic, political, health, environmental, legal, religious, hegenomistic and social. But the reality of globalization is greatly different when the issue of democratizing all of these processes is examined.

The most powerful or effective organizations that operate with a global effect include the World Trade Organization (WTO), The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Health Organization (WHO), The United Nations, The Red Cross/Red Crescent, and some corporations, religions and even some very wealthy and powerful private individuals.

These organizations have undemocratic and “top down” styles that favor and benefit the most powerful, richest and militarily dominant nations, often at the expense of regional and local populations of the member nations. The populations of poorer and struggling nations are in the worst positions of all.

Global democratization begins with democratizing the organization, decision making, actions and leadership of such global enterprises. This is not likely to happen without the grasroots of the world forming enough powerful resolve to force consideration of their rights, needs, disputes, ideas and inputs to the processes. The alternative is for revolutions of various forms that present enough of a disruption to force negotiations toward more democratic processes.

The WTO is the sole globally powerful organization with enforcement powers that focuses on expanding trade opportunities, but which does so at the expense of individual rights, freedoms and benefits. There has been a serious trend toward interfering with governance of nations. It is notorious for its self expansion of enforcement powers, secrecy, unelected leadership and undemocratic impact on the decision making powers of governments.

The WTO has historically and adamantly refused to deal with such issues as labor abuses, injustice, inequities in distribution of wealth, the environment and human rights. The WTO treaties actually impede countries ability to pass stronger environmental and social imperatives solely based on whether the initiatives jeopardize less environmentally or socially sound nations ability to trade.

There are calls for the WTO to be dismantled and replaced with a more publicy accountable and democratic organization.

In the United Nations and other global organizations, the most powerful and dominant nations are given individual veto authority over  policies and actions that do not serve their interests. Yet the United Nations does allow all member nations to serve in leadership, address their concerns and operates with an amount of public accountability. Does this trickle down to protections and benefits for the individuals of the world? There are great areas of disagreement on this issue.

 In the medical arena, the traditional policies were to impose Western medicine, concepts and policies on local and regional populations. This is often done on a “top down” basis, and is inconsiderate of the human impacts or inputs that contain indigenous knowledge. Moves are being made to be more understanding and considerate of indigenous knowledge in order to get past some of the enormous social and political roadblocks to improving health on a global basis.

In religion, historically ongoing battles between Islam, Christianity and other religions of the world are fraught with concepts of secretive or public religious interference with and influence on governments. The most powerful and well financed religions also operate in a “top down” fashion, influencing governments and even backing military and legislative action without regard to the rights and needs of the local populations or to any democratic principles. Just as Christianity has impacted every part of the world, now so does Islam, and the reaches go beyond issues of faith and into the political arena.

Politically, not all nations are democratic to begin with, let alone able to foster democracy in the nation’s attempts to have a global trade, political, social, religious, health and economic reach.

 As water seeks its own level, however, grassroots “bottom up” movements toward more democratic governments are themselves globalizing in new ways, with ideas, recruitment, weaponry, organizing, leadership and strategy being developed, communicated and executed every day.

Global organizations, multinational organizations and major corporations are feeling the impact of grassroots mechanisms and demands for democracy, as people protest and even resort to organized military action in order  to demand more locally and socially responsive international treaties, rules and laws that govern trade, politics and economies.

While the global organizations claim to resolve trade, health, religious, strategic and economic disputes that would otherwise lead to war, their form, function and policies often create conditions that lead to revolutions.

In other words, globalization has been a decidedly undemocratic process that has failed to realize the “trickle down” promise of benefits to all. The major global organizations have only consolidated power and influence to those who already have power and influence. This is based on old principles that give the elites credit for more rationality in thinking than they truly have.  

In true democracies, there is some evolution toward giving all participants some form of power and influence, regardless of wealth, social standing or power. Globalization is here to stay, and it is time for the evolution toward more democratic processes to accelerate.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, “The Future Of Globalization”, Forum For A New World Governance, September 2004