The United Nations Organization (UNO) declared the 1960's as the dawn of global development. Now, after four decades of waiting, life of the poor has changed. It is harder and getting worse. Poverty still enslaves the majority of people, especially in Asia. The huge army of the poor unabatedly increases while a small troop of elite continuously becomes powerful.
But, what are the developmental models that we have pursued? Growth centered development has been systematically breaking the social and economic structures. The consequent environmental implications have made it obvious that the developmental route we have traveled is unsustainable. The global realities and the practices of unsustainable development have direct influence on our political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental context. A recent World Bank report said that over 100 million people are living in poverty today than a decade ago, while the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider. Each year 2.4 million children die of water borne diseases and nearly a billion people have entered the 21st century unable to read and write. More than 1.8 million people die every year of indoor pollution in rural areas, while forests are destroyed at the rate of an acre per second, with unimaginable loss of bio-diversity.
There are as many as 1 billion people who do not even meet the basic requirements to decently live. Among the 4.4 billion people, that is about 70% of the world population, living in developing countries in Asia and Africa three-fifths live without sanitation; one-third without safe drinking water; one-quarter lack adequate housing. One-fifth live beyond the reach of modern health services; one-fifth of the children do not get as far as grade five in school, and an equal number are undernourished.
On the environmental front, more than 230 million people live in water scarce countries today. Water shortage and contamination kills nearly 25,000 people a day. Nearly 30% of the people in the Third World countries do not have safe water to drink. Diarrhea kills some 4 million children every year. Each year, 12 million hectares of forest (an area almost the size of England) are being eliminated. If continued, by 2010, only 7% of the planet will be left with forests, jeopardizing the planetary ecosystem. More than three billion hectares, almost a quarter of the world's land surface, are at risk from desertification and salinity.
Under globalization, the impact on the indigenous communities is many folds. They are one of the worst effected. Under globalization, it is the tribal indigenous areas that have had to face the attacks of massive developmental projects. These projects ignore tribal communities. Cases of displacement of tribal populations range from countries in South Asia like India, for example the Project Affected Peoples of the Narmada Valley Development Project, to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Commercial activities have also introduced alien forces, cultures and influences into the traditionally insulated life and culture of the indigenous people. Deprivation of land and forests are the worst forms of oppression that tribal people experience. It has resulted in the breakdown of community life and a steady cultural death-" ethnocide". The tribal people are exterminated by a process of attrition, through which their lands are taken away, their rivers poisoned, their cultures undermined and their lives made intolerable. Fisher folk, both inland and marine, and the rural artisans are the victims of globalization and modern development through their industrial advancement, capital intensive, that is machine-oriented, technology and appropriation of people's resources. For example, in Thailand, the proposal for the construction of a hydroelectric dam in 1982, officially known as Pak Moon Dam, by the government envisages to generate 135mw electrical power, irrigate 80,000 hectares of farmland and provide livelihood to farmers and fisher folks. The dam has been constructed in the naught of the Moon River around Ubon Ratchthani Province at the Thai-Lao border. The Khong River, which receives the Moon River downwards, carries a wide variety and species of fishes from the lakes and seas in Vietnam and Cambodia. More than the magnitude of fishes, the river represents a rich conglomeration of water bodies and marine ecology from different ecosystems.
Fishing had been a main livelihood prior to the dam being built. But, due to the effects of the dam, many young people have left the village to make a living by working on rice farms, or further away in factories and in the cities, especially Bangkok.
The river had islands with many medicinal plants planted on them serving as herbal and medicinal sanctuaries. But, these islands were blown up in order to make the river deeper to increase the water held by the dam.
The dam has caused the destruction of the rich ecosystem while making more than 4000 families miserable. It has submerged the rich archaeological remains of the area, 16 islet and several islands. The submergence of Kaeng Sapue and other community forests has made more than 1000 herbs disappear. The community forest has been converted into the Kaengtana National Park. Mass scale migration to towns and urban areas has followed.
The beautiful Moon River, which stood as a mother to a thousand families, has become the symbol of "destruction" and "death". People have been witnessing several ecological impacts such as pollution of water, extreme diminishing of fishes, parasites and blood related diseases, floods etc. This has also brought crime, prostitution, and AIDS among the community.
(Some specific case studies of the effects of globalization and the resultant market oriented economy on nations in the Asian region)
Malaysia In the case of Malaysia, globalization has resulted in opening up of large areas of fertile land for oil palm and rubber plantation. As a result, the indigenous people's right and culture have been eroded to make way for development which benefits local elite and consumers abroad.
The Philippines In the Philippines 71.9% of the people are living below the poverty line, and ironically, most of them are from the countryside who produce food for the whole population. 7 million of the population are jobless, while 3.5 million are homeless. There has been an increasing impact of globalization on the Filipino women, in particular. There has been a reduction of permanent workers in favor of temporary and casual workers, replacing pay systems based on working time and length of service by systems based on piece rates. Due to economic conditions, as many as 6 million Filipino workers have migrated abroad to seek jobs. Hong Kong alone has got around 70,000 migrant Filipino women as domestic helpers and entertainers. Reports show that such numbers are on the rise. A 1996 study on Filipino migrant workers described these migrant workers as mostly young women, aged 20-29 years, single, and college-educated.
More recently, the American War on Terrorism has brought the presence of American troops, under the Balikatan exercise, in the Philippines. Many hectares of local peoples land has been annexed by the Government for being used as operational bases for the Joint Military exercises by the Americans. No prior discussions were held with the local people of the land.
Cambodia In Cambodia, commercialization has led to the growth of a huge illegal timber trade. According to the environmental watch dog Global Witness, Cambodia's illegal timber trade was worth at least US$ 130 million in 1998. Some of this money has been used to rebuild Phnom Penh city to show that the world that Cambodia is a developed country. More dangerously, the money from logging has also been used to buy weaponry for the military and the support of particular political parties. Cutting off the forest has impacted the people who are living in the forest, especially the tribal people. The logging is also affecting the weather. Cambodia now experiences extreme drought in some areas and flooding in others.
Cambodia's economic development depends on garment factories. Cambodia exports a lot of clothes. After receiving a Most Favored Nation (MFN) status from the USA, a number of foreign investors started to run garment factories in Cambodia. This was also because of the cheap labor available. The garment factories have increased in number and also give a lot of jobs to the people. Most of the workers come from the rural areas that are bereft of development. A garment factory worker gets a salary of about US$30 to $40 per month. The problem is that the factory owners do not respect the labor laws. Some factories force people to work overtime with little pay and threaten to dismiss if the workers do not follow.
Annual Official Statistics, based on questionnaires and surveys, published in 1993, provide a lot of useful information on the Cambodian young people. According to one report, an important issue in Cambodia is the large numbers of children engaged in child labor and in prostitution. Probably, 35% of the commercial sex workers in the country are minors. Since 1991, there has been an explosion in the extent of commercial sex activity - a good deal of it involving children - in the urban area of the country. By some accounts, thousands of underage Cambodian girls are trafficked into Thai brothels every year, where they are subject to harsh working conditions.
Household survey data suggest that about 18.2% of children aged 5 to 17 work for pay, or in family enterprises. The average age by which a child starts working in Cambodia is 10 years. The extent of child labor is greater in the rural areas than in the urban areas, reflecting the use of child labor on family farms. Also, it is also more common for girls than for boys to work. Many young people are forced to work early in life and experience drastic changes in culture and values. They have fewer opportunities for education and personal development and become victims of society ills.
Pakistan In Pakistan, globalization has resulted in racial and religious discrimination, economic barriers, break down in family relationships, and lack of community. Also problems of getting jobs, inflation, currency devaluation and growth of Islamic fundamentalism have become widespread. The inflow of money from the Gulf regions and aid/grants from World Bank has changed the lifestyle of the people. The life of the common people has become difficult. The basic necessities of life have become very expensive and are out of the reach of common people. Due to this change, availability of civic facilities is only found in the cities. Urbanization has become unavoidable for rural people who migrate to the cities for the sake of these facilities and to earn a livelihood. The prices of land and other basic necessities, in the cities, have become high day by day, going out of the reach of common people. The cost of living in cities/towns is high and few youth from rural area can dream to study in good education institutes. As a result, the young people suffer from depression, lack of motivation and determination.
Japan Japan has been undergoing a recession for the past many years. It is a classic case of a political economy fighting monetary solutions. Caught in between are reluctant consumers who do not want to spend anymore. Public funds may be required to bail out the beleaguered Japanese banks that are running huge bad debts. Even if that happens, there will be a USD 1 trillion less public fund available for public expenditure. The average Japanese consumer is losing jobs day by day, and the possibility of tax cuts holds no solace.
A great deal of child pornography and child sexual videotapes is produced in Japan. A lot of illegal foreign workers are found in Japan and their basic human rights are not protected. Due to lack of cultural integration such foreign workers, and their families, face many problems. They are bereft of social institutions; their children are not admitted into schools. The increased economic pressure on the average Japanese is taking its toll with an increase in the number of suicides.
Taiwan Taiwan is a country with only limited natural resources. In 1960's, a lot of foreign capital was attracted, and labor-intensive industries were developed, thanks to the advantage of abundant low-wage labors and the improvement of the investment environment. Since then, Taiwan developed a great deal economically.
During the late 80's, many of Taiwan's labor-intensive industries were moved to Southeast Asia according to the Southward Policy, a worldwide trend then. Local industries in Taiwan, on the other hand, were transformed into high value-added and capital/technology-intensive industries. These upgraded industries distinguished Taiwan from other Asian countries in terms of the world-specialization system. Also, they allowed Taiwan to reach a higher level in technology. However, not all people benefited from these structural changes. From the 50's to the 80's, educational resources were mainly confined in the plain areas where the Han people, the ethnic majority among the Chinese lived, while many indigenous people living in the mountain areas could not share those resources. At that time, Taiwan's indigenous people were not aware of the importance of education and skills. The changes in the 80's did not bring any brighter chance for them. Deprived of education and long discriminated by Han people, these unskilled indigenous people still worked for poor wages. This has resulted in a gap of average income between the indigenous and the other people, which has widened over the years.
Other problems faced by Taiwan due to its globalization centered economic structures have been problems related to jobs or work, housing problems, and losing of land rights by the indigenous people. Foreign laborers soon substituted for the Taiwanese indigenous people as the main work force because of their low wage rate. Exploitation of these foreign laborers is very rampant. The urban indigenous people, therefore, lost their regular jobs of about 10 to15 days per month, and turned into temporary laborers working only 3 to 10 days per month. In 1997, the number of foreign laborers in Taiwan (256,246 legal foreign workers), including the illegal ones, was greater than that of all the Taiwanese indigenous people (total 357,582).
Unemployment forced the indigenous people, who worked in the urban areas, to move to slum areas, usually near garbage dumps, where no water and electricity are supplied. The places where the indigenous people are dwelling have now become targets for future bullet train railways or golf courses.
Indigenous people staying in the mountains, however, are no better than those living in the suburbs of cities are. They do not have access to lands. All of the land was possessed by the government. Some years ago, the Taiwanese government imposed a policy to develop these mountainous areas, declaring that some lands could be on sale now, including those on which the indigenous people used to hunt and cultivate. However, the price of the land -- NT 30,000 per 2.4 acres -- was too high for indigenous people, whose salary was only about NT 15,000 per month. So, it is quite obvious that this policy not only failed to be a blessing to the indigenous people, but also turned out to be a golden opportunity for plutocrats to grasp large pieces of lands. In some other cases, the indigenous people were forced to leave their own lands because of the construction of dams, cement mines and national parks. They were no longer allowed to hunt in their homelands. Their agricultural products, though nice, could only be sold at a rather low price.
India In India, the New Economic Policy that was the harbinger of globalization to India was initiated in 1993 under the leadership of the Congress Party led P. V. Narsimha Rao Government. Over the last decade, the open market policy of the Indian Government has resulted in increased privatization, huge lay-off of labor, rise of corruption, and heavy debts on the nation. The benefits of development touted under globalization have not reached the poorest sections of the society. The disparity between the rich and the poor has widened.
Its disturbing impact on family and the drastic erosion of traditional social life is a main concern.
While more than 40% of the Indian population lives below the poverty line, without even the barest necessities of life, the Defense Budget of the nation grows year after year. Every year, the Government of India pays 27% of every Rupee it earns on repaying the interest on the loan it has taken to repay the interest on the original loan.
The Indian situation is very complex and complicated as we enter the new millenium. Fifty years of independence did bring some changes but not to the larger poor and the marginalized sections of the society. Politically, the situation is very unstable and by and large, people have little faith in organized political parties. Corruption and lack of integrity have exposed national leaders and ordinary people are in real confusion as to their political role. The emergence of communalism in its new forms has undermined national unity along with regionalism and linguistic problems. The women still remain marginalized. Environmental issues have taken a prominent place in the agenda of the social activists but the modern developmentalists are advocating interference with nature and building up of dams etc., as the only way for the development for India.
There is widespread economic insecurity brought about by profound changes in trade, finance and technology. Poverty under globalization has assumed newer dimensions. Under the market friendly regime, the poor, the marginalized who have no entitlements (land, other income, yielding assets, social securities, employment etc.) are kept out of market, both legally and logically.
The compulsions of international competition have created greater pressures to exploit the natural resources that India has. There is an impetus towards greater concentration of these resources and moves towards concentration accumulation. The victims of this accumulation are the small landholders, in other words, the Dalits, Adivasis, and the members of Other Oppressed Castes. Agriculture has, under the new auspices, acquired corporate logic. Traditional methods of sustainable farming are threatened today.
The withdrawal of the State from welfare and public services spheres also has deleterious impacts, especially on the weaker sections. Their food security is affected adversely, their access to health care services, education and employment has become even more restricted, housing and transport facilities have gone beyond their reach. With liberalization, the problem becomes complex as rapid economic growth unaccompanied with a social safety net increase disparity as only a small section of society benefit.
Indonesia In Indonesia, the precious rain forests are under threat due to globalization. These tropical rain forests are the second largest in the world with 500 mammal species. However, these precious resources are being rapidly destroyed by deforestation because the re-forestation fee has been spent for the airplane industry and the extension of cement industry and many forests are being burnt, causing air pollution to the surrounding areas.
In Indonesia there are four major religions, namely Moslem, Christian (Protestant + Catholic), Buddhist, and Hinduism. The Christian population is about 8 to10%, and the majority is Moslem.
People in Indonesia suffer grave economic conditions. Globalization has added to the insecurity. The market economy is under the control of no authority, where only those with purchasing power determine value. So those without the purchasing power are left without a voice or influence.
Since Indonesia is a developing country, it runs on bureaucracy making things difficult. A lot of corruption, manipulation, nepotism, and collusion make the economy and the country weak. Economic crises have led the common people to suffer. The devaluation of the Rupiah, the national currency against the USD has pushed up the prices. Though with many resources, Indonesia has a lot of imports.
Many employees have been dismissed in order to decrease the costs of the companies, resulting in high unemployment. Socio-economic gaps in the society have resulted in numerous inter-religious clashes, the most recent being between the Muslims and the Christians. To solve these problems Indonesia, like many other nations in the region, has resorted to loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to stabilize the Rupiah at a reasonable level, and also to pay some private debts.
Thailand Up north from Indonesia in Thailand, since 1992 the Thailand Government's policies have been set under IMF agreements. As a result, by mid 1997, private and government sectors had accumulated millions of US Dollars worth of loans. More than one-third of these loans was for short-term loans. Around 55% of the loans were set for the industry sector, while the rest for property investment, automobile, military, and the financial sectors. None of them were for agriculture.
When the bubble economy burst in 1997, Thailand faced a trade balance deficit on its current account. The foreign investors lost their confidence in the Thai economy and they started pulling out their funds. These withdrawals were (obviously) in their currencies such as USD, Pound Sterling, etc. The value of the Thai Baht fell as result of the heavy demand for Dollars and other foreign currencies. The same thing happened in other countries across Asia precipitating the South and East Asian Crisis of 1997.
Coming back to Thailand, as a result of its trade deficit, the IMF stepped in with its policies and by 1997-1998, the Thai Government was facing foreign debts in the range of over US$ 70,000 million. The government cut its budget spending, increased the value-added taxes rate, pushing up the price for the daily consumer items, resulting in high inflation. Many big industrial corporations collapsed, financial institutions closed, and jobs disappeared from the markets.
Thailand has been led to mismanagement by the Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), or the "World Bank", and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 1961 via the Office of National Economic and Social Development Board of Thailand (NESD). The agriculture economy of Thailand was forced to change to an industry and trade economy. The NESD framework emphasized on the economic growth on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) -- not being concerned with how big the gap is between the rich and the poor. The country's development, based on foreign loan, cost every Thai a debt of 83,000 Baht (US$ 2,000) per head.
Vietnam In nearby Vietnam, Market oriented economics had started earlier. The 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, held in December 1986, decided to "shift the economy from the bureaucratic centralized planning pattern based on the system of public ownership essentially consisting of two ownership forms, the State and the collective, to the multi-sector commodity economy operating according to the socialist oriented market mechanism under the State management".
Basically, the Government of Vietnam decided to adopt a State-controlled market economy. This was necessitated because of the socio-economic crises that Vietnam fell into during the 1970's. 30 years of devastating war, since the 1945 August Revolution, in addition to subjective mistakes and errors made in building the nation according to outdated socio-economic policies induced the crises during the 1970's. The shift to market economy has deepened the division of social layers and differentiation of the rich and the poor in both urban and rural areas. The discrepancy between the highest income group and the lowest income group has risen from 5.6 times in 1992 to 7.3 times in 2001. The discrepancy ratio of average living standard between cities and rural areas has increased from 2.3 times in 1994 to 5 times at present.
Besides, owing to adverse impacts of the market mechanism, such social evils as corruption, smuggling, prostitution and drug addiction have become rampant in many places.
In Asia, globalization has resulted in growing foreign debts of poor countries, the financial crises of 1997 in East Asia and South East Asia, growing inequality within and among countries, unemployment, underemployment, and poverty. Also globalization in Asia has been responsible for social unrest, drugs, growth of the culture of violence, trafficking of people, and neo-colonization that can be called "homogenization and hegemonization".
Globalization has resulted in the reality of unsustainable development, over consumption of life sustaining resources, impacts on environment and ecology, impacts on indigenous communities, and a sharper contrast between the rich and the poor. Needless to say, social tensions borne out of international and intra-national "lifestyle inequalities" will give rise to the mushrooming of global cross-border terrorism, secessionist movements in multi-ethnic societies, and tendencies for the balkanization of states.
However, taking about the problem only will not suffice. The pessimist would tell us that "there is no alternative" (the TINA syndrome), while the optimist would say, "there are thousand alternatives " (TATA). I, am an optimist.
So what should be the role of the ecumenical movement, or in our case, the ecumenical youth movement? As Dr. Samual Kobia has said," The ecumenical movement is called to facilitate people in rediscovering and reinventing their local commons by reimbedding the economy into society and culture; subordinating it to politics and ethics."
There needs to be a new vision, based on biblical paradigms, as "God's agents of change". The logic of globalization needs to be challenged by an alternative way of life of community in diversity. We need to critically analyze development and globalization and help facilitate solidarity and mutuality of people themselves to search for alternatives to the culture of globalization.
As Prof. Kim Yong-Bock, from Korea, says," The people's movements are to preserve, enhance and fulfill life in the cosmos. The people's movement is challenged to accurately read the signs of times, analyze, and visualize the future-in relation with their struggle and movement". He further states, " The people's movement need to struggle for cultural and ethnic identity in the context of globalization, to establish open and strong identity that enriches cultural life." The ecumenical movement is a people's movement. Buddhism rejects greed, Islam advocates justice, Hinduism cherishes life, Confucianism condemns selfishness, and Christianity embraces fullness of life for all.
I feel the ecumenical youth movements are called for the preservation, enhancement, and the fullness of life for all. As the youth we are responsible, and so challenged, to be active participants in the experience of justice and peace, for before peace comes justice.
I would like to conclude by quoting Mahatma Gandhi, "Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest, and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words will it lead to freedom for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and yourself melting away."