November 11, 2002

Conference Held to Discuss Globalization

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A conference was held in Warren Hall to address the dangers of globalization facing the world’s poor last Friday. The conference, entitled “Achieving Sustainable Communities in a Global Economy,” sought to examine strategies to protect those whose source of income is threatened by a changing economy.

“The idea of globalization has been in the news. We see it in the streets of Seattle … we see it in Washington, D.C.,” said event organizer Ralph Christy, the J.T. Clark professor of applied economics and management. “I think it’s important that a university like Cornell cast in on this very important debate. We have a role to play here.”

The conference, which was sponsored by the Emerging Markets Program and the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development, consisted of three panels which were held throughout the day. The first two panels focused on the role of the firm and the role of markets in the globalization process, respectively.

The final panel addressed the concerns of small communities and the steps needed to secure their continued existence.

“The cost of globalization has not been equally distributed,” Christy said. “It poses threats to people who are low income or live in marginal areas. We want to identify specific strategies and policies … which mitigate these negative impacts.”

The final panel was led by Gayle Lewis, who chairs the Board of Directors for the Developmental School Foundation.

The panel was comprised of Prof. Philip McMichael, rural sociology, Ivye Allen, member of the nonprofit group MDC Inc., Monique Salomon, from the University of Natal in South Africa and Prof. Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, rural sociology.

Panel members discussed methods by which rural communities could survive and compete in a world dominated by large corporations. Some strategies that were mentioned included the use of community college training programs and land management techniques for rural farmers.

Roland Bunch, coordinator for the nonprofit international consulting group COSECHA, challenged the panel members, contending that the solutions discussed were, “islands of change in a sea of desperation.”

“We are facing a very, very serious problem. We have to realize that in this world today there are well over a billion people who are getting less than two dollars a day in income. North Americans don’t even have a concept of how you manage a life on two dollars a day.” Bunch said. “Globalization … depends absolutely and totally on a level playing field. If you don’t have a level playing field, globalization makes the rich richer and the poor people’s children die.”

The conference was attended by students and community members who hoped to learn more about the effects of globalization.

“There are a lot of scholars here, there is a lot of representation from around the world. It’s interesting to hear the different perspectives.” said Reba Squire ’03, who attended the conference.

“My primary interest is to understand how globalization can benefit most of the world, which is poor. And all I see is the negative effect of globalization on that population.” said Sara Pines Ph.D. ’85. “I’m just grateful that Cornell is looking at issues like this and people from the community are able to participate.”

Archived article by Jeff Sickelco