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TRAINING: Training-Workshop on Globalization (Themes)

Globalization and Civil Society in Asia, 21 to 25 May 2007

Civil society twice claimed victory over the collapse of the WTO ministerial meetings. The debacle in Seattle in 1999 has shown the capacity of civil society to launch concerted action to challenge the staunch supporters of the Washington Consensus. In 2003, again, civil society significantly contributed in derailing the introduction of a new round of negotiations in Cancun. With these events, The New York Times has suggested that global civil society is the world’s second superpower. On the other hand, as the power of states are being reconfigured to allow the market to take its natural course, civil society has jumped in and assumed the responsibilities of development. Nongovernment organizations are now engaged in activities that were otherwise confined to the state or even the business sector—service delivery, micro-financing, enterprise development, etc.—to either enhance competitiveness or cushion the blow of globalization. This begs the question: What is the role of civil society vis-à-vis the processes of globalization? Has it emerged as a major player, as the media portrays it to be? If so, how has it emerged to be a formidable force?

Civil society feeds on and reacts to the processes of globalization. On the one hand, it exploits the promise of technological development, albeit uneven; and takes advantage of the dispersal of authority associated with multi-tiered governance. On the other hand, it responds to the uneven nature and process of globalization, often acting as a countervailing power to states and markets. Amidst all the debates and discussions on civil society being a panacea for democracy and development, not all members of civil society are progressive. There are leading neoliberal think-tanks which work closely with governments in crafting macroeconomic policies perceived as detrimental to the poor. Often lacking public visibility compared to the “anti-globalization” movement, they exert much influence on political and economic actors. This phenomenon brings us to the questions of civil society action on globalization: What is the strategy of civil society in confronting globalization? Does it engage and has it influenced governments and multilateral institutions? Has it mobilized national and international public opinion on globalization?

Much has been said about the potentials of civil society. But again, while it is tempting to make a sweeping conclusion about its promises, there may be caveats buried amongst the victory marches and celebrations. It is timely to take stock of the role of civil society in the globalization conundrum. If indeed it contributes and upholds the principles of democracy, then it is necessary to critically analyze its disposition, strategy and action. If indeed it legitimizes the conduct of governance of globalization, and the establishment of institutions for this purpose, then the more it is imperative to objectively examine the underpinning for such “moral ascendancy”, as scholars have put it. Indeed, the factors which facilitate civil society’s role in global governance are significantly linked to the nature and processes of globalization. But it remains an open question whether civil society will have substantial impact.

With the Asia’s heterogeneous social, political, and economic milieu, the variegated state-civil society dynamics in response to globalization provides a rich source of learning. With the increasing drive towards greater integration into the world economy, it is timely to analyze how these changes have reconfigured Asians states and societies and the prospects for regional cooperation. Modules and lectures included:
  • Module 1: Globalization (A Critical Introduction)
    • Political Economy of Globalization
    • Cultures and Globalization
  • Module 2: Globalization and the Role of Civil Society
    • Civil Society and Contemporary Political Theory
    • Civil Society in Asia
    • Globalization, Global Governance, and Civil Society
  • Module 3: Modes of Intervention (Civil-Society Action on Globalization)
    • State-Civil Society Engagement
    • Global Civil Society Movements and International Policymaking
    • Alternative Globalziation
  • Module 4: Representation and Accountability in Civil Society

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