Think tank network on globalization
For 20 years now the rapid globalization of markets for goods and capital has eliminated jobs, increased income inequality, and shredded the social contract in many parts of the world. Global economic integration could bring benefits, but under current policies, workers and environmental standards in developed and developing nations are pitted against each other in a desperate race to the bottom.
In response, a broad range of groups – labor, environmental, consumer, religious, and other non-governmental organizations – initiated a new era of international activism in Seattle in the fall of 1999. These protests against globalization have underscored the need for in-depth research and analysis on the impact of globalization on workers.
EPI and partner institutions in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia have responded to this challenge by creating the Global Policy Network (GPN), a forum for addressing the serious concerns raised by globalization.
GPN consists of policy and research institutions connected to the world’s labor movements. Its members share a concern for the economic, social, and political conditions of working people in both developing and developed nations. The network’s purpose is to exchange information and research among its member organizations; facilitate coordinated analysis of common issues; and to provide information to others on the state of working people in the global economy.
The work of forming GPN began at the fourth International Progressive Policy Conference (IPPC) in Hamburg, Germany, in March 2000. The participants at that conference, who came from every continent, concluded that the current policy regime being pursued by international and domestic institutions fails the test of social legitimization. It protects the interests of multinational investors while it undercuts the living standards and bargaining power of workers. Contrary to conventional wisdom, these market liberalization strategies have resulted in slower economic growth, rising inequality, and the persistence of grinding poverty. That 75% of the world’s population still makes less than $2 per day is a stunning indictment of these policies.
GPN’s founding members do not oppose the development of a global economy, and they do not seek to return to the world economic order of the past. Instead, they are committed to helping build a fair, prosperous, and sustainable economy for all the world’s people.
To that end, the IPPC conferees appointed a GPN steering committee comprising EPI and:
DIEESE – Inter Trade Union Department of Statistics and Socio-Economic Studies (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
ETUI – European Trade Union Institute (Brussels, Belgium)
NALEDI – National Labor and Economic Development Institute (Johannesburg, South Africa)
RIALS – Research Institute for the Advancement of Living Standards (Tokyo, Japan)
The committee will oversee the initial GPN program, with an emphasis on:
Bringing together and forging links between institutes connected to unions and labor movements in developed and developing countries. Through joint research, discussions, and related activities, think tanks and unions will develop the practical basis for furthering international solidarity and engaging the common challenges posed by globalization.
Sharing research and ideas through a common web site and regular conferences and workshops. The GPN web site will link all members and will provide basic information and analysis regarding socio-economic developments around the world. Conferences will be held regularly and in different countries, increasing international dialogue and contributing toward coherent alternatives to current policies.
Facilitating exchanges of visiting scholars between member institutions. Inter-institutional exchanges of staff will foster organic linkages between members and help develop common approaches to common problems.
Creating the basis for collaborative research projects and other related activities by pooling expertise, materials, and financial resources. Criteria to be used in selecting common themes for collaborative research projects will include the capacity to develop the research; the relevance of the research question to the labor movement; the strategic value of the research; and the commonality of the issues to be examined.
GPN will use the Internet to build links between labor unions and researchers around the world to assist in these program objectives. As a first step, GPN members have agreed to contribute up-to-date data to a new web site that eventually will make it possible for anyone to obtain information on working conditions in countries around the globe. The data on the GPN web site will include most labor market indicators as well as analyses of macroeconomic conditions.
The web site will also be used to develop joint research projects and proposals and to distribute the reports and products of partner institutions. It will also provide a unique window into the world of working people for public policy makers, journalists, and students, as well as researchers and labor union activists.
GPN outreach began in July with a trip to Sri Lanka by EPI economist Robert E. Scott. At a labor workshop organized by the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center, Scott met with 25 labor activists and researchers from Hong Kong, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Over three days of meetings, the Asian labor leaders received training in creating web sites and agreed to form the South Asian Labor Network. Joint regional research projects were identified, and Scott gathered information on more than 50 potential GPN members.
By the end of 2001, GPN expects to be well on the way to establishing a strong global network with at least 20 members from developing countries joining the existing core of think tanks from Japan, Europe, and the United States.
The formation of GPN is supported by a two-year grant from the Ford Foundation.