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Globalisation and pro-poor business plans

George Clark (Jan 2001) Caledonia Centre for Social Development www.caledonia.org.uk

Managed wisely, the new wealth being created by globalisation creates the opportunity to lift millions of the world's poorest people out of their poverty. Managed badly it could lead to their further marginalisation and impoverishment. Neither outcome is predetermined; it depends on the policy choices adopted by governments, international institutions, the private sector and civil society.

DFID (2001) Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor

Who will make an impact?

How to make an impact?

Building the capacity for countervailing action

Impacting on business plans

Globalisation is a process whereby, amongst other things, the impact of the oligarchic status quo is writ large. That the income disparity gap is often widening, and the numbers of people in absolute poverty is increasing indicates a lack of justice in how many social, political and economic affairs are presently organised.

Commercial interests are on the ascendant while political forces (especially in the third world) are fading in significance. The fate of the world’s people, and indeed of the planet, lies increasingly in the hands of the captains of capitalism. So what is to be done? Two options -

bulletImpact on the hearts and minds of the captains of capitalism
bulletImpact on the business plans of the captains of capitalism

Who will make an impact?

Those most likely to feel the need to make an impact are those most marginalised and oppressed but they may not have the capacity to organise themselves for countervailing action. There is thus a role for those wishing to help the marginalised and oppressed get a better deal. This latter group includes those who would

  1. politic on behalf of the oppressed (at grass roots, national and international level) and
  2. enable the oppressed to politic on their own behalf.

How to make an impact?

Given the lessons of history it seems reasonable to assume that, for the most part, the hearts and minds of those who profit from exploitation will not readily be changed. There is thus a need for countervailing political action of two types:

bulletDirect intervention at local points of injustice. (with global outreach through networking and media attention)
bulletAdvocative interventions in policy making processes (in both political and commercial arenas)

Note that, in both cases, if anything more than rhetorical and paper victories are to be won, there is need of a free and sympathetic media which is willing to stay with the cause in the long term.

Building the capacity for countervailing action

If the marginalised and oppressed are to stand up for their rights, three processes are required and may need support:

bulletindividuals and groups develop the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes concerning social, technical, economic, environmental and political issues (the STEEP learning curve)
bulletgroups become connected in networks and associations (more or less formal as the situation demands)
bulletindividuals, groups, networks and associations engage in co-ordinated programmes of (a) direct local action and (b) advocacy to change local, national and international laws and policy.

The categories of marginalised and oppressed vary from place to place and cover the rich tapestry of humanity. Discrimination may be based on any combination of class, creed, race, religion, sex, age, disability, lifestyle preference and, in most cases, will have a natural or human resource focus and a rural, urban or other geographical setting.

The actions of the marginalised and oppressed will be more likely to achieve their intended outcomes if national and international laws, policies and funding environments are supportive. The development of these conducive environments can be stimulated through providing a pattern of enablement similar to the above but targeted on those who offer support.

The categories of supporter will cover the same range of humanity as mentioned above but a more critical factor will be the institutional locations and thus power bases of the relevant individuals and groups. These could cover a wide range:

The People

bulletLocal, national and international networks
bulletLocal, national and international Peoples’ Organisations (including faith groups etc)
bulletStudent groups

The Aid Workers

bulletLocal, national and international NGOs
bulletBilateral aid agencies
bulletMultilateral aid agencies

The Politicians

bulletPolitical Parties
bulletGovernment Departments and QUANGOs (north and south)

The Capitalists

bulletLocal and National Businesses/Companies
bulletTransnational Corporations

The Scribes

bulletMedia Workers (local, national and international)
bulletAcademics (local, national and international)

Impacting on business plans

Marginalisation and oppression is often a result of strategic decisions made in corporate business plans callously aimed at making profit for share holders (often in collusion with local politicians). But the planners will comply with laws and policies if they cannot avoid either punitive damages and/or bad publicity. The lesson is clear and simple enough to state:

bulleta new system of enforceable laws and policies is required to contain the iniquitous potentialities of globalisation
bulleta co-ordinated and well publicised system of direct action, advocacy and surveillance is required to ensure (a) the creation and (b) the enforcement of such laws and policies
bulletmany of the countervailing actors and most of the actions will require financial support, especially in creating international linkages

By listing the three categories of countervailing action against four groups of actors, the following table offers a matrix of twelve, linked support and funding opportunities to those who wish to ensure that business plans in our globalised future are suitably pro-poor.

Countervailing Actors

Countervailing Actions

Build KSA

Direct action


Exploited individuals




Exploited groups




Supporters of exploited groups (local)




Supporters of exploited groups (international)






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