- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

This year's World Economic Forum, held over the weekend in New York City, was so different from those of years past that some observers have gone as far so to say a new era is at hand.

The changes in this year's forum range from the superficial to the substantive. For starters, business and political leaders met this year in New York, rather than in Davos, Switzerland, the traditional setting for the yearly reunion. Also, the violent protests that marred past forums was largely absent. What was discussed inside the forum was also distinct from the topics of past years. In fact, some of the criticism that raged outside in the past was brought into the forum this year, with labor leaders and environmental groups given a podium to present their views. Sessions like "Understanding Global Anger" were fairly prevalent at Davos on the Hudson.

Surely, policy-makers at the public and private level would be wise to understand the growing anger toward globalization. The benefits of globalization haven't spread around the world equitably, and a lively discussion on how to improve the lot of poor countries is critical. But in examining this problem, globalization shouldn't be viewed as the bogeyman. After all, the more globalized economies around the world are the wealthiest and most productive, offering the best opportunities for employment and social mobility. For this reason, it is critical that rich countries reconsider their approach to helping emerging economies, giving them freer access to markets in the developed world rather than impoverishing them with aid and loans that perpetuate cycles of poverty and intensify corruption.

At the forum, corporate leaders demonstrated that they are becoming more attuned to global anger. The chief executives of key companies such as McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Philips-Van Heusen and Siemens made a statement declaring that the "ultimate responsibility [for corporate citizenship] rests with us as chief executives, chairmen and board directors," and pledged to move beyond philanthropy to implement more positive policies. It is refreshing to see these companies expand their corporate vision. International concern about basic values, which began to gain momentum in the wake of September 11, has begun to permeate the corporate realm.

The criticism of globalization that has been voiced inside the forum should signal to the White House and, most importantly, to Congress that there is a need to demonstrate the positive impact global capitalism can have on the developing world. If "something new" is really afoot, emerging economies must be given a greater stake in globalization. That will be in everybody's interest.


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