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Background

The world has undergone profound changes in recent decades, and one of the most important of those is what is commonly known as globalization. It refers to the increasing integration and interaction among the people, companies, and governments of different nations. It consists of economic, political, social, and cultural processes, which are driven by the flows of goods, capital, and people across borders, the international integration of production processes, the rapid improvements in technologies and communication systems, and cultural, political and social integration. These processes have effects on economic development, political systems, culture and on human well-being in societies around the world.

Globalization provides both opportunities and challenges, in particular for the developing world. For example, market expansion can increase incomes through division of labour according to comparative advantage. Global competition can be a disciplining device that forces national governments also in less developed countries to reform their economy and political system. However, globalization may undercut the capacity of nation-states to implement regulatory and redistributive policies, and to manage risk and uncertainty. It also affects the distribution of income, resources, and opportunities between the rich and the poor within societies, as well as between the North and the South.

It is now perhaps more important than ever to have stable national institutions. For instance, financial intermediaries are increasingly beyond the control of individual countries at the same time as the services they provide become more important, while macroeconomic management becomes harder and the cost of political mistakes increases. The stakes are higher in less developed countries, since they have less robust institutions. Hence one of the greatest challenges in the early 21st century is that markets and societies strive to integrate and become global at the same time as the institutions that support them remain largely national.

The processes of globalization have recently led to a series of problems that are novel in terms of scope and impact. The current global economic crisis was caused by poorly functioning regulatory systems in the financial markets, and lax economic policy. The seriousness of the crisis is bound to force reforms in the global control systems that were impossible to undertake only a year ago. A grave concern with regard to this reform process is the imbalance in influence between the rich countries in the North and the poor countries in the South.

Similarly, global terrorism and the globalized nature of conflict challenge the ways in which we address the prospect of security and development. In a globalized world, where peoples, countries, and regions are more interlinked than ever before, the effects of these processes will be felt everywhere — albeit unevenly. Gender, ‘race’, class, religious, and ethnic/national divisions, for instance, place some in positions of power and privilege while others become more disenfranchised. We also see that climate change, which in part is a result of economic globalization, calls for a coordinated global response.

There exists a great deal of research on globalization. However, most of this focuses on the North, and research on the driving forces and effects of globalization in the South remains less developed. Herein lays the call for the competence of globalization researchers at the University of Gothenburg. While research challenges in the area of globalization generally conceived are indeed towering, we believe that the University of Gothenburg enjoys a particular capacity to contribute to world-class globalization research with its long-standing focus on conditions in the South and on North-South relations.

One of the most important global challenges today is to reduce world poverty. This is also acknowledged by the international community, which has agreed on the so called Millennium Development Goals, which include the reduction of poverty. The process of globalization has so far had uneven effects in the South in terms of economic development, environmental sustainability, and social justice. It is therefore important to try to understand why certain countries have been able to achieve rapid development in the new global setting, while others have failed, as well as how development may impact on people and environment in uneven and undesirable ways. We will therefore analyze how globalization processes affect development in the South and identify appropriate domestic and international policy responses. It is hard to imagine any area of research that has higher policy relevance today.

 

Page Manager: Ann-Christin Räättäri Nyström|Last update: 8/29/2012
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