Or welcoming you to the re-launched FOGGS

by Georgios Kostakos, Executive Director, FOGGS

A new tribalism?

The emergence of populist leaders with nationalist agendas around the world has rung alarm bells for the globalisation project, which counted on ever-increasing global transactions in goods, services and finance in an ever more open world. Responding to fears deeply felt by large numbers of people even in the most developed countries of the West, these leaders offer a nationalist utopia that protects from what is perceived as unfair treatment and restores country and people to being “first again”.

This is a reflection of a division among people that is becoming increasingly apparent worldwide. On the one hand, there are those who can follow the shifting trends of globalisation, can change location and profession, and thrive on different languages and cuisines; we can call them “the movers”. On the other hand there are those who feel overtaken by ever-changing developments, are unable or unwilling to adjust continuously to the demands of the market place, and want to be more settled in space and mind; we can call them “the rooted”.

Of course, these two are “ideal types” and real people can display the whole range of characteristics, to a lesser or greater extent. But there is certainly a minority that benefits and wants to continue with globalisation as now practiced, and a majority that feels that it is losing out and wants to apply the breaks, to stop and even reverse some of globalisation’s faits accomplis.

The movers and the most extreme part of them, that less than 1% that controls more resources than the rest of humanity combined, try to shape the world in their image and turn things to their favour, using salary and power differentials to extract the most benefits, as they see a bigger picture and can take advantage of opportunities around the globe.

This, though, increases the insecurities of those among the rooted who lose their jobs or who see their income squeezed because of competition from far-away places, worsening labour conditions, reduced pensions and other benefits. Insecurity begets aggression and the easiest victims of the latter are not the high movers that caused the insecurity in the first place but the vulnerable people across the border, the refugees and migrants, those who look, speak or behave differently.

About the value of things, of people and nature

The pursuit of a purely economic and profit-maximising logic by the globalisation elites has led to a redistribution of wealth that gives priority to certain jobs and services. The question of value allocation, a complex practical and moral issue, has de facto been resolved by the markets and the people controlling them. The winners are hi-tech manufacturers and intangible financial services providers, managers, merchants and intermediaries, while farmers, menial workers and even the primary intellectual workers / teachers / civil servants are being squeezed to subsistence level, or even below.

Nature itself is also been squeezed, more and more, to satisfy the increasing demands of a growing humanity, with both the movers and the rooted contributing to this. Expert opinion has long indicated that climate change and other processes that challenge the balance of the Earth system may be having irreversible consequences. The reaction of the movers is often some kind of acknowledgement of the risks and the launch of new money-making ventures, like the green, blue or otherwise coloured economy, paying lip-service to nature but ignoring society. The reaction of the rooted, who feel increasingly being uprooted, is often to deny that there is any real problem, blame everything on conspiracies, and follow leaders who somehow promise to shield them of the consequences.

The need for a new approach to globalisation

At FOGGS we see as most urgent the need for a new vision for globalisation, what we call “the Grand Narrative”. Unlike many ideologies of the past, we want it to eventually bind the world, bring it together rather than divide it into rich and poor, developed and developing, movers and rooted. We want to jointly go deeper into our common humanity and rediscover the sense of community and public service, rights that go with responsibilities, different talents and professions that can harmoniously co-exist, making things work for all and guaranteeing the well-being of each and every one of us, and of the planet we live on.

We are not starting from scratch. The reform of global governance, including of the UN system, is being discussed actively again, from different perspectives. We are part of it, submit our ideas and are ready to debate. World governments have managed to reach agreement on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which should be guiding the economic, social and environmental activities of individual countries and the world as a whole till 2030. Sustainable investment initiatives, climate footprint reduction pledges and disclosure projects continue to be announced, giving hope for the future.

We at FOGGS put emphasis on one element in particular, which may also be said to underlie the SDGs but needs to be stated more clearly: the need to reform the global economy to make it work for all in a framework of common human values and ultimately common aspirations to happiness and well-being. We intend to intervene with policy-makers at the global level, and at the same time support the building of global citizenship among people around the world. Explaining and educating, informally or formally, and convening those with knowledge and interest to act, is the dual way in which we can and will operate.

We invite you to join this effort, share your views, participate in various activities, and most of all practice on a daily basis responsible global citizenship, with human conscience and the common good in mind, giving life to a new Grand Narrative that explains, challenges and binds the world. The points that follow provide an initial agenda for action.

To overcome the shortcomings of globalisation we need to:

  • Arrive at mutual understanding and recognition, between the rooted and the movers, of each other’s value, legitimate concerns and insecurities, rights and responsibilities, with a view to reaching mutually beneficial and reassuring solutions;
  • Implement sustainable development by all and for all, including the protection of the most vulnerable through economic empowerment, decent jobs, food and water security, minimum income guarantees, better health and education for all, protection of the global commons and of key public goods;
  • Recognise the positive role of cross-border exchanges, sustainable and responsible trade and other useful mover functions, including multilateral institutions, civil society and academic networks, within a humanistic value framework and with a set of adequate regulations that guarantee the common good without stifling innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • Tighten oversight of the global financial system, increase transparency and regulation, and gradually deflate nominal fund circulation tying it to the real economy;
  • Acknowledge in theory and practice the ultimate value of the physical and emotional lives of people, the need for security and stability that each one of us has, the importance of settled communities and not only of moving high-fliers, the contribution of professions of the earth, sea, mortar and sand, not only of intangible services, finance and management;
  • Recognise the intrinsic value of the natural environment, respect for other species, ending of cruel and inhumane practices, establishing circular economies to preserve natural resources, promoting climate change adaptation and switching to clean energy and non-polluting industries to avert a natural catastrophe;
  • Explore with an open mind, democratic transparency, scientific thoroughness, and human conscience the new frontiers of humanity, from new information technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics to health and agricultural innovations, other planet and cyberspace settlement, with a view to using them for the common and shared good of humanity;
  • Restore faith in institutions of good governance at all levels; for globalisation especially in the United Nations, which needs to replenish its moral authority, re-assert its independence and secure adequate means to play its stabilising role for the common good.
  • Bring together people of good will from around the world to share views on humanity’s present and future, participate in joint activities in support of shared good causes, and practice responsible global citizenship in every aspect of our lives.