15 November 2013

On the shadow of globalisation

On the shadow of globalisation
by Eduardo Oliveira, 11 of November 2013, The Netherlands

The Magazine “The Economist” released last October 2013 a special report on the world economy issue, problems and challenges. The world is finding itself confronted with major developments and challenges: the growing complexity of global issues (rise of new technologies, changes in production processes, crisis of representative democracy, diversity, inequality, migration and the globalization of culture and the economy). Increasing concern about the rapid and apparently random course of (uneven) development, the problems of fragmentation, the rising cost of energy, the ageing of the population, the increasing awareness (on all scales, from local to global) of environmental issues (such as climate change).

An important conclusion is that the forward march of globalisation has paused since the financial crisis, with nations states and trade unions returning to a more interventionist and nationalist model.
After two decades in which people, capital and goods were moving ever more freely across borders (see the free European Union market and common currency), walls and trade barriers have been going up. Governments increasingly pick and choose whom they trade with, what sort of capital they welcome and how much freedom they allow for doing business abroad.

Almost all countries still embrace the principles of international trade and investment. They want to enjoy the benefits of globalisation, but as much as possible they now also want to insulate themselves from its downsides, such as volatile capital flows or surging imports that damages domestic industries.
Borders have not been closed to immigrants, but admission criteria have been tightened. At the same time, however, many countries have made entry easier for scarce highly skilled workers and for entrepreneurs. Talents are now prioritised (see Sweden case).
Globalisation has changed the role of the nation state politically because of strengthened interstate relationships and dependence on one another through trade flows.

Also by now internet and social media has made news and information sharing instant, making it impossible for countries to hide facts and inequalities. These processes seem irreversible.
One of the key challenges for me as planner but also as citizen of the world is to analyse critically what type of planning is suited as an approach to deal – in an innovative/emancipatory and transformative way – with the problems and challenges developing and developed societies are facing. An expanding literature and an increasing number of practices all over the world seem to suggest that strategic spatial planning may be looked upon as a possible approach (also looking to territorial development and place competitiveness). But at the same time critical comments and reactions are raised on the theory and the practices of strategic spatial planning.

One thing I am sure, we have to take action before it’s too late by envisioning better places to live, to work, to be entrepreneur, to dream. People before profit, please.