chapter  9
21 Pages

Light but Firm: the Future of Global Governance

During the 1990s, workers in South Wales celebrated the benefits of large-scale inward investment in manufacturing industry, especially from East Asia. Late in 1997, a wave of stock market and banking collapses swept through Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea, and threatened the health of the Japanese economy too. As the panic spread to Europe and North America, billions of dollars were wiped off the value of leading corporations, and East Asian manufacturers shelved plans to expand their factories abroad.3 The celebrations in South Wales were cut short, providing a useful reminder that globalisation carries risks as well as opportunities.4 In this increasingly interconnected world of cause and effect, where problems spread across national frontiers and security threats leak from one location to another, there are three ways for decision makers to react. The first is a continued free for all, but that produces self-destructive behaviour in the form of the ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ we mentioned in Chapter 8. Alternatively, some will take a ‘free ride’ on the back of sacrifices made by others, undermining the impact of collective agreements to preserve the biosphere and protect human rights. Self-evidently, this is a stupid strategy because it endangers the common social and environmental heritage on which all our futures depend.