Endy M. Bayuni,
11 February 2005 | The Jakarta Post, New Delhi
GN3 Editorial Comment: Recent headlines have
been replete with references to Davos and Porto Alegre
and the competing visions of globalization and
development among civil society, government and
business. While the World Social Forum is primarily a
civil society gathering, the World Economic Forum
tends to be associated with business and political
leaders. In the article below, a relatively unknown
effort referred to as the "Helsinki Process" seeks to
build consensus through a tri-sectoral approach
involving the three global powers – civil society,
government and business.
The old saying "if you can't beat them, join them"
underpins the attitude of many around the world who
are becoming increasingly skeptical about the true
benefits of free-for-all economic globalization, but
somehow feel powerless to stop it and all its negative
But if that is the attitude, it begs the question:
How? Or more precisely, how do you join globalization?
Finland and Tanzania, two unlikely players in a game
dominated by giants, have come up with a noble idea of
a more inclusive globalization -- one that brings
together all the stakeholders: governments, civil
society organizations, and the business world.
Participants in what is known as the Helsinki Process
for Globalization and Democracy met in the Indian
capital this week to hammer out their thoughts of what
can be done together to give globalization a more
Launched in the Finnish capital in 2002, the group has
since met in Brazil, South Africa, and this week in
India, to garner interest as well as wider publicity.
It plans to hold the big conference in Helsinki once
again in September.
The Helsinki Process seems like a modest start for a
highly ambitious project.
Only the two initiator governments are represented in
the forum, and even then, they are here in their
individual rather than official capacity.
The other participants are representatives from the
business world, the academe and non-governmental
organizations from different countries.
Nearly three years in the work since its launching in
the Finnish capital, the Helsinki Process has enjoyed
little media publicity.
Even the Indian mainstream media gave this week's
meeting little coverage, while the global media seemed
to have ignored it completely. But such media
skepticism is not unfounded in a world already filled
with so many proposals on how to deal with the
excesses of the unfettered globalization of the 1990s.
"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here,"
Abdulkader Shareef, Tanzanian deputy foreign minister
who cochairs the New Delhi meeting, told reporters.
"We seek to reinforce many of the initiatives that are
already on the table."
Finland's foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, the other
cochair, said he recognized the need to expand the
forum to include more government representatives if
the Helsinki Process is to be treated more seriously
by the major players. A foreign-ministerial level
meeting will be held in Helsinki on the sidelines of
the September conference, he added.
The New Delhi meeting reviewed three reports, or
"tracks" in the Helsinki Process parlance, that were
published last month. Representatives of the Helsinki
Group presented these reports, detailing some of their
proposed processes, simultaneously at the World
Economic Forum in the Swiss city of Davos and the
World Social Forum in the Brazilian town of Porto
The two forums perhaps represent the two extreme poles
of the globalization divide: One fully for it (Davos),
the other trying to oppose it (Porto Allegre).
One of the premises of the Helsinki Process is that
given the impact globalization has on the lives of
every single person living on this planet, its trends
and pace must be decided jointly by as many
stakeholders as possible.
Currently, the Group of Seven of the wealthiest
countries in the world, led by the United States, is
calling most of the shots in its annual summits and
This, according to the Helsinki Group, is symptomatic
of the democratic deficit in the governance of many of
the international organizations, and thus of the
decisions that affect the lives of people all around
To remedy this, the group proposes, among other
things, the expansion of the G-7 forum (or G-8 as it
now includes Russia) to 20, or "thereabouts".
Lending credence to the group, among others, is
India's Nitin Desai, former UN undersecretary general
for economic and social affairs. "This is not just
another one of those commissions. This is all about
the process," he told reporters.
But as the world is searching desperately to put a
more human face on economic globalization, the
question that comes to mind is "is there really such a
thing as "fair globalization"?
Vandana Shiva, long a staunch critic of globalization,
seems to think so, pointing to the global response to
help victims of the deadly December tsunamis hitting
Indian Ocean states, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka
Speaking at a conference on the media and
globalization on the sidelines of the Helsinki group's
meeting in New Delhi this week, Shiva says: "Now,
that's fair globalization. People felt connected and
found a way of helping others."