I introduce here a Jesuit international research project that started about 2 years ago in more than 20 countries.
Globalization is one of the key issues that influences not only our mission at all practical levels, but also affects the re-structuring of societies and the lives of all of us. Industrialized societies symbolized by the G7 summits, international financial institutions like the IMF, multinational companies and the political elite promote global policies.
Nevertheless, globalization also has its strong critics from the sides of national and local cultures, from weak economic sectors, especially middle-size business and the informal sector, and from emerging democratic establishments. Will private citizens organizations, local and international, be able to bring globalization under control? Are working alternatives available?
Without doubt globalization brings benefits to many societies and groups, but weak sectors and the poor suffer most because of globalization policies. Thus, the international Jesuit project looks at globalization from the perspective of the world's poor. The main concern is for the victims of the process. Should that be correct, we must re-evaluate our Jesuit mission and reflect once more on the values and human visions our institutions transmit. Opinions are most welcomed.E-mail: selasj@kiwi.ne.jp
Globalization and Japan

The expression "globalization" is much used in Japan now. During the '80s the word "internationalization" was much in vogue which gave a stimulus to Japanese companies to export to foreign countries, especially to SE Asia. The flow of foreign capital moved freely around the world till 1994 when Mexico declared itself financially bankrupt. The financial crisis reached SE Asian countries in the late '90s, with the collapse of the bubble economy that has also hit Japan hard during the last few years. Japan has placed its priority on injecting large sums of tax money into its financial institutions and is promoting big financial conglomerations to make the take off from business recession. If one was to look for symbols of globalization in Japan, one could offer the takeover of a Japanese National Financial Institution by an American Financial Consortium, and the French Renault buying Japanese Nissan.

Globalization - Citizens' Organizations

One of the results of globalization is to strengthen world economic and political powers promoting inequality at world levels. It is said that less than 15% of the world's population get profit from globalization. Governments give free access to global business through liberalization policies and cutting business barriers. This, on one hand, frees governments from looking after the welfare of their citizens, but it tends to be an obstacle to the growth of democracy. Financial institutions and the whole financial system are the most undemocratic bodies.
During the last months, citizens' groups have organized strong protests against the WTO (World Trade Organization) and the IFM (International Monetary Fund) during their assemblies in the United States. The Japanese government is much afraid that similar public international protests might take place at the G7 Summit in Okinawa this July.
While industrialized countries and most of the elite have opted for full globalization policies, it is most necessary that citizens' organizations work together to promote more human development taking the sides of weak and poor groups. This practical solidarity, linking industrialized and developing societies, has been implemented during the last few years by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Jubilee2000 for the cancellation of international debt. Both have their local branches of citizen groups in Japan also.


An International Jesuit Project the Global Economy and Local Cultures

Historical Background. The Global Economy and Local Cultures project is the fruit of the call of the late Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J. for Jesuits to undertake a new ministry of the Word: theological reflection on the human problems of today. Father Arrupe hoped that Jesuits around the world would collaborate in this ministry as inter-connected "poles of reflection" in various regions of the world.
This proposal grew out of a few meetings some Jesuits had at General Congregation 34 - most of them directors of social research or social action centers. Fr. Jim Connor (USA) volunteered to analyze that information and get back to the others. He concluded that the obvious issue was the globalization of the economy, the policies associated with it, and what these are doing to cultures, countries, and peoples, especially the poor among us. GC 34 had brought this quite explicitly to the forefront.
"In our times there is a growing consciousness of the interdependence of all peoples in one common heritage. The globalization of the world economy and society proceeds at a rapid pace, fed by developments in technology, communications and business. While there can be many benefits from this phenomenon, it can also create injustices on a massive scale.
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Examples would be, economic adjustment programs and market forces unfettered by concern for their social impact especially on the poor; the homogeneous 'modernization' of cultures in ways that destroy traditional cultures and values; a growing inequality among nations and within nations, between rich and poor, between the powerful and the marginalized. In justice, we must work to counter this by building up a world order of real solidarity, where all can have a rightful place at the banquet of the Kingdom." (General Congregation 34, Decree 3, #7)
Father Gasper (Gap) Lo Biondo, S.J., of the USA Woodstock Center, facilitates the project. An International Jesuit Team serves as an advisory committee for the development of the project.
The first phase of the project consisted primarily in the solicitation of stories about the impact of globalization on local cultures from the participating centers and reflection on them. In all, forty stories were gathered from 27 countries during this information-gathering stage.
On September 10, 1999, twelve Jesuits, representing twelve centers in eleven countries, gathered for eight days in Washington, D.C., to reflect on the data submitted by the participating centers. Two international observers and four Woodstock Visiting Fellows also attended the consultation.

Process of Discernment

The project, launched in 1998, consists of a 3-year process of discernment with the following stages:

  1. Stage One consists in the collection of stories from participants. The key questions in Stage One is: "Which data that we have collected are most important? Why are they most important?"
  1. Stage Two is an analytical phase, an effort to understand the workings of globalization as evidenced in the stories submitted and in light of the various social disciplines. The key questions are "What is happening?" "Why and how is the data an instance of globalization?"
  2. Stage Three calls for a validation of our understanding of globalization as expressed in the previous stage. The key questions in Stage Three will be "Is our explanation of globalization correct?" "Is our understanding of the relation between globalization and culture adequate?" "Is our evaluation of what is happening correct?"
  3. In Stage Four the key question is "What do we want to say to others?" "What recommendations should we make to the different 'actors' in the globalization process?"
Note. Globalization is a complex reality. Like capitalism, as described by Joseph Schumpeter, globalization consists of a process of "creative destruction" in which there are economic winners and losers. Globalization stimulates economic growth and social improvement for some, while at the same time, it lays economic burdens on many people and disrupts human development. Globalization fosters positive as well as negative impacts on local cultures.
The harms and benefits of globalization are not evenly distributed either among nations or within them. Given the economic gap between the First World and the Third World, globalization is seen from the perspective of the world's poor. It is inevitable that, while considering the benefits of globalization, we can not view it in a neutral way. Our concern is for the victims of the process.
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Issues of Poverty and Inequality

Globalization has brought about an increased concentration of wealth within and across societies from the bottom to the top of the income scale. In both poor and affluent societies, globalization has led to further marginalization of the very poor, especially native peoples, racial minorities, and migrants.

Furthermore, the poor are deprived of goods and services they previously enjoyed. At the same time they cannot afford the new products and services available from the global marketplace.

Economic Structural Adjustment Programs (ESAPs), which compel countries to integrate into the global market, commonly place the burden for changing state economic policies on the poor by ending subsidies and reducing or eliminating the social safety net.

Next Steps

The participants in the Consultation held in September 1999 raised questions about whether or not there should be face-to-face meetings in the future. And if so, Why? Where? When? And whether they should be regional or international in scope. A range of possibilities were identified and discussed.
There was consensus that participants take one step at a time. The necessity and nature of future meetings would be decided at a later date.
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