Institute of the Weltethos Foundation
at the University of Tübingen

First slide

Globalization with Human Dignity – A Conference Review

Previous forms of economic globalization have largely failed because they were geared one-sidedly to gaining power or economic dominance. This includes especially the exploitation of people and resources. At the Global Ethic Institute, we are concerned, among other things, with how globalization and globality can be made fairer and more sustainable. To this end, we have developed a number of theses, which we discussed with fascinating speakers and guests at the conference “Globalization with Human Dignity”. The aim of the conference was to invite people from politics, business and science to the Global Ethic Institute in order to shed light on the topic from different perspectives. Here you can find some summaries of the contributions.

How can we develop a sustainable, solution-oriented, diversity-protecting and humane perspective on globalization in these times? Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrich Hemel (Weltethos-Institut) raised this question immediately in his welcome address. He illustrated the example of cotton farmers he once met in Burkina Faso and described how the western industrialized countries in particular share responsibility for the failure of globalization based on global minimum standards and human dignity. But he also described the paths of action that could result from this. Global Ethic or Weltethos could be the starting point for a culture of dialogue. A dialogue, which on that day – as a cooperation of the Research Institute for Philosophy in Hanover (fiph) and the Institute for Social Strategy (ifs) – fortunately came about with people from the most diverse cultural backgrounds. Hemel invited those present to give critical feedback on the theses for a globalization with human dignity developed at the Global Ethic Institute – which were exhibited during the conference – and to participate in further developments in the future.
With these and other words, the director of the institute opened the conference and the first panel, which looked at Globalization with Human Dignity from an economic perspective.

The first contribution in this panel came from Dr. Bernd Villhauer (Weltethos Institute) and focused on the question to what extent the global financial system can be designed in a more humane way and what the relationship is between economic and financial globalization was? Does the financial system currently actually provide the framework for ethical and ecological minimum standards that also offer profit? What would have to be considered in the case of a financial world more oriented towards general human rights? What blame does the financial system bear for the failure of a humane globalization? All these were questions that were touched upon in his lecture. Among other things, the trained banker attached importance to showing historically that “evil came before the stock exchange”. That slave trade, war, exploitation and other inhumane forms of economy have always been practiced – even before the strengthening of the global financial economy. He emphasized that financialization has actually led to greater prosperity worldwide. Villhauer argued that in the future, more attention should be paid to reconciling the advantages of the financial system and the consideration of human rights. It is important to consider the extent to which people are granted equal market access and opportunities. For critical discussion, he presented a quote from Carl Christian Weizsäcker, who stated in 1999 in “The Logic of Globalization” that “today, the system of globalization is increasingly a system of equal, non-privileged market access.” Fostering this, as well as ecological and value-oriented framework conditions for the future of the financial system, must be the benchmark for future development, Villhauer said.

Professor Dr. Jörg Baten from the Chair of Economic History at the University of Tübingen followed with a contribution on “The World Economic History of Welfare and Inequality Before, During and After Globalization Periods“. He offered a long-term perspective on welfare development as well as growth and the formation of human capital from a global perspective and outlined the methods that could be useful for measuring welfare development. For example, by interpreting data on education or health development as well as on social inequality during different phases of globalization, qualitative statements could be made about the opportunities and risks of various developments – also for the future. The study by Sala-í-Martin et al. (2004), “Determinants of Long-Term Growth: A Bayesian Averaging of Classical Estimates (BACE) Approach,” for example, was able to show in the analysis of 73 variables that factors such as imports and exports have less impact on growth developments than primary education and the level of direct investment. In development economics, moreover, human biological factors such as body size and mortality rates have become more interesting for several eras, especially in view of their correlation with globalization as well as de- and re-globalization phases, Baten said. He offered an overview of historical developments and also pointed to positive trends. For example, the fact that life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa recently increased from 46 to 56 years of life is “very much a remarkable development that I feel has been completely lost in the news.” Continuing to research in this direction, thoroughly evaluating data and also pointing out positive developments is important to counteract the negativity bias with regard to globalization and to make it more viable for the future, he said.

With his own lecture on the topic of “Humane globalization as a challenge to global civil society: where is the journey heading in the face of an increasingly multipolar world?“, Prof. Dr. Dr. Ulrich Hemel brought the economic panel to a close. According to Hemel, it was only in 1983 that we began to speak of globalization, referring primarily to its economic form. However, in addition to world trade and the interconnection of financial markets, it is also important to consider the globalization of values and norms, which is accompanied by the global exchange of goods and human capital, but also by digitalization and communication. This form of globalization, however, raises the question of hegemonic power over common values and the way in which they are shaped, as well as the question of fairness and justice. Thus, a humane globalization also requires thinking about what global civil society means. According to Hemel, this includes not only the level of politics, but also that of companies, associations and (also religious) organizations. What is needed is a globalization that is able to integrate social, ethical, economic and ecological goals.
Therefore, it is important to create a binding and yet context-sensitive frame of reference that is able to show development and action paths for different countries. This is where the work of the Global Ethic Institute comes in, trying to propose various survey methods and indices for these goals, which help to prepare a country profile in relation to, among other things, trust, perception of corruption, inequality distribution, investments or also ecological responsibility, which show possibilities and necessities. According to the institute’s director, the goal is to find incentives in a global density stress to strengthen global civil society and enhance decent development. He concluded by inviting further joint academic, political and economic work on this frame of reference.

After the lunch break, the panel opened with a look at globalization from the perspective of politics and from the perspective of minorities. For this purpose, former Minister of State and Member of the Bundestag Annette Widmann-Mauz came to the Weltethos Institute to talk about “Human Rights and Values-Driven Foreign Policy in the Tension of Current Crises.” “Are human dignity and globalization actually a contradiction or even a utopia?”, she raised the question right at the beginning, pointing out that despite all growth rates and development trends, we have recently also experienced the negative consequences of a globalized world to an increasing extent. For example, in the struggle for vaccines worldwide, the fragility of international supply chains, the impact of energy and grain sanctions, which has led to enormous inflation and worsening living conditions worldwide. She thanked the Global Ethic Institute for shining a spotlight on this important issue, as it is essential to focus on how we can better shape the future of multilateral relations. She emphasized that foreign policy always has global and value-driven goals, which, frankly, always have limits in international dialogue.
The claim to strengthen human rights is the appropriate one, but it is undoubtedly also a demanding one, according to the member of the Bundestag. “In reality, values and goals often clash with interests,” she describes, using the example of the negotiations with Qatar on energy supplies, in which precisely these issues were the ones in dispute. It would become evident that what is considered morally desirable is often not practically effective in achieving goals. In particular, a new Western value imperialism can complicate international dialogue here instead of opening doors for all parties involved. According to Widmann-Mauz, it is important not to shy away from dilemmas between morals and interests in foreign policy, but to act in a context- and culture-sensitive but also consistent manner. Especially in times of intensifying global system competition, in which the dialogue with global civil society must not be discontinued, she said.

In the subsequent discussion with Ulrich Hemel, Annette Widmann-Mauz also answered the sometimes critical questions of the conference guests.

The lecture by Nadja Greku (formerly World Bank / now ERIAC e.V.) “The Roma Minority: Inclusion, Exclusion, Security, and Insecurity” offered a completely different view of a humane globalization. What does this contribution have to do with “humane globalization”, one might have asked beforehand. However, the fact-filled, exciting and pointed lecture by the expert in international relations quickly made it clear: quite a bit.
Not only did she describe the difficult political and economic situation of the largest and above all stateless minority in Europe, she also touched on aspects of historical and structural racism against Sinti and Roma. Her lecture thus raised the question of the visibility and inclusion of minority perspectives and values, that want to be heard, safe and recognized in the course of a globalization oriented towards humanity. The problem, he said, is that because of widespread racism against the minority, Sinti and Roma in many countries suffer particularly severely from global crises. For example, they are affected by exclusion both in Ukraine and in Russia, but also in other countries, which is insufficiently reported.
Few would have ever heard of Stanislav Tomáš’s violent death at the hands of police in the Czech Republic, or that it had sparked the worldwide Roma Lives Matter campaign in the global Sinti and Roma community. Tomáš had died in 2021 in a staggeringly similar way to George Floyd the year before.
She said she was hopeful that in many countries people’s support was growing to create policies for minorities like these that would better protect them from exclusion and structural racism. The intensive joint work on culturally and minority-sensitive policies, both in her consulting work at the World Bank and in her current work for the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture, has reinforced her belief that policy frameworks can be created that have a very practical impact on the lives of minorities. “Coherent, multi-level, multi-actor policy-making, integrated basic services and community-led devolopment does work,” Greku said. What is important for global development here, he said, is to learn from each other and for practice through dialogue on values, thus enabling political visibility and participation for minorities.

Dr. Nurzat König focused on Central Asia with her contribution entitled “Crypto-Mining and the face of Globalization in Kyrgystan. A case Study“. From the perspective of Kyrgyzstan, the question arises: What kind of globalization are we talking about? Europeanization, Russification or Sinification? The small state, which is geopolitically under the influence of the three great powers and in part directly bordering them, is characterized by many mountains and bodies of water and by only 20% of its territory being inhabitable. People would generally know little about the country, although it could be interesting in the future precisely because of its conditions: Kyrgyzstan has great potential for research and development of hydro-electric power generation due to its many mountains, over 2000 large and small lakes, and many rivers, she said.
Economic and political developments since the collapse of the Soviet Union have brought not only positive aspects but also negative consequences of globalization in Kyrgyzstan and other smaller states of the former Soviet Union. For example, growing inequality, job losses, social and economic vulnerability.
Kyrgyzstan has the strongest political and economic ties with Russia and China, and it is also trying to strengthen its position in international relations, especially with Europe, and is receiving a lot of civil society support from the EU.
However, a more disastrous side of globalization has now entered Kyrgyzstan at the latest in the last few years through the cryptomining industry, König said. Low electricity prices made the country attractive to the energy-intensive cryptomining sector despite ailing grid supplies. This has now, however, led to a state of emergency in the energy supply for the population and the domestic economy. Households and businesses are affected by power outages on a daily basis, and the price of electricity has risen at the same time – partly due to illegal mining activities, which make up the bulk of the industry there. Globalization of this kind, which accepts that the population will freeze in the harsh Kyrgyz winter and can no longer guarantee its energy supply, is a case study of how humane globalization cannot be achieved.

The third panel looking at sustainable development in the multipolar world opened with a contribution by Kerstin Schopp from the International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tübingen. In her contribution on “Sustainable agriculture in Tanzania: small-scale farmers, globalization and ethics“, she discussed the initial results of her intensive field research on the ground. The concept of sustainability used by the Africanist and biologist is based on that of the World Commission on Environment and Development and refers to “development that is intra- and intergenerationally equitable and within planetary and human-made limits.” By the latter, she also means those that are technical, social and political in nature. So why is Tanzania of particular interest here? Because, Schopp says, on the one hand, the country is rich in biomass and, on the other, it is in the area of tension between the former Ujamaa politics – also called African socialism, the Ubuntu philosophy and today’s neoliberal world.
During the Ujamaa era, values such as unity, equality, freedom and peace were proclaimed. Self-sufficiency and food sovereignty were important, as was the collectivization of the means of production and goods. There had also been dark sides in this political era, for example forced resettlements. Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that the introduction of a common national language, common values and economic goals also ensured peace in the country, of which the people still report very proudly today.
In her field research, the focus was on semi-commercial small-scale farmers, who live in the Kilimanjaro region and make up more than half of the population. It was found that this group was characterized by emotional attachment to their own piece of land and its ecosystem services, but also by a high regard for community values and role models, as well as the striving for recognition, self-sufficiency and self-realization. However, he said, in the face of globalization influences, especially from China, it is increasingly difficult to endure the tensions between Ujamaa and Ubuntu philosophies and foreign economic and value systems, and to find ways to deal with them. “So we need to connect the realities of life for Tanzanian small-scale farmers with humane globalization – because that’s the only way we can then act in an intra- and intergenerationally just way,” she said. To this end, we could strengthen the role of cooperatives that contribute economically, epistemically and also politically in the country and beyond.

The closing lecture of the conference was given by Prof. Dr. Jürgen Manemann under the title “Humane Globalization in the Mirror of the Worldwide Ecological Crisis: What Can, What Should, What Must We Do?“.

First of all, the director of the Research Institute for Philosophy in Hanover began, it was important to become aware of the (earlier) formative power and the manifoldness of the term “globalization”. According to Manemann, globalization has been far more than just a term that conveys a concept, but always contained an appeal, a plea for a cosmopolitan consciousness that can be established on the basis of an economic, political, cultural and religious worldwide exchange beyond borders. Critics of globalization, however, have for many years been creating counter-publics by pointing to a hegemonic capitalist and Western power of interpretation of globalization, some of them also with regard to its ecological and social consequences. But increasingly, the call for ecological responsibility is becoming louder even among globalization advocates. The global society had thus advanced to a cosmopolitan World Risk Society.
Manemann quotes Ulrich Beck from the book “Lexikon der Globalisierung” (Encyclopedia of Globalization) as saying that the basic principle in a World Risk Society is “anticipated dangers produced by human beings, which cannot be limited either spatially, temporally or socially.”
With regard to the climate catastrophe, which is now no longer a purely potential risk, Manemann proposes a paradigm shift from globalization to “ecologization”. Unlike the former, he argues, ecologization stands for a post-anthropocentric discourse, at the center of which are no longer negotiated paths of modernization but, above all, paths of habitability. While the world risk society would be characterized by non-knowledge, the world society in the climate crisis would be marked by non-understanding. How is a single person supposed to have an empathetic relationship to statistical information, how to relate to the dimensions in which biodiversity and human life are acutely threatened? Our ability to imagine no longer keeps up with our ability to create, and therefore it is now particularly important to better overcome the separation of knowledge and sensuality. If sensual experience disappeared, this would also endanger the ability to relate to reality. When sensual experience is destroyed, behavior becomes destructive.
Sensual experience and respect of all life provide the source for morality and are the basis for the paradigm shift towards ecologization. This must be unfolded in liberation from the active principles of globalization, since it is post-anthropocentric. However, it is not about the abolition of the human being (posthumanity), but about its decentering in favor of all life as well as to unite the principle of conviviality and of responsability (according to Donna Haraway) in favor of a sustainable development.

The different contributions as well as open questions and gathered impressions were shared in the plenary session afterwards. It became obvious that places of learning and dialogue such as the conference are important and fruitful in order to continue working on suitable frameworks for shaping, for example, a humane globalization.

The team of the Global Ethic Institute sincerely thanks all speakers and participants for their valuable contributions. We will be happy to keep you up to date on this and other topics with our newsletter.