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Globalization: The Promises and The Perils, U.S. and Asian Responses

Informatics Creative Commons photo-patchwork. (musha68000/Flickr)

Informatics Creative Commons photo-patchwork. (musha68000/Flickr)

Mr. Offenheiser: Maybe just to add a couple comments. In Bangladesh, I worked closely with the whole process of negotiation with the garment worker manufacturers during that period when they were trying to set up those arrangements. It was really a complex process that involved setting some standards as to what was child labor. In other words, sixteen years and above was considered not child labor and so the discussion with the manufacturers was really about how do we assure that there aren't girls under sixteen in the factories? And if they are, are there possibilities of arranging schooling for them and preserving their jobs at the same time so they might go back to the factories while at the same time improving conditions in the factories as well as a arranging schools and so on and so forth? A key to this though was actually getting the garment manufacturers themselves to buy into the whole program. The leveraging for that came actually from industry here in the United States and elsewhere which tried in some sense to bring codes of conduct and new standards to the kinds of sub-contracting arrangements that they were carrying out. So there is, I think, a role for people here that are involved in that movement to push for those kinds of codes of conduct and certification processes in order to see that those things happen appropriately.

7. Ms. Sharma: I'm from Women's EDGE in Washington, DC. I spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill with our geographically disabled congress. My question is for Dr. Khosla. You've described a really compelling and quite beautiful vision for development that takes advantage of the good parts of globalization and leaves the rest. My question for you and the rest of the panel is what constructive role can US policy play in catalyzing that process, if any? Or, is it more appropriate for the US to get out of it and essentially leave it to you?

Dr. Khosla: I don't think we're big enough for it on our own. If there was a slightly different attitude, one that is not confrontational and based on an expression of outrage and morals of high ground, but one of sensitivity and understanding, I think a lot could be done. Child labor is pretty bad. I'm not going to be heard saying it's a good thing. Sweat shops are pretty bad. I certainly don't want to promote them. But you know, in the U.K., Charles Dickens has written a lot about it and basically got where they are by investing very heavily in building up their countries and a hundred years ago, there was a lot of sweat shops here. Thirty years ago there were quite a lot. In fact, my company makes machines to make handled cloth and the first six that I sold were to a sweat shop in Chicago. Not that there are no sweat shops here either, but it's this sense of outrage and moral indignation that makes it difficult to have a dialogue. I don't believe that children should be working. They should be at school or playing or whatever else. If that's the only source of income in the family or their conditions haven't gotten to a stage in society and in the economy where you can eliminate all forms of child labor, it's not quite as disgusting as we tend to make it out to be. We essentially need transparency, accountability, but above all, local governance.

We need people at the center of decision-making. And if people are at the center of decision-making in a community or village, they tend to take care of their surroundings. They tend to protect their forests and waters and everything else. We need to encourage all that. If the international community - not just the US Congress but the UN and everybody else - is promoting generally the right kind of thinking instead of forcing it down your throat, I think they'd be much more successful. I think they would basically say, "Yes. We've got a problem and there has to be ways to deal with it. Let's work on it together. We'd like to put some money into it. We'd like to work with you". I think the chances of achieving a lot more are higher. It seems to me what you can do. Yes, we need to do that.

Dr. Linda Lim : We need to close now because we have to vacate the space by nine and there's a reception back there where you can mingle and ask the rest of the questions. Thank you very much.