Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The effect of globalisation and interdependence

"Everything we buy has an effect on someone in a different part of the world. It may be a small decision to us, but that decision can help give someone else an education, or help feed a family".

This week’s group reflection was carried out by my self Senna and Jill on globalisation and interdependence. Globalisation is the process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas and other aspects of culture. Globalisation is the buying and selling of products/services between countries and this has an impact this has on poverty. Four basic aspects of globalisation were identified by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which are as follows; trade, transactions, capital and investment. Interdependence describes relationships in which members of a group are mutually dependent on the others. In the context of globalisation this includes relying on other countries for products and services. The concept of interdependence differs from a dependent relationship, where some members are dependent and some are not.

A quote by Martin Luther King was shared during the group reflection;

"You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that's handed to you by a PACIFIC ISLANDER. You reach for a bar of soap, and that's given to you by the hands of a FRENCHMAN.
                   Martin Luther King Jr.
And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that's poured into your cup by a SOUTH AMERICAN. And maybe you want tea: that's poured into your cup by a CHINESE. Or maybe your desires are of having cocoa for breakfast, and that's poured into your cup by a WEST AFRICAN. And then you reach over for your toast, and that's given to you at the hands of an ENGLISH-SPEAKING FARMER, not to mention the baker"

This quote reflects that before you have even finished eating your breakfast in the morning you have depended on more than half the world without even giving it a second thought. This is the way our universe is structured, which gives it an interrelated quality. When this quote was mentioned during the group reflection, it came to everyone's realisation that we depend on other countries, without even noticing.

When we are purchasing goods or services, we never acknowledge that every item we consume exists because hundreds of people have been involved in its production. This has a great impact on poverty and equality all around the world. When we purchase a pair of jeans we don't think about the journey the jeans have been on to reach you and how much people may have been paid to produce these jeans. Cotton is grown on farms and is produced all around the world. Below is a diagram of the jeans journey.

The jeans journey;

1. Cotton is woven into fabric and dyed by workers in factories or small family businesses in countries such as India, Pakistan and Brazil.
2. The fabric is cut and stitched by workers in clothing factories, usually in Asia or South America, including adding zips and buttons manufactured by other workers.
3. Clothing is packaged and transported to richer developing countries by importers or buyers.
4. Clothing brands market and advertise their products so consumers want to buy them.
5. Shop staff then unpack the deliveries, stock the store with clothes and sell them to consumers.

The money from the final sale price of the jeans is most beneficial to the importers and the buyers of the jeans rather than the people involved in producing the jeans who are earning next to nothing for their part in creating the product. This is unfair, as the people who are doing the most productive work are being paid the least.

Adidas football from FIFA 2014
A person who is employed by Adidas to create their garments, earns the equivalent over 18 months as the CEO of Adidas Herbert makes on his lunch break. This, I feel is unacceptable. Moreover, it is unjust as the person employed to create the garments is doing all the hard work and is being paid next to nothing, whilst the CEO is being paid extortionate amounts just whilst taking his lunch break. It was estimated half the world’s population, 3.5 billion people, tuned into the FIFA World Cup this year (2014). Adidas made 1.7 billion euros from the sale of selling football merchandise this year alone. This was done through flashy advertisements and spokespeople who persuaded people to purchase these garments. However, not for a second did anyone think how these garments were produced? These garments are produced by a majority of young women struggling to survive on their poverty wages. At its core, the garment industry continues to perpetuate a system of extreme inequality, providing inordinate wealth for the privileged few, while condemning the vast majority of workers in the supply chain to unconscionable poverty.

It is clear to see that some aspects of globalisation aren't very ethical, like the example mentioned above, and another example being a worldwide company "Coca-Cola". Coca-Cola sells 1.7 billion drinks in over 200 countries everyday. But has anyone ever thought of the effects this can have on communities where these drinks are being produced?

 Globally recognised brand produced in many countries
The drinks by this company are produced in small villages, where the villagers have lost their drinking water due to 1.5million litres being mined everyday to produce these drinks. This is leaving people without access to clean drinking water from women to young children. Without access to clean water people have to drink dirty water from which they can catch many life threatening diseases from, therefore producing these drinks for consumption all over the world is actually costing lives.

Divine chocolate produced by Fairtrade
Companies that are "Fairtrade" work in partnership with Transnational Corporations (TNCs) for sustainable development. Fairtrade International works to secure a better deal for farmers and workers.  Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. Fairtrade offers producers a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty throughout their every day shopping. There are standards of fairtrade products, which are designed to address the imbalance of power in trading relationships, unstable markets and the injustices of conventional trade.

Ghana is one of the world’s top producing cocoa countries, where as the United Kingdom is one of the top five consumers of chocolate in the world. 
Chocolate produced by the Cadbury's factory in Birmingham
As living nearby the Cadbury's chocolate factory in Birmingham, England, I have seen chocolate being produced and how our supermarkets have aisles solely dedicated to chocolate. Whereas in Ghana, despite it producing the raw material of cocoa, there isn't a very large chocolate market, except a couple of companies such as Kingfisher and Milo.

The research gathered whilst discussing this topic in the group reflection, made us aware of how little the cocoa farmers get paid. For the amount of cocoa produced, the farmers only receive 6% of the profits whilst 70% goes to companies such as Cadbury's, 17% to retailers and 7% to intermediaries. 
Cocoa beans produced in Ghana
This is unfair as the farmers find it difficult to make ends meet due to it taking three years for a cocoa tree to grow. As well as this the farmer may need to employ people to take care of the trees if there isn't enough people in the family to work, therefore there will be a larger expenditure on wages. Then there is a need for products like pesticide to make sure the trees grow healthy, resulting in even more cost to the farmers.

In conclusion, from the research I have conducted it is clear to see many countries are interdependent on each other. It also is clear that this cycle can often be seen as unfair due to the price which is paid for services and products. This group reflection has made me realise that I need to change some lifestyle choices to allow myself to live more ethically, as I didn't have so much of a deep understand of globalisation and interdependence prior.

By Senna Rafi

*The information included in this blog has been extracted from various websites on the Internet and sources of information out of the active citizenship pack provided by International Citizen Service.