Summary of the World Order and Globalization Hub Alumni Conference 2023 in Atlanta
The World Order and Globalization Hub hosted an alumni conference for past study tour participants from March 26-30 in Atlanta, Georgia, welcoming 28 participants from 20 countries.
The conference began with a reception at the Whitley Hotel in Buckhead, Atlanta, followed by a brief introduction from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation North America Regional Director, Claus Gramckow, over dinner.
To officially open the conference the following morning, Claus Gramckow gave an overview of the current work of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation North America, which was followed by an opportunity for participants to introduce themselves and their work. Following this introduction, the group met with Charlie Harper, a political journalist, former editor and publisher of GeorgiaPol and expert on Georgia and Atlanta politics. Mr. Harper gave an overview of the political situation in Georgia, followed by a Q&A in which participants had the opportunity to engage with Mr. Harper and learn from his insights.
PANEL 1: The future of free trade and rising tides of protectionism
Following the opening group lunch, the first panel, titled “The Future of Free Trade amid Rising Tides of Protectionism,” began, featuring Sarah Bäumchen, member of the board at ZVEI in Germany and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, who participated in the Female Entrepreneurship study tour in 2019, Dr. Cihan Dogan, attorney at law in Turkey, who participated in the Competition Policy study tour in 2022, and Mihailo Gajic of the think tank Libek in Serbia, who participated in the Free Trade and Protectionism study tour in 2017. The panelists discussed the projected global trends in protectionism as well as the effect an increasingly protectionist US foreign policy is likely to have on their countries and the liberal world order. The panel was moderated by Petya Dyulgerova, Program Director of Media Development at America for Bulgaria in Bulgaria.
Major themes of this discussion included the economic costs of protectionist policies, protectionism through competition policy, near-shoring and deglobalization, and counterbalancing protectionism.
Mihailo Gajic contended that he expects the growth of trade as well as economic growth to decrease. He also noted the popularity of protectionist policies, and argued that this is the case because protectionism provides benefits that are visible and tangible, because they are concentrated. However, he also pointed out that economists say they are not actually as beneficial as people believe. Protectionist policies come with high economic costs. Mr. Gajic acknowledged that global trade will always have winners and losers, with some actors gaining more than others from the interaction, but that in order to increase specialization and production, economic trade is crucial.
Mr. Gajic went on to provide an overview of enablers of protectionism, citing technology transfer, energy policy, and environmentalism as key drivers, as well as COVID, as it has led to a reduction in complicated supply chains in order to reduce risk (i.e. near-shoring). He presented IMF data which estimated the net welfare loss of protectionist policies to be around 4% of the GDP. Mr. Gajic pointed to the fact that protectionism does not just come with economic losses, but also political losses, because it leads to a loss of cooperation and consequently more “losers” in international relations. When considering counterbalances against protectionism, he spoke out in favor of Free Trade Agreements.
Dr. Cihan Dogan focused on competition policy, especially in the digital environment, and how markets can be used as a form of protectionism. He presented data regarding competition policy infringements in the EU and to what extent these decisions indicate protectionist policies. Of all decisions made by the European Commission regarding competition policy infringements, 30 % are about US companies despite them only having an 18% presence in the EU. Additionally, the total amount of fines given to companies in the last 20 years by the European Commission on competition policy cases has almost reached 12 billion Euro. Of this total, almost 11 billion apply to US companies. At first sight, it seems there is an underlying protectionist agenda. And yet, Dr. Dogan argued that this data does not prove this indeed indicates protectionism, because 1) when there is an infringement of competition law, the fines are calculated on global rather than local turnover, and 2) most of those fines are by a handful of the biggest companies in the world. In other words, 99% of the fines directed at US companies are coming from decisions about these top biggest companies, which happen to be American. Another motivator for the EU is preventing big players in the digital markets to gate-keep the industry and make the barriers to entry too high. Gatekeepers are likely to be these top companies.
Sarah Bäumchen provided her perspective as an expert in the electro industry. She began by asking the group how to increase resilience and suggested that reversing globalization is unlikely to be the solution. She emphasized the importance of global cooperation for strength and competitiveness. She pointed out the immense growth of China’s labor market share, which, at 42%, is now bigger than the US and Europe combined. Thus China has become an important importer and exporter for the EU, and decoupling from China is becoming increasingly difficult. Ms. Bäumchen expressed the need for the EU to strengthen itself and become a player like China, which cannot easily be cast away.
Coming back to the electro industry, Mrs. Bäumchen suggested supply chain diversification as a way to strengthen global cooperation, and cited the semi-conductor as an example of such a supply chain, which goes 2.5 times around the world before it is sold. Semi-conductors have changed the world, because so many technologies rely on them. Therefore, she argued, it would be considered highly attractive to take part in the production of them.
Ms. Bäumchen commended the actions now being taken in the EU, with the CHIPS Act, to invest in the production and export of chips. However, she noted that the EU is still lagging behind the US level of investment.
PANEL 2: How to build a more inclusive economy
The second panel of the conference, “How to Build a More Inclusive Economy,” featured Given Edward, CEO of Mtabe Innovations in Tanzania, who participated in the Future of Work study tour in 2018, Diana Martinez, Owner and General Manager of Joyeria Rosalia in Honduras, who participated in the Female Entrepreneurship study tour in 2019, and Claudiu Nasui, president of the Entrepreneurship Committee in the Parliament of Romania, who participated in the Digital Currencies Program in 2022. The panel discussed and debated the positives and negatives of the growing digital economy, touching on topics ranging from regulation to inclusiveness. Cristina Lupu, Executive Director at the Center for Independent Journalism in Romania, moderated the panel.
Major themes of this discussion included defining the essence of an inclusive economy, the barriers faced by different countries in creating an inclusive economy, how economies may be made more inclusive.
Ms. Lupu kicked off the panel by asking two questions: “What does inclusive mean to you?” and
“What can be a solution for us to have a more inclusive economy?”
Given Edward defined an inclusive economy as one in which everyone has the opportunity to succeed, but that it goes beyond this notion. A barrier to creating an inclusive economy in Africa is its colonial legacy. He claimed that Africa’s development is hindered by the lack of infrastructure, stating that access to social services, education and basic infrastructure lead to a prosperous society. He conveyed that 60 % of the population of Tanzania can’t read, and then challenged the group to think about how to build innovative solutions that work, given the barriers that exist. Demonstrating the limitation of human capital, Mr. Edward highlighted the struggle of workers in Africa being skilled, despite the continent having the world’s youngest population. Mr. Edward pointed to the average age in Africa, 19.5, which is less than half of the EU’s average age. Contemplating solutions to the challenges faced in parts of Africa, Mr. Edward emphasized the importance of education. He argued that reliance on the African population will become inevitable, which is why they must be given training and education.
Claudiu Nasui defined and inclusivee economy as one involving the task of alleviating poverty. He claimed poverty around the world is being alleviated, shown by the fact that 37 million people per year are brought out of poverty. He alleged that free trade has had a crucial influence in this development, by moving goods instead of troops through borders. Unfortunately, Mr. Nasui noted, the US has stopped acting as globally as they have in the past over the last few years. He also suggested that inflation will hinder the development of a more inclusive economy. Inflation is also a source of polarization, because inflation affects the distribution of wealth, describing inflation as effectively a regressive tax.
Diana Martinez shared her perspective as an entrepreneur. She defined an inclusive economy as an economic system which enables equal access to opportunities for everyone. The inclusive economy enables and supports businesses which are accessible and good for everyone. In her view, it is important to be able to access finance, technology and education. Unfortunately, certain groups (e.g. indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ individuals, women, disabled individuals, immigrants) of people still face systemic barriers to this access in her home country, Honduras. Therefore, Diana Martinez implored that the economy must be made more accessible to these groups.
PANEL 3: The post-pandemic and the future of work
The third panel, titled “The Post-Pandemic Economy and the Future of Work” featured Rabea Zioud, Co-Founder and CEO of Hasoub in Israel, who participated in the Gig Economy study tour in 2021, and Pawani Khandelwal, Director at Aatm Nirbhar Learning Pvt Ltd in India, who participated in the Female Entrepreneurship study tour in 2019. The panelists discussed the effect of COVID-19 and AI on the future of work, as well as the effect COVID has had on inequalities in the workforce. Jan Klesla, digital policy advisor for the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, moderated the panel.
Major themes of this discussion included the implications of the technological innovations, such as hyper-local and generative AI, as well as gendered effects of COVID and innovation.
Rabea Zioud painted a picture of how the future of work may look based on the developments throughout COVID. In the last two years, remote work, flexible work, and upskilling were major topics. These discussions accelerated the adoption of many technologies, which simultaneously accelerated polarization, since not everyone is able to keep up with rapid technological innovation. Mr. Zioud claimed that the innovations in artificial intelligence are the next developments that will have, and already are having, a significant effect on the future of work. He explained how generative AI enables a new level of human machine partnerships, in that “we are now thinking with our laptops”, and named Chat GPT as an example. He noted how companies are following these innovations, and mentioned that robots have also made a lot of progress in the last few years. Mr. Zioud encouraged the group to imagine what robots could do with the level of AI as Chat GPT has, and pointed out the threat hyper-local AI models pose, which are able to replace specific jobs and write flawless academic papers. He argued that those who do not know how or refuse to use and integrate these technologies will be left behind.
Pawani Khandelwal offered a gendered perspective to the discussion, focusing on sustainability and morally conscious leadership. She began by providing data on the Indian workforce before, during, and after COVID. In 2010, there was a 26% female labor force participation, compared to 19% in 2019, and 9% after COVID. According to calculations, it is going to take 146 years to bridge the gender gap. 2/3 of Indian people live in rural areas. Ms Khandelwal claimed that women had broken generational conditioning and poverty before COVID to step out of their village to get a job. During COVID, many went back to their villages, but while men went back to work after COVID, many women were unable to do the same. COVID forced them to do unpaid work and/or to get married. Many girls during COVID were unable to afford education, which led to a substantial increase in marriages, including an 80% increase in illegal marriages. On top of economic barriers faced by women in India, they are also heavily influenced by patriarchal conditioning. Ms. Khandelwal described the mindset entrenched in much of Indian society: “if a woman goes back to work then she will make choices and be independent and won't be obedient the way we want.'' She concluded that it is evident the pandemic has increased inequalities and that one of the inequalities is gender. She stressed the burden remote work increases for women, because they work in addition to the unpaid work they have to do. However, she noted it enables them to be a part of the workforce to a degree.
Addressing Mr. Zioud’s statements, Ms. Khandelwal questioned how AI can be used to decrease the gender bias in the workforce, since women can become invisible when they work remotely, which negatively affects their opportunities for professional growth. She questioned how technology can address these biases.
Considering means to reduce the gender inequalities, she argued that India is in need of more shared parental policies, sexual harassment policies, and child care support in order to give women opportunities to give women more access to the workforce. Additionally, she questioned to what extent the decrease of certain jobs due to AI will disproportionately affect women. She expressed the worry that automation will hit women harder than men, since women are more likely to perform low skilled work.
Finally, she noted that women started a lot of businesses from home during COVID, which is a positive development, and implored that these female entrepreneurs receive more support through mentorship programs and dismantling patriarchal constraints.
PANEL 4: The global economy and systemic competition
The fourth, and final, panel of the day, titled “The Global Economy and Systemic Competition,” featured Dr. Matthias Bauer, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Germany, who participated in the Free Trade and Protectionism study tour in 2017, Dr. Tanja Porcnik, president of the Visio Institute in Slovenia, who participated in the Bretton Woods study tour in 2021, and Dr. Silvia Mercado of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Bolivia/Mexico, who participated in the Rise of China study tour in 2022. Imran Furkan, CEO of Tresync from Australia/Sri Lanka, moderated the panel.
Mr. Furkan kicked off the panel asking the panelists how they define systemic competition.
Dr. Tanja Porčnik presented the concept of systemic competition as a framework in which to analyze how countries compete on multiple interdependent levels, such as trade and investment, institutions, policies, and governance. Using insights from economics and the social sciences, the concept of systemic competition analyzes the factors shaping a country's competitiveness (e.g. the macroeconomic and judicial framework, the distributors’ industrial policies, and individual businesses). A government’s rules and regulations do not only promote the growth of individual companies or industries within the country, but also promote the overall development of the country. An individual business success is interdependent with the whole ecosystem in which it operates. Therefore, it is necessary to strengthen the whole ecosystem to promote economic development.
With increasing economic globalization and cooperation, Dr. Porčnik noted a shift away from the traditional model of competition between individual states towards a more complex model of competition between groups of states. Dr. Porčnik focused on three types of competition: 1) political systems, 2) the ability to shape the international order, and 3) cyber space, digital governance and international security.
Dr. Porčnik highlighted China as a country presenting itself as an alternative power. Despite the assumption that political developments toward democracy would follow China’s economic progress, this has not proven to be the case. Dr. Porčnik claimed that substantial shifts could happen when China makes military moves to capture Taiwan, because the global community will have to take sides.
Dr. Silvia Mercado provided insight into the way the US and China are perceived in Latin America. Providing some context into Latin America’s resources and leveraging power, Dr. Mercado explained that Latin America not only boasts the third most populous region in the world, but that it is also rich in natural resources. She pointed out that China, after Mexico, is Latin America’s largest trading partner, and that China is a major investor in Latin American oil. Although the US plays a large role in private investments, it has lost a lot of influence in Latin America. In regards to politics, “China has made diplomatic efforts and made a lot of noise to enter through the front door, while the US has been leaving quietly through the back door”, Dr. Mercado claimed. The US largely withdrew from Latin America after the Cold War and increasingly has focused on its own security, especially after 9/11.
Dr. Mercado asked the group “Where does Latin America stand between this competition [between the US and China]?”. She claimed that most governments would rather avoid choosing between the two powers, and would rather have friendly relations with both countries. Since they are not involved in the growing conflict, they are disinclined to take a position, especially as a developing country. Dr. Mercado argued that if there is an ideological battle in addition to the economic competition, China will win the battle of ideology and political systems. Some Latin American countries are in favor of centralized and paternalistic governments, and have a leftist history, which connects them with China. Dr. Mercado urged that this become a bigger concern to the global community and the US.
Dr. Matthias Bauer, started by noting the importance of having a competitive economy. However, he pointed out that the indices measuring competitiveness do not account for the complexities of the systems they measure. The economic indicators for the EU imply that the EU is in a protracted economic crisis. Market concentration has increased in many industries in many EU member states. But, as Dr. Bauer explained, having higher market concentration is not inherently negative if barriers for entry to market are low. However, that typically isn’t the case. He explained that national labor market laws and tax policy make it hard to expand to other member states. While he claimed that the single market is largely a success, he acknowledged the challenges in the standardization of qualifications and skills, because service sectors are highly regulated within each member state. Highlighting the effects of these barriers, Dr. Bauer compared the EU and US economic indicators, citing that the US has thrice as many companies as the EU, and therefore substantially more innovation. German companies suffer from much slower growth and revenue, as well as fewer investments into research and development.
Dr. Bauer identified jurisdictional competition as helpful in increasing the EU’s competitiveness, and argued that economic integration between the US and EU should be increased.
During lunch, the group had a discussion with FNF North America Regional Director Claus Gramckow about the strengths and weaknesses of American democracy in the current moment.
PANEL 5: Navigating the intersection of business and human rights
Wednesday started with the final panel of the conference, titled “Navigating the Intersection of Business and Human Rights”, featuring Shyamali Ranaraja, visiting lecturer at the Department of Law at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, participant in the Business and Human Rights Study Tour in 2022, and Arindama Banerjee Wankhede, associate director at ELEVATE Global in India, participant in the Business and Human Rights study tour in 2018, as well as Dr. Zoltan Somogyvari, senior program officer at the Hungarian Helsinki Committee in Hungary, participant in the Integration study tour in 2019. They discussed how to build a more inclusive society through political and economic means.
Shyamali Ranaraja started the panel by providing a legal background and presenting existing frameworks for human rights protection. She explained how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the basis for many constitutions. Next, she distinguished between two components of the human rights regime. External components, which include international conventions, treaties and declarations, and internal components (i.e. self-regulation through codes of conduct in organizations). External components are voluntarily adopted by member states. This means that human rights are not globally uniform. The ratification of a treaty is what codifies national obligations. Hence, the rights depend on what each country has adopted. However, there are fundamental rights and obligations, which supersede national obligations, which is where the International Court of Justice acts as an authority. Although courts have a way to implement jurisdiction, typically, the final say is given to the national judiciary in each country.
Arindama Banerjee Wankhede illustrated how COVID and its effect on consumer behavior and supply chains has led to an increase in human rights violations by businesses. She explained that buying behavior pre-, during, and post-COVID has changed. Buying reduced considerably during COVID, which effected supply chains and led to layoffs. Due to a lack of resources during this time of reduced consumption, California and Alabama experienced incidents of migrant children’s labor used in supply chains. One example of this was Nordstrom, which, it was discovered, uses sweatshops in the United States, Mrs. Banarjee Wankhede stressed. She asserted that human rights violations are happening everywhere, and that it should be treated as a global topic.
Further, she mentioned climate justice as an important topic when discussing human rights in business. She pointed out that the impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly. Citing country emission data, she illustrated the stark contrast between countries like India and the US and China. She emphasized the need for businesses to become more sustainable, and claimed that the change in purchase behavior over the last 20 years illustrates an increase in focus on ethical consumption. Considering that consumers care about ethical production of goods, it would behoove businesses to be more open about the good they do. This would also enable them to join together in making progress in their sustainability efforts.
Dr. Zoltan Somogyvari provided his perspective, as an attorney and mental health practitioner who works for a human rights NGO. He stressed the importance NGOs like his have in monitoring human rights abuses, which is why, he believes, companies should have an obligation to consult human rights defenders, who can inform companies and the world of human rights abuses. However, Dr. Somogyvari revealed, NGOs in illiberal countries are frequently discredited by their governments. Since a majority of the monitoring by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee takes place in prisons, refugee camps, psychiatric wards, factories, and detention centers, it has been forbidden to enter some of these facilities, including prisons since 2017. They are able to find loopholes to get the access to information they need to do their reporting, by, for example, asking others, who are still allowed to enter, to go and collect information for them. While monitoring is important, Dr. Somogyvari stressed that reporting is crucial. The reports they produce can inform the EU’s actions to address human rights abuses. The EU is able to withhold money.
Dr. Somogyvari gave two examples of businesses committing human rights abuses, which the Helsinki Committee covered. Firstly, he explained that detainees in Hungarian prisons pay three times more money for their phone calls than the average Hungarian resident, and that Telekom is involved in this. Secondly, Dr. Somogyvari and his colleagues found that companies offered jobs and accommodation to refugees, but that they neglected to provide their employees contracts, and forbade them to talk about how much they earn. He also noted that human trafficking is a common occurrence.
After the conclusion of the final panel as well as a short break, the participants split into groups of 5-6 for a breakout session to discuss the topic “How will the Russia-Ukraine war impact the global economy moving forward?” Building on the learnings from the panels, the participants eagerly discussed this question and shared their perspectives. Later on during lunch, the findings from each group were presented and further discussed.
Shortly after the conclusion of this panel, the group met for a trip to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The final day of the conference began with a breakout session focused on collecting and presenting feedback to the FNF North America team to provide ideas for improvement for future conferences. This contributed to productive conversations regarding the Hub’s future 2023-2024 topics, as well as the numerous challenges facing the future of the global economy.
Following the presentations by group leaders, FNF North America Regional Director Claus Gramckow addressed the group with his final remarks. Adam DuBard, Senior Program Associate for the World Order and Globalization Hub, presented the engagement topics for 2023 and the participants provided the Hub with a variety of angles with which to tackle the upcoming themes of the 2023 and 2024 study tours.
The World Order and Globalization Hub would like to thank all of the participants for attending the 2022 Alumni Conference, and for their valuable contributions during the various conference discussions.