Has globalisation exacerbated the problem of trans-national terrorism?

The multinational business enterprise and its attendant economic phenomenon of globalisation have become ubiquitous in the new neo-liberal world order of the last few decades.  However, all too often, these enterprises’ activities have lacked prudence and foresight in terms of the consequences for the local populations.  Moreover, the loopholes of international business law allow these companies to go scot-free and evade accountability toward the citizens of the countries in which they operate.  Globalisation per se can either be beneficial or disadvantageous to a particular country.  But, recent evidence suggests that there are more cases of the latter than the former.  The culmination of this discontent among the masses of lesser developed regions of the world seems to fuel the fire of trans-national terrorism.  This essay tries to find how far true the criticisms directed at the phenomenon of neo-liberal globalisation are, and how much it is culpable for the propagation of terrorism.

The primary criticism levelled against globalisation is its lack of accountability toward the local and broader communities in which it functions.  While financial analysts can accurately evaluate the values of tangible assets, more often than not the measure of intangible consequences of a business corporation’s operations are not accounted. For example, let us take a company that out-sources manufacturing of cosmetics to a developing country.  Countries such as Taiwan,Thailand,Singapore,Bolivia,Venezuela and Chile are typical examples.  In a typical scenario, the manufacturing and packaging of the company’s products involves chemical processes, the residues of which are purged into a nearby river stream or sea.  The discharged residual matter is highly toxic and hence harmful for the aquatic life in the waters.  This leads to the diminishing in numbers of many species. Those that survive this hazard and land in fishing nets are consumed by human beings (Rodriguez, et. al., 2006).  So, now the citizenry of the area surrounding the company’s processing unit get affected.  The affectation could be of varying degrees and can manifest slowly over a long period of time.  These are all costs alright, but not for the concerned corporation.  These “externalities” are not accounted for by them (Verbeke, et. al, 2007).

Findings of several research studies conducted in the last few decades present a rather bleak picture of globalisation induced environmental and local community disturbances in the developing world.  In countries that have transitioned form centrally planned economies to free market economies in the last thirty years, the overall effect on the large majority of the local population is very discouraging.  When the United Nations designed Human Development Index (HDI) parameters were measured for these countries, the results were quite dismal.  As pointed out by critics, globalisation leads to exploitation of cheap labour in the developing world.  A highly publicised recent case is the operations of sportswear maker Nike in countries such as Indonesia and Philippines.  Documentary filmmakers have recorded the inhuman working conditions offered to labourers in Nike plants in these countries.  Moreover, these workers were never offered medical insurance or prescribed minimum wages. As a consequence of this negative publicity, many consumers in the West have refused to consume products that were manufactured through exploitation of labour in developing nations.  While the condition in manufacturing hubs of Taiwan,Thailand and China are not as harsh as in Indonesia and Philippines, they only barely adhere to international human rights standards (Baram, 2004).  These injustices and imbalances do not directly lead to the victims taking to arms, but they do contribute toward tendencies that foster terrorism.

Today, terrorism is inevitably equated with Islam.  Most perpetrators of trans-national terror acts originate from predominantly Islamic nations.  One can easily connect this stark reality to the effects of globalisation.  For example, in regions with significant Muslim presence such as the Southeast Asian nations ofIndonesiaandThailand; Asian nations ofBangladesh,IndiaandPakistan, the levels of corruption have increased since the opening up of their economies.  Terrorism inevitably thrives in a political environment that is chaotic and anarchic.  In other words, the increasing presence of Western big business enterprises in the Islamic world has clearly stoked the historical grievances of the latter and has contributed to the growth of trans-national terrorism (Buckley & Ghauri, 2004).

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