Workshop 'The Social Dimension of Globalization'

DINÂMIA – Research Centre on Socioeconomic Change, ISCTE, Lisbon
2-3 March 2007

Workshop programme

The European Union has become a global player in world politics. The normative role that it has assigned itself includes the external dissemination of Europe’s ‘social model’ while, as a result of discussions concerning the Lisbon Strategy and the Constitutional Treaty, the internal role of the EU in social policies has become increasingly contested. Despite this, in recent years the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament have issued several initiatives concerning the social dimension of globalization that impact on its external relations policies and development cooperation. Most recently, at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, the German Chancellor stressed the need for a framework to ensure globalisation is fair to everyone. That her country was holding the EU presidency at the time only emphasises Europe’s role in this regard.

This is, at least partly, in response to the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalization. The World Commission, set up by the ILO, released its ambitious report on the social aspects of what is usually conceived of as an economic matter in 2004. ‘Globalisation’ is a complex and evocative concept with a myriad of meanings, commonly understood as encompassing the liberalisation of international trade, the expansion of foreign direct investment and the emergence of cross-border financial flows. The World Commission Report spoke of the potential for great benefits at the same time as the risk of greater inequalities in the distribution of those benefits. It considered the ‘social dimensions’ of globalization in its widest sense, as being about more than jobs, health and education and involving people’s ‘aspirations for democratic participation and material prosperity’. There is a need to integrate social considerations into programmes and strategies for economic development.

This workshop aims to examine the role of the European Union in relation to the various aspects of the social dimension of globalization. In doing so, it hopes to make a contribution to both the scholarly and policy debates on the subject, and is pleased to be taking place in Lisbon as Portugal is about to take the EU presidency later this year. For this purpose, the social dimension of globalization can be taken to include programmes, policies and strategies, as well as indirect influences and impacts, in the areas of work, development and international relations, trade, gender, governance and civil society. While globalization undoubtedly has an impact within Europe, this workshop intends to focus in the first place on the EU’s response to globalization external to it. This will cover both external relations and policies directly intended to impact upon these issues, as well as indirect influences.

The subject of the workshop is an understudied but increasingly important research area, both from the perspective of European studies, as well as from the perspective of globalization. The workshop will draw together work from different academic disciplines (in particular, law, political science and economics) and consider varied aspects of the issue, in an attempt to constitute the first step towards the construction of a comprehensive picture of the role of the EU in international social issues. This will include analysis of the EU’s competencies and external relationships, in particular in relation to the ILO; the nature of its external policies and programmes concerning social goals such as labour standards, governance and gender objectives; the relevance of EU enlargement and neighbourhood policies; issues of legitimacy, normative power, and soft law; and the involvement of NGOs and civil society. It will, therefore, allow an assessment of the objectives that are pursued by the EU in this domain, the capacity of the ‘EU/EC’ as an actor in international social issues, the effectiveness of EU policies in promoting the just distribution of the benefits of globalization, and the reach of the EU as both an intended and unintended agent of globalization itself.

The workshop will take the form of a series of presentations of papers from the participants, within four themes, accompanied by discussion. A provisional programme is available.

Two rather different outcomes of the workshop are currently planned. The first is a document considering the policy implications of the topic, taking into account the contributions and discussion at the workshop. This document will have a particular link with the Portuguese presidency of the EU and events organised by the ILO in this regard. The second practical outcome of the workshop is the publication of an edited book composed of contributions by participants and other scholars. This book is expected to be an important piece of academic work in the area, taking advantage of the opportunities for discussion given by the workshop in Lisbon.

This is a joint project of DINÂMIA – Research Centre on Socioeconomic Change (Lisbon, Portugal) and the Centre for EU Studies (Ghent, Belgium). The generous financial support of the ILO, the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia, the Flemish Department for International Affairs, the British Council, the Spanish Embassy and DINÂMIA is gratefully acknowledged.

Lisa Tortell
DINÂMIA – Research Centre on Socioeconomic Change
ISCTE, Av. Forças Armadas,
1649-026 Lisbon, Portugal

Jan Orbie
Centre for EU Studies
Dept of Political Science – Ghent University
Universiteitstraat 8 - 9000 Ghent - Belgium