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GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
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The best laid plans ...

'Privatization spreads, social safety nets are reduced and reliance is placed on market-based approaches.'

Businesses and NGOs play an important role. The industry lobby argues for clear and economically efficient rules and regulations. It also points to the value of voluntary standards and programmes, such as the Global Compact and Global Reporting Initiative negotiated with the United Nations. The NGOs, along with some business groups, stress issues of equity and fairness for current and future generations, as well as respect for other species.

Over the next decade there is a clear divergence in the follow-through on these various sets of activities. Barriers to trade and movements of capital gradually vanish, as protectionism becomes a thing of the past. New instruments promote market openness and global competition. Virtually all national governments advance a package of policy adjustments, including modernization of financial systems and investment in education to create a workforce that is competitive in the emerging global market. Privatization spreads, social safety nets are reduced and reliance is placed on marketbased approaches.

There is still distrust of what is viewed as a typically Western mode of development, growing at times into outright hostility. Gradually, however, the shift to a liberalized, market-oriented society becomes almost universal. New technologies, particularly in the form of digital information and communication technologies (ICTs) continue to increase connectivity between different parts of the world. This is reinforced by the presence of multinational corporations, or at the very least their products, in many parts of the world.

Businesses benefit from liberalization and globalization, and increasingly operate across national borders. At an institutional level, international bodies maintain an important role in guiding economic and related policy in many countries, particularly those that are still burdened by high debt loads. At a personal level, more young people from around the world take the opportunity to travel and study in other countries. Taken together, these factors seem to imply that an air of inevitability surrounds the ongoing processes of globalization. How they play out, however, differs from region to region.

In Europe, a major focus is on the continuing project of broadening and deepening the EU. The extension of the EU to the east continues with a number of countries being added in waves of accession. Economic interdependence between nations continues to grow, along with widespread adoption of the Euro and harmonization of financial systems. Political union proceeds more slowly, however, as countries prove less willing to forgo their sovereignty in other areas. For example, although most nations are intent on cutting back social safety nets, there are differences over how far and how fast these cuts should be applied. Taxation is also a point of contention. Nevertheless, there is a general shift in governance away from the nation state, to higher as well as to lower levels. By the end of the second decade of the century, various regional bodies, some of which override national borders, play as large a role as some nation states.

Even as it struggles to deal with persistent conflicts and the AIDS pandemic, Africa pushes ahead with economic modernization and greater integration into the global economy. Shifts away from official development assistance towards foreign direct investment give multinational corporations more influence. At the same time, the influence of international organizations is maintained as efforts continue to restructure and pay off foreign debts. These efforts strongly shape the portfolio of economic investments, which continues to emphasize the production of exports. Regional cooperation, in the form of free trade zones and power pools, works to better integrate the continent. Similarly, transboundary collaboration is expanded in an attempt to deal in some areas with water conflicts, in others to pursue cross-border conservation and development initiatives.

Continuing dependence on oil throughout the world still provides a strong economic base for much of West Asia, the development of alternative energy sources and efficiency improvements having failed to make more than minimal advances. The strategic importance of the region increases as the world's remaining oil supplies become even more concentrated here and in nearby Central Asia and is a major reason why countries in other regions want to ensure stability in West Asia. Along with local traditions, oil dependence keeps the globalization process from proceeding as quickly in certain areas of society here by comparison with some other regions. Some countries in West Asia continue to grapple with foreign debt. The repayment process keeps moving forward, however, thanks to flexible conditions for debt restructuring. An Arab Free Trade Agreement is eventually reached.

In the Western Hemisphere, Latin America and the Caribbean become ever more economically integrated with North America. This development is spurred on by the assistance provided by the United States to Mexico in the 1990s and to Argentina and other nations in the 2000s, boosted by the interests of large corporations. It is also seen as a way to address, in part, the joint problems of an ageing and shrinking workforce in the United States and immigration from the south. Moves towards integration culminate in a Free Trade Area for the Americas (FTAA) in the middle of the second decade of the century. In the process, existing trade agreements like North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Commom Market of the South (MERCOSUR) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM), get absorbed under the FTAA umbrella. A number of nations go further, adopting the US dollar as a national currency.

In the Asia and the Pacific region, the recovery from the economic downturn of the late 1990s and from the decade-long recession in Japan, sees many countries return to the patterns of growth and degree of integration into the world economy they had previously experienced. To this are added the continued economic reforms in China and India, the two most populous nations in the world. With its accession into the WTO, China becomes a major world importer and exporter, eventually growing to rival the United States as the world's largest economy. The advances in technology coming out of Asia and the Pacific, the impact on corporations that set up facilities here and the increased exposure of its cultures all enlarge the role this region plays on the global stage.