A critique of globalization is that it's an abstract concept promoted by an elite club to benefit a minority to the detriment of the majority. But, Rob Mudge asks in Hamburg, how do you help those who feel left behind?
For all intents and purposes, one of the G20's declared goals is to try to advance globalization - a tall order in a world where many countries either feel left behind or refuse to subscribe to the concept.
Amrita Narlikar, a professor and the president of the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, who has written extensively on globalization, sees reason for concern about its future. "There is a level of inadequacy, and there is a backlash, not just in terms of poor people feeling left behind but also in how US President Trump's stance on trade and climate change and in the rise of right-wing and left-wing movements," she told DW.
One of the most pressing issues is how to transfer the wealth and prosperity gained through globalization to those people who have been left behind or have been hardest hit by the effects of globalization and are increasingly putting their faith in anti-globalization movements. "Policymakers are doing a bad job of explaining what (globalization) means, even though there is plenty of clear evidence," Narlikar said.
Globalization works - sometimes
Narlikar pointed to the correlation between globalization and the alleviation of extreme poverty. Though there were 1.9 billion people globally classified as living in extreme poverty in 1990, that figure fell to 836 million in 2015, a decline of over 50 percent. Narlikar laments that that "kind of message is not getting out with the passion of intensity that is needed to impart information."
Angel Gurria, the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, argues in a similar vein. "It's because we are mostly focused on the growth element rather than inclusion," he told DW. "We need to focus on what we call the nexus between productivity and inclusion," Gurria said. "Of course, the idea is to increase productivity, but, if you do not have the element of inclusion, what will happen is that productivity will run into a wall; there will be rejection." However, Gurria pointed out, if the focus is merely on redistribution growth will suffer.
What emerges as a common theme is that the perceived benefits of globalization are not being widely shared and that the vulnerable are being left behind. Narlikar said Germany, with its strong economy and status for many nations as a role model, could prove key to combating this notion. "You have an open market, but with rules to help," she said. "Germany is also a pioneer in areas such as green and sustainable development."
And, Narlikar said, Germany could help blunt the arguments of detractors who charge that globalization lacks legitimacy because the illustrious club meeting in Hamburg this weekend comprises only the 20 leading industrialized and developing nations. "Germany has a serious and methodical way" of getting the G20's agenda across, which is crucial to "improve the legitimacy and inclusiveness" of the organization.
A prime example, Narlikar said, is Germany's leadership in the G20 Compact for Africa initiative to promote investment and infrastructure projects, which has led to a certain degree of empowerment in many areas across the continent.
Courage and commitment
Narlikar is under no illusion that - Germany's strengths and attributes notwithstanding - the specter of Donald Trump's America First strategy looms large as a disruptive and counterproductive force. And yet, she said, it could be so simple: "If America wants to be first and lead, then don't put up trade barriers, don't build walls, don't block climate change."
Narlikar also urged Germany and Europe not to fall into the trap of becoming "completely reliant" on the US. The Paris climate agreement, she said, holds up as a great example of what globalization can achieve with sufficient "courage and commitment."
Globalization won't solve all the world's problems. For some it remains an abstract, unrealistic concept; for others its negative impacts are all too real. Its proponents, such as the OECD's Angel Gurria, believe that globalization remains a work in progress - but one without an alternative. "Only international cooperation, and not isolationism a la Trump, can achieve the necessary results," he said.