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Thursday, 05 September 2013

UNIDO debates ‘globalization 3.0’ at Austria’s annual Alpbach Forum

VIENNA, 5 September 2013 – During the annual Alpbach Forum in Austria’s Tyrol province, last week, a panel discussion organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) considered how different global actors can be inspired to bring their capabilities, institutions and interests to bear in a new, cohesive global partnership for sustained prosperity.

The panel discussion, which took place on 27 August, was moderated by Professor Robert Wade from the London School of Economics, and revolved around consideration of the concept of ‘globalization 3.0’, a term popularized by the author Thomas Friedman in his best-seller, The World is Flat. Globalization 3.0 refers to a shift from vertical supply chains towards more horizontally distributed activity, led not by governments or multinational companies but by myriad individuals interacting via the coming together of computers (and, more recently, smart phones), fibre-optics and work flow software.

The panel consisted of Jordi Prat, Costa Rica’s Deputy Minister of Finance; Jan Wouters, Director of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies in Belgium; and Philippe Scholtès, Officer in Charge of UNIDO’s Technical Cooperation Division.

In his opening presentation, Professor Wade rejected Friedman’s basic premise and argued instead that free markets, with a state which merely provides a framework, in fact produce increasing concentration and polarization.

During the discussion that followed, Costa Rica’s Prat argued that his country represents a good example to others of how a certain level of sustainable development can be achieved thanks to an economic policy focused on public investment in education and health instead of investment in defence. Costa Rica is renowned for having abolished its army in 1948, and on the back of steady economic expansion over the past 25 or so years, the country has registered some impressive social achievements. Life expectancy is substantially higher than in comparable countries, while infant and child mortality rates are significantly lower. Income inequality is also among the lowest in Latin America.

For his part, Professor Wouters talked about the relevance of international knowledge networks for globalization 3.0, stating that technical innovation has helped to create vertical and horizontal networks around the world. UNIDO’s Scholtès described the catalytic role that an organization like UNIDO is playing by implementing different industrial development projects developed in cooperation with its member states.

After the discussion, the floor was opened for debate and the audience showed great interest in knowing more about how exactly UNIDO works, particularly in reference to its membership.

The week-long Alpbach Forum is an annual event bringing together politicians, academics, students and decision-makers from all areas to discuss and brainstorm new ideas and solutions to global problems. Each year, around 3,000 people from over 50 countries accept the invitation to participate in the Forum.

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