Index  

Summary

In our globalised world even small, simple actions can impact profoundly the life of citizens at the other end of the world. Let's consider whether our daily life conduct could contribute also to a better life for other people on our globe.
Introduction  

The globalisation investing today's world is the consequence of increased speed and diffusion of information. Almost everybody today can comunicate at a reasonable cost with someone far away, allowing this way the emergence of many new opportunities in commerce. History tells us that every time humanity has made steps toward progress the phenomenon has invariably been accompanied by temporary negative effects. Only the correction of this side effects could ensure that the step were a real progress for all men.

 

Even the most vehement detractors will not be able to stop the evolution stemming from globalisation but their claims remind us constantly that in order to make of this phenomenon a true step forward we have yet to find adequate answers to its manifest side effects. Again history shows us that, in order to be accepted, true progress had always to be followed by new rules of ethical conduct.
This appeal wishes to contribute some arguments in favour of new ethical principles required to consolidate globalisation into a real progress for all men.

Identifying a problem  

Once when people bought products at the local market or grocery they usually knew about their origin and how they were produced, often they met with the producer itself. Today most people hardly are able to pinpoint on a world map the origin of the products they buy. Even less do they know about the conditions under which the goods are produced. This circumstances certainly account in part for the problems many people encounter in less developed countries.
We would not at all be pleased if we learned that the goods we legally bought from a store were the result of a theft. We never would buy products which would result in our environment being destroyed. We would consider it an unfair practice to buy underpriced goods from distressed people. We would not at all feel comfortable at the sight of children and adults being enslaved to labour.

 

Yet we buy every day goods unaware of the fact that many of them entail to various degrees one form or the other of the afore mentioned situations. If knowing this we continue to purchase this goods we become, according to our laws, accomplices in a crime. For strong as this assertion may sound it becomes almost of no weight if compared to the entity of the presumed crime. Provided that a court declares itself competent, the most you would risk is an admonition. Beside this, where there is no plaintiff there will be no action.
Exactly this occurs to the victims of the previously exemplified cases: they do not have the means to sue, so we never will hear from them. But even in the case somebody would try to sue he would be confronted with the problem of identifying a large number of culprits. Clearly it is the aggregate effect of this small offences that causes big injustices to those powerless victims.

Heading toward a solution  

Our laws never were the origin but always are the consequence of an acquired ethical conduct. As long as people are not aware of the injustice of an action they hardly will acknowledge any stated law. Therefore, what can contribute to the rise of awareness about an injustice caused by our actions? The first step is getting to know about the circumstances of production of the goods we buy. Awareness can only stem from the understanding of the mechanisms which govern our commerce. In other words the spread of information about opportunities should also be accompanied by the information under which circumstances they arise and who are the beneficiaries. Today there exist laudable initiatives for equitable commerce, as for ex. Max Havelaar Foundation, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) etc.

 

They have already contributed to increase the awareness for the previously identified problems and have set up new trade channels based on fair rules. The fact that nobody really likes to live from charity should lead us to consider by far a better choice to pay a correct price than make donations from the savings we could make. May be our charitable feelings don't get apparently rewarded yet the self-esteem of the producers gets a boost and encourages them to improve their living standards by own means. Also from the economical point of view this is a sounder method than simple donations without real incentives to do something to change the own fate.

Conclusions  

What we see as a river is the result of many droplets of water. If many of us will expend a few additional cents to buy products sold under the fair trade label we will let also other peoples participate to a decent life as we do enjoy, therefore contributing to a reduction of human misery.

 

Even apparently small actions can have a great impact on the life of other peoples. These leads us to postulate a new daily life ethics whose main objective should be to integrate in our concept of justice the aggregate effect of many small actions.

Louis JEAN-RICHARD

October 2002

References  
  1. Max Havelaar Foundation - Mission
  2. FLO - Fairtrade Standards