INTRODUCTIONTHE COMMISSION ON GLOBALISATIONThe proposal for an international and cross-sectoral Commission on Globalisation grew out of State of the World Forum 2000, convened September 4-10, 2000 in New York. The conference was a multi-stakeholder “post Seattle” dialogue on globalization and coincided with the UN Millennium Summit of Heads of State. The event was unprecedented in scope and diversity and gave rise to the recommendation that such a substantive and diverse interaction should be continued in light of the growing public and political debate on globalization and global governance, heightened by the number of protesters at WTO, IMF/World Bank and World Economic Forum meetings from Seattle to GenoaThe Commission was the result of those discussions and considerations, and was designed to be a four-year enterprise. In August 2004, the Commission on Globalisation completed its activities. 

When the Commission was launched, globalization was the central international concern. Protestors were laying siege to the World Bank, WTO and IMF meetings around the world. Politicians were engaged in a debate concerning the “Washington consensus” and the public was waking up to concerns about social equity and environmental protection at unprecedented levels. It was within this context that it was felt that a global network of leaders drawn from government, civil society and business would make a contribution to the ongoing debate by coming together for cross sectoral dialogue and to work collaboratively on specific issues of global import.

Then came the events of September 11, 2001 in the U.S. and everything was instantly enveloped within the over-arching concern for terrorism and security. The U.S. invasion of Iraq followed in March 2003 and then everything was seen through the prism of American unilateralism and international expressions of concern about U.S. actions. 

The end result of these developments has been to cloud the issues of globalization and global governance with issues of terrorism and war. It is now difficult to get at the globalization debate in a direct and straight forward manner. The paradox is that terrorism arises to a significant degree from the world’s inability to solve the problems generated by current policies governing globalization. Yet the “war on terrorism” over-shadows any serious attempt at getting at the inequities that give rise to terrorism. This has produced a very strange state of affairs, one that increasingly is characterized by a gathering of the darkness rather than any meaningful illumination of our global challenges.

Through these vicissitudes of fate, the Commission convened, worked together, and built a global network. What follows is a description of the aspirations, the work and the accomplishments.


The purpose of the Commission on Globalisation was to undertake an inclusive and comprehensive multi-stakeholder inquiry into the nature and character of globalization; and to develop integrated thought and action leading to specific recommendations for governance and policy-making at a global level that promoted greater social equity, environmental stability, enhanced security, and sustainable economic growth.

The Commission served as an incubator, catalyst and integrator for innovative leaders and institutions working to bring greater equity, democracy and accountability to globalization and global governance.


The goal of the Commission was to develop an interconnected web of dynamic partners and projects worldwide, all working in highly diverse ways and in different domains, while united in the common efforts to create a more humane future for humanity. The Commission sought to fulfill its mission through its:

Global Leadership Network: a diverse and committed network of innovative leaders from around the world, serving in their personal capacities, and dedicated to collaborative engagement in the constructive reform of the global system;

Work of the Commission: projects convened under the leadership of one or more of the Co-Chairs and Commissioners, designed through a multi-stakeholder process of deliberation and dedicated to bringing about innovative solutions to global challenges;

Cross-Sectoral Deliberations: the establishment of high-level, multi-stakeholder, consultative mechanisms, in and through which senior decision-makers from civil society, government and the corporate sector could debate, dialogue, and deliberate on the critical challenges and opportunities central to the future of globalization and its impact on human development; and

Public Engagement: the solicitation and inclusion of public input into the deliberations of the Commission and the dissemination of the Commission’s findings and recommendations through its website, annual meetings and regional events, with the intent of promoting public discourse and comment, as well as more democratic decision-making on issues of critical importance.


The first priority was to establish a global network of leaders drawn from diverse constituencies. In the end, over two hundred such leaders agreed to participate in Commission activities as either Co-Chairs or Commissioners. The Commission was formally launched at the Inaugural Meeting of the Commission in London December 13-15, 2001, convened at the London Business School. A Joint Statement, signed by over 100 Co-Chairs and Commissioners, calling for the world community to take action to reconcile the contradictory tendencies inherent in globalization, was published in the global edition of theFinancial Times on December 13, 2001. During the two-day gathering, 80 Co-Chairs and Commissioners, as well as a select group of invited guests, discussed the Commission’s strategy and purpose; substantive work and process; and management and governance.

The Commission network met again for its Second Annual Meeting in Mexico City December 4-7, 2002. Over 150 Co-Chairs, Commissioners and specially invited guests participated and discussed issues including the war on terrorism and human rights, free trade and social equity, migration and the displacement of peoples, risk management in the global economy, and pathways to a sustainable civilization. In addition, Policy Action Group and Special Initiative leaders organized small-group roundtables, and provided special briefings for the conference. A full-day special session on Poverty and Globalisation, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, was organized on the opening day of the conference, which was followed by the opening dinner, sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton.

A third gathering of the Commission network was hosted by the Foundation in Support of the Commission on Globalisation, an independent non profit organization established in Europe to cultivate greater European support for the Commission. The conference, “National Sovereignty – Universal Challenges:Choices for the World After Iraq”, convened in Brussels, Belgium June 18-20, 2003, drew specialists from around the world and from conservative and liberal perspectives to examine the phenomenon of U.S. power; the deepening fissures in the transatlantic alliance; and what can be learned from the development of the European Union.


The Commission was established to engage in “dialogue-and-action” as a single integrated concept. The intent of the Commission was the constructive engagement of individuals across sectors to think through the complexities involved in the globalization process and the need for global governance; and to recommend policy alternatives and work to implement changes in the global system. The focus was on thought as well as action, engaging in substantive debate as well as seeking concrete results.

The work of the Co-Chairs and Commissioners was contributed to the Commission; the work was not of the Commission. The magnitude of diversity within the Commission made it impossible for complete consensus on either the causes and effects of globalization or what concrete actions should be taken to remedy its inequities: thus the need for continual dialogue and debate as well as allowance of independent action. What has united all Commissioners has been the recognition that globalization is having a dramatic effect on the human community for both good and ill; the need to understand its complexities more comprehensively; and the need to take action to ensure that it is made more equitable.

Out of this common concern and in the spirit of autonomy for all involved, the Co-Chairs and Commissioners engaged over the past four years, in a spectrum of activities. What naturally emerged was a “maturity mix” of projects ranging from those highly developed and sharply focused, to those that were exploratory in nature and which required time and effort to create critical mass.

The Commission catalyzed, supported and/or assisted in the development of the following projects by various Co-Chairs and Commissioners:

Ethical Globalization Initiative – with Co-Chair Mary Robinson, which resulted in a new organization and collaboration between the Aspen Institute, Columbia University and the International Council for Human Rights Policy to mainstrean the human rights agenda.

G8 NePAD – with Commissioners Gordon Smith and Barry Carin, who worked within the context of the G8 and NePAD commitments on African development, and with the support of the Mott Foundation and the International Development Research Centre, to establish specific projects fulfilling the NePAD vision.

Access – a partnership between Hewlett Packard, the Hewlett Foundation, Center for Global Development, Klaus Schwab Foundation, Medley Global Advisors and State of the World Forum, to develop ways to qualify NGO and CBO organizations and work for donors.

Integral Governance Initiative – with Co-Chairs Lloyd Axworthy, Maria Cattaui, His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan Bin Talal and Surin Pitsuwan, among other Commissioners, to examine the “new operating reality” and how to more effectively develop global issue networks.

International Interfaith Investment Group – with Commissioner Martin Palmer, developed in an active collaboration with Citigroup, the Mott Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, the Pilkington Trust, and major religious institutions to develop common socially and environmentally sensitive guidelines for religious institutional investment.

International Water Security – with Co-Chair Lloyd Axworthy, in partnership with State of the World Forum and the Liu Center for Global Studies at the University of Vancouver, to develop greater community participation in decisions related to water distribution.

Learning and Education – with Commissioners Paul Cappon and Helga Breuninger to formulate more effective educational and learning policies within the G8 commitments on education and the ongoing work of UNESCO.


Input into the deliberations of the Commission from the wider public was an important component of the Commission’s work and was solicited through regional, multi-stakeholder dialogues and annual meetings and through the Commission website. The distribution and dissemination of the Commission’s writings, findings and recommendations, including the Commission Final Report, were additional ways in which the network interacted.

In an effort to engage regional civil society representatives, regional Community Building meetings were convened in 2001 and 2002 by State of the World Forum, which served as the Secretariat for the Commission. The meetings were funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation and included:

Washington, DC – A meeting of about 50 individuals drawn from civil society, the World Bank and the United Nations was convened at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies on April 23 to discuss the Commission. The intent of the meeting was to solicit feedback and suggestions on how the Commission could best contribute to bridging the divide between the many voices in the globalization debate, and to proceed with establishing a common agenda that would foster a constructive spirit of dialogue and inquiry. Co-Chair Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the meeting along with John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, and Co-Chair Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen Trade Watch.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – This meeting was convened on August 23rd at the premiere Brazilian think tank, the Vargas Institute, and drew over 50 representatives from the various sectors to discuss an increasing role for civil society in the globalization debate. The event also emphasized regional issues relevant to the Commission’s mandate and included leaders involved in the original World Social Forum meeting in 2001. Thais Corral, a member of the Commission and the REDEH organization, coordinated the meeting and the broader trip. The opportunity to learn more about the issues and concerns of the region through the experience of academics, NGO leaders, and activist organizations was compelling and provided significant value to the overall diversity of views within the Commission. Meetings were held with dozens of civil society leaders from Latin America, exploring local issues like privatization of water, the World Social Forum, and the Landless Worker’s Movement during this trip. Progress was made toward developing a strategy for future collaboration in Latin America and seven new Commissioners were identified during the visit.

Budapest, Hungary – State of the World Forum produced a one-day symposium entitled, “September 11: Its Impact on the Effectiveness of Civil Society’s Engagement in Global Issues,” on Oct 17th at the Central European University in Budapest. The debate was fresh, rich and surprisingly frank. While there was general agreement that the September 11th events had fundamentally changed part of the world’s psyche, the discussion highlighted the differences in regional perceptions of the same event. The lively debate spilled over into the main conference, “Reshaping Globalisation: Multilateral Dialogues and New Policy Initiatives” convened on Oct 17th – Oct 19th at the Central European University in Budapest, and invigorated the more formal discussions over the following two days. This conference was co-organized by the Central European University and the University of Warwick.

Porto Alegre, Brazil – The Forum Secretariat convened a workshop during the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, January 31 – February 5, 2002, entitled “Strengthening Civil Society’s Participation in Global Governance Through Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues.” Commissioners Mark Ritchie, Tom Spencer, Maria Ivanova and Marcelo Palazzi participated. The Commission had members represented in both the World Economic Forum and the World Social Forum, pointing to the diversity of the Commission network. The Commission was profiled in the Economist, National Public Radio, the BBC, and a number of other newspapers and journals resulting from activities in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The strategic intent of all of these activities of the Commission was to build a global coalition of individuals and institutions committed to exercising democracy at the global level; work collaboratively to take actions that would shape globalization humanely; and refine the processes related to multi-stakeholder deliberations.

For further information on the Commission and its initiator, State of the World Forum, please visit the Commission and Forum websites.