It’s a small world after all for victims of globalization

M. Nathaniel Barnes, Liberian Ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations, spoke at the College on the topic of globalization on Feb. 26. Barnes presented globalization as a “double-edged sword” providing distinct costs and benefits for Liberia. Barnes also discussed Liberian plans for addressing globalization, as well as the need for international involvement in the economic reconstruction of Liberia.

“Globalization can often facilitate disaster,” Barnes said.

Barnes cited the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, as well as the loss of national autonomy often caused by the involvement of multinational corporations, among the potential “disasters” caused by globalization.

Liberia is faced with a national debt of $3.7 billion, with 80 percent of Liberian households subsisting below the poverty line. Barnes explained these financial problems are “the consequence of a vicious cycle” of violence and corrupt government.

Barnes said involvement in the global economy is necessary for economic growth in Liberia. Having taken the potential detriments of greater globalization into consideration, Barnes has developed a five-step formula to strengthen war-torn and economically troubled Liberia.

Barnes said Liberia must undergo a period of “national introspection” or “national soul-searching.” Barnes explained that Liberia must identify its own national priorities in addition to fostering a stronger sense of national identity.

“Globalization can often facilitate disaster,” Barnes said.

Barnes also touted the need for improvement within Liberia’s education system.

“Education must become a national priority or even a national obsession,” Barnes said.

War in Liberia, carried out by child soldiers, has left a generation of 20 to 30-year-old Liberians who are illiterate and uneducated. Barnes said through a 10-year program of vocational education and emotional rehabilitation, Liberia will obtain a valuable skilled labor pool, enabling the nation to participate in the global economy.

Barnes presented the need for the creation of a system of government that is both equitable and representative of the entire Liberian population. Barnes noted the need for new expectations for its elected officials to counteract corruption, as well as the need for equal protection under Liberian law.

The final two components of the formula for strengthening Liberia include the establishment of long-term diplomatic relationships and the creation of a clear plan for the Liberian future. Barnes said the plan must take into consideration the obtainment of potential international allies, the capacity for economic growth generated by the Liberian workforce and the capabilities of Liberian national resources.

“Things may appear to get worse before they get better,” Barnes said.

One problem Liberia faces is obtaining funding needed to implement the five-step formula. The new Liberian education system is funded largely by charitable organizations. Barnes said it is in the interest of wealthier nations to financially fortify Liberia and other struggling nations as part of a unified international coalition. Barnes suggested this is a better alternative than erecting physical barriers between nations.