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Global development and connections – migration, identity and soverignty



Enquiry question 1: What are the impacts of globalisation on international migration?

1.1 Globalisation has led to an increase in migration both within countries and among them.

  • Globalisation has caused extremely significant changes in the global economic system, changing the pattern of demand for labour; this has encouraged both rural-urban migration within countries (China) and international migration between countries (EU-Schengen).
  • Between 3–4% of the global population live outside their country of birth but this proportion varies greatly between countries because of different policies relating to international migration and levels of engagement with the global economy (Singapore, Japan, Australia).
  • The pattern of international migration is changing and will continue to change because environmental, economic and political events affect both the source areas of many migrants and their destinations; this results in flows of both voluntary economic migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

1.2 The causes of migration are varied, complex and subject to change.

  • Most migrants move for work or to re-join family members; there are other significant causes, including displacement of refugees due to conflict and poverty in their regions of origin (migrants crossing the Mediterranean).
  • Economic theory suggests that economic efficiency is maximised when goods (free trade), capital (deregulated financial markets) and labour (open-borders) can move freely across international borders but this poses serious challenges for national identity and sovereignty.
  • The movement of labour is unrestricted within many nation states to ensure efficient allocation of resources (regional movements in the UK) and the same logic applies for some global regions (EU) but does not yet apply at a global level.

1.3 The consequences of international migration are varied and disputed.

  • Migration changes the cultural and ethnic composition of nation states but the rate of assimilation of migrants varies from nation to nation especially when there are distinctive ethnic differences.
  • Migration causes political tensions because of differences in perceptions of the social, economic, cultural and demographic impacts of migration (Labour flows across the Mexico-US border and between EU states).
  • There are variations in the ability of people to migrate across national borders according to levels of skill and income; and opportunities, including the presence or absence of controls and international borders.

Enquiry question 2: How are nation states defined and how have they evolved in a globalising world?

2.1 Nation states are highly varied and have very different histories.

  • National sovereign states vary greatly in their ethnic, cultural and linguistic unity (Iceland compared to Singapore); this results from their history of population growth, their isolation and the role of migration.
  • Many national borders are a consequence of physical geography and historical development; other borders are a result of colonial history and might not take account of different ethnic or religious groups (Iraq, Rwanda), which can lead to problems of sovereignty and legitimacy.
  • There are many contested borders (Ukraine, Russia) and not all nation states are universally recognised as such (Taiwan) which can lead to both conflict and population movements.

2.2 Nationalism has played a role in the development of the modern world.

  • 19th-century nationalism was important in the development of empires and a source of conflict in Europe and beyond as other nations became part of larger empires (British Raj in India).
  • Since 1945, many new nation states have emerged as empires disintegrated (1960s ‘wind of change’ in Africa); this has caused conflicts that were costly both environmentally, economically and in human terms (Vietnam, Sudan).
  • Patterns of migration between former colonies and the imperial core country are still evident and important in changing the ethnic composition and cultural heterogeneity of those countries.

2.3 Globalisation has led to the deregulation of capital markets and the emergence of new state forms.

  • Globalisation has encouraged the growth of states that have low-tax regimes which provide havens for the profits for TNCs and homes for wealthy expatriates.
  • Most governments and IGOs have accepted the emergence of tax-havens although many NGOs have raised objections.
  • Growing global inequalities have been recognised as a major threat to the sustainability of the global economic system and some governments have promoted alternative models (Bolivia, Ecuador).

Enquiry question 3: What are the impacts of global organisations on managing global issues and conflicts?

3.1 Global organisations are not new but have been important in the post-1945 world.

  • The United Nations was the first post-war IGO to be established and has grown in importance; its role in global governance is affected by the different geopolitical visons of members of the Security Council and its multiple functions in managing global environmental, socio-economic and political problems.
  • Interventions by the UN through the use of economic sanctions and direct military intervention have been made in defence of human rights but have a mixed record of success. (Trade Embargo Iran, UN forces in Congo).
  • Some member states (US, UK, Russia) have operated independently of the UN in intervening in ‘failed states’ or to conduct a ‘war on terror’ with profound impacts on geopolitical relations and global stability.

3.2  IGOs established after the Second World War have controlled the rules of world trade and financial flows.

  • The IMF, WB and WTO were established by the WWII allied nations and have been important in maintaining the dominance of ‘western’ capitalism, global economic management and trade policy (free trade).
  • Global borrowing rules and trade policies have been especially effective in delivering growth to the developed world, but the impact of Structural Adjustment and HIPC policies on the developing world’s economies and economic sovereignty is disputed (Jamaica’s structural adjustment programme).
  • Membership of global trade and financial IGOs is almost universal, as a result of the dominance of these organisations, but regional groupings have emerged in the form of trading blocs (NAFTA/SEATO) and in some cases (EU) there has been a movement to closer political unity.

3.3 IGOs have been formed to manage the environmental problems facing the world, with varying success.

  • These include global environmental issues concerning the quality of the atmosphere and biosphere (Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer) and biosphere (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora CITES).
  • IGOs have been involved in developing laws for managing oceans (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) and international rivers (Water Convention, Helsinki) as well as monitoring the state of the environment (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment).
  • IGO management also includes responsibility for Antarctica as a continent of peace and science (Antarctic Treaty System).

Enquiry question 4: What are the threats to national sovereignty in a more globalised world?

4.1 National identity is an elusive and contested concept.

  • Nationalism remains a powerful force; it is reinforced through education, sport and by political parties stressing loyalty to both the institutions and the ideals of nation states.
  • Identity and loyalty might be tied to distinctive legal systems, methods of governance, national ‘character’ or even a landscape (The English Countryside).
  • Most countries are multi-national with many contrasting ethnic groups; questions of national identity and loyalty are therefore complex, especially in an era of globalisation.

4.2 There are challenges to national identity.

  • Many UK-based companies are foreign owned (EDF, Jaguar Land Rover), making ‘Made in Britain’ an increasingly complex idea.
  • ‘Westernisation’ is often dominated by US cultural values through the operation of large corporations in both retailing and entertainment; this, in turn, promotes a distinctive view of the benefits the dominant capitalist model.
  • Ownership of property, land and businesses in countries is increasingly non-national (Qatari and Russian property in London, US and Indian ownership of TNCs), which impacts on national identity.

4.3 There are consequences of disunity within nations.

  • There are strong nationalist movements seeking to create independent, smaller states whilst remaining within larger trading groups (Catalonia and Scotland in the EU).
  • There are significant political tensions in the BRIC and other emerging nations resulting from the uneven pattern of the costs and benefits of globalisation.
  • The role of the state is variable and national identity is not always strong, especially in ‘failed states’ where there are stark differences between the politically and economically powerful elite, foreign investment groups and the wider population.
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