On November 27, 2018, I was invited by Tagesspiegel, one of the leading German newspapers to the Forum Globalization in Berlin. I shared the stage with Gerd Muller (Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany), Thomas Ogilvie (Board Member of DHL), Kailash Satyarthi (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) and other influential figures from around the globe to discuss pressing globalization issues.
Ironically, the trip to the forum globalization in Berlin helped me reflect on how not-globalized the world actually is, it took me a good month and a half, 3 countries and a lot of documentation and back and forth with the German officials to get to Berlin. The amount of hurdles in form of visas, security check-ins and bureaucracy even at this age is ridiculous if you come from these specific parts of the world. This is to say just for people to travel; it gets even worse when it comes to cooperation on issues such as trade. After all, it has become normal for people in underdeveloped states to face these hurdles and for the first world to abandon the presence of the underdeveloped countries.
Brexit, the current US administration and the overall hail of global protectionist thought have sparked fears that the days of cooperation and connectedness may be left behind us. As an Afghan who is involved with multilateral organizations in some capacity, I can attempt to provide a broader perspective and get the discussion to be more inclusive. For the conference — as actions speak louder than words, I mainly presented our work with AWAL in form of ASEEL that is trying to provide global market access to handmade goods businesses that have never been part of the global supply chain. It serves as a good example for countries like Afghanistan to become small scale producers as part of the global supply chain.
The drive for globalization has been centric to self-interest amongst countries. This thought has only led countries to integrate into the most conservative ways. In other words, only if two parties are gaining immediate positive outcomes that they will cooperate. At the same time, we have got a much better understanding of other countries with the growth of technology that it gets much easier for us to forecast immediate gains and based on that sideline/decline major deals of cooperation between countries although it may have tremendous results in the long run for both countries or in some cases to the region and the rest of the world. This slow conservative growth of globalization has provided some success throughout the last few decades. However, the issues that have arisen are far greater. Chasing a globalized world made for our own interest, we are divided even further. We look at the weaknesses of countries given their current situation a lot more than the potential that they hold in the long-run. Thus I argue is the case of Afghanistan (and many alike) when it comes to issues such as our role in the global trade, economy, and cooperation. Instead of focusing on enabling our strength, the focus has been on controlling the downfalls.
The global engagement with Afghanistan post-2001 has been in form of military and civilian reconstruction. The development efforts in Afghanistan in many cases were wasted because of the lack of focus on tangible small scale projects; instead, the focus has been on larger, vague projects that have not helped the country’s self-sustainability goals. The security situation does play a major role; however, with nothing to back my argument, I could confidently say that for instance, small scale production of handmade goods — that the people of Afghanistan have been working on for decades may survive in these tough situations a lot more, these goods can provide a good opportunity for mass job-creation, while the goods can be sold at a luxury cost while easily shipped.
The use of technology, something that the rest of the world has been pushing hard to implement in Afghanistan has also been ill translated. Projects such as mobile payments, building corporate ERP systems for major institutions and even building mobile apps to be used for service delivery have not lived up to the expectations. I believe, one of the major missing pieces; which could have been much easier than what is being tried is to connect the local setup with global firms; that way everyone gets to do what they specialize in and the benefits goes to all and with time, the form of collaborative work would help with natural technology transfer to the underdeveloped countries and access to knowledge for proper engagement for the rest of the world.
Concluding my thoughts, as hard as it may look; I encourage to look beyond self-interest in the short-term; it may be time for us to realize that actual globalization will only occur if we are inclusive of the entire globe. It may require that we change our thoughts on how we look at geographical locations, we need to shift our thoughts from thinking of self-interest to the interest of all, that way, we will have a better attempt at solving global problems of poverty, climate and others alike.