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Globalization and dialogue of civilizations: the role of china

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Part-time jobs, contracts for defined period or provisional contracts, unpaid or poorly paid internships with a tendency to be renewed have multiplied. All these job modalities put together lead to contingency and vulnerability. A few years ago, a former Prime Minister of Italy, one of the richest countries in Europe, made an absolutely indecent suggestion to Italians who were losing jobs, to loot the “informal” as a solution. This new reality has provoked changes in the relationship between capital and work, the latter becoming weakened in the organization of workers, with unions losing their capacity for mobilization and negotiation (see what has happened in France during the last decade). Uncertainty has become part of the life of citizens, and it is a factor explaining the sense helplessness felt by young people entering the job market. If the question is analysed through an ethical approach that is not limited to economic factors, it can be seen that there is a need to revise the scale of values
Contrary to what happens in the Western countries in general, in China a new law that will come into force in January 2008 will seek to fight contingency and the lack of job security. The new rules will introduce changes aimed at the protection of salaried workers. Instead of encouraging contracts with fixed dates, this law will foster contracts for an indefinite period. After two renewed contracts, they will automatically become indefinite. A trial period may not last for more than 6 months (see Nathalie Quéruel - Le Monde- 6.10.2007). If this is correct, then it is really good news. At the same time that Western countries based on the Consensus of Washington are stimulating flexibility and contingency, China could take the opposite direction in searching for more job stability.
To add value to the status of work fits in with the humanistic concept whereby the right to work must be based on the notion that relations at work cannot be assimilated to common law, in which partners are considered as equals. Labour law should, in fact, seek to re-establish a position of equality between partners.
Questions related to sustainable development, particularly to environment and water issues, also constitute enormous problems in a period of transition such as the one China is experiencing. It was therefore considered to be good news when the 17th Party Congress declared conservation and environmental protection as one of the key issues for the country`s development.
China is the biggest world consumer of coal (38.6% of the world’s coal), which accounts for 68% of the energy used in China. One should take into consideration the words of Pan Yue, Vice-Minister of the Environment. According to him, the level of pollution in China is as high as that of developed countries when they were at the same stage of development as China today.
According to an article by Eliperin, Luliet, the US appears to be worst carbon dioxide polluter, but China is catching up fast (Washington Post, 15 November 2007, p. A16, on Internet 15.11.2007).
“China, South Africa and India host the world’s five dirtiest utility companies in terms of global warming pollution, according to the first-ever worldwide database of power plant carbon dioxide emissions, while a single Southern Company plant in Juliette, GA (Georgia, USA), emits more annually than Brazil’s entire power sector …………… While the United States still produces the most carbon dioxide from electricity generation, releasing 2.8 billions tons of CO2 each year, China is close to overtaking it, with its 2.7 billion tons. Moreover, China plans to build or expand 199 coal-fired facilities in the next decade compared with 83 in the United States”.
This country urgently needs to introduce the principle of polluters having to pay the bill, the Vice-Minister for Planing, Mr. Bi Jonqam, recently declared.
A preliminary report by the Chinese National Agency for the protection of the environment, together with the World Bank (“The Cost of Pollution in China – Economic Estimates of Physical Losses), says that the cost of air pollution was estimated in 2003 at 362 billion Yuan, in other words, 35 billion Euro.
However, in 1994, the first independent NGO in the field of the environment was created. Today, there are 2,700 NGOs of this nature in the entire country, and this seems to indicate that the environment is now on the agenda of public Chinese opinion.
Water is a resource that is crucial for supporting human life, and it is a serious problem all over the world. China is no exception. Some experts point out that rapid industrialization and urbanization have polluted the water to such an extent that ninety percent of the country’s rivers and lakes are said to be contaminated to some degree. According to Bruce Pedrolett (Le revers de la médaille d’une croissance galopante, Le Monde II, Economie –Special File, pages II and III, 10 July 2007), in China about 400 out of 600 cities lack water. 5,320 millions peasants do not have access to drinking water.
However, according to Miki Kamahori, in an article on “training in water” (The Japan Journal, September 2006), “China, a country that is grappling with pollution, flooding, and other water-related issues, is rushing to train professionals who can manage the country’s water resource”. In 1996, the Chinese government created a Human Resources Development Centre within its Ministry of Water Resources. Recently, the Deputy Minister for Construction, Qiu Banxing, announced that 100 billion Euro will be earmarked for the water market between 2006 and 2010. 33 billion Euro will be used for sewerage and to purify used water.
As I said at the beginning, we in Western countries find it difficult to understand Asia, and China in particular We do not realize that in the past, during the 18th century, around 1750, China and India used to produce more than half of the world’s wealth. And in fact, in Western countries, the reasons for the decline in economic activities are not well know.
Many analysts consider that Western domination, particularly of England, is the main source of this long destabilization. When studying Latin-American history, especially Brazilian history, it is surprising to learn, for example, that even during the official Portuguese colonial period, the English in fact dominated the new country economy at least until the end of the First World War. Even before Brazilian independence in 1822, English industrial products entered the new country by paying less tax than the Portuguese. Under these conditions, industrialization in Brazil arrived too late. In Asia, trade was also unfair and imposed by the metropolis. Trading was carried out on the basis of a free exchange, in which Asian countries (like the Latin Americans) were obliged to open up their economies without any compensation.
Now, once again, free trade I being promoted, but the difference is that the former colonized countries no longer accept the imposition of rules. The blockage at the WTO meeting of Cancun was a result of this new position. Emerging countries have already opened their economies and are ready to discuss even more concessions, but unlike what happened in past centuries, now they want a genuinely equitable trade. Nowadays, this means the abolition of subsides that distort trade balances and promote dumping policies that are extremely unfair to peasants in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The Chinese have an advantage in relation to other emerging countries and underdeveloped countries. This is its size, the importance of its internal market, and its capacity to overcome obstacles.
According to its editorial in 16 September 2003, - Failure in Cancun- the French newspaper, Le Monde stated:

“The fifth World Trade Organization (WTO) conference in Cancun failed to find a compromise on the two main issues on its agenda. First the opening of negotiations on investment, the transparency of public markets, competition and the facilitation of trade. The rich countries found themselves opposed by the others, who refused to include these discussions in the program of the current round, which is due to end in December 2004. The European proposal to limit talks to two themes was rejected by the most mobilized countries, India, Malaysia and the LDC (Least Developed Countries).

On the second issue, agriculture, the rich countries were opposed by the determination of the group of 21 countries (G21) led by Brazil, India, China and South Africa, who insisted that the Europeans, Americans and Japanese put an end to their huge subsidies (1 billion dollars per day), which were destabilizing for farmers of the South. Europe appeared to show willing to find a compromise by proposing to isolate those subsidies that were proved to truly harm the farmers of poor countries. But it refused to fix a deadline for the abolition of such subsidies. That being the case, the European Union found the Southern delegates to be intransigent.”

The dominant economic model since 1990, which defined the society that some have sought to establish since then, was based on free interchange, and in reality, it benefits primarily the multinationals with head offices in the richest countries. In 1989, the English economist John Williamson forged the principles of the Washington Consensus: privatization, opening of economies, control of inflation and public debt, and deregulation of the economy. It was announced at the time that trade would bring prosperity for all.

While developing countries were forced to follow these rules, the rich countries reinforced protectionist measures for their agriculture and industries, many of which were practically bankrupt. And this is how, based on principles transformed into objectives, various countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Western Europe opened their doors with no compensation, significantly lowered or removed their customs taxes, privatized public property, weakened public services and functions, allowed multinational corporations to completely destroy their newly founded industrial parks, and triggered off a financial and identity crisis among the public higher education institutions.
In a book recently published in London (August 2007), Hao-Joon Chong points out that the rich nations which now hector the poor on the importance of free trade, respect for intellectual property, and hospitality to foreign investors broke all those rules when they themselves were climbing up the development ladder. “They are telling the poor world to do as we say and not as we do”, says Mr. Chang
When China was admitted to WTO, many people felt this would hinder Chinese progress and that industrialized countries would dominate China. This did not happen. The Chinese admission to WTO coincided with the decision of the majority of Member States to require the strict application of the rules of the organization, whereby each country is supposed to have one voice. Until Cancun, decisions were taken by consensus, and the consensus was determined by what in WTO jargon was called the QUART, the quartet, formed by the United States, Canada, Japan and the European Union. Now, the consensus tends to be a real consensus with the participation of all Member States. Inside WTO, China continued playing its own game. Everything is negotiated, but the principle is always the same: the door is open to whoever wants to work in China, but the transfer of technology and of knowledge should be included in the negotiations.
I will not mention other difficulties we have in understanding China where, for example, the notion of time is completely different. Behind an economic decision, there are centuries of a culture we know nothing about. The country has an old civilization with solid foundation, where basic principles do not fit exactly what we consider in Western countries as universal principles. In Western countries, we are “immediatists”. In China, like in some Asian countries, one learns to avoid burning in one second what was collected during a whole life.
See, for example, discussions on issues of democracy. For some Western analysts, the model of democracy is the British one. They forget what England represented for the world, what the basis of the British Empire was, how many people all over the world suffered by allowing British citizens to create an internal democratic framework within their territory. According to the British model, for example, bicameralism is seen as a model of democratic construction; and this has been imposed in situations where other ways of organizing political relations existed over centuries. It is, to say the least odd, to see members of certain parliaments in developing countries wearing wigs, in the belief that this is the symbol of a democratic system. To a certain extent, the same could be said about members of university councils all over the world wearing similar gowns as Oxford professors…and considering this to be a symbol of excellence and not an imitation of an historical tradition belonging to another culture, one which is not necessarily good for the needs of their institutions or their countries.
In fact, universal values only can be considered when accepted by all countries, as in the case of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10.12.1948 (see Appendix 1).
I must admit that during the preparations for the World Conference on Higher Education (Paris, 1998), I was surprised to hear at the preparatory Asian Conference mention made of Asian values covered in the adopted declaration by references to Eastern Philosophy and Culture. Incidentally, this was the only- conference in which the participants - Member States and representatives of the academic community - rejected cultural monopoly and strongly and directly opposed imperialism as a form of cultural domination. In Asian values, if I understood the debates correctly, the main force of the universe is based on solidarity, respect for the family and hierarchy, zeal for work, etc, and not individualism and competition,
In Article 5 of the Declaration adopted in Tokyo on 10 July 1997, the participants in the Asian Regional Conference on Higher Education mentioned that “While recognizing that globalization and internationalization are irreversible trends, support for these concepts should not lead to dominance or new forms of imperialism by major cultures and value systems from outside the region; rather, it is of vital importance that every effort should be taken to protect and promote the strengths of local cultures and intellectual and scholarly traditions”.

All these difficulties in understanding China and Asia reminds me of the good old story I told participants at an international conference in Amazonia more than ten years ago, when I was still Director of the Division of Higher Education of UNESCO.

Here it is:
One day, a famous journalist from a famous French newspaper came to China, and as he was “famous” and worked for a “famous” newspaper, the prime minister agreed to give him an interview.
Is this the first time you come to China? asked the Prime Minister
Exactly, said the journalist. It is the first time
And when did you arrive in China? continued the Prime Minister.
Yesterday, said the journalist.
Fine. And when are you leaving the country?
Tomorrow, replied the famous journalist.
OK, said the Prime Minister kindly. But why did you come to China, what you will do here in a such a short period of time?
I will write a book on China, said the famous journalist without any emotion.
What? said the Prime Minister in reaction. You come for the first time in a country you don’t know, such a big country with more than one billion inhabitants, with so many different nationalities, languages and cultures, you arrived yesterday and will leave tomorrow, and you will write a book on this complex country. What will be the title of the book?
China Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” the famous journalist explained calmly.
This is the fourth time I am visiting China, but of course I will not write a book on China. I genuinely feel that I am not at all able to understand this country. The only thing I am sure of today is that there is no doubt that the future of China will condition the future of the humanity.
And here, very briefly, we come to an important element in these reflections
In the presentation of the workshop on "Emerging Electronic Global Distance Learning" held at the University of Tampere, in Finland, from 9 to 13 August 1999, the organizers of that event declared that "the digital revolution and economic globalisation are taking us into a new era. We are moving towards the global knowledge society where information, skills and competence become the driving forces of social and economic development. The problems associated with this transformation cannot any longer be solved by traditional means. Effective learning requires upgraded multimedia educational materials which can only be used with the broadband Internet."


Few people disagree with this point of view. I used to say that we are facing a transformation in the economy, in society and in civilization that is more important than the changes that occurred in the world during the industrial revolution. Learning, knowledge and- information have now become the pilots of world society. However, it is important not to confuse information with knowledge. Information is a set of data to which one has access. Knowledge presupposes an ability to learn and a cognitive capacity.


In the political domain, this distinction is essential to allow citizens to take a stand when confronted by the kind of manipulation they face at present. In the economic sector, there is a fundamental difference today between those who conceive the industrial products - the most important element - and their production. The conception aspect is linked to research and development based on science and the codification of theoretical knowledge.


Martin Carnoy, a North-American professor, researcher and author, wrote in a recent book on the new economic science that low salaries and low prices of raw materials are no longer enough to ensure a country a place at the world table. He added:


"People's work has shifted from the production of agricultural and manufactured goods to the production of services and to increasingly sophisticated services. The main ingredient in these new services is knowledge - knowledge that increases productivity, provides a closer fit between a client's specific needs and the services delivered, and creates possibilities for the development of new products and new services. With more competition, knowledge also becomes increasingly important in manufacturing and agriculture. Quality of production, design, efficient organization, new products, customized production, and just-in-time delivery are the knowledge-intensive aspects dominating today's manufacturing and agricultural activities in both developed countries and the export sectors of developing countries."

Therefore, in order to analyze higher education and propose elements for its reform, we need to study the context in which it operates, remembering what Danilo de Lima, a literature professor, always mentioned: the space and time coordinates. In my opinion, there are at least two interconnected factors that should be considered fundamental at this point: the new world order established in 1989, based on the Consensus of Washington, and globalization, a phenomenon reinforced by the development of new technologies and by the consolidation of the knowledge society.
Now, everybody uses the word “globalization”, and many symposia are dedicated to it all over the world. In the end, this excess largely empties the word of analytical and explanatory value. But globalization is a reality and we must know what we are talking about. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Sociology (Gordon Marshal- 1998):
“Globalization has been described as ‘the concrete structuration of the world as a whole’: that is, a growing awareness at a global level that ‘the world’ is a continuously constructed environment. Perhaps the most concise definition suggests that globalization is ‘a social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people are becoming increasingly aware that they are receding” (Malcom Waters, Globalization, 1995”.
Elie Cohen, in the Autumn 1993 edition of the journal "Relations Internationales et Stratégiques", states, on globalization, that "the term was forged to represent a double reality, that is: on the one side, the internationalization of markets for goods and production factors and, on the other side, the appearance of industrial firms able to think of development on a worldwide scale from the beginning and develop, to this end, global strategies for production (international division of production processes), marketing (worldwide standards and framework, with products released simultaneously in the three principle zones) and management (through the exteriorization or integration of the contributions of firms specialized in marketing, publicity and accounting and financial auditing).
Globalization affects all levels of society. Education, therefore, cannot escape from this phenomenon and, on the contrary, has become one of the large markets of modern times. The education market, especially with the development of the Internet, represents surely more than one hundred billion dollars. More and more universities in developed countries are bringing black boxes to developing countries, with closed programmes that are not discussed, do not take into effect the interests of the recipient countries and are paid for in strong currencies. Some situations are downright shocking, such as those that, in addition to selling closed packages, announce their intention to create a global system for the recognition of studies and diplomas, giving themselves the right to determine, worldwide, which programs have or do not have quality. There are some organizations that even propose the sale of diplomas through the Internet.
Professor Hans Van Ginkel, the former Rector of United Nations University, highlighted in 2004 that “it is the simultaneity - combined with the speed - which differentiates globalization, as we know it, from the foreign influences of earlier periods. Modern information and communications technology is the key to the present state of rapid and profound changes”.
At present, education must help individuals to carry out tasks that they were not originally trained to perform, prepare themselves for a non-linear career, improve their ability to work in groups, use information independently, develop their abilities to adapt and improvise, and their creativity, and finally to build the foundations of a complex thought system tied to the hard realities of practical life" ("Education and Globalization" in IIEP Newsletter, vol. XVI, no.2, April-June 1998- Muriel Poisson).
In addition to the initiatives for development of companies, universities must radically modify their structures, teaching methods, programs and content. We must also promote reflection on the required relationship between higher education and the world of work, which is not limited to the vision and interests of companies, but must meet the expectations of workers, critically follow the evolution of the workplace and analyze questions related to work, social cohesion, and the social and economic benefits of education, etc.
Another aspect to be considered is that economic development cannot follow rigid structures and no one model can be adopted for all countries and regions. The failure of cooperation strategies based on the transmission of models, as was done in Africa with the former colonial systems, proves that this has to change. One of the discoveries of the studies conducted by UNESCO in the 1980s and 1990s on higher education was that more and more people have become aware of the fact that in all regions, the adoption of foreign concepts and values, together with the abandonment of national and regional cultures and philosophies, has had negative repercussions on systems.
These principles were reinforced by the approval of the international community (with the exception of the United States and Israel) in 2005, when member States of UNESCO adopted the convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions. Previously, in 2001, member States adopted in UNESCO a Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity ( Through these documents, the international community made it clear that it was necessary to recognize that cultural goods and services convey identity, values and meaning and, consequently, cannot be considered as mere commodities or consumer goods. In the search for excellence with soul, taking the cultural aspects into consideration is essential.
Especially in the case of higher education, it is worthwhile looking at history, recalling facts that must serve as a lesson at a stage when in many countries, policy makers try to construct foundations for new reforms of higher education. In 1965, the Brazilian military government had decided to hire US consultants to reorganize the Brazilian University System, and at the same time Ambassador Lincoln Gordon criticized Brazilian universities for following European models - models he considered to be obsolete. In May 1965 professors at University of São Paulo (including, Fernando de Azevedo, Florestan Fernandes, Octávio Ianni, Luiz Pereira, Prado Júnior, Azis Simão, Paulo Saraiva, J. Artur Gianotti), wrote a declaration which stated, among other things:
-"...foreign universities, regardless of the originating country, are non-transferable with their original structures, like any other institution: because the social and economic conditions, resources, traditions and cultural atmosphere they breathe and that sustain them cannot be transferred to other environments. We do not need to copy or transplant models. What we need to do is study them and extract from them the best elements to create a malleable and active system adapted to the conditions, basic requirements and hopes of societies as complex as ours - societies undergoing unequal transformation and marked by large economic and cultural imbalances. To insert the "ideal" in the "real," you must understand both and begin with the analysis of real situations."

And here too, it is important to look at some aspects of the evolution of the higher education system in China. As mentioned by Futao Huang, “the development of China’s higher education since the late 1990s presents two striking characteristics: qualitative enhancement and quantitative growth.
During this period, private institutions were accepted in China. This deserves a better analysis. It is true that the traditional model of higher education institutions, almost entirely controlled by government in a planned economic system, has changed. But, at least apparently, what was introduced was not a system similar of what exists in many Latin-American countries and also in some Asian countries, where privatization and commercialization became dominant. Chinese authorities made it clear that all components of the system should be more oriented towards society, and this should mean that the social compromise of universities must be reinforced, independently of the juridical nature of the provider of the educational service.
It seems exact that China, since the end of the nineties, has taken a series of measures for improving higher education. All these initiatives are clearly aimed at ensuring the presence of the country in the knowledge society. The control of knowledge has become synonymous with the independence of a country. For this, China decided to expand enrollment in higher education institutions following a decision made by the State Council and formally announced by former Prime Minister Zhu in 1999. It cannot be said that this decision, taken in 1999, was the result of the active participation of China in the World Conference of Higher Education in 1998, during which the Minister of Education of China, Ms. Chen Zhili, was one of the key speakers, taking the floor in one of the plenary sessions.
In her speech, the Minister clearly stated that higher education should adhere to the principles of responding to societal needs. She stressed that “in the contemporary world we are witnessing the inception of an era of information society and knowledge economy, and science and technology have become the primary productive force, and the preparation of highly qualified professionals and innovation have become the focus of competition for an edge in overall national strength”.
The minister mentioned that in the period 1990-1997, total undergraduate enrollment at both first degree and sub-degree levels increased from 3,729,000 to 5,898,000 and total postgraduate enrollment increased from 93,000 to 176,000, recording increases of 58% and 89% respectively, and indicating big strides in the scale of provision. “In the course of development”, she added, “we have taken an integrated approach to coordinate the relationships between scale, structure, quality and cost-effectiveness of provision”.
Coming back to China, as we were informed, she tried to obtain decisions that fitted with the recommendations of the WCHE. In 2003, the total number of students in Chinese higher education institutions had already reached approximately 19 million and China has become the country with the largest number of students in higher education institutions, even surpassing the number in the United States. This year (2007), always according to the Western press, 5 million Chinese will obtain a university diploma, and these figures are five times higher than in 1998.
At the same time, China increased significantly the number of students going abroad and one can observe everywhere the massive arrival of Chinese students in the best Western universities. Over the past two decades, China has sent out nearly 270,000 people to 103 countries and regions for advanced studies, and has received 210,000 foreign students from 160 countries and regions. 1800 Chinese faculty members and experts have been sent abroad to teach in foreign institutions.
Sending students abroad was not considered to be enough. It was pointed that it was necessary to ensure the return of expatriated students and researchers. In 1998, the Minister Chen Zhili said during the WCHE that “over the past two decades 96,000 Chinese students studying abroad have returned to China”. We do not know the present figures but it is very likely that this situation has become even better. In addition, internationalization was promoted. By 2002, 712 joint programmes had been provided for Chinese students in China; the joint programmes that are qualified to award foreign degrees numbered 97; by 2003, the number of degree-conferring joint programmes had risen to 137.
Everywhere, there is a question mark concerning access to higher education. Is it a human right? Who can have access to higher education, and on what basis or under which conditions? Should elite groups only have access? Only those who can afford to pay?
I was fortunate enough to take part as an observer in a conference in Berlin in August 1998, organized by OECD, at which the richer countries of the world resolved to adopt universal access to higher education for their citizens as an official policy.
In the working document for this meeting, entitled “Redefine tertiary education - 1998”, OECD personnel were emphatic:
“participation in tertiary education is, henceforth, to be ‘the thing that must be done,’ enjoyed by all, and not merely by a privileged minority. We must move towards universal participation: 100% participation, with fair and equal chance of access to knowledge, in one or another form of tertiary education, at any period of life, and not necessarily end-on to secondary education … the goal is not merely an establishment, but a way of life, that will not only be for some, but for all …”
But once again, the can be question can be raised? Are these principles of the universality of access to higher education only applicable to industrialized countries? Only to members of OECD?
At the World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE), held in Paris in October 1998, the academic community and its associates expressed their opinion clearly, based on proposals and decisions contained in 26.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In reality, it is a basic principle applying to all reforms undergoing development or about to be developed in higher education worldwide. These principles were confirmed in 2003, during the conference organized by UNESCO in Paris in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the World Conference on Higher Education (Paris+5).
It was clear after the WCHE that the democratization of access to higher education, being a human right, should apply to all countries. However, in Paris recently, during a UNESCO Ministerial Round Table on Education and Economic Development, the Keynote speech delivered by Angel Gurría, Secretary General of OECD (Paris, 19.10.2007), seemed to support a different approach.
In fact, Angel Gurría first emphasized that “public investment in education pays off in terms of economic growth. But it also pays off for individuals. In most OECD countries, better educated adults earn more than less educated people; they find jobs more easily, and they are less likely to become unemployed. University-level qualifications continue to be valued highly everywhere. Even in the countries with the largest growth of university graduates, earnings and employment prospects of graduates keep improving. Finally, more qualified persons are more likely to participate in further training as adults: it’s a virtuous circle -- learning begets learning”.
Advancing in his analysis, the Secretary General of OECD declared:
“… There is much evidence that higher education drives innovation and economic growth. But I would still like to caution against letting investment in higher education run ahead of investment in elementary and secondary schools. Higher education is expensive. In OECD countries, a place in tertiary education costs twice as much as one in lower-level schools. In developing countries, a place in tertiary education can be up to 25 times as expensive as in primary education.

Countries at earlier stages of development should take care of basics first before investing heavily in higher education. For good reasons the Millennium Development Goals call for universal and equal access to primary and secondary education for boys and girls. Where primary education for all has not become a reality yet, it may, on balance, be less expensive and more efficient to focus on this area, given the resources at hand.

Students moving on to higher education can have a range of choices and they may also want to take advantage of higher education offered by outside providers. All of this might be accomplished as part of development assistance strategies. The Guidelines for Quality Provision in Cross Border Higher Education, developed by UNESCO and the OECD, make it easier to identify high quality providers on an international level. OECD is also exploring the feasibility of assessing quality at this level by launching PISA for higher education, as it was requested by Ministers in Athens”….
It is impossible to be clearer than that. For the Secretary General of OECD:
1- Developing countries should not invest resources in higher education. They may take advantage of higher education offered by outside providers. This is in clear opposition to the message of WCHE of UNESCO that stated: ““without adequate higher education and research institutions providing a critical mass of higher education people, no country can ensure genuine endogenous and sustainable development”
2- The objective of the Guidelines for Quality Provision in Cross Border Higher Education is precisely what representatives of some countries were afraid. It will be used to give a certificate to outsider providers to present themselves as quality institutions1.
The Secretary General did not explain how to justify investments in outside providers, nor did he explain the way cultural values, the needs in training and research of developing countries, would be respected if education at a higher level is ensured by outside providers.
Some ministers, such as those from South Africa and Cuba, politely gave a reply opposing the statement made by the Secretary General of OECD. A clearer statement was made by the Chinese Vice-Minister of Education, Mr. Xinsheng Zhang, for whom “education is the first human right”.
According to him, the educational and economic processes are different. Higher education is important for peace. One country cannot grow if another country is suffering from conflicts or other problems. A public or a private good? Education is a public good, and the Chinese Minister added that links between education and economic growth are obvious, “but it is dangerous to put much education on the trade goods”.
The Minister described how universalization of basic education in China has been carried out. Concerning higher education, there is a dynamic process in its access policy. In 1978, only 1% of the correspondent age was enrolled in higher education. This figure increased to 6.6% in 1998 and now stands at around 23%. China currently has 23 million full-time students.
Without higher education, no teacher education or training is possible, no better curricula can be implemented, no economic growth will be possible, concluded the minister
Education as a Service or as a Right?


The Minister of Education of China in fact raised a question that is part of an important debate currently taking place within universities but also among researchers, diplomats and governmental sectors all over the world. Can education be considered as a commercial service and, therefore, regulated by the World Trade Organization (WTO)?


If the reply is positive, does this mean that the rules and principles of GATS (the General Agreement on Trade in Services) apply to education or should it be considered as a public service?


What are the implications of the answer to this question? And if the idea of public service is retained, what are the principles that should guide the organization, content and policies for higher education in developing countries in general? This subject, it seems, will be discussed in Geneva, at the end of 2008, during the regular Conference of Ministers of Education, IBE (International Bureau of Education) organizes. The “Communauté Française de Belgique”, through the expert, Roger Dehaybe, is presently setting in motion a world reflection on the subject of the role of the State in education.


On 23 September 1998, the WTO secretariat issued a document which, after explaining the rapid changes taking place in the area of higher education, concluded with the need to include this level of education on the list of trade in international services.


For many representatives of the academic world, this contradicts the decision taken by more than 180 government representatives during the WCHE in Paris in 1998, when it was stated that higher education must be considered as a public service, independently of the judicial nature of the institution providing it. For a service to be considered public, its provision must first of all be implemented on an equal basis, it must be continuous and permanent, and not be subject to any kind of discrimination, including commercial or financial. This, in the view of the entire academic community, applies to education and, in particular, to higher education.

In concrete terms, a public service (the provision of water, for example) or the development and management of public transport, can be entrusted to the private sector, under regulations issued by public authorities. Everyone must have the right to drinkable water, independently of which organization provides this service. Concerning higher education - and this is a matter of principle - the academic community and the representatives of more than 180 countries considered it to be a public service, which must be accessible to all on the basis of merit, no kind of discrimination being acceptable.


The GATS (the Global Agreement on Trade Services), approved in 1994, included a series of principles and measures that have implications for higher education if it is in fact treated as a commodity (definition of governmental services, the principle of most favoured nation, national treatment, etc).

A movement is under way to reform the WTO itself. Better participation of developing countries in the decision-making process, greater transparency in discussions and decisions taken by the organization, closer links with other multilateral organizations, a more equitable sharing of the results of the trade process, with the elimination, for example, of subsidies for the agricultural products of the richest countries, should be part of these reforms. This issue was the object of in-depth analyses published in two books, edited under the auspices of the United Nations University (Sampson, 2001; Nayyar, 2002). The pressure for reforms has been intensified as a result of the failure of the WTO Conference in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003.
The arguments put forward by WTO used to have a great impact on many analysts, impressed by the fact that the commercialisation of education is a clear tendency and that the presence of private universities, even in European countries where public service is a tradition, is increasing substantially. Today, in a country such as Brazil, almost 80% of university students are enrolled in private institutions.
However, this kind of consideration is a great mistake. The existence of private providers does not justify adopting the principle of transforming education into a commodity. L several other public services, the provision of education can be entrusted, delegated, or granted to private persons or institutions, but under rigid regulations and submission to serious evaluation practices. In fact, the implication of the question raised by university associations from Europe, North America and later Latin America was the refusal to adopt the market as a principle to guide the education and training of citizens.
Now, discussions are taking place on the way to “unblock” decisions inside WTO. Europeans and North-Americans have already announced that they could limit the subsidies to agricultural products, but they will require from the other countries a more open approach in the control of industries and services, including finance, tourism, environment, education, etc. Is there a risk that in order to obtain facilities for the export of agricultural products, emerging and developing countries would accept without restriction full control of their higher education system, as the Secretary General of OECD seems to suggest? If the academic community seeks excellence with a soul, this is unacceptable.



Is Globalization with a Human Face Possible?
For many analysts, this kind of question is the result of the way globalization is being implemented. As a reaction, many organizations and individuals are looking for globalization with human face. The Social World Forum launched in Porto Alegre, Brazil, tried to collect elements to reply to this question. Organisations such as the ILO – International Labour Organisation - also worked on the theme, an important event being the launching by this Organisation of a special report in 2004 on “A fair globalisation – creating opportunities for all”.
Developing and emerging countries insist on the need for a new way to handle the external debts of developing countries, the promotion of access by these countries to the market of developed countries free of protectionism, and also access for these countries to decision-making mechanisms inside financial international organizations, such as the World Bank, IMF and WTO, the reform of the entire multilateral system to reflect the interests of the international community as a whole, and the reinforcement of collaboration at all levels, including in the area of education, among countries with cultural, economic or geographic similarities, and finally the elimination of the digital divide.


Rubens Ricupero, the former Secretary General of UNCTAD, points to the need for initiatives to implement commitments made in favour of developing countries, related to such areas as agricultural subsidies, anti-dumping duties, tariff peaks directed at products exported by developing countries, the absence of meaningful commitments on the movements of natural persons, the slow removal of quotas on textiles and clothing, and the promotion of technology transfer.


On this point, the United Nations University seeks to stimulate reflection on the multilateral system and on the relations between governance and globalisation at world level. In this context, in the view of the UNU, governance refers to the formation and stewardship of the formal and informal rules regulating the public realm, the arena in which the State and the economic and societal actors interact to make decisions. It describes the modalities, values and institutions employed to organize human life at all levels, within and between societies.


Matters related to citizenship are part of this programme. In fact, an analysis of the work undertaken by the UNU ( in this field shows that emphasis is given to:

  • Human Rights and Ethics - the increasingly significant issue of respect for human rights in international governance.

  • Democracy and Civil Society - the importance of democracy in terms of both procedures and substance, and particularly the significance of civil society in domestic good governance and in underpinning peaceful international relations.

  • Leadership - capacity building in nurturing leadership qualities in the area of good governance.

  • Policy and Institutional Frameworks - the tenets of governance (institutional, policy, infrastructural and normative) that underpin sustainable human development.


The start of the twenty-first century, according to the UNU, is witnessing global interactions on a scale and intensity unparalleled in history - within and between businesses, governments and people. As global interaction and integration grow, issues of global governance are becoming more and more critical. Problems, whether economic, social or environmental, increasingly spill over into neighbouring, and even distant, countries. Policy decisions by governments have international implications, and truly global problems are emerging. While globalisation offers great potential to improve human livelihood around the world, there is a concern that the process is getting out of control.


It was with this same approach - which is valid even today - that the World Conference on Higher Education recommended that "programmes of international cooperation should be based on long-term links of collaboration between institutions in the North and South, designed at promoting cooperation between the North and the South and also inside the South. Priority should be given to training programmes in developing countries, in centres of acknowledged excellence organized over regional and international networks, together with short duration crash courses on specialist subjects overseas. Priority should be given to creating an environment conducive to attracting and retaining qualified human resources via national policies or international agreements which would allow highly competent researchers and experts to return to their countries in the best possible conditions. This could be achieved via programmes of collaboration which, thanks to their international dimension, would facilitate the full use of endogenous skills."


A positive agenda should be adopted, as suggested by Rubes Riccupero, for establishing a network system in which higher education institutions play the most important role in disseminating the use of new technologies for the development of all societies, principles that were adopted by the World Conference on Higher Education. These principles are listed in the Official UNESCO summary of the World Declaration on Higher Education, which is presented in this document as Appendix 2. An essential element in this framework is that quality and relevance are interlinked concepts, and the one cannot subsist without the other. In 1998, the World Conference on Higher Education Declaration stated that “without adequate higher education and research institutions providing a critical mass of higher education people, no country can ensure genuine, endogenous and sustainable development and, in particular, developing countries and least developed countries cannot reduce the gap separating them from the industrially developed ones”.

The Declaration defined a list of social goals, which should be used to reinforce the social compromise of higher education institutions, when it established that “higher education should reinforce its role of service to society, especially its activities aimed at eliminating poverty, intolerance, violence, illiteracy, hunger, environmental degradation and disease, mainly through an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approach in the analysis of problems and issues”

Nearly ten years later, these objectives are now, to a certain extent, reinforced and completed by the eight objectives included in the Millennium Development Goals, adopted in New York during a World Summit convened by the United Nations.

These objectives are difficult to be reached and in order to stimulate its implementation and monitor what is being done all over the world, the United Nations recently concluded an agreement with Google and Cisco to create an internet site for this purpose ( It is in the format of an observatory for the collection of data and information. The MDG Monitor shows how countries are progressing in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With the 2015 target date fast approaching, this information could help to understand where the goals are on track.

The Millennium Goals are to:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

  2. Achieve universal primary education

  3. Promote gender equality and empower women

  4. Reduce child mortality

  5. Improve maternal health

  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

  7. Ensure environmental sustainability

  8. Develop a global partnership for development

In order to facilitate an understanding of the Millennium Goals, the UNDP – United Nations Development Program – has drawn up a list of basic documents related to the subject. They are:

  • UN Millennium Declaration, a document that 189 world leaders agreed on at the Millennium Summit in September 2000, which serves, in fact, as a basis for the MDGs.

  • UN MDG Core Strategy, outlines and describes how MDGs are implemented within the organization.

  • Roadmap towards implementing UN MD. This is a report of the Secretary General to the General Assembly.

  • UNDG Guidance Note on MDGRs, the document elaborates on how an MDGR should be written, what should it contain, who should be involved in the preparation process and many other important issues related to the process.

  • Millennium Development Goals, Targets, and Indicators. This is a pure list of 8 MDGs, 18 Targets, and 48 Indicators.

  • Implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. This is a report by the Secretary-General on progress achieved by the UN system and Member States towards implementing the Millennium Declaration

  • 10 Frequently Asked Questions, brief explanations for 10 most FAQ by UNDP BDP (Jan Vandemoortele)

  • MDGs and UNDP's role, a brief fact sheet.

  • Millennium Development Goals: Progress during the 1990s, a working paper prepared by UNSTAT.

  • Development Policy Journal

Next year, in 2008, two important conferences will take place to promote a discussion on the social compromises of the higher education institutions, one at regional level, in Latin America and Caribbean countries, and the second at the international level, the 4th Barcelona Conference on Higher Education. The first one will be held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, in June, and will serve as a preparation for the World Conference on Higher Education Paris + 10 (or 11?), which should take place in Paris in 2009. The 4th Barcelona Conference on Higher Education, organized by GUNI – the Global University Network for Innovation, will take place in Barcelona, Spain, from 31 March to 2 April 2008.


All elements linked to social compromise are important and deserve the attention of the world academic community. It is clear that higher education has an essential role to play in the efforts to achieve globalization with a human face, and it is also evident that this must be founded on the accomplishment of the Millennium Goals.

However, taking into account the subject of this conference “Excellence with or without a soul: the cultivating of mindful university graduates”, I would like to highlight at this point the questions related to sustainable development, which, by the way, is one of the main elements of the ongoing programme of the United Nations University (see and the question of the alliance of civilizations. I will not extend further my comments on issues related to sustainable development, object of many studies and conferences by diverse organizations including the UNU, UNESCO and UNDP. I will finalize my reflections on the question of alliance of civilizations.

As the Vice-Minister of Education of China pointed out during the recent roundtable of ministers at UNESCO in Paris, “one country cannot grow if another country is suffering from conflicts or other things”. Mutual understanding, among individuals and countries, is essential in the construction of a fairer society nowadays. With this approach, we note that the promotion of a culture of peace is indispensable, by encouraging citizens of all countries to live together, to accept others as they are, with their difference, and not as a copy of ourselves.

This debate is currently taking place everywhere, and it seems clear that institutions of higher education, being more socially engaged and as promoters of a culture of peace, democracy and dialogue should now:

  1. analyse the subject of immigration and all related questions, such as the need to learn to live together, the development of tolerance, the reduction of poverty, contingency and the development of a culture of peace connected to the promotion of solidarity in international cooperation and the promotion of citizenship;

  2. re-orient its curricula, taking into account the goals of international cooperation based on solidarity. As stated in the WCHE Declaration of 1998, multidisciplinarity and cross-disciplinarity have became necessary for a complete understanding of complex problems and issues that cannot be solved by isolated disciplines;

  3. develop programmes of cooperation based on solidarity with similar institutions all over the world.

The same applies to questions such as: What can higher education do to foster real democracy? What can it do to prevent democracy from being restricted to formal aspects, with an inability to eliminate unfairness and historical inequalities?

Already in 1992, one of my former colleagues at UNESCO, Marc Gilmer, used to say that, in the framework of a minimum consensus on a democratic society, the structures of formal education, as those of informal education, fashion the faster and more open instruments to the introduction of methods and contents of education for democracy. The same applies to education for citizenship and international education. In fact what one can seek with this kind of approach is to launch elements for a new set of attitudes with a view to constructing a fairer society, in which everyone would have the same rights and be respected with their differences.

The question of the conflict of civilizations and the need of an alliance through dialogue is an essential point for the establishment of relations between different communities at international level, but also at national level. As pointed out in a recent document sent by the Spanish government to the United Nations University, “Since the Cold War, we have been living in a period in which important changes in both micro and macro interactions can be observed. Micro interactions occur between individuals and organizations or between individuals and States. Macro interactions are considered to be those established between States, international organizations and individuals participating at the global level. These dynamics can lead to co-operation or to conflict.

In this document, it can also be noted:  

“Conflicts can be provoked at local level within States that have not achieved “good governance”, such as the provision of education, transport, health services and security for their citizens. These deficits tend to produce violence and internal conflicts between social groups, and religion is sometimes used to justify the fears, violence and unjust acts. In practical terms, problems such as chronic diseases, the lack of good educational systems, damage to environment, the use of electronic communication and the absence of a political identity are threats to peace and governance. This situation does not help individuals to understand universal values, including human rights, democracy and co-operation. Individuals, in fact, have spiritual and psychological needs that should also be taken into account by the State, in addition to their material needs. 

At the same time, although some States have achieved growing economic development and welfare for their societies, the present challenge is to ensure equal welfare to all citizens. The competitive dimension of international relations creates tensions between States compete for gains in the global market. Tensions can also be caused by disputes on ideologies and religions. On the other hand, the areas of peace can be strengthened by the sharing of knowledge, dissemination of common values, capacity-building.  Education should not depend on the use of force but on a vision of the future that would avoid all forms of domination and extremism. In developing its programmes, the new RTC in Spain will base its actions on those principles, in particular, by contributing to the reinforcement of peace, and by reflecting upon a future with tolerance and co-operation among different cultures.
As a result of discussions between the United Nations University (UNU), and representatives of the Spanish Government, a project was elaborated, aiming at creating an International Institute on the Alliance of Civilizations (UNU-IAC), a Research and Training Centre based in Spain, under the auspices of UNU. Its mission will be to address issues related to the Alliance of Civilizations, those relevant to the actions taken by the United Nations system and to the needs of developing countries.

In developing its programmes, the new Research and Training Centre of UNU will contribute to the reinforcement of peace and will promote reflections on a future with tolerance, dialogue and co-operation among different cultures. The focus of the new Institute, therefore, will be the need for dialogue and cultural diversity.

The Alliance of Civilizations should be the result of a process of dialogue between and within civilizations, founded on inclusion and a collective desire to understand and examine assumptions, investigate shared meanings and core values, and integrate multiple perspectives through dialogue.
Based on a report by a special group co-chaired by Federico Mayor (Spain) and Mehmed Aydin (Iran), the new Institute will deal with questions related to the prosperity of countries, the security of individuals, and respect fpr cultural diversity. Priority activities will be implemented in the fields of Education, Immigration, Media and Youth:

  1. “Education: to foster a sense of community and solidarity. It must be balanced by knowledge of global issues and an understanding of others societies and cultures. Civic and Peace Education, Global and Cross-cultural Education, Exchanges / Programmes, Media Literacy Education / Education and Religion / Education and Development / New Technologies and Access to the Internet / Education for Employment and for Life, are the aspects highlighted by the Report of the High-level Group.

  2. Migration: this issue can be seen as a threat as well as an asset for the host societies. In this sense, it creates positive dynamics and is a challenge to both the sending and receiving countries. Possible areas of work in this field are: Coordinated Strategies of Immigration Policies / Migration and Development / Migration and Cultural Identity / Migration and Leadership.

  3. Medias: as a relevant factor in the dissemination of values and in the formation of society’s thinking, the media are responsible for disseminating local culture and the events that occur in the world. The media can be partners in the process of creating solidarity between different cultures. Some themes could be handled through an approach focusing on Intercultural Dialogue: the Production of Knowledge through the Media / Media Liberty and Responsibility / Impacts of the Cultural Medias / Internet and Communication / Media and Immigration.

  4. Youth: young people should be seen as autonomous actors and partners who can bring benefits through their innovative ideas. This could lead to cooperative and exchange programmes /youth and companies / education and work”.

If correctly implemented, the programme of action will help to promote a worldwide development association in view of the fulfillment of the objectives established by the Millennium Summit held in 2000 under the initiative of the United Nations. The report of the Special UN Group, in fact, contains concrete proposals to the international community to ensure new relations at international level. The new UNU Institute will participate in the implementation of this programme of action, stimulating universities, through an international network, to develop concrete actions to promite the alliance of civilizations

In addition to the creation of a new RTC in Spain for the alliance of civilizations and intercultural dialogue, in Argentina, the UNU collaborates with the Universidad del Noroeste de la Provincia de Buenos Aires which has set up an Institute for the Management of Sustainable development. In Brazil, the UNU signed agreements with the Banco do Brasil for the implementation and evaluation of a full programme consisting of hundreds projects on sustainable development. Each of these projects should be sustainable, promote social justice and respect the environment. The Banco do Brasil is investing in this programme an annual amount of more than 1 billion 600 millions dollars, in other words, more than twice the annual budget recently approved by Member States of UNESCO for the biennium 2008-2009.
It should also be noted that more and more people move from here to there, many Latin-American go to United States and Europe, or even Asia (there are nearly 300,000 Brazilians in Japan at present), there are several hundred thousand Ecuadorians in Spain, and of course the number of African trying to push open the doors of Europe is permanently increasing. Chinese and Asians in general go everywhere. The result is that nowadays, modern societies tend to be multicultural and multiracial. With the new global mobility that has emerged, all communities will be influenced by the arrival of citizens of a different colour, race, religion or civilization. The evolution of communications and transport is so impressive that the need to know the other, to accept more than just to tolerate the other, with his differences, is essential for the survival of the humanity in a globalized world. Consequently, education for peace and international education as instruments of the alliance of civilizations and the dialogue of cultures are now both a global and a local need.


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