Globalization and Human Rights


By Akash Mishra, WBNUJS

Editor’s Note: Globalization can be simply defined as an interplay among individuals in ideas, cultures that extends beyong geographical boundaries. This paper discusses the linkages between globalization and human rights. It provides certain examples as to how globalization has led to human rights violations in Africa and other third world countries and this is primarily because of rapid expansion by large multinational corporations (MNC’s). The liberalization may have had its benefits but there are also certain downfalls to it as corporations enter with one basic motive: profit maximization. 


B. Sumner in History, Human Rights and Globalization defined globalization to be a “multidimensional and interactive processes of economic, political, and cultural change across the world resulting in increased social interconnectedness as well as opportunities for social confrontation among peoples.”[1]

Basically, it is an interplay among individuals, ideas and cultures that extends beyond the bounds of statehood and geographical lines, panning out an evolved cross of social, political and economic relations among entities who diversify from their long-followed patterns to create a mutually-benefitting environment.

This interplay has been based on the process of amalgamation and interaction among elements to create an undivided structure with the concept of “world shrinkage” spanning a concourse of disciplines and affiliations.

Now, even though this creation of a global environment is majorly based on political motivations and economic needs, its co-relation with the social realm has been very real. Human rights have been very intrinsically related with the globalization policies in the world and have had immense ripple effects.

Human Rights have been enunciated in Article 56 of The United Nations Charter which “reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights, and dignity and worth of the human person” and committed all member states to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”[2].

However, the world today is marked with very high rates of violations of the basic notions of humanity and increasing liberalization of the economic policies of the world on the other hand. As the cold war was reaching towards its conclusion and the death knell was closing upon the ideas of socialism across the globe, capitalism in its most liberalized form was ready to expand its wings and take over the global economic ideology. The competition scale among economies private entities has been growing grower stronger by the day for the attainment of a global market capture.[3]

This, though, has led to various questions being asked about how far these economic interests are influencing decisions at a national stage and if such forms of development are causing exploitation and human rights violations?


It is a general consensus that trafficking in persons, or the commercialization of humanity, is a phenomenon tied to the socioeconomic and geopolitical transformations in recent years that have witnessed the increasing interconnectivity and interdependence of global markets.

The uneven distribution of global wealth and the corresponding lack of opportunity accompanied by local unemployment, which have been exacerbated by globalization, create a “push” for people to places where there is a demand. Over 27 million individuals are victims of one or another form of human trafficking in Africa and globalization is directly or indirectly related to this cause. Individuals find it easier with the globalised network now to capture opportunities in outside states and in turn, the weaker sections often get caught in traps of trafficking.[4]


Multi-national organizations through the rapidly created “global environment” have utilized their resources and influencing capacities to weaken the power of local governments and have had much baleful effect through large-scale displacement of masses, job cuts and poverty.

Organizations such as World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund etc contain various globalization clauses and instructions for governments to adhere to while providing financial assistance. In general, it is a clause to liberalize the trade markets of the nations (Example – South Korea succumbing to IMF pressure over foreign investment) Also, private entities play a huge role in globalization with many investors exploiting market structures and putting the governments under pressure.[5].

“Under the trade related Intellectual Property agreement of WTO, countries have to implement patent laws granting exclusive, monopolistic rights to the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. This prevents countries from producing low cost generic drugs. Patented HIV/AIDS medicine costs $15,000, while generic drugs made by India and Brazil cost $250-300 for one year’s treatment. Patents are, therefore robbing AIDS victims of their rights”.[6]

The globalization policies help initiate the entry of market mechanism into the health care provision which ultimately reduce the services available to the economically weaker sections. Such privatization of the health services makes it more available to individuals who have more monetary capacity. Also, medicine policies that aim towards providing cheap pharmaceuticals are threatened by the incrementing liberal policies of the companies.[7]

Human Rights defined in a basic manner means the inalienable rights that every individual holds irrespective of his individuality or any national boundaries but it does have a wider meaning involving dignity and provision of proper means to livelihood. Owing to Globalization, there has been tremendous loss of livelihood among the weaker sections/classes engendering the breach of the fundamental right to livelihood and work provision. [8]

Now that the TNC’s have been basing their aims at profit maximization through the liberalization aid, there has been heavy re-structuring of their operations and this is resulting in large-scale unemployment. It was declared by the International Labor Organization that 1/3rd of the world’s “willing-to-work population was underemployed or unemployed, the worst situation since the 1930s”.[9]

In the Indian context, after the liberalization model of 1991 got executed, there were many multinational companies that cut down on the labor that was not unionized and shifted their work to locations with even lower-wage payment and unorganized labor leading to huge masses being devoid of jobs.[10]


There have been various theories that suggest the close relation of globalization to social instability. As this process involves an integration of individuals and entities across the world, there is surely a shift paradigm in work. Many third world countries are inspired from the western nations and get influenced form their political and social ideologies. In this manner, globalization is helping foster new ideas of creating a better society to many nations but with it the instability is also brought in.

The question is if we are ready to pay the price for those new ideas when the price through disorder and resulting human rights violations and blood-shed?

It is been brought to the fore in many reports that mechanisms of organizations like World Bank resulted in breach of human rights with grave impact upon socio-economic rights of individuals. In a report prepared by Danilo Turk (Commission on Human Rights), it was highlighted that such arrangements and programmes “had resulted in a violation of the right to work, the right to food, the right to adequate housing, the right to health, the right to education and the right to development”, having very serious consequences.[11]

Also, according to reports, there has been a loss of life of around 69 million children under the age of 6 years between 1979-1989 in economically weaker countries directly due to the policies of IMP, World Bank and other organizations. The numbers increase to millions more when the indirect deaths due to poverty and impoverishment is considered. [12]


Social globalization is the process of creating a globalised environment that is driven by social factors rather than economic models and it produces international norms which provide states and politicians a catalyst to work better. So, due to the globalized atmosphere, there is a great influx of people from different nations for reasons other than economic gains also.

Now, for tourism industries even though social globalization attracts tourists to locations but at the same time, they run the risk of negative reactions from the tourists (For Example – The Kandhamal riots of Odisha in 2008 created a lot of negative publicity and hampered tourism in the state).


Globalization has had many effects and it is difficult to completely side against or even towards it. The liberalization has had many benefits and it was the process that practically became the world order and profit maximization helping various countries resolve its internal problems. It also led to the creation of few classes of people who were monetarily sound due to the neoteric transition and such classes have been strengthening the nation economically[13].

Even amidst all the bonus points, globalization when it comes to its relationship with human rights, falters. There have been many statistics put forward above in context of the above and this intrinsic relationship between human rights and globalization has been affecting people in large scale. At the base of it, globalization is that process which started off as a measure to foster relations among states and individuals not connected before[14]. But this process, ultimately has resulted into various indirect and direct ways of causing human rights violations and issues.

Edited by Hariharan Kumar

[1] B. Sumner, ‘History, Human Rights, and Globalization’ (2005)  The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 32, No. 1

[2] United Nations Charter, preamble and article 56

[3] Anita Cheria Sriprapha Edwin, A human rights approach to development Resource book’ ( Books for a Change, 2004)

[4] Derrick M. Nault, Shawn L. England, Globalization and Human Rights in the developing World( PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 2011)

[5] B. Sumner, ‘History, Human Rights, and Globalization’ (2005)  The Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 32, No. 1

[6] Dr Samir Naim-Ahmed, ‘Human Rights And Globalization’ (Countercurrents, April 21, 2007)

[7] Diana Smith , ‘What Does Globalization Mean for Health ?’ (third world network,1999)

[8] Mukul Sharma, ‘Human Rights in a Globalised World’ ( Sage Publications, 2010)

[9] Dr Samir Naim-Ahmed, ‘Human Rights And Globalization’ (Countercurrents, April 21, 2007)

[10] T. Rajamoorthy, ‘Development and Human Rights’ ( daga, October, 2000)

[11] Danilo Turk , ‘How World Bank-IMF policies adversely affect

human rights’, May 1993

[12] Derrick M. Nault, Shawn L. England, Globalization and Human Rights in the developing World( PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 2011)

[13]Patricia Wald, ‘AALS Annual Convention Plenary Panel: Impact of Globalization on Human Rights – Globalization and Human Rights’, German Law Journal, Vol. 4 No. 04, 381

[14] Olusoji Elias , ‘ Impact of Globalization on Human Rights’ (, June 2000)

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