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George Rupp has been president of the International Rescue Committee since July 2002. As the IRC’s chief executive officer, Dr. Rupp oversees the agency’s relief and rehabilitation operations in 25[…]

Refugee expert George Rupp shifts our view of globalization away from the idea of simply connecting people over space and time.



Question: What is the most constructive way to view globalization?

George Rupp: Well, I unbalance favor globalization.  I think that the world is inextricably interconnected and I think, for example, trade that treats the poorest countries fairly or even preferentially can make a huge difference in their capacity to take care of themselves.  So I favor globalization, I am very critical of the forms of protectionism that really subvert globalization and I’ll give you one example, agricultural subsidies in the United States subsidize very inefficient growers of cotton in this country and allow them to undersell in Africa cotton-produced… in Africa that is of higher quality but isn’t subsidized so therefore is undercut my American prices.  That seems to me to be an example of where… globalization that is straightforward and isn’t distorted by unfair subsidies would be much better for the poorest companies than the kind of system that we have now.  But overall, I think, globalization is a potential and often is a positive.  What I think we have to bring into the discussion of globalization is the recognition that the normal way that Westerners tend to think of it, that we Westerners think about namely as connecting individuals uprooted from their communities to each other the world over is not the most constructive way to think about globalization.  I think of globalization as built from the ground up, people are members of the communities and it’s important that those communities that support individuals in their efforts, in turn, are connected to wider and wider circles of communities.  And that leads to very different prescriptions for globalization than if we think in terms of [adamistic] individuals who are related just independently through markets or bureaucracies rather than viewed as embedded in their own communities.  So if you go back to my description of the National Solidarity Program or Hanif Atmar’s Afghan Public Protection Force, these are all efforts to look at ways in which if you start at the community level, you can build up to having viable participants in globalization on a worldwide scale, in a way that you can’t if you only focus on individuals.


Question: What is your take on Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid?

George Rupp: Well, I think that the book “Dead Aid” has very interesting vignettes and arguments within it but I think it’s basically flawed.  It… it doesn’t recognized the extent of which assistance appropriately deployed can lead to building the kind of capacity that she, herself, think is necessary for a country to get to the threshold where it can access credit markets, where it can develop industry, where it can engage in trade. And she has compelling vignettes but the generalized prescription that countries simply be expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps is one that I think is simply not viable for many of the countries that we are working in.  I agree completely that it is crucial not to encourage dependence on aid and that’s why from the very beginning when we work on a situation, we work at building local capacity.  We have… we have 13,000 employees around the world.  Of the ones outside of the United States, 98% are locals so it is not the case that we have a heavy bureaucracy that we bring in very expensive outsiders, we do that only initially in a process when they bring skills that they need but their charge is to train locals so they can obtain capacity so that when we leave a country which we do after a certain period, there is a kind of an infrastructure of human capital that we’ve helped to prepare, that’s aid appropriately deployed and that… it seems to be not to be subject to the kinds of criticisms that she levels.