Dozens of issues populate the Global Issues Matrix. There are myriad interrelationships among them. The issues have been grouped into seven major headings. Below are global issues under the general heading of Human Relations, with comments on their characteristics and relationships. While much has been accomplished in bringing the world’s peoples together, much remains to be done.
Foreign Travel – Coming out of World War II, President Dwight Eisenhower, who had led allied forces during the war, proposed an international cultural exchange program to foster peaceful relationships. The People to People program became operational in the early 1960s, and continues to offer programs for students, leadership development, professionals, and pre-teen sports. It has been followed by numerous exchange programs for arts, language, politics, work, media, and much more. In addition to these many programs, hundreds of thousands of students leave their home countries for colleges and universities.
Estimated at over a billion international tourists a year, tourism has become a major source of income for many countries, large enough to significantly impact balances of payments. While recreation and leisure prompts most travel, countries with unique assets or services have spawned a trend for specialty travel including eco-tourism, medical tourism, genealogical tourism, and religious tourism, to name a few.
While there are increasing benefits in terms of economic gains and advancing acceptance of cultural differences, foreign travel also introduces drawbacks that must be addressed. International travelers can bring problems back to their home country. Among the worst are deadly viruses, such as Ebola, for which exposure may go unnoticed for up to a 21 incubation period, enough time for a carrier to return home with the disease. Similarly, flora and fauna native to one country may create havoc where not native. The natural environment that regulates growth and spread may not be present in another environment, allowing the plant, or fish, for example, to multiply beyond control.
The greatest worry comes from international terrorism. Freedom to travel internationally makes it relatively easy for people to be exposed to terrorist activity in one country, become indoctrinated, and carry the flame to another country.
Ideology – Undeservedly, the word “ideology” has acquired a negative connotation, largely due to media reporting on activity of terrorist organizations. However, ideology refers to any set of beliefs and values, such as religious or political, that provide guidance to everyday living. In the current context the relevant ideologies are political. Conservatism, liberalism, and socialism each represent a set of beliefs and values consistent with how one lives and how one believes institutions, especially governments but also society in general, should operate. The basic issue is the relationship between the individual and society. Ideas about individual freedom, economic roles, and social responsibility diverge widely among the three political ideologies.
That said, it must be noted that positions of conservatives and liberals vary from the U.S to the U.K. The U.K. Conservative Party supports abortion, same-sex marriage, national healthcare, renewable energy, and the carbon tax, all positions associated with the Democratic Party, the liberal party in the U.S.
Ideologies unite like-minded people, but passionately-held, more extreme viewpoints can become divisive. Unless tolerance registers as a value, communication, cooperation, and therefore progress are constrained. In that situation, progress on issues such as poverty, climate change impacts, and human rights will be limited.
Religious Beliefs – Perhaps no ideology exercises as high a level of influence over adherents’ behavior as does religion. Religious values cover moral and ethical conduct, which also come under the purview of some political ideology. The challenge in today’s globalized world comes from the belief of the Muslim religion that political and religious ideology are one. Separation of church and state does not exist in Islam, for which there is a dynamic relationship between the state and religious institutions. Gambling, forms of lending, and corporate protection of debtors, which are acceptable in Western culture are rejected by Islam, and rejection of Western culture goes along with rejection of secularism. Saudi Arabia’s negotiations to join the World Trade Organization took over 12 years, including negotiating the right to restrict the importation and exportation of commodities such as pork and wine which Muslims are prohibited from consuming. However, some authorities on the Middle East express opinions that modernization and Islam are not incompatible. Mohamed El-Shibiny, former UNESCO Regional Representative for the Middle East gulf States, wrote in his 2005 book, The Threat of Globalization to Arab Islamic Culture:
It is a mistake to believe that Muslims cannot develop without adopting Western universal culture. Muslim thinkers believe that Islamic ideology and modernization do not clash and they believe that Islamic societies can become industrial, technological, and modern without becoming Western.
Social Structure – In the context of globalization, consideration of social structure must address the relative ability of people to have access to economic opportunities. The estimated one billion people living in poverty lack even the basic requirements to live in health and safety, let alone rise above their current situation. Improving upon their condition must touch on many of what has been defined herein as global issues: governance; development and employment; urbanization; foreign direct investment; education; natural resources; security/political unrest; and women’s equality, among others.
Notable success in bringing millions of people into middle class strata has been achieved in China and parts of Africa. Ghana’s rapidly growing economy has given young people the education and jobs that have enabled them to purchase cars and homes. The African Development Bank estimates that more than half of Africa’s population will be living in cities by 2030, and 700 million people will join the middle class. More political stability, abundant natural resources, and economic reforms are driving this growth. The increasing purchasing power of the middle class has spurred increased foreign direct investment in Africa, laying groundwork for future growth.
China has already achieved explosive growth and social transformation, largely attributable to foreign direct investment. McKinsey & Company estimates that by 2022 more than 75 percent of China’s urban population will reach income levels comparable to Brazil and Italy in terms of purchasing power parity. Growing employment and productivity are projected by McKinsey to make huge contributions to China’s GDP over the next decade.