globalization, environment and social equity issues

This assignment attempts to identify and explore some of the issues that have been of concern to community groups, particularly globalization, environment, and social equity issues. First, it looks at the meaning of the term “community” as defined by different sources and its relevance to the context of this study. Further, it focuses on the onset and some of the reasons for the formation of groups within communities to deal with issues relating to the three aforementioned concepts. Within the discussion, an attempt will be made to look at the three aforementioned concepts and the challenges that they are associated with and which are of great concern to communities. In addition, this discussion briefly explores the responses of community groups to some of the challenges relating to the above concepts such as anti-globalization campaigns, poverty, inequalities, and sustainability.

In relation to globalisation, environment and social equity issues, this discussion points out some of the challenges that are given focus by specific community groups and highlights some pros and cons that are associated with the reaction of such groups to these challenges. As it will be demonstrated, the majority of the community groups either attract public attention or policy attraction in dealing with a particular social issue. But it is possible to find some community groups that have succeeded in attracting public attention as well as pushing for policy implementation as it will be seen. Finally, it will be argued that in the global world, community practitioners have played a particularly important role in assisting communities to regain the strength they need to offset the challenges that are associated with the impact of globalisation as well as environmental concern and social equity issues.

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2.0 Community and community groups

The word community generally refers to a group of organisms which are interacting and sharing a given inhabited environment. Organisms in a community affect each other’s distribution, abundance and evolutionary adaptation. In reference to human communities, this term connotes a group of people having cultural, religious, ethnic, or other common characteristics and who have common interests amongst them (Rousseau, 1991).  A number of pre-conditions may be present among members of a community such as beliefs, resources, intents, preferences, needs and risks, all of which affect the degree of cohesiveness as well as the identity of participants. Recently, the concept of community has led to significant debate among scholars leading to a variety of definitions of the term. Traditionally, this term has been defined as a group of people who are interacting and living in a common location. Rousseau (1991) suggests that in the global world, the term community can best be defined as a group of individuals who are organized around common standards and principles and also who are attributed to social cohesion within a shared environment (Rousseau, 1991).

Cnaan and Milofsky (2007) suggest that human beings within communities often come together into an organization that acts in their self interest. These organisations are known as community groups. One of the key reasons of forming community groups is to generate durable power to enable them to influence key decision makers on a range of issues over time. According to Cnaan and Milofsky, usually, the drive that leads to formation of community groups is the assumption that social change in the global world largely involves social struggle and conflict in order to generate collective power for the powerless. In view of this, the purpose of this paper is to examine community groups’ concerns over globalisation, environmental concerns and social equity issues in the global world. To understand the concept of community better, it will be prudent to point out some of the pros and cons in relation to reactions of community groups to the impact of the above concepts. Finally, the paper examines some community groups that have succeeded in attracting public attention and are also involved in policy implementation in relation to certain social issues.

2.1 Globalisation

Globalisation is a process that allows greater interaction among countries, persons, communities and businesses around the world (Boudreaux, 2008, p.1). It is manifested by political, social, cultural and technological integration of individuals, societies and economies all over the world. Boudreaux (2008, p. 1) explains that the process of globalisation brings about benefits to communities such as increased communication among people around the world, an increase in the international flow of goods and services, increased interaction among different cultures in the world and technological advancements among others. Generally, with the recent emergence of a well integrated global market, local and national policy makers are increasingly being controlled, leading to positive implications on economic viability and stability of communities in both developing and industrialised nations.

However, Reisch and Weil (2005, p. 534) argue that the increasing interconnectedness of nation states all over the world has led to numerous challenges for community groups. Indeed, as Reisch and Weil explain, the advent of globalisation has transformed the practices of communities universally, raising a lot of concerns among different community groups. Reisch and Weil opines that the growing dominance of market mechanisms and ideologies has affected policy making at local and national levels in ways that community groups are just starting to comprehend. It is evident that recently, there seems to be a greater sense of need for political awareness and liberation of common problems at societal levels, set against a backdrop of greater risk, fear and insecurity (Kaldor, 2003, p. 9). These developments, which are an outcome of globalisation, can be seen through the lens of the term civil society. What is clear is that the concept of community seems to represent a new form of politics. According to Kaldor, (2003, p. 9), this has resulted into the formation of activist community groups to counter the social and political challenges posed by globalisation.

With globalisation creating massive inequalities between the rich and the poor, clearly localised community groups’ activists are enhancing development projects that seek to engage in a type of ‘bottom-up’ development (Craig, 2007, p. 338). The aim of this is to address the structural reasons for individuals living within deprived communities in many parts of the world, and the growing poverty and inequality that they face. Craig explains further that owing to the recent practices by community groups, the concept of community can be understood to mean a way of strengthening civil society by prioritising the actions of communities and their perspectives in the development of social, economic and environmental policy. It seeks the empowerment of local communities, taken to mean both geographical communities, communities of interest or identity and communities organising around specific themes or policy initiatives (Craig, 2007 p. 339). In this regard, the concept of ‘community’ needs to be understood as operating within a framework that seeks to promote economic, political, social and cultural transformation in the context of globalisation.


2.2 Environmental equity concerns

The concept of environmental equity implies that some populations, especially the poor and minority groups, are often exposed to environmental injustices (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2011). This concept entails that low-income populations and the minorities are constantly prone to high concentrations of environmental hazards such as incinerators, waste treatment facilities, waste dumps, landfills, and other industrial and as well as commercial toxic release sites. According to EPA (2011), the concept of environmental equity refers to the presence of environmental justice.

According to Elliott et al (not dated), the concern over the environment has become more common among community group activists recently. Since the formation of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) in 1972 at a global conference on human environment, the UN has been at the forefront in transnational advocacy on environmental issues such as forestry and fisheries among others. Elliott et al (not dated, p. 10) further explains that non-governmental organizations have played a very great role in protection of the environment mainly since they provide technical expertise that would not be available. Just one year after the creation of UNEP, an NGO office was established to oversee the level of participation by civil society. Currently, there are approximately 200 multilateral environmental agreements, with civil society groups’ representatives playing an important role in various aspects of negotiations. An attempt to address environmental issues as well as sustainability was made in 1992 at a UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) which was held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. According to Elliott et al (not dated, p.11), this conference had an active involvement of 800 NGOs from 160 countries. Consequently, the UNCED came up with an action plan for addressing aforementioned environmental problems. Firstly, this organ started a Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) whose prime purpose is to monitor the implementation the developed action plan. Recently, there have been concerted efforts by the involved groups to sensitize the developed countries of their responsibilities to increase transfer of resource to the poor countries for the purpose of development and environmental protection as well as the responsibilities of international corporations in enhancing sustainable development.

2.3 Social equity issues

The concept of social equity implies a fair access to livelihood, resources and education. In addition, it implies full participation in the cultural and political life of an individual’s community. As Bussel et al (2006, p. 14) explain, social equity forms the basis of any given community, and has to be maintained for all. Sustainability is a key point to enhancing social equity. It enables individuals to associate with their respective communities, feel good about their deeds in their communities and feel that their communities are doing the correct thing to them. Consequently, individuals honour and support the well-being of their communities. On the other hand, inequality results into increased challenges of creating reliable prosperity in different ways. For example, individuals who are marginalized often tend to eat into reserves of society and nature in order to meet the needs that they have been denied. Thus, social equity implies addressing of historical inequities which should also be compensated fairly and through a just transition.

According to (Bussel et al (2006, p. 13), human rights groups have often focussed on governments and bodies such as UN with a key objective of promoting universal standards and norms. A good example is the action that was taken by transnational advocacy groups in 1970s and 1980s which were involved in the battle against apartheid in South Africa. After they were frustrated by the lack of adequate responsiveness by governments and the UN, they turned their attentions to corporations which had been operating in South Africa to assist them in pressuring the government of that country. Many of the movements that were involved in anti-apartheid campaigns including the investor Responsibility Research Council, interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Revelled Sullivan among others are active today. They have been involved in campaigns for human rights such as market-based campaigns, corporate codes of conduct, shareholder resolutions and boycott in order to promote change (Bussel et al, 2006, p.11-14).

As well, groups concerned with human rights and environment, particularly emerging from local communities especially in developing countries have often turned their attention against international financial institutions since 1980s (Elliott et al, not dated, p. 5). They have criticised the World Bank for the ignorance of the environmental and human consequences brought about by its large infrastructural projects and for failure to consult the local communities who are affected. In the 1990s, many groups turned attention to the issue of debt relief. The Jubilee Movement, which began in United Kingdom and later spread to other nations, has been the most successful in this area. With rock stars such as Bono, this movement has helped very many church goers and other activists to put the issue of debt relief as one of the major areas of focus by the World Bank (Elliott et al, not dated, p. 5).


2.4 Pros and cons of community groups’ concerns

According to Reisch and Weil (2005, p. 541), community practitioners have played a significant role in developing a deeper understanding of the complex forces that are involved in the process of globalisation and the task that the community has to take in the democratisation of global order helping to shape human lives in regard to environmental and social equity issues. Community practitioners have helped to create pressure for the restitution of sovereignty at community level. Specifically, they have enabled citizens to take action on their feelings of global responsibility and to resolve global inequalities. Through building of bridges of cooperation, community groups have played a great role in enhancing political participation among citizens and also the local political institutions (Shuman, 1994 p. 6).

However, in spite of all these, community groups’ practices are associated with certain shortcomings. For example, as Craig, 2007 explains, community capacity-building which is often advocated by NGOs has really manipulated and undermined communities. According to Craig, local, national regional and international bodies often engage in the continuing politics which makes them not to act appropriately in response to the needs and demands of their respective communities. Their practices constantly obscure them to the structural reasons for their existence such as to fight for poverty and inequality. In order to respond better to the demands and needs of local communities, such bodies need to shed the much power that they posses (Craig, 2007).

According to Petras and Veltmeyer (2001, p.122), what people are observing are elements of a paradoxical state of affairs in regard to the above concepts. With regard to the role that is played by community groups such as NGOs, any assistance that is channelled through these groups so as to deal with poverty is usually tied to certain conditions. Remarkably, one of the pre-conditions is to accept certain neoliberal macroeconomic structures and policies. In this sense, Petras and Veltmeyer suggest that cooperation for the alleviation of poverty and inequality is certainly a means to propagate the conditions that lead to increased poverty levels.

2.5 Community groups’ reaction to social issues and success in leadership role

Notably, the majority of community groups either attract public attention or policy attraction in dealing with a particular social issue. Very rarely can a community group play a dual role of public attention and policy implementation. But as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (2001) argues, it is possible to find some community groups that push for policy implementation while dealing with a particular social issue. A good example is the Oxfam international which has been following up the campaign on debt relief. This group has assisted activists to be able to centre their attention on broad goals, decrease debt burdens as much as possible and use the proceeds to alleviate poverty. In the recent past, Oxfam International has been at the forefront in the campaign targeting the large infrastructural projects which are often funded or guaranteed by the World Bank seen to lead to environmental degradation, to be prone to corruption or to lead to increased indebtedness.

In the year 2002, Oxfam International together with other allied groups coalesced around four demands for reforms of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Elliott et al, not dated, p.13). First, they called for all meetings of the two institutions to be open to the media and also the public. Secondly, they advocated for cancellation of all debts of poor countries to the Word Bank and IMF using the resources of the two institutions. Another issue that they raised was for the two institutions to end all their policies that affect people’s access to food, shelter, clean water, healthcare, education, and the right to organise. Finally, they advocated for the World Bank to stop all support for projects which are destructive socially and environmentally, such as gas, oil and mining activities. According to Elliott et al, (not dated, p.14), the two institutions have so far taken significant steps to respond to the demands of those groups. One example of the efforts by the World Bank to address those issues can be seen in the guidelines which were negotiated the bank and other stakeholders when it agreed to support an oil pipeline project based in Chad and Cameroon while giving consideration to the impact of the project to the local communities as well as the environment.

3.0 Conclusion

In conclusion, the term community in reference to human beings has numerous definitions. As mentioned earlier, this term can be used to mean a group of individuals who are organized around common standards and principles and also who are attributed to social cohesion within a shared environment. In summary, a community plays a crucial symbolic role in generating people’s sense of belonging. In deed, communities are often faced with challenges posed by the process of globalisation and other concepts such as environmental and social equity issues. Some of these challenges as demonstrated in this discussion include poverty, sustainability, human rights abuse and inequality among others. In order to counter these challenges, individuals within communities often organise themselves into community groups. Generally, these groups help to generate durable power to enable them to influence key decision makers on a range of social issues such as those mentioned in this discussion.

As noted in this discussion, it is highly probable that community practitioners are slowly engaging in a kind of ‘global-community reformist’ mode of thinking and rather than continuing to engage in critiquing the effects of globalisation, environment and social equity issues they are actively involved in pushing for reforms as well as policy implementation. In this regard, they have played a significant role in developing a deeper understanding of the process of globalisation and the challenges it poses to them and the role that the community has to play in the democratisation of global order, helping to shape human lives in regard to environmental and social equity issues. But as this discussion demonstrates, the practices of community groups are not always beneficial. They are constantly engaged in politics which makes them not to respond appropriately to the needs and demands of their respective communities. But this does not rule out the fact that community practitioners have played a particularly important role in assisting community groups to regain the power they need to offset the challenges that are associated with the impact of globalisation as well as environmental concern and social equity issues.



Bussel, R., Feekin, L. & Syrett, C. (2006) The social equity factor: Community attitudes, expectations and priorities for Eugene’s sustainable business development, retrieved from, (30 May 2011).

Boudreaux D. J, (2008) Globalization, Globalization: yesterday and today, ABC-CLIO, Greenwood, USA.

Cnaan, R. A & Milofsky, C. (2007) Handbook of Community Movements and Local Organizations, Springer, New York, N.Y USA

Craig, G. (2007) In Critical Social Policy: A Journal of Theory & Practice in Social Welfare, Issue 92, Volume 27, August 2007.

Elliott, K, A., Kar, D. & Richardson. J. D., (not dated) Assessing globalization critics: “Talkers are no good doers???” retrieved from (30 May 2011).

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2011) Sustainability, Available from, (28 May 2011).

Kaldor, M. (2003) Five Meanings of Global Civil Society, Policy Press, UK.

Petras, J. & Veltmeyer, H. (2001) Globalization Unmasked: Imperialism in the 21st Century, Zed Books, London, UK.

Reisch, M and Weil M. (2005) The Handbook of Community Practice, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, California, USA.

Rousseau, M. F. (1991) Community: the tie that binds, University Press of America, Lanham, USA

Shuman, M. (1994) Towards a Global Village: International Community Development Initiatives, Pluto Press, London, UK.

United States Agency for International Development USAID (2001) Policy implementation: What USAID has learned, USAID Publications, Washington DC, USA Retrieved from, (31 May 2011).

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