The incoming head of the United Nations António Guterres warned yesterday (22 November) that “losers of globalisation” in rich countries have felt ignored by establishment politicians, prompting them to turn to nationalist agendas, as in the US election and Brexit referendum.
Guterres, a former Portuguese socialist prime minister elected in October to take over as UN secretary general next year, told a conference in his native Lisbon that this trend had undermined the willingness to receive refugees in Europe this year.
He said the world must re-establish international protection for refugees coming from war zones such as Syria, but it would not be easy as developed countries were turning to nationalist agendas.
In a previous capacity as UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres has praised Germany’s refugee policy and has called the EU asylum system “dysfunctional”.
Europe has struggled to handle a huge influx of refugees, many of whom displaced by the war in Syria. The United States has accepted only a very small number of refugees and may take in even fewer next year.
“In 2016, we have witnessed a dramatic deterioration of that international protection regime (for refugees),” Guterres said.
“This example started in the developed world, it started essentially in Europe, it is spreading now like a virus into other parts of the world.”
Guterres linked the growing resistance to accepting refugees to wider concerns about globalisation.
“I don’t think we can look strictly at the refugee issue, I think the problem is a broader problem,” he told the conference on Europe’s refugee crisis.
There was a consensus in the mid-1990s that globalisation would benefit all, he said.
“But a lot of people were left behind … In the developed world, (there are) those who have been losers in globalisation,” he said. “The recent analysis of the rust belt in the United States, I think, is a clear demonstration of that, when we speak about the elections.”
Donald Trump won this month’s election in the United States in part thanks to support from voters who have seen their jobs lost to countries with cheaper labour.
“So globalisation has not been as succesful as we had hoped and lots of people became not only angry with it, but feeling that political establishments and international organisations are not paying attention, were not taking care (of them),” he said.
This led to what he called “a kind of evolution” in which anti-establishment parties now tended to win elections and referendums tended to attract majorities against whatever was put to a vote.