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The balance between the 'local' and the 'global'

We just heard Theresia say that achieving the global goal of equal human rights for all is often difficult when social, cultural and economic situations are so diverse at local levels.

In our striving to make the world a better place, does one side – either global ambitions or local needs – have to give? Perhaps there are ways we can strike the balance between working for global human rights and dignity while also preserving and respecting human (and ecological) diversity. But, it may be more difficult than we imagine to “think globally and act locally,” or equally “to act globally but think locally.” This might be particularly true when faced with the most extreme or difficult circumstances, such as the results of climate change, conflict or humanitarian disaster.

What happens, say, if you decide to only buy food produced within a 30-mile radius of your home? While you’re likely to have a positive effect by reducing carbon emissions, on the other hand by not consuming products from other parts of the world, for example tea and coffee, would you not affect the economies and development of those places? Or, as a different example, what if you use herbs or supplements to help you get over a cold, or when you’re feeling run down? What do you know about the origins of these herbs, or the impact of this industry on the communities who pick them, or who may still rely on such herbs to treat illnesses? What about the impact of harvesting them at scale on the ecosystems in which they are found?

While there are clearly important international institutions and organisations working to achieve a global standard of human rights, do you know how such efforts are perceived locally? Are there any mechanisms for ordinary people to respond to such large organisations? It might actually be quite difficult to know where to start to even find that out.

So, let’s take a moment to consider the potential conflicts that might arise when we try to preserve diverse local communities, but also recognise the increasing interconnectedness of the world, and the need for global rules and regulations.

  • Can you think of examples of how your own actions at the local level affect the global flow of goods, ideas or values, and the other way around?

Take Action

Here we talk about the producers of goods around the world, and their communities, having a voice. One of the biggest global organisations and initiatives which work towards this is FairTrade. You can get involved by buying FairTrade goods, or think about getting involved in the organisation.

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This article is from the free online course:

Unleash Your Potential: Global Citizenship

University of Bristol

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