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GLOBUS launched in Oslo

Since its inception the European Union has proclaimed an ambition to promote justice at the global level. But what precisely is the EU’s contribution to global justice? What could a just foreign policy look like? These were among the questions discussed at the launch of the ARENA-coordinated GLOBUS project.

Group photo of the heads of GLOBUS' research groups

The heads of GLOBUS' research groups (from left): Erik O. Eriksen, Mai'a K. Davis Cross, Ben Tonra, Helene Sjursen (GLOBUS Coordinator), Thomas Diez, Sonia Lucarelli, and Pundy Pillay. Photo gallery

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GLOBUS (Reconsidering European Contributions to Global Justice) is a research project coordinated by ARENA's Helene Sjursen and funded by the EU's Horizon 2020 programme. The project was launched with a conference of over 100 participants in Oslo on 9 and 10 June 2016. The event brought together scholars from many different parts of the world to discuss the principled and practical dilemmas involved in developing a foreign policy to improve conditions for global justice. It dealt with themes such as climate change and migration, gender justice and capitalism, and not least, the concept of justice itself, with an overall eye for the EU as a global actor and its role in promoting justice.

Visions of justice

In her opening speech, GLOBUS coordinator Helene Sjursen (ARENA Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo) laid out the key questions and framework with which the GLOBUS project engages. The European Union presents itself as a global actor that seeks to promote and safeguard certain values. Representatives of the EU often describe it as one of the most important normative powers in the world. However, there is little agreement on what justice entails. There are competing views not only on how to resolve key challenges in a manner that would be considered just, but also on what those key challenges actually are. What is considered a legitimate claim of justice in the eyes of Europe may collide with perspectives elsewhere in the world.

When analyzing the EU’s contribution to global justice, the GLOBUS project develops a conceptual scheme that takes into account the fact that the concept of justice is contested. Erik Oddvar Eriksen delineated the three different conceptions of global justice  - non-domination, impartiality, and mutual recognition – that are at the core of the project. These concepts highlight different concerns and imply different answers to problems. The questions of how decisions are made, and who actually makes them, are taken into account, pointing our attention to the underlying structures of power within the global system.

Overcoming injustice

Nancy Fraser and Helene Sjursen
Nancy Fraser held a keynote on global justice and global finance. GLOBUS coordinator Helene Sjursen to the left. Photo gallery

Many accounts of global justice are free-standing, disconnected from a diagnosis of the obstacles to it. Nancy Fraser (New School for Social Research, member of GLOBUS Scientific Advisory Board), one of the most influential political philosophers of our time, took a different path in her keynote lecture entitled, ‘Global Justice against Global Finance’. Starting from an account of the structures of globalising financial capitalism, she proposed an account of justice that can inform, and help to coordinate, struggles against it.

Fraser elaborated on the underlying historical injustices of financial capitalism, emphasising expropriation as a key feature. There is a structural difference between exploited workers, who are still free citizens, and expropriated subjects. When human beings are expropriated, such as in transnational sex trafficking, they become subjects with no legal personality. The struggle for justice must thus take into account expropriation, as well as exploitation, she argued.

Justice and policy dilemmas

 Increased flows of migration, climate change, changing patterns of trade, and security risks challenge borders and affect peoples’ interests without regard for their status or citizenship. GLOBUS pays particular attention to the EU’s positions and policies in the four crucial areas of climate change, migration, cooperation and conflict, and trade and development. Which conception of justice underpins the EU's policies in these areas, and how - if at all - does the EU contribute to justice?

Several breakout sessions were devoted to how GLOBUS researchers will investigate the real impact of EU policies within these issue areas. They addressed questions pertaining to where and how concerns for  justice figure in the EU's security strategies; how the EU seeks to incorporate the interest of future generations in its positions on global climate change; the fate of the EU as a champion of justice, as migrants face exclusion while the developed world struggles to implement border mechanisms that will have life or death consequences; the ability of the EU take heed of third party perspective  when designing its trade agreements. 

Justice and gender

Gender equality is a cross-cutting concern in the GLOBUS project. Karin Aggestam (Lund University) presented the initiative of the Swedish government for a feminist foreign policy. Its starting point is that women are overrepresented among the world's poorest while underrepresented in international positions of power and influence. Female representation is key to a just foreign policy, but equally important are human rights, rule of law, sexual and reproductive rights, as well as economic empowerment of women. This is why representation, rights and resources constitute the three pillars of Sweden’s feminist foreign policy, Aggestam explained.

BRICS’s perspectives

An adequate understanding of global justice must also take into account the competing viewpoints of actors involved. One panel was devoted to discussing the BRICS’ perspectives on global justice. Scholars from Brazil, India, China and South Africa gave challenging and contrasting views on the EU and its putative contribution to global justice.

From left: Mai'a K. Davis Cross (ARENA), David Everatt (Wits University), Yiwei Wang (Renmin University), Sreeram Chaulia (O. P. Jindal Global University), and Leticia Pinheiro (State University of Rio de Janeiro) discussed BRICS' perspectives on global justice.

On the one hand, a post-colonial prism emphasizes Europe’s contribution to injustice rather than justice. The end of colonialism does not mean the end of responsibility, it was argued. The discussions exposed perception gaps among the BRICS states. South-South dynamics must for instance also be considered, as there are significant variations. 

Some called for a reorganization of the structures of global governance and pointed to the distribution of power in the United Nations Security Council. On the other hand, the EU is a driver of regional integration and democratisation, which has secured peaceful coexistence of states in Europe. This has served as a model for many regions across the globe. 

More about GLOBUS

For more information on the project and its kick-off conference, see the GLOBUS project's website.

Published Oct. 27, 2016 3:06 PM - Last modified Feb. 4, 2022 2:42 PM