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Vulnerability and globalisation: mediating impacts on society

Peadar Kirby

Keywords: vulnerability; globalisation; resilience; human rights; environment

Abstract

This article introduces the concept of vulnerability and discusses its utility for the identification of the impacts upon society, particularly upon human rights and the environment, of the multiple processes that we label ‘globalisation’. The author argues that vulnerability, an essentially two-sided concept, is intimately informed by the notion of ‘resilience’ – a principle well able to guide practical policy and political responses to vulnerability. The author contends that vulnerability impacts society, in significant part, through globalisation – or, in more precise terms – that globalisation deepens vulnerability while diminishing, in many cases, the resilience required to adapt to or mitigate vulnerability. These contentions are supported, in part, by reflections drawn from two case studies, one illustrative of the link between globalisation and vulnerability, the other revealing the ways in which vulnerability can be contested or mitigated. The author's examination suggests that the concept of vulnerability usefully focuses attention on the key ways in which globalisation impacts upon society, including human rights and the environment, while the concept of resilience has particular utility for the development of responses, offering a rich source of guidance for policies and actions aimed at responding to the complexities of vulnerability in a globalised world.

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