A global alliance to fight inequality

I know I keep mentioning things related to the World Economic Forum, but it does seem to kick off the year with a blaze of reports and new ideas – and I haven’t even mentioned the official topic yet, the ‘4th industrial revolution‘. But here’s another: the news stories on inequality went to Oxfam’s latest number-crunching, but we also saw the launch of a new alliance to fight global inequality.

The alliance is notable because it brings together such a wide range of agencies: ActionAid, Amnesty, Greenpeace, ITUC, Oxfam and others. It’s a partnership across human rights, development and environmental agencies, uniting around the problem of inequality.

Why such unity? Because as their joint statement says, “struggles for a better world are all threatened by the inequality crisis.” Inequality divides us across gender, generational and race lines as well as economic ones. Inequalities of income breed inequalities of power and influence, undermining democracy and driving us into a vicious circle.

There is a growing recognition that we need to work together on this. Inequality makes every social ill harder to address. Development agencies know that it isn’t enough to just promote growth if it isn’t shared better. Human rights groups know that there can never be justice for marginalised communities if the elite is accelerating away at the other end of the social scale. Environmental agencies know that climate change cannot be stopped without addressing the inequalities of our carbon emissions. As Pope Francis puts it in his encyclical on climate change, “we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

It’s not just NGOs that know this. The IMF and the World Bank, the UN, the OECD, the CBI, the World Economic Forum itself, are all prepared to talk about inequality in ways they would have shied away from before.

Being prepared to talk about it is not the same thing as doing anything about it, and that’s why alliances for action are needed.


  1. With the environment at stake we are surely at the brink of being forced to recognise humanity’s shared ground, literally – the earth. Can we cannot afford our separate causes any more? What use equal pay if millions more die tomorrow from further destruction of our earth? I find this an interesting question/dilemma and wonder how this united ‘fight’ will confront it, or not.

      1. I’ve read it. They talk only of aspirations and that the environment and equality are inter-twined. They are going to change the way the world works Economics is going to put people first. They are going to take on the power of corporations. They are going to do it with people power. But how? When people succeed in getting councils not to allow fracking the government takes the decision away from the council. How is the alliance going to fight the government who listen to the 1%? ‘Power To The People’ is an old failed war cry. With the internet we can get a louder voice but what when the voice is ignored as we’ve seen.
        Moreover, we must look through the right end of the telescope and truly acknowledge the priority – our earth. This is surely the goal to tackle in all urgency, and first, in order to obtain the equality we need in other areas. Fighting for this, that, and the other equality, will actually make us divided and never get to the root cause. I may be one of few saying it (I’ve no idea), ,but we must first get our rights to the earth sorted and give our lives to defend it. Only then can we ever deliver equal goods by any other name.

        Perhaps I’ll have made my point clearer now Jeremy? I have, at least, tried.

        1. Just seen this from the Charter For Compassion organisation. Perhaps this tries to provide the answer to ‘How?’ If it goes on your reading list – let us know if you get it read eh?

          Global Values: A new paradigm for a new world

          Karin founded Our New Evolution (ONE) to connect and empower people and projects that are aligned with Global Values—the heart of Karin’s new book, “Global Values: A New Paradigm for a New World.” Full report on the Charter website.

        2. Sure, but inequality is key to protecting the earth, because the abuse depends on inequalities of power. This is what Naomi Klein talks about as ‘sacrifice zones’ – places out of the way where poorer people with a different skin colour suffer the consequences. We can’t stop that abuse without empowering local communities, and that means work on the political and social side of things.

  2. It is very true that fretting about inequality is in vogue at the moment.

    The trouble is that when different people talk about inequality they mean different things, and certainly have different solutions in mind.

    When someone complains of inequality do they mean inequality of income (which the OECD and IMF do) or inequality of wealth (which Oxfam complains of). Alternatively it could be inequality of opportunity or of outcome. These are all very different. In conflating these different thing you can put an aura of respectability around your left wing/populist hobby horse.

    Then there is the question of inequality between who. In country income is rising while globally it is falling. We might reduce in country inequality while increasing it globally. Is that better?

    Even once you have got to the bottom which inequality is being discussed them you have the proposed solutions. Most are harmful to the welfare of the very poor. We can easily reduce inequality by destroying wealth, but that doesn’t make anyone better off.

    There is one thing that talking about inequality is certainly good for. That is virtue signalling, showing to your peers that you are a better person, by parading how much you care, while denigrating the motives of those who disagree with you. Of course that creates another inequality, one of smugness.

    1. Thanks, I know where you stand on this.

      I would just point out that while we wouldn’t call it virtue signalling, parading yourself as a good person in front of people who agree with you works for everybody. Nitpicking over statistics or disparaging the motives of those who talk about inequality is a great way to flag your allegiance to free market thought.

      Not that you’re doing that here – this would be a pointless place to do that. But you’ll find plenty of political signalling at the Adam Smith Institute, Spectator or Tim Worstall blogs.

      It is of course possible that those people believe what they say and say it because they believe it, whether or not it’s popular. Just like people who talk about inequality.

      1. To an extent, we all write to our audience, but if you believe “It is of course possible that those people believe what they say and say it because they believe it” then perhaps you would like to apologise for suggesting I had some base motive for commenting on inequality two weeks ago.

        I know that what you call nitpicking, others might call evaluation of evidence, can be frustrating when it punches holes in your grand design but no need to get snippy.

        I think if you look across the internet those on the right are generally much more generous as to the motives of their opponents that those on the more progressive side. Compare ConservativeHome to LabourList. Wrong rather than bad is the standard right wing view of the left, Wrong and bad is the left’s of the right.

        1. I have no grand plan. But I do have values, and I object to people saying that nothing can be done about obstacles to human flourishing, or that the obstacle isn’t real.

          I don’t remember impugning your motives. I remember saying that I know where you stand politically, and that your objections are consistent and predictable and not new to me. I don’t feel like we need to endlessly repeat ourselves.

          Despite having been variously compared to Stalin, Pol Pot and the Taliban on this blog before, I agree that those on the left are often ruder about their opponents than those on the right. The endless caricaturing of each other is the main reason why I don’t identify myself as either on the left or the right, though I can’t help it if other people want to stick me in one box or the other.

          1. This is getting tedious but your whole comment was

            “There’s no point in pretending you’re here to defend the correct use of statistics. Where were you last week when I repeated the killer fact that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050?

            That’s a projection that can be unpacked too, but you let that one go sailing past unchallenged. You can be relied upon to object to any and every post about inequality however. The whole issue gets under your skin for reasons I can’t fathom.

            So be it. We’ve been over it enough times. But let’s not play the statistical purity game when your comments are politically motivated.”

            Care to explain what you meant by that?

  3. Seems clear to me – I take your comments on inequality with a pinch of salt. We’ve talked about it enough times for me to know it’s not a problem with Oxfam or their particular angle, because you jump up and down if it’s the World Bank or the UN too.

    I do take you seriously on other things, but I’m kind of bored by the knee jerk objection to everything I post about inequality.

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