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.
- You can read the full statement here.