Alleviating Global Economic Inequality and Poverty

Globally there exists North-South divide, or the economic and social differences between the wealthy countries in the Northern hemisphere and the poor countries in the Southern hemisphere.

It has caused disparities in access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. The North-South divide presents challenges facing the developing countries to achieve sustainable economic growth and future development capability.

The North-South divide has its roots in centuries of historical and political factors. A major factor was colonization, and many countries in the Southern hemisphere were colonized by countries in the Northern hemisphere.

The North extracted resources and wealth of the South, and created a legacy of underdevelopment and backwardness in the South. After ending colonization, the North maintained an unequal trade relationship with the south, and established a global economic system that favored its interests, and created barriers to trade with the South.

Many countries in the South have also been affected by conflicts and instability, which have hindered their economic growth and development. Today, the North-South divide continues to exist, with the North having greater political and economic power, and the South struggling to achieve sustainable economic growth. The North dominates the global economic system, and the South is trying to catch-up, eliminate economic inequality, and the existing poverty.

Despite significant global progress, the inequality gap between the wealthiest nations and the poorest is widening. For instance, in 1820 the Western Europe per capital was three times greater than that of Africa; by 2000 it increased to thirteen times larger.

Oxfam Findings on Dire Global Economics and Phenomenal Growth of the World’s rich

Oxfam was founded by the British in 1995 is a non-government of 21 independent organizations and focuses on alleviation of global poverty and has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

Oxfam is a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice and offer lifesaving support in times of crisis and advocate economic justice, gender equality, and climate action. It demands equal rights and equal treatment so that everyone can thrive, not just survive.

Oxfam is currently working in 90 countries, with thousands of partners and allies supporting communities to build better lives. Oxfam has a ten-year strategic framework until 2030, but for impact has three-year priorities.

Oxfam will continue to publish annual inequality report to reveal the growing gap between the rich and the rest and make policy proposals for how the gap can be closed. For example, the 2020 report revealed that 2,100 plus billionaires held more wealth than 60% of the people on earth, a staggering figure that was amplified by more than 10,000 media outlets around the world.

A February 2024 Oxfam report said that global income inequality has grown for the first time in 25 years – defined as the gap between the global North and the Global South. More than two-thirds (69%) of the global wealth was held by the developed nations, and less than a third in the developing world.

The world’s richest people and their share of wealth are also concentrated in the developed world. The top 1% now own 43% of all global financial assets, and at the same time, only 04% of the world’s and most influential companies are committed to paying staff a living wage- that enables people to afford a decent standard of living. And women and minorities are at its thin end.

The article highlights that 4.8 billion people have become poorer than they were in 2019, with women, radicalized and marginalized communities bearing the brunt of this development. The Black households in the US have typically less than 16% of a White household. Women have some of the poorest-paid and least secure jobs, and continue to face a high gender pay gap, and work undertaken by women is often seriously undervalued.

A high share of work undertaken by women in care and domestic work goes underpaid- unpaid work in care alone is worth $10.8 trillion annually. Its 2024 report is titled: How corporate power divides our world and the need for a new era of public action. It is wealth inequality that is spiraled out of control. Its executive summary gives examples of is findings.

Through squeezing workers, dodging tax, privatizing the state and spurring climate breakdown, corporations are driving inequality and acting in the service of a few delivering ever-greater wealth to their rich owners. To end extreme inequality, governments must radically redistribute the power of billionaires and corporations back to ordinary people. A more equal world is possible if governments effectively regulate and reimagine the private sector.

Since 2020, the richest five men in the world have doubled their fortunes. During the same period, almost five billion people globally have become poorer. Hardship and hunger are a daily reality for many people worldwide.

At current rates, it will take 230 years to end poverty, but we could have our first trillionaire in 10 years. A huge concentration of global corporate and monopoly power is exacerbating inequality. Seven out of ten of the world’s biggest corporate have either a billionaire CEO, or a billionaire as their principal.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon is one of the world’s richest men. His fortune of US$167.4 billion has increased by US$32.7 billion since 2020. Bezos paid zero federal income taxes in both 2007 and 2011. And Elon Musk, Tesla CEO paid no federal income tax in 2018.

The wealth of the world’s five richest billionaires has more than doubled since the start of this decade, while 60% of humanity has grown poorer. Oxfam has raised the alarm about widening and extreme inequality. As we enter 2024, the very real danger is that these extraordinary extremes are becoming the new normal. Corporate and monopoly power is causing an unrelenting inequality.

It said that the 2020s offer opportunities for leaders to take our world in a bold new, fairer direction. This is yet to happen. An era of widening inequality has coincided with a narrowing of economic imagination. We are living through what appears to be the start of a decade of division: in just three years, we have experienced a global pandemic, war, cost- of- living crisis and climate breakdown.

Each crisis has widened the gulf –not so much between the rich and people living in poverty, but between few oligarchs and the vast majority of the poor.

Since 2020 and the beginning of this decade, five richest men in the world have seen their fortunes more than double, while almost five billion people have seen their wealth fall. Seven out of ten of the world’s biggest corporations have a billionaire CEO or a billionaire as their principle shareholder.

Oxfam America partnering with communities in Honduras, Peru and Kenya

Oxfam America will use in the coming years local humanitarian leadership to support effective global response to humanitarian crises, and work with indigenous organizations and build power in local communities in Honduras, Peru and Kenya to contribute to the development of new policies and processes that protect their right to prior consultation when an oil, gas or mining company is developing a project in the region.

It will couple this effort with direct engagement with companies to pressure them to make stronger policy commitments to free, prior, informed consent.

Oxfam America will connect with on behalf of its partners and increase its revenue in order to direct as many resources as possible to people facing marginalization and bolster the movements that create change.

A founding principle of Oxfam America is that it does not accept funding from the US government, which is critical to maintain its independent voice and speak truth to the power. This strategy is central to the process to ensure that the voices of its partners and views of the people experiencing marginalization were heard. Approved by its Board of Directors in October 2019, the strategy laid out its core aspirations for the next decade.

Oxfam believes that all people have the power to change laws, social norms, and corporate policies in order to create a just and equal future. In the coming decade Oxfam will galvanize people and movements to leverage the outsized influence of the U.S. in the world for good and work to curtail its harm. Oxfam will continue to be a thought leader in the field of global development. Oxfam strives to align its actions with its values, fighting a for atruly just and equitable future for all.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

On January 17 2013 the United Nations announced a list of countries that will form the working group on sustainable development goals. On September25 to 27, 2015, as the United Nations organization met to celebrate its 17 th anniversary the heads of states and government officials and high representatives of its 195 member countries came together to adopt and commit to a long term comprehensive strategy to tackle the world’s challenges related to sustainable development, and work tirelessly for the full implementation of the Agenda by 2030.

They recognized that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. They committed to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions –economic, social and environmental- in a balanced and integrated manner. They agreed to 17 goals in order to achieve a better and more sustainable future by 2030.

While each goal matters and has a merit on its own, they are interconnected and incorporate social, economic and environmental sustainability. Or, in the words of the UN, it is a global blueprint for dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Following are the 17 sustainable goals for bringing together the governments, businesses, media, institutions of higher education, and local NGOs to improve the lives of people in their country by the year 2030:

  • Goal 1. End poverty in all forms everywhere.
  • Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
  • Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and well-Being for all at all ages.
  • Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  • Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  • Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  • Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.
  • Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  • Goal 9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
  • Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries.
  • Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
  • Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  • Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
  • Goal 14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development;
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
  • Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  • Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

The above 17 sustainable development goals officially came into force on January 1, 2016. It must be pointed out that the sustainable development goals are not legally binding.

However, the member countries are expected to establish their national framework for achieving the goals, and the success will depend on implementation of their own policies and plans.

Member countries have the primary responsibility for follow-up and review at the national, regional levels with regard to progress made in implementing the goals over the next 15 years.

In order to achieve the sustainable development goals, substantial investment will be required by both developed and developing countries, and would require substantial handout by the former countries.

Addressing Sustainable Development through Economic Empowerment

The following discussion is taken from street business school organization. When we look at the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and the specific targets for each goal, it may look daunting.

From eradicating poverty and zero hunger, to gender equality and climate action, one may wonder if it is even possible to achieve these goals. But it is possible reaching the sustainable development goals, particularly if we focus on a few areas that create the biggest leverage.

While each goal matters on its own, they are all interconnect incorporating social, economic and environmental sustainability, or as the UN puts it, a global blueprint for dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future. According to Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director The Earth Institute, Columbia University, adopting global goals is important for the following reasons:

  1. Encourage social mobilization.
  2. Create peer pressure among political leaders.
  3. Spur networks of expertise, knowledge and practice into action.
  4. Mobilize stakeholder networks across countries, sectors and regions, coming together for a common purpose.

While all the SDGs are integrated, SDG #1 –No Poverty is the link that can move the needle for many of them. We see it every day. Street Business School has empowered thousands of women living in poverty to become small scale entrepreneurs who have tripled their income.

And when women have money in their pockets that drives other key outcomes like better health for the family, educated children, lower birthrates, and more sustainable communities – all SDGs in and of themselves. It is clear that programs that help people increase their incomes have a positive impact on many other SDGs.

Although No Poverty is just one of the SDGs, it may be the most important to help us achieve all the others. Perhaps that is why it is goal #1.

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