Activists are mobilising around the world as anger about shocking levels of inequality grows, ahead of the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos.
"The absurdity of elites ‘solving’ inequality amidst the extravagance of Davos is clear for all to see. We’ve calculated that the wealth of the world’s 2,208 billionaires is now five times the GDP of the whole of Africa. Davos can never be the answer to inequality because the problem is caused by the elites at Davos. The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. It's in their interests to maintain the system that gifts them this obscene wealth," says Njoki Njehu, Africa Coordinator for the Fight Inequality Alliance.
"Governments around the world must listen instead to their citizens, and end the Age of Greed. Our message is that the solutions to inequality need to come from those who are at the frontlines of it, not the 1% that caused it," says Njehu.
As the world's corporate and political elite cosy up to each other in the exclusive Swiss ski resort, there will be gatherings around the world on mountains of a very different sort – the mountains of garbage and slums that millions call home. A growing movement called the Fight Inequality Alliance, comprised of trade unions, social movements and leading international and national non-profit organisations will host a week of action calling for an end to `the Age of Greed’. Globally, some of the groups involved include Greenpeace, ActionAid, Oxfam, Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development, Femnet, Global Alliance for Tax Justice and the International Trade Union Confederation.
“It’s clear that inequality is damaging our society and that people want action. While the average FTSE 100 CEO takes home 133 times the salary of the average worker, it’s clear that the system is broken. People in London are joining those in Manila, Delhi, Nairobi, Guadalajara, and other cities to mobilise for a fairer future,” says Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of The Equality Trust, which coordinates the Fight Inequality Alliance in the UK.
The alliance says that the global inequality crisis is reaching new extremes and undermining global efforts to end poverty and marginalisation, advance women’s rights, defend the environment, protect human rights and democracy, prevent conflict, and promote fair and dignified employment. Campaigners are calling on governments to curb the murky influence of the super-rich who they blame for the Age of Greed, where billionaires are buying not just yachts but laws. Community groups’ ideas, which elites don’t mention, include minimum living wages, an end to corporate tax breaks, higher taxes on wealth, capital and profits of the richest companies and individuals to enable quality public services for all, and a limit to how many times more a boss can earn than a worker.
Jenny Ricks, global convenor of the alliance, stresses the gendered dimension of inequality: “Women, especially women of colour, are the hardest hit by rising economic inequality: they are the workers in the most precarious employment; they suffer the most from cuts in public services; much of their work, paid and unpaid, is not recognised and rewarded. Whilst men at Davos have lots of warm words about women's empowerment, they are the same people who push for corporate tax exemptions which take away resources needed to advance equality.”
The Fight Inequality Alliance's week of action (18-25 January) is timed to coincide with, and counter, the meeting of the world’s rich and powerful that takes place at Davos. The week of action will see a vibrant mix of activities taking place in over 30 countries across the world, with several major events on the 19 January. From Delhi to Dandora, thousands will gather in slums and towns across the world in contrast to the opulence of Davos, putting forward their solutions to extreme inequality and celebrating their resilience through music, theatre and cultural expression.
"What history has taught us is that only when people join together from the grassroots up, mobilising and organising to build power and demand accountability and greater equality, will things change," says Filipina activist and co-founder of the alliance, Lidy Nacpil. "We know that the change we need won’t be given to people - it will be won by people. That's why we're coming together and making our voices heard."