The hotel door was the dividing line: inside, a first world fantasy of starched uniforms, low voices, and crisp cool air; outside, color and heat, vendors selling knickers, groundnuts and sunglasses along cracked sidewalks. I sat atop my father’s shoulders, holding his ears, taking in this snapshot of Lusaka in the late 1980s. Zambia was a country in the throes of hunger riots caused by massive reduction in the public budget, a chain reaction that engulfed most of Africa during a period known as the “lost decade.” One country toppled after another like a game of dominos playing to the rules of the Washington Consensus. My father was on the board of a Gulf development bank, assisting–or so they were under the impression–efforts to alleviate poverty in various African countries. The doors between the inside and outside of the Lusaka hotel where we stayed were as much symbolic as they were tangible; made of money, race and social class. But the inside and outside had something in common: Coca-Cola, whether dragged by vendors on small carts or poured with a flourish in swanky restaurants.
“Just 50 companies including Samsung, McDonalds and Nestle have a combined revenue of $3.4 trillion and the power to reduce inequality. Instead they have built a business model on a massive hidden workforce of 116 million people,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General SecretaryITUC:
The ITUC report, Scandal: Inside the global supply chains of 50 top companies released on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos exposes an unsustainable business model, with a global footprint that covers almost every country in the world and profiles 25 companies with headquarters in Asia, Europe, and the United States.
It’s time to rethink what “development” and “progress” mean. It’s becoming increasingly clear that development cannot be a one-size-fits all process. Too often, a blueprint is forced upon people even if it is not one that they themselves want. Development must be about more than economic growth, encompassing a full spectrum of human rights. Above all, it must be about freedom and choice.
The extent to which the world has become Orwellian is reflected in the widespread use of the term `human capital`, as if it were a humanizing concept, whereas it´s really a contradiction in terms. What is human about capital in the 21st century? Any attentive reader of Picketty, Sadler or Stiglitz gets my point.
Post-apartheid South Africa provides ample evidence of the debilitating trajectory of the microcredit movement. The expansion of microcredit and the informal microenterprise sector was one of the policy responses of the first democratically elected government.
This was how it was going to deal with the legacy of poverty and high unemployment in the black community. But evidence shows that microcredit didn’t create large numbers of sustainable jobs. Nor did it raise incomes in the poorest communities. Instead, the deployment of microcredit precipitated a major disaster.
South Africa saw a dramatic fall in average incomes in the informal economy - around 11% per year in real terms - from 1997-2003. This was brought about by two things:
a modest rise in the number of micro enterprises in townships and rural areas driven by greater availability of micro credit, along with
little additional demand due to the austerity policies of the government.
The good news is that international aid reached a record high, in real terms, in 2014. The bad news is that aid to the very poorest countries fell sharply in 2014, both in cash terms and as a share of total aid, reversing the welcome trend over the last decade of allocating more aid to the poorest countries. The proportion of global aid going to least developed countries has fallen from about 33 percent in 2013 to 30 percent in 2014.
The Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted on 12 December 2015, is one of the landmark decisions of our time. It reflects a monumental triumph of international cooperation and global governance. As is well known, its effective implementation is crucial to the very future of the planet and the human species.
The Agreement's fundamental objective as per article 2 (1) (a) is to hold the increase in the global average temperature to "well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels." Achieving this goal will require a major shift away from the fossil fuel-based economies of today to a more sustainable and green economy. Such a transition, needless to say, will be enormously expensive.
The evidence is clear: When countries value girls and women as much as boys and men, when they invest in their health, education and skills training, when they give women greater opportunities to participate in the economy, manage incomes, own and run businesses -- the benefits extend far beyond individual girls and women to their children and families, to their communities, to societies and economies at large.
This is the vision behind the World Bank Group's new Gender Equality Strategy. It charts an ambitious path toward improving opportunities for women and girls because it is not only morally right but critical to economic development.
The world's most famous inequality researchers unveiled a new way of adding up the growing gap between the super-rich and everyone else on Tuesday.
The findings by economists Emmanuel Saez, Gabriel Zucman and Thomas Piketty, which are preliminary, were hotly anticipated ever since the American Economic Association conference posted a one-paragraph summary of their results ahead of the event in San Francisco. "In contrast to survey and individual tax data, we find substantial increase in average real pre-tax incomes for the bottom 90% since the 1970s," one line in the preview said, potentially suggesting that concerns about a stagnant middle had been overblown.
That summary was greeted with cheers by some conservatives that proof that Democrats, particularly Hillary Clinton, have been wrong to focus on income inequality and middle-class wage stagnation so much.
Not many years ago Kenya’s flowers were produced by hundreds of small producers, providing livelihood for thousands. Now they are produced by a handful of multinationals. Those who own the farms in Naivasha as well as middle agencies make enormous profits, but the direct producers – the wage workers – get very little.
© Global Social Justice 2016