Generating the political will to tackle inequality

This women-only panel at a side-event to the UNHLPF spoke in powerful ways about how civil society and social movements can cooperate for producing game-changing action to fight inequality.

“Two easy first steps to fighting inequality: 1) corporations pay their fair share of taxes 2) pay their workers a fair wage”, says Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary in much re-tweeted comment, at a side-event to the UNHLPF.

There is widespread agreement that inequality is one of the critical and most urgent challenges of our times. The 2030 Agenda recognizes this in Goal 10 (reducing inequality between and within countries) and in the pledge to Leave No One Behind. Across the world, extreme economic inequality is out of control, threatening human rights, undermining our economies and corroding our politics.

This women-only panel at a side-event to the UNHLPF spoke in powerful ways about how civil society and social movements can cooperate for producing game-changing action to fight inequality. 

Photo: Kate Robinson

Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary, urged participants from different regions and communities, including trade unionists; feminist economists; human rights advocates; development and tax justice advocates, to be bold, to push back and refuse to let big corporations define the rules, profit from precarity and benefit from bigotry.

In the context of widespread informality, universal access to public services key to fighting inequality and enabling decent lives. When racism & xenophobia become official political discourse, it’s clear that those spewing such hatred want inequality.

The club of the very rich define the rules and that's why the multilateral system is in deep crisis. Trade unions are not only a fundamental tool to defend workers' rights but democracy as a whole.

It’s not about being against corporations, but rather against the power imbalance in their level of influence to political decisions, as opposed to the shrinking of space for civic engagement - this is against the democratic rules and principles."

Reminding the audience about the new agreement between the United Nations and the World Economic Forum, Pavanelli underlines the need to reclaim our global democratic spaces – as imperfect as they are. 

Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary

I am not against corporations, but critical of their power and their effect on the institutions of democracy

A growing number of countries are taking action to address inequality – by, for example, taxing wealth (Goal 10, 17), increasing both the spending on and the quality of education (Goal 4) and striving for universal health care (Goal 3), and more. Yet progress in achieving Goal 10 continues to be undermined by national and international economic policies which are promoting austerity and fostering a race to the bottom in workers’ rights and in corporate taxation.

Simultaneously, progress is lagging in areas such as providing good quality universal and gender-responsive public services free at the point of use, as well as universal social protection. Generating the requisite political will for policies to robustly tackle inequality and combat corporate and elite capture are urgent tasks which social movements at the national and international levels are increasingly taking on. 

 “Challenging this requires strong civil society, leaders coming together who are unafraid to challenge the power, influence, access and vested interests that accompany wealth. This is not a spectator sport, reminds”

Njoki Njehu of Fight Inequality Alliance. 

The side-event was co-organized by : Oxfam, Fight Inequality Alliance, Center for Economic and Social Rights and

Co-sponsored by: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Public Services International, Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation. 

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