Latest updates http://www.actionaid.org/feed/all en Exploring the Panorama of Inequality... http://www.actionaid.org/2015/12/exploring-panorama-inequality <div class="field field-image-nid"> <div class="buildmode-embedded_image"> <div class="node node-type-image clear-block"> <div class="nd-region-middle-wrapper nd-no-sidebars" ><div class="nd-region-middle"><div class="field field-image-file"> <a href="/2015/12/exploring-panorama-inequality" class="imagecache imagecache-thumb_large imagecache-linked imagecache-thumb_large_linked"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/thumb_large/image/1280px-g7_finance_ministers_and_central_bank_governors_meeting_20091003.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-thumb_large" width="140" height="140" /></a> </div> </div></div> </div> <!-- /node --> </div> <!-- /buildmode --> </div> <div class="field field-body"> <p class="western" lang="en-CA">ActionAid is a development organization, working to end poverty and defend the human rights of marginalized and impoverished people. And we are proud to be precisely that. But to accomplish our mission, we need to constantly reflect on why poverty and marginalization persist after years of struggle.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">When we look across the panorama of all the work ActionAid does – on agriculture, governance, education, land rights, development finance, women’s rights, climate change, even humanitarian emergency response – we see that one thing stands as a constant obstacle: the subversion of official processes, democratic or otherwise, by powerful people who make sure their interests are served before anyone else’s.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">And those interests are mainly accumulating wealth for themselves, and ensuring that they will continue to be able to do that well into the future. The great disparities in power between those on the inside track and the rest of us are self-perpetuating.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Over the last three months, <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/insights">ActionAid has been publishing a series of blogs, under the banner “Insights,”</a> on the social and economic crisis of inequality. Eleven have been posted so far, and another three will go up before the end of the year. Some are by ActionAid staff, and some are by allies.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">These pieces testify to the breadth and complexity of the problem of inequality: there’s almost nothing in our societies that has not been tainted.</p><h3 class="western" lang="en-CA">Plutocracy in the 21st Century</h3><p class="western" lang="en-CA">But of course this isn’t really new: domination and exploitation have always been at the root of social and economic problems. But something <em>is</em> changing: those with economic power and those with political power have always been close, but in more and more places they’re becoming identical, or nearly so. What was once the characteristic complaint of people living in dictatorships – that they have no way to influence those in power -- is now echoed by people in rich countries with democratic structures, like the US and the UK. Great wealth has become ever more synonymous with political power.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Nothing illustrates more clearly the grip the wealthy have on power so well as the failure of the world’s rich countries to take effective action to reverse the policies that led to the global financial and economic crisis that began in 2007-2008, and has never really ended.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Plutocracy – the rule of a small group of the wealthiest – is a fact of life nearly everywhere now. When we understand that the large transnational corporations that dominate trade and business are both products and agents of the plutocracy, the subversion of democracy and national sovereignty becomes clearer still.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">ActionAid has been grappling with some of the most egregious aspects of the plutocracy in two of its multi-country campaigns: <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/tax-power">Tax Power</a> targets tax dodgers who deprive governments of the funds they need for public services, and <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/land-for">LandFor</a> exposes investors who are grabbing up land crucial to the livelihoods of easily-marginalized people in poor countries.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Plutocracy is the single biggest factor in the widening of inequality around the world today. That’s why ActionAid maintains that it is insufficient to talk about “income inequality” or “wealth inequality.” Both are key and both need to be reversed, but they won’t be until we recognize that <em>inequality in power</em> is at the root of the problem. Until we achieve a saner balance of power, wealth and income inequality will be problems too.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">The proportion of the world’s resources controlled by the wealthiest has become more lopsided by the month. The most recent “Global Wealth Report” from the bank Credit Suisse reports that the wealthiest one percent of the population now controls over half (50.4%, to be exact) of global wealth. This trend, which is as real in Africa as it is in the US and Europe, is abetted by an ideology of unlimited capital accumulation and the lingering myth of “trickle-down” economics that have dominated the finance industry and the outlook of many economists and businesspeople.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">The publication in 2013 of Thomas Piketty’s landmark <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=3&amp;cad=rja&amp;uact=8&amp;ved=0ahUKEwjDxMKVmr_JAhVM2xoKHTz4Co4QFggvMAI&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hup.harvard.edu%2Fcatalog.php%3Fisbn%3D9780674430006&amp;usg=AFQjCNGI13mjGlMN6Ozn61wJI_77Q2x6XA&amp;sig2=1q6VBb0gQvKkL8dVJdgvQw&amp;bvm=bv.108538919,d.d24"><em>Capital in the 21</em><em>st</em><em> Century</em></a><em> </em>(English translation in 2014) has opened many people’s eyes to the fact that there is no logical end to the widening of the inequality gap, and that any semblance of democratic rule is doomed by the continuing private concentration of resources. At ActionAid, we are convinced that our mission to secure equitable development and the human rights of the marginalized and impoverished can only be accomplished by confronting inequality and plutocracy.</p><h3 class="western" lang="en-CA">Restoring Democracy</h3><p class="western" lang="en-CA">The imperative to tackle inequalities of both wealth and power is captured well by<strong> Nathalie Beghin</strong>, of Brazil’s Insitute for Socioeconomic Studies (INESC), <a href="http://bit.ly/1QRsBDH">in our most-recently published blog</a>. “Redistributing the wealth globally,” she says, “necessarily entails redistributing power globally, which can only happen by including the people in decision-making processes.”</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">The “radicalization of democracy” Beghin calls for is well defined by <strong>Deborah Rogers</strong>, President of the US-based Initiative for Equality, <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/09/defenestration-theres-more-effective-way-rid-world-plutocrats">in the first blog in our series</a>. Rogers outlines how we need to go about rejecting corrupt political and economic systems with genuine participatory democratic decision-making processes: it will require a lot of organizing on the ground to get there, but only by raising consciousness broadly can we hope to escape corrupt systems and prevent their recurrence.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">I’ve also explored this problem in <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/09/fight-inequality-fight-power">my own blog, written from the summit on Sustainable Development Goals in New York in September</a>. I describe a conversation that ActionAid staff had during a break in those proceedings, where we concluded that restoring balance and equality in global systems is not something that can be achieved by the reforms and tweaks, or the aid programs, that governments and NGOs use to address development problems. Looking at two countries that have made headlines for overcoming some of their gross inequality – South Africa and Brazil – we realized that progress is halting, and terribly vulnerable to pushback from powerful interests. System change on the political and the economic levels is needed, and will require broad mobilization of people around the world.</p><h3 class="western" lang="en-CA">Taking the Struggle to the United Nations</h3><p class="western" lang="en-CA">ActionAid welcomed the Sustainable Development Goals as a major improvement on the statistics-oriented Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs actually look at how we can change the conditions that create and sustain the problems, and they explicitly target rising inequality. <strong>Roberto Bissio</strong>, who heads up the Uruguay-based Instituto del Tercer Mundo and the global Social Watch network, also applauds the SDGs, but worries that the July “Financing for Development” conference failed to define how the necessary resources would be raised, and that the indicators remain unsettled. But he thinks that we’ve at least reached a turning point, where the world recognizes that drastic action is required:</p><blockquote><p class="western" lang="en-CA">At the turn of the Millennium, the atmosphere of optimism at the end of the Cold War and the confidence that globalization would “lift all boats” led to the belief that extreme deprivation could be overcome without any major change in global economic governance. Now, after two decades of increasing inequalities and having reached or surpassed many of the planetary boundaries identified by science, it is extremely difficult to argue that the SDGs can be achieved without affecting some privileges of the rich and powerful. And this won't happen without social and political struggle. The good news is that the emerging global consensus is not any more on the side of plutocracies.</p></blockquote><p class="western" lang="en-CA">My ActionAid colleague, <strong>Abid Aslam</strong>, also <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/09/public-interest-private-sponsors">writes about the SDGs</a>, and he too is concerned about how the goals will be financed. The rich governments appear to be unwilling to come up with substantial sums themselves, and instead say that the “private sector” – mainly transnational corporations – will provide the resources. But these corporations, Aslam warns, already have an established way of doing development: they prioritize profits, while making sure that host countries absorb any risk of failure. If they really want to contribute to development, he says, they should commit to ending the tax evasion and avoidance that robs developing countries of well over $100 billion every year.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA"><a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/09/can-inequality-be-undermined-global-power-shifts"><strong>Sameer Dossani</strong> examines the role of the “emerging economies”</a> – big middle-income countries like Brazil and China that are playing an increasingly decisive role in the global economy. He finds that while the elites in these countries are taking their place in the global plutocracy, we should also be aware that their interests differ in some key respects from elites in the long-time rich countries like the US. We should try to exploit those differences in order to reduce any sense of unity among global elites, and make use of their governments’ consciousness of the need for equitable development to preserve social peace to make that case globally.</p><h3 class="western" lang="en-CA">The Breadth of the Plutocratic Problem</h3><p class="western" lang="en-CA"><a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/11/filling-social-security-gap-inequality-womens-rights"><strong>Wangari Kinoti </strong>demonstrates the crucial role of women</a> in perpetuating plutocracy – not because they are willfully benefitting from it, but rather because they must supplement economic systems that fail to provide ways to care for the young, the old, and the sick. “The dominant global economic model is dependent for its sustenance on exclusion, and poor women are at the bottom of the pile,” she writes. Without this labor, economic systems would collapse, but there is usually no compensation for the women who keep them afloat. And when they do get paying work, women in developing countries are usually in informal jobs and/or low-paid, precarious formal positions, with the constant risk of sexual violence.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">It is not an original observation to say that capitalism thrives on keeping people insecure. In recent years, this tendency has been aggravated by “jobless growth”: economic statistics may be improving, but people, especially youth, are not getting decent jobs. <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/09/youth-courage-search-equality-dignified-employment-and-social-justice-age-inequality"><strong>Sarah Huxley</strong> explains</a> the threats this poses to societies around the globe, and recommends ways governments can involve youth in making a break with failing development models.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">In many societies, control of land is a leading indicator for inequality. Concentration of land ownership means concentration of power and wealth. <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/12/inequality-land-and-natural-resource-sectors"><strong>Catherine Gatundu</strong></a>, who manages ActionAid’s LandFor campaign, demonstrates in her blog that the increase in land grabbing and government-supported private investments in agriculture around the world have destabilized communities while feeding the bottom line of corporations, thus intensifying the gap between rich and poor.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Likewise, <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/11/agroeoclogy-address-ecological-and-inequality-challenges"><strong>Aftab Alam Khan</strong> shows</a> that the increased involvement of big corporations in agriculture around the world has pushed a damaging model of high-input agriculture that threatens the livelihoods of a large portion of humanity. Global agribusiness has successfully marginalized the needs and demands of 2.5 billion small-scale producers, who not only constitute 35% of the world’s population but also provide about 80% of the food we eat. And there is an obvious solution: agroecology, which does not require massive amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, patented seeds, water, and land. And it produces healthy food while sustaining healthy rural economies.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">In his blog, <strong>Tanvir Muntasim</strong> discusses the importance of education for sound development, and <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/10/education-great-equalizer-inequalities-privatisation">identifies a growing menace in the trend toward privatization of schools</a> in developing countries. The Peruvian economist and author <strong>Oscar Ugarteche</strong>, based at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), reinforces Muntasim’s point:</p><blockquote><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Without at least a 6% of GDP investment in education and a push for better quality higher education, paid with public funds as it is the mechanism to ensure a better standard of living for the population, development cannot take place.</p></blockquote><h3 class="western" lang="en-CA">Proposals to Start the Change</h3><p class="western" lang="en-CA"><a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/10/we-need-new-understanding-development-combat-inequality">Ugarteche also recommends</a> broad application of financial transaction taxes (FTTs), such as those that a bloc of European countries has now committed to implement. FTTs would both raise funds that could be used for inequality-reducing development and shine a light on how many unregistered transactions are taking place without the knowledge of tax collectors.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Another recommendation comes from <strong>Sarah Anderson </strong>and <strong>Sam Pizzigati </strong>of the US-based Institute for Policy Studies. <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/11/cap-gap">Their article explains that large corporations</a> are making record-breaking profits and paying their executives astronomical salaries that put them in the center of the plutocracy, all while relying on government support, contracts, and subsidies:</p><blockquote><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Our governments are, in effect, using the taxes we pay to make the rich richer. But we can say no. We can start fighting to end government contracts, subsidies, and tax breaks for corporations that pay their top executives unconscionably more than their workers.</p></blockquote><p class="western" lang="en-CA">They call for full transparency regarding compensation from any company that wants government business or subsidies. Those that have reasonable pay ratios between the highest and lowest paid employees should get preferences, and those that have the worst ratios should be excluded.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Before the end of the year we will be publishing at least two more blogs, from ActionAid’s Rick Rowden, and Eurodad’s Jesse Griffiths, that explore the kind of financial rules we need to curb inequality and restore a more even balance of power.</p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2015/12/exploring-panorama-inequality#comments Insights inequality International Thu, 03 Dec 2015 11:26:20 +0000 soren.ambrose 644538 at http://www.actionaid.org Power, Poverty, Gender and Injustice: The local impact of inequality http://www.actionaid.org/2016/02/power-poverty-gender-and-injustice-local-impact-inequality <div class="field field-body"> <p>Much of the recent debate on inequality has focused on the big picture of how a few individuals (62, in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2016-01-18/62-people-own-same-half-world-reveals-oxfam-davos-report">Oxfam’s January paper</a>) have the same wealth as half the world’s population. As usefully provocative as these findings are, ActionAid wants to be sure that we also focus on the lived experience of inequality at the local level. Although we have victories against inequality, this piece aims to highlight how in our work we have witnessed the impact of the excessive power of the wealthiest, of transnational corporations, of large-scale farmers and other elites devastating the lives of the poorest and most disadvantaged people.</p><p><strong>Inequality is about power and the domination it allows. Such domination is common at the global, the national, the community, and the household levels, perpetrated by both local and global actors.</strong></p><p><strong></strong></p><h2>Customs and threats keep women unequal</h2><p>Women work long hours to provide numerous services in their homes and communities, including preparing food and taking care of children as well as of the sick and elders. Families and societies could not survive without these services, but they aren’t recognized as&nbsp;<em>economic</em>activities, meaning that women are simply expected to do them, robbing them of other opportunities. Hundreds of millions of women and girls are denied their basic rights to education, healthcare, decent work and leisure time. This robs people of decent lives, perpetuates gender inequality, reinforces gender norms and keeps women and girls in poverty.</p><p>Cambodia is an example of a country that has long been plagued by high levels of violence against women. A UN study showed one in every three men in relationship committed violence against women. Gang rape has even been described in some discussions with men as a “recreational” sex activity. The threat of violence whenever women leave their home (and too often within their home) forecloses their economic, educational, and social opportunities.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Outcast groups sentenced to lifetime poverty &amp; exclusion</h2><p>In India and Nepal, the caste system creates an unequal society that discriminates against individuals from lower castes throughout their lives. They are excluded from virtually all social, economic and political opportunities. Nearly half of Nepal’s Dalits (“untouchables”), who remain landless, live below the poverty line. Dalits’ life expectancy is lower than the national average, and so is their literacy rate. They are usually denied access to religious sites, face resistance to inter-caste marriages, refusal by non-Dalits to use water they’ve had contact with, and&nbsp;<a href="http://idsn.org/caste-discrimination/">many other forms of discrimination</a>.</p><p>The International Dalit Society Network published a story of&nbsp;<a href="idsn.org/countries/nepal/">Gore Sunar, 55, a Dalit bonded labourer in Western Nepal</a>&nbsp;who had worked without a salary for 25 years. He worked for four landlords to avoid repayment demands of loans. The caste system is sanctioned inequality, with those on the bottom condemned to lives of misery.</p><p>Landless Dalit women are worse off. When employed in India as farm labor they are paid less for longer hours of work, and often face sexual harassment. Many are kept as bonded laborers without any wages at all, and are unaware of ways to receive legal help to overcome their situations.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Control of land guarantees power &amp; wealth</h2><p>In Pakistan just five percent of farmers control over fifty percent of agricultural land, which gives them immense power not only over small scale-farmers and workers but also in the political and economic power hubs of the country. They have successfully evaded various land reforms. Besides, their influence over local irrigation departments, the police force, and land and agriculture authorities deprives smallholder and landless farmers from their rights to land, water, credit, and genuine political participation. The pattern is thoroughly ingrained: large landowners are always in power, whether in a period of democracy or dictatorship.</p><p>The recent increase in the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few globally did not cause these different local social inequalities but it has exacerbated them. Rather than undermining old inequalities as was once hoped for by the advocates of liberalization, the current global power dynamic reinforces them. It is not just hereditary landowners who monopolize power and resources; governments are now actively seeking corporate partners, and promise them land regardless of who is already using it. These companies then enhance their influence by winning over local and national politicians and government servants.</p><p>In August 2001, the Ugandan authorities violently forced more than 2,000 people off their land in the district of Mubende.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fian.org/en/news/article/fact_sheet_land_grabbing_in_uganda/">This land was then leased to a subsidiary of a German coffee company</a>. The land was used to establish Uganda's first large-scale coffee plantation. The evictees have neither been compensated for the total loss of their land and properties nor for the hardship which they had to face after the eviction. In Kenya,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/magazine/content/09_49/b4158038757158.htm">a US-based company displaced thousands of people from their farm land</a>, polluted their water and sickened their animals by grabbing 17,000 hectares of land in western part of the country.</p><p>The liberalization of investment in land spreads inequality at the local level, mostly in favor of the richest people. For example,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thrd.or.tz/uploads/63.pdf">the establishment of a hunting ground by one of the richest families of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Liliondo, Tanzania</a>&nbsp;resulted in violation of human rights of the local pastoralist people. Local and national government authorities pursued illegal prosecution, humiliation and harassment of local leaders, and denied the population’s rights to health, freedom of expression, and free movement.</p><p>Land is not just an issue for farmers and rural populations. Inequality between rich and poor is also obvious in favelas of urban Brazil. These settlements are not recognized as neighborhoods, even not existing on the maps of the city. A recent operation is threatening the existence of the favelas, which are home to 1.1 million poor people. The favelas are close to the residences of wealthy people who are keen to evict the poor from their homes. Although officials are citing a variety of reasons, including environmental protection, land ownership disputes and the safety of those living in the hilltop, Jose Nerson de Oliveira, vice president of the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, has said: "<a href="http://www.globalfootprints.org/issues/local/homeless/favelas.htm">It isn't about land or trees or anything like that. The simple fact is they don't want the poor close to them</a>."</p><p>&nbsp;</p><h2>Organizing can defeat inequality</h2><p>And yet against this we are seeing some successes, driven by people’s organising to strengthen the power of ordinary people. Victories are being achieved. We’ve seen glimpses of what is possible, of what progress in the fight against inequality already looks like:&nbsp;<a href="www.actionaid.org/publications/take-action-stop-ecoenergys-land-grab">a community organization’s successful halting of a Swedish sugar plantation in Tanzania</a>&nbsp;that would have left thousands of farmers landless; the mobilisation of a million farmers in Uganda against taxes on agricultural inputs; the ending of VAT on bread in Zambia;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/09/political-situation-guatemala-and-elections">the resignation of the President of Guatemala</a>&nbsp;after mass protests over several months against corruption; the handing back of land illegally acquired in Cambodia; the expansion of primary education across Africa as a result of mobilization by parents and teachers, and advocacy with policy-makers to remove onerous school fees; the growing challenge to austerity in Europe; the resurgence of activism in the US led by the Black Lives Matter movement;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.actionaid.org/news/last-chance-avert-failure-financing-development">the G77 standing together in Addis for a global tax body</a>; developing countries insisting that compensation for loss and damage - to property, territory, lives and livelihoods that would not have happened without climate change - be part of the deal on climate change.</p><p>These struggles would be strengthened by the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.awid.org/news-and-analysis/civil-society-leaders-issue-statement-step-fight-inequality">alliance of international organisations and social movements against inequality</a>. It includes ActionAid, Oxfam, ACT Alliance, Amnesty, Greenpeace, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), CIDSE and CIVICUS. This is high time to join hands to fight inequality!</p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/02/power-poverty-gender-and-injustice-local-impact-inequality#comments Insights inequality Food & land rights Governance Womens Rights International Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:07:35 +0000 aftab.alam 650693 at http://www.actionaid.org Community University of Myanmar's Dry Zone http://www.actionaid.org/2016/02/community-university-myanmars-dry-zone <div class="field field-body"> <p>Blue skies.A large dam surrounded by a lush forest. Traditional huts made from bamboo and toddy palm word. An organic vegetable garden with ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs.</p><p>This was the scene yesterday as students from RMIT University in Australia arrived in Myaing at ActionAid’s Community University site.</p><p>After checking-in, the students -who are undertaking a mixture of bachelor and masters courses in different disciplines –rode bikes to a local village, Kan Gyi Taw2. At the village, the Mothers Advisory Group, a long-time partner of ActionAid’s,warmly welcomed them with a delicious meal of chicken curry, spicy soup, green beans and rice. Another short ride, this time to a Thanakar planation where students had some traditional Thanakar paste applied to their faces. <div class="ibimage-with-caption null" style="width:555px;"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/image_content_fullwidth/image/12650308_10208289363142516_1044731288_n.jpg" alt="File 32814" title="" class="ibimage" width="555" height="833" /><span class="ibimage-caption">Preparing Thanakha, local natural cosmetic by grinding</span></div><div class="ibimage-with-caption null" style="width:555px;"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/image_content_fullwidth/image/12606854_10208289364382547_1586128062_n.jpg" alt="File 32815" title="" class="ibimage" width="555" height="740" /><span class="ibimage-caption">After applying Thanakha on the cheeks</span></div></p><p>They then met some of ActionAid’s Fellowswho spend 1 - 2 years based in their communities to facilitate bottom-up participatory development. These young women and two menassumed the role of university lecturers taking a class for 21 university educated Australians.</p><p>The Fellows explained how through the use of participatory tools, patience, hard work and persistence, they win people’s trust, tackle traditional ideas about power, gender and age and grow their own confidence and that of the their village. Key to this process in the development of the village book which includes detailed information, assessment and analysis of life in the village such as strengths and problems, dreams, the differences in the roles of women and men, seasonal growing calendars, social and economic analysis, vulnerabilities, communitypriorities, action plans and much more. The book is used as a baseline but also an advocacy tool.<div class="ibimage-with-caption null" style="width:555px;"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/image_content_fullwidth/image/12626032_10208289365862584_65041348_n.jpg" alt="File 32816" title="" class="ibimage" width="555" height="416" /><span class="ibimage-caption">Learning the participatory tools</span></div></p><p>The RMIT students remarked how these principles of community-led participation, tools and methods could be applied in different contexts in Australia. The Fellows were also interested to hear from the RMIT students who shared their experiences of community development, youth work and social change from Australia.<div class="ibimage-with-caption null" style="width:555px;"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/image_content_fullwidth/image/12650411_10208289361782482_382108748_n.jpg" alt="File 32817" title="" class="ibimage" width="555" height="416" /><span class="ibimage-caption">University students learning from the community, with the communit</span></div></p><p>At the heart of ActionAid’s Community University is that education can be transformed from the classroom to the village and that by local youth and villagers become the teachers.</p><p>Written by Clancy Moore – Manager Global Platform, ActionAid Myanmar</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/02/community-university-myanmars-dry-zone#comments Myanmar Asia International Tue, 02 Feb 2016 13:08:42 +0000 Thant.Zin 650518 at http://www.actionaid.org New EC proposals on tax avoidance fall seriously short http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/new-ec-proposals-tax-avoidance-fall-seriously-short <div class="field field-body"> <p>The European Commission’s <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/company_tax/anti_tax_avoidance/index_en.htm">new proposals for legislation against corporate tax avoidance</a>, released today, are meant to curb the egregious tax dodging by big companies that has caused scandal across Europe.</p><p>Unfortunately, the proposals bear out <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/2015/12/could-curbing-tax-avoidance-europe-make-tax-competition-worse">our warning</a> last month that efforts to tackle tax avoidance could end up worsening competition between Member States to attract companies with super-low tax rates if they don’t address this problem as well. The result could be that big-name multinationals which currently pay little tax on their profits may not end up paying much more in future.</p><p>The legislative proposals include some good principles, but so weak and timid in detail that they may well fail to achieve their objectives and could even incentivise some Member States to lower their corporate tax rates still further. This is a serious problem for developing countries because they depend more on corporate taxes and, according to <a href="https://www.imf.org/external/np/pp/eng/2014/050914.pdf">research from the IMF</a>, they lose out disproportionately from tax competition.</p><p>The Commission has at least recognized that developing countries can suffer harm from the effects of tax policies in Europe. It calls, for example, for Member States to reconsider their bilateral tax treaties with developing countries, which often limit the rights of the latter to tax multinationals’ income. But the proposals do not add up to a concrete package of reforms that can be relied on to stop European companies from shifting profits out of developing countries. Worse, they invite charges of double standards: the Commission proposes to press third countries not to offer special tax deals to companies, before these problems are anywhere near being addressed within Europe itself.</p><p>Some proposals follow the generally <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/publications/patching-broken-tax-system-why-beps-not-solution-poor-countries-tax-problems">weak tone</a> of the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project. Others are good in principle but very weak in practice. An example is the proposal for Controlled Foreign Company (anti-tax haven) rules. These rules deter multinationals from shifting profits out of countries where they do business and into tax havens by allowing their countries of residence to tax these shifted profits at their own, higher rates. Fewer than half of Member States have CFC rules, so it would be positive in theory if all of them did.</p><p>Unfortunately the proposal is that these rules will only apply to foreign income which has been taxed at less than 40 per cent of the effective rate in the Member State where the multinational is resident. Those Member States that already have CFC rules usually set this threshold between 50 and 75 per cent, while Germany has a fixed rate which is still higher.&nbsp; So this proposal, if adopted in its current form, could actually drag down standards.</p><p>A similar problem afflicts the proposal for a “switch-over clause”. This means that corporate income flowing into a Member State cannot be exempted from tax there if it has not been adequately taxed in its country of origin. This could be a deterrent against the common problem, which also afflicts developing countries, of multinationals shifting profits out of these countries and into low-tax regimes in the Netherlands, Luxembourg or other Member States.</p><p>But once again, the proposed threshold is far too low (40 per cent) to be effective. If a Member State has a tax rate of 15 per cent, then it could still offer tax exemptions on the foreign income of multinationals as long as that income has already been taxed at six per cent or more. With a 10 per cent tax rate, then the threshold falls to four per cent. This is not much more than some of the most egregious tax-dodging companies are paying at the moment.</p><p>What’s needed now is to significantly tighten up the proposals and complement them with the introduction across the EU of public country-by-country reporting by multinationals. But the Commission is clearly constrained by what it thinks Member States will accept, including those Member States which are busily trying to undercut the public revenues of other countries by luring away companies with super-low tax rates or preferential regimes and deals.</p><p>This is the nub of the problem. The recent round of tax reforms in Europe, driven by public outrage and tight national budgets, might in fact lead to fewer highly artificial and elaborate tax avoidance schemes. But they could also mean that some multinationals continue to avoid their fair share of tax, only by different means.</p><p>Until all countries recognise that tax competition is a fool’s game with no winners except the corporations themselves, the struggle for fairer taxation will go on.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>For a more detailed analysis of the ATA package, please see ActionAid’s reaction <a href="http://actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/actionaid_reaction_to_atap_final.pdf">here</a>.</em></p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/new-ec-proposals-tax-avoidance-fall-seriously-short#comments Europe BEPS European Commission Tax Justice International Thu, 28 Jan 2016 17:09:03 +0000 Diarmid.OSullivan 650296 at http://www.actionaid.org RMIT University Students Participates in the First Official Community University Course in Myanmar's Dry Zone http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/rmit-university-students-participates-first-official-community-university-course-myanmars-dr <div class="field field-body"> <p>Today. History in the making. 19 students from RMIT University in Australia are participating in the first official Community University course facilitated by <a href="http://www.facebook.com/ActionAidMyanmar/">ActionAid Myanmar</a>.<div class="ibimage-with-caption null" style="width:555px;"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org.br/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/image_content_fullwidth/image/rmit_1.jpg" alt="File 32775" title="" class="ibimage" width="555" height="416" /><span class="ibimage-caption">RMIT Students with our staffs</span></div></p><p>The students who are studying both bachelor and master degrees are from different fields including social work, international development, planning, environment and agriculture and will spend the next 10 days in Myanmar. Starting in Yangon at ActionAid’s<a href="http://www.globalplatforms.org/myanmar">Global Platform Myanmar</a>, they will then travel to Kanma in Myanmar’s Dry Zone and will spend time visiting and learning from local community groups, ActionAid Fellows (young change makers) and villagers.</p><p>The Community University challenges traditional notions of education, power and development by empowering local youth, women and communities that ActionAid works with to share their experiences and teach international students about community development, social change and human rights. In turn, the students will be sharing their knowledge, undertaking some research and then applying their learning and insights from Myanmar back in Australia.<div class="ibimage-with-caption null" style="width:555px;"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org.br/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/image_content_fullwidth/image/rmit_3.jpg" alt="File 32776" title="" class="ibimage" width="555" height="416" /><span class="ibimage-caption">Community University Travel Plans</span></div></p><p>As one student from Australia said this morning “I feel humbled to be taking part in such an inspiring and great learning experience”.</p><p>By Clancy Moore, Manager – Global Platform Myanmar, ActionAid Myanmar.</p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/rmit-university-students-participates-first-official-community-university-course-myanmars-dr#comments Myanmar Asia International Thu, 28 Jan 2016 05:19:22 +0000 Thant.Zin 650287 at http://www.actionaid.org New policies needed to turn around global inequality http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/new-policies-needed-turn-around-global-inequality <div class="field field-body"> <p><strong>The high level of economic inequality seen in the world today is surpassing that of nearly 100 years ago</strong>, when European colonial rule, regressive tax policies and unregulated financial activities created high levels of inequality and financial instability that ultimately led to the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression. Considerable wealth was destroyed during the Great Depression, as well as during the second world war which followed. In the aftermath of the war in 1945, a widespread consensus had been developed which realized that the excesses of capitalism needed to be curtailed in order to prevent both fascist movements and socialist revolutions, and this consensus led governments to take concrete steps towards better systems for redistributing income in order to effectively lessen economic inequality.</p><p>Such steps were very successful and led to the so-called “Golden Age of Capitalism,” a period of 30 years ranging from 1945 to the mid-1970s, which witnessed the national independence of dozens of former colonies, high GDP growth rates, and a rise in incomes and living standards unparalleled in global economic history.</p><p>Although each economy is different, there were at least five basic policy directions that were widely adopted across most “first world” countries during the Golden Age. These included: 1) Keynesian&nbsp;<em>fiscal stimulus policies</em>&nbsp;that helped revive and sustain high economic growth and employment rates; 2)&nbsp;<em>high taxation rates for wealthy individuals and corporations</em>&nbsp;that helped lessen economic inequality; 3)&nbsp;<em>adequate financial regulations</em>&nbsp;that ushered in an unprecedented era of financial stability, with financial crises far less frequent and intense than before or after; 4)&nbsp;<em>increased social spending</em>&nbsp;on health, education, transportation infrastructure and social protection; and 5) tri-partite&nbsp;<em>industrial relations agreements</em>&nbsp;between governments, industry and organized labor about wages and working conditions that ensured workers benefited from productivity increases with higher wages.</p><p><strong>During this 30-year period, the high growth rates, higher wages and lessening economic inequality of the Golden Age had the effect of reducing the relative importance of the role that inherited wealth had previously held.</strong></p><p>Unfortunately, each of these five major policy directions that had been widespread during the Golden Age began to be undermined and undone with the onset of the new phase of<em>globalization</em>, which spurred deregulation and regressive tax reforms beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The political stage for undoing these policies was set during the 1970s, when a series of international economic shocks unfolded, including: a&nbsp;<em>dramatic oil price rise</em>&nbsp;led by the OPEC cartel; the&nbsp;<em>shift from the gold standard</em>&nbsp;to floating exchange rates among leading western currencies; an&nbsp;<em>economic recession</em>&nbsp;and the onset of the&nbsp;<em>Third World Debt crises</em>by the early 1980s. These shocks supported a growing conservative critique of Keynesian intervention in national economic policies and strong labor laws, and provided the political opening for the adoption of free market-oriented policy reforms, which come into political ascendency around 1980 with the Thatcher and Reagan administrations in the UK and US respectively.</p><p>The free market reforms have led to significant reversals in the well-being of these middle classes, increased economic inequality and increasingly frequent financial crisis in subsequent decades. The reversal of progressive taxation has lead to the return of staggeringly high degrees of economic inequality, weakened labor laws and a stagnation in wages and a rise of precarious employment. These trends are today returning the world to an era of what Thomas Piketty has called “patrimonial capitalism”, in which the Golden Age is long gone and once again the economy is increasingly influenced by inherited wealth and concentrated political power. The disproportionate power and influence that such wealth holders have over the political economy of nations has created plutocratic governance systems that are undermining democracy, human rights and worsening economic inequality and financial instability.</p><h2>Key Policies that Destroyed the Golden Age</h2><p>&nbsp;</p><h3>Regressive tax reforms</h3><blockquote><p>...overall inequality between countries is higher today than it was in 1980 [and] equality within most countries has deteriorated...</p></blockquote><p>Beginning in the 1980s, the idea that lower taxes will better inspire investors to create more jobs became politically dominant, propelled by IMF and World Bank loan conditions and other aid donor advice for developing countries and increased tax competition among countries (in which countries engage in a “race to the bottom” by lowering tax rates in order to attract investment).</p><p>After three decades of this trend, today global income distribution has again become extremely unequal, both between countries and within countries. At first glance, the data suggests that overall global inequality between countries has recently declined, but this is due to the statistical anomaly of China’s very rapid growth rates. When China is removed, the data shows that overall inequality between countries is higher today than it was in 1980. Additionally, equality within most countries has deteriorated. According to the United Nations, this has been primarily due to two major trends: the persistent&nbsp;<em>decline of the share of wages</em>&nbsp;in total GDP output and the move towards&nbsp;<em>less progressive tax systems</em>&nbsp;and, consequently, less social spending. Other forms of inequality such as wealth distribution, gender disparities and differences in access to education have also been important factors.</p><p>The regressive reforms also included a series of loopholes, rebates and write-offs for wealthy individuals and corporations. In taking full advantages of these, as well as benefiting from government subsidies, many corporations could eliminate their tax bills entirely. Some of the largest US companies, for example, pay no corporate income tax at the end of the year.</p><p>Additionally, the deregulation of cross-border activities has enabled the creation of a vast network of off-shore tax havens that allow multinational corporations and wealthy individuals to evade taxation.</p><h3>Globalization of manufacturing and its impact on organized labor and wages</h3><blockquote><p>...high GDP growth rates and even increases in worker productivity no longer translate into higher wages for workers, and instead the phenomenon of “jobless growth” and stagnant wages have become commonplace...</p></blockquote><p>Also gaining momentum since the 1980s has been the idea that lower wages will make countries more competitive, and thus attract more investment. Governments in rich and poor countries alike have used such logic in implementing a weakening of labor laws that has resulted in a decline in collective bargaining rights and an increase in precarious work (i.e. informal, part-time and piece-work) with much lower wages as a percent of GDP.</p><p>The increased globalization of production in recent decades has enabled international employers to threaten workers with the “off-shoring” of their jobs to lower-wage destinations, and thereby undermine the efficacy of national-level tripartite agreements between governments, labor and industry that had long been a centerpiece of the Golden Age successes. Thus, under the threat of job displacement, workers today are often expected to accept lower wages and none of the union benefits that had been widely enjoyed by many workers during the Golden Age. Therefore, high GDP growth rates and even increases in worker productivity no longer translate into higher wages for workers, and instead the phenomenon of “jobless growth” and stagnant wages have become commonplace, even as income inequality has accelerated.</p><p>These labor market reforms of recent decades have led to the “flexibilization” or “informalization” of the workforce in economies around the world, in which new jobs are often precarious, part-time and casual work. Increased international exposure to completion from lower-wage countries and the very nature of global production and employment structures have greatly weakened the ability of national-level labor unions to safeguard access to secure, waged employment for workers. Such reforms have included: reducing the core of permanent workers and increasing the proportion of temporary and casual employees; increased outsourcing and subcontracting; replacing pay systems based on working time and length of service by systems based on piece rates and bonuses; and reducing the influence of independent labor unions by legislative and regulatory reforms that either eliminate them or establish controllable (company) unions.</p><p>The increased demand for flexible labor by employers has also meant the feminization of the global workforce - the significant growth in the numbers of low-paid, flexible female workers around the world. As jobs growth in the advanced industrial economies over recent years has been in predominantly the area of part-time and casual work, women's employment opportunities have accordingly been restricted to such jobs, which are generally defined as unskilled or semi-skilled.</p><h3>Premature trade liberalization</h3><blockquote><p>...consequences of the free market approach to trade and industrial policies have been stagnant low wages and high unemployment and underemployment, particularly for the growing ranks of urban youth...</p></blockquote><p>Whereas the use of trade protection had been widely adopted during the Golden Age, the last three decades have also witnessed a revival of the theory of “free trade” that has been translated into pressure for premature trade liberalization in many economies, particularly across many developing countries. Such premature trade liberalization violates the key best practices and historical learning from hundreds of years of prior experience by the industrialized countries – namely, that&nbsp;<em>a country should not lower its trade protection until its industries are competitive in international markets, and not before</em>; and, if an industry is not yet competitive, the thing to do is help make it more competitive with various industrial policy supports, not to let it get wiped out by excessive exposure to floods of cheaper imports.</p><p>In addition to reducing trade protection, these free market macroeconomic policy reforms also curtailed or prohibited the use of other basic industrial policies that had been used for hundreds of years by the industrialized countries, including subsidized credit, preferential tax and financial policies and public technology and R&amp;D support for domestic firms. Such macroeconomic policy reforms were widely pushed by the IMF and World Bank in their conditions for loans and debt-relief in the 1980s and '90s, encoded into law by the rules of WTO membership in the 1990s, and have been more aggressively advanced over the last 15 years in a series of regional free trade agreements (FTAs) and bilateral investment treaties (BITs).</p><p>These reforms have severely limited the available domestic “policy space” for governments to use industrial policies to pro-actively build up their domestic manufacturing and services sectors over time, and have kept many developing countries “locked-in” to only producing primary agricultural and extractive commodities, and thereby have contributed to worsening global economic inequality between countries. The developmental consequences of the free market approach to trade and industrial policies have been stagnant low wages and high unemployment and underemployment, particularly for the growing ranks of urban youth. Staying stuck in primary commodity production has resulted domestic tax bases that are too small to adequately finance the need investments in public health, education, infrastructure and social protection.</p><h3>Financial deregulation</h3><blockquote><p>...with only 38 financial crises recorded during 1945–71, the world has seen over 130 crises between 1973 and 1997...</p></blockquote><p>During the Golden Age years of 1945-1975, the financial sector had long decried the “financial repression” of the strict regulation that blocked or reduced incentives for speculative investments and increased incentives for investments in real employment and production. With the free market reforms of the 1980s, the financial services industry association lobbyists across most western economies began successfully lobbying for and securing a host of reforms that have deregulated financial markets, both within economies and internationally. Whereas the 30 years of the Golden Age had been a time of unusual financial stability historically, with far less frequent and intense financial crises during this period than before or after, this period of stability ended with the onset of financial deregulation beginning in the 1980s. With only 38 financial crises recorded during 1945–71, the world has seen over 130 crises between 1973 and 1997, with some of the most famous being the Mexican debt crises of 1982 and 1994 and the East Asian crisis in the 1990s – not to mention post-1997, especially the global crisis that began in 2008 and still hasn’t ended. Such deregulation set the stage for the global financial crisis of 2008.</p><p>Deregulation of speculative activity in global commodity markets has also led to increased price volatility that particularly had a negative impact on economies in developing countries, many of which still rely on commodity exports.</p><p>Despite some minor reforms to increase the levels of reserves some banks must keep, very few meaningful financial reforms have been enacted or agreed at the international level, despite this task being given to the G20 following the 2008 crises. Today, the largely unregulated financial environment continues to allow financiers to commit fraud on a major scale and investment firms to utilize far riskier investment strategies involving heavy levels of leverage in bets. Rather than being nationalized and/or broken apart, the globally significant international financial institutions (GSIFIs) were given major publically-financed bailouts by their governments in the 2008 crisis on the basis that they were deemed “too big to fail”. Such free bailouts have only served to reinforce the problem of “moral hazard” in which financiers will continue to take irresponsible financial risks if assured they will be bailed out by the public if their bets go badly. The fact that so few financiers went to jail for their illegal and reckless practices, suggests a profound degree of impunity that critics have suggested amounts to a “silent coup” over institutions that ought to be able to exercise democratic accountability, thus reinforcing the dynamic of plutocratic control.</p><h2>Re-establishing a New Golden Age</h2><p>In all of these cases, from regressive tax reforms and financial deregulation to premature trade liberalization and the globalization of manufacturing and its impact on organized labor and wages, while the ideology in support of these reforms became widespread in the global North, these policies were advanced across most developing countries by IMF and World Bank loan conditions and aid donor advice, and more recently through WTO rules and trade and investment agreements.</p><p><strong>The important thing to keep in mind is that the worsening economic inequality and financial stability that the reforms of the last 30 years have produced can be undone</strong>. The United Nations notes that rising inequality is neither a necessary condition for sound economic growth, nor its natural result, and thus could be altered by proactive economic and social policies. The same point was made by Thomas Piketty in his best-selling 2013 book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century”, in which he notes that inequality is not an accident but rather a feature of capitalism that can be reversed only through state intervention, and that doing so is essential to ultimately safeguard democratic societies.</p><p>As developments in the early 20th century showed, unchecked economic inequality and financial instability can lead to plutocracy and a corrosion of democratic institutions. The five key policies of Golden Age showed that this it is possible to reverse such damaging trends, lessen inequality and secure higher wages and greater financial stability.</p><p>To address and reverse the regressive policy trends of recent decades, today citizens must mobilize to pressure their governments to adopt more progressive tax reforms, regulate the financial sector and support organized labor along lines that are commensurate with those of the Golden Age. To achieve more inclusive and sustainable development, a set of different policies are needed in a comprehensive and integrated policy framework, with growth-promoting and job-generating macroeconomic policies and developmental industrial policies as its main pillars.</p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/new-policies-needed-turn-around-global-inequality#comments Insights inequality Governance International Tue, 26 Jan 2016 15:25:59 +0000 Rick.Rowden 650231 at http://www.actionaid.org Inequality: A Wake-up call for European leaders? http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/inequality-wake-call-european-leaders <div class="field field-body"> <p class="western" lang="en-CA">The World Economic Forum gathering of the economic elite is opening in Davos this week, with the theme of the fourth industrial revolution. Davos shows Europe at its most glamorous, but for many ordinary people in Europe, times are tough, with job losses, an exacerbation of inequality and rising social instability. Interestingly, even the <a href="http://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond">Davos organisers acknowledge</a> that we are seeing “a transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance … [which] could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets. As automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor.” But when it comes to proposals to how to ensure prosperity is truly shared, the Davos elites offer variations of the very approaches that have led to today’s extreme inequality.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Too much of policy-making across Europe is stuck in the same rut, failing to address the huge changes underway and the challenges they bring forward. Indeed, part of the problem Europe faces is how policy-making has become far too complicit with wealthy power-brokers. Indeed, the number of corporate lobbyists in Brussels has become so huge that whatever issue you are working on, you end up stumbling into opposite efforts by corporate lobbyists. The amount spent by large companies to <a href="http://lobbyfacts.eu/">influence the European legislation</a> is well documented. The ten companies that spend more reach a cumulated amount of 39 millions euros every year. Among the “top ten&nbsp;»: Philip Morris, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, Shell, Siemens and GDF Suez. Banks and financial institutions have blocked ambitious reform of the banking sector. The <a href="http://corporateeurope.org/blog/heated-lobbying-over-parliament-agrofuel-vote">biofuels companies have mobilised against a reform of the EU renewable energy policy</a>, inflating the number of jobs created by the industry. The energy companies have been promoting false solutions to climate change for the Paris COP. <a href="http://corporateeurope.org/power-lobbies">Agribusiness companies lobby in Brussels to weaken regulations or to get subsidies</a>, preventing reforms needed to support sustainable food and farming and small scale farmers rather than industrial agriculture. Business Europe, the umbrella organisation representing a large part of the European corporate sector, is <a href="http://www.euractiv.com/files/businesseurope_statement_to_the_new_commission_-_business_input_to_the_screening_exercise_by_vice-president_timmermans.pdf">adopting openly retrograde positions</a> – ranging from opposition to rules on gender balance in companies’ boards to air pollution standards.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA"><a href="http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/better_regulation/key_docs_en.htm">The European Commission presented last May a series of proposals</a> to make EU regulation more efficient and less cumbersome and costly for companies because they create jobs and growth. One of the objectives is to involve “stakeholders” in policy making – but not all stakeholders have the same capacity. The armies of corporate lawyers and lobbyists, of course, have substantially more resources to engage and influence decision-making processes than civil society organisations. Therefore, procedures that seem at first sight open for participation by anybody de facto end up leaving the room to corporate capture of EU decision making processes. A loose network (including ActionAid) has been created by CSOs to monitor what <a href="http://www.betterregwatch.eu/">the “Better Regulation” agenda the EC is considering</a> is really about.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">The same rationale prevails in the field of development: the corporate sector creates jobs and growth and is therefore an inescapable partner for development; it should play a role in economic policy making, including in partner countries. And it will allow to respond to the needs while there is not enough public money available for development. All this may be true, but a principled approach addressing both rights and responsibilities of companies is still lacking, while little emphasis is put on the need to support local private sector rather than transnational corporations.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">EU Member States hold on tight to their privileged position in the global political and economic governance, benefiting from the global inequalities. Recent examples include the failure of the EU to support the creation of an Inter-Governmental Body on Tax at the Addis Ababa conference on FfD; or the EU resistance to have binding regulations on corporations in the field of human rights; or the aggressive trade, investment and pro-private sector agenda of the EU and member states, as recently <a href="http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2015/july/tradoc_153625.pdf">illustrated by the deal</a> concluded between the EU and Vietnam or by a <a href="https://vimeo.com/130036707">telling video</a> on trade between the EU and Latin America.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">The current economic model is inadequate to cope with today’s extreme inequality and the perceptible impact of climate change. Even worse: the current model contributes to those dangerous phenomena. It is time for an alternative model with other rules of the game, rules which don’t allow a preponderant weight of the big corporations in EU decision making processes.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">Although studies regarding the evolution of income inequality in European countries since the 2000s vary, it can be affirmed without any doubt that in a number of EU member states, the recent trend has been an <a href="http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2015/536294/IPOL_STU(2015)536294_EN.pdf">increase in income inequality</a>. People now doubt that their children will be better off than they are. Since the 2008 financial crisis, social rights have been curtailed across Europe, with the adoption of austerity measures and reforms of labour laws, sometimes with <a href="http://womenalliance.org/the-effects-of-the-economic-crisis-on-women-in-europe">specific adverse impacts on women</a>. Wages are often not sufficient anymore to have a decent life, and the redistributive policies put in place in Europe after World War II are being progressively eroded.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">It therefore does not come as a surprise that in a context of economic dislocation, we have seen the scapegoating of minorities, migrants and foreigners, with Hungary on an aggressively nationalistic path, Poland potentially poised to follow the same line, and France’s extreme nationalist support rising fast. Even in Scandinavian countries we see governments turning inward. Across Europe, even mainstream politicians discussing refugees focus on how to keep people out and how to divert development aid to border control.</p><p class="western" lang="en-CA">But we have also seen across Europe a growing assertion by many young people of the need to rediscover solidarity and equality. They are calling for action to boost jobs, fix public services, and tackle the tax dodging which may cost €1 trillion annually to Europe hurting its ordinary people as well as people in the world’s poorest countries. They are pushing for fairer societies at home and for solidarity abroad. They know that global problems like climate change require people to work together. They are part of the growing broad global movement to tackle inequality. It is not only in developing countries that an economy for the many is needed. It is needed in Europe too.</p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/inequality-wake-call-european-leaders#comments inequality Governance International Wed, 20 Jan 2016 12:50:42 +0000 Isabelle.Brachet 649683 at http://www.actionaid.org Civil society leaders issue statement to step up the fight on inequality http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/civil-society-leaders-issue-statement-step-fight-inequality <div class="field field-image-nid"> <div class="buildmode-embedded_image"> <div class="node node-type-image clear-block"> <div class="nd-region-middle-wrapper nd-no-sidebars" ><div class="nd-region-middle"><div class="field field-image-file"> <a href="/2016/01/civil-society-leaders-issue-statement-step-fight-inequality" class="imagecache imagecache-thumb_large imagecache-linked imagecache-thumb_large_linked"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/thumb_large/image/joint-statement-header.png" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-thumb_large" width="140" height="140" /></a> </div> </div></div> </div> <!-- /node --> </div> <!-- /buildmode --> </div> <div class="field field-body"> <p>The joint inequality alliance statement says:</p><p><strong>The world faces an inequality crisis that is spiralling out of control. &nbsp;Across the world we are seeing the gap between the richest and the rest reach extremes not seen in a century.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Struggles for a better world are all threatened by the inequality crisis. Workers across the world are seeing their wages and conditions eroded as inequality increases.&nbsp; The rights of women are systematically worse in situations of greater economic inequality.&nbsp; The vast majority of the world’s richest people are men; those in the most precarious and poorly paid work are women. &nbsp;Young people are facing a crisis of unemployment. Other groups such as migrants, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI people, people with disability and indigenous people continue to be pushed to the margins, suffering systematic discrimination. The struggle to realise the human rights of the majority are continually undercut in the face of such disparities of wealth and power. &nbsp;</p><p>Extreme inequality is also frequently linked to rising restrictions on civic space and democratic rights as political and economic elites collude to protect their interests. The right to peaceful protest and the ability of citizens to challenge the prevailing economic discourse is being curtailed almost everywhere, for elites know that extreme inequality and participatory democracy cannot co-exist for long.</p><p><strong>Even the future of our planet is dependent on ending this great divide, with the carbon consumption of the 1% as much as 175 times that of the poorest.</strong></p><p>Our current economic system is not working at many levels. Dominated by an over-confidence in the benefits of the market, it helps only a small elite, and is failing the majority, and failing the planet.&nbsp; There is widespread agreement that we are living through an inequality crisis. On this the IMF, the Pope and many other influential voices are agreed.&nbsp; The time has come to do something about it.&nbsp; The current system did not come about by accident.&nbsp; It is the result of deliberate policy choices.&nbsp; It is the result of our leaders listening to the 1% instead of to the majority.&nbsp; This has to change.</p><p>This is all happening at the time when the international community has agreed a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (Agenda 2030), and has come together to discuss financing development and crucially the Climate Change Accord in Paris where every country agreed to work together to combat climate change.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>We know that existing commitments, and much more beyond that must be done, will not be realised without a fight. That is why today we are coming together as the beginnings of a global alliance to fight inequality.&nbsp;</strong></p><p>We will work together with others to tackle the root causes of inequality, whether they be economic, political, social or cultural. We will press governments to meet their obligations to ensure people can enjoy their rights to health, education and other essential public services through tackling tax dodging and ensuring progressive tax and spend policies. We will support workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and narrow the gap between rich and poor. &nbsp;We will fight for the redistribution of women’s unequal share of unpaid care work, and the tackling of violence against women brought on by state repression and rising fundamentalism.&nbsp; We will advocate for universal social protection floors. We will fight for land reform. We will work together to challenge the disproportionate power and practices of the corporate sector that is undermining so many struggles, contributing to human rights violations and increasing inequality across the globe.&nbsp; We will work together with others to secure climate justice. We will take on the power of corporations, including fossil fuel companies who are undermining efforts which respond to science and protect people and planet. &nbsp;We will together champion international cooperation so every country plays its part and we avoid a race to the bottom.</p><p>The current face of failed globalisation is rising inequality, conflict, corruption and oppression. The world needs fundamental change through a new economic model that puts the interests of people first. We need change on a scale never seen before. People across the world must be at the heart of demanding and driving this change. Only such a people powered movement can build a breakthrough that unites governments, trade unions, civil society and companies who share a commitment to the common good.</p><p><strong>We choose to imagine a better world than this, where everyone’s human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. We believe humanity has the talent, technology, and brilliance to build that better world, where the interests of the majority are put first.&nbsp; And we believe the time has come to fight for it together.</strong></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Adriano Campolina, Chief Executive, ActionAid</p><p>John Nduna, General Secretary, ACT Alliance</p><p>Salil Shetty, Secretary General, Amnesty International</p><p>Lydia Alpízar Durán, Executive Director, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID)</p><p>Bernd Nilles, Secretary General, CIDSE</p><p>Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah , General Secretary, CIVICUS</p><p>Mads Christensen, Acting Executive Director, Greenpeace</p><p>Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)</p><p>Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam</p><p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KGI6hZjsQlA" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe></p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/civil-society-leaders-issue-statement-step-fight-inequality#comments inequality International Wed, 20 Jan 2016 10:12:11 +0000 adriano.campolina 649624 at http://www.actionaid.org Rights-Based Responses to Non-State Education Provision: A tentative typology and some critical reflections http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/rights-based-responses-non-state-education-provision-tentative-typology-and-some-critical-re <div class="field field-image-nid"> <div class="buildmode-embedded_image"> <div class="node node-type-image clear-block"> <div class="nd-region-middle-wrapper nd-no-sidebars" ><div class="nd-region-middle"><div class="field field-image-file"> <a href="/2016/01/rights-based-responses-non-state-education-provision-tentative-typology-and-some-critical-re" class="imagecache imagecache-thumb_large imagecache-linked imagecache-thumb_large_linked"><img src="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/imagecache/thumb_large/rs_145695" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-thumb_large" width="140" height="140" /></a> </div> </div></div> </div> <!-- /node --> </div> <!-- /buildmode --> </div> <div class="field field-body"> <p>The role of the private sector in education has become a very hot issue internationally and it has tended to lead to generalised and polarised statements rather than nuanced debates.&nbsp; Attempts to debate the role of “non-State actors” in education often exacerbate the problem - as a huge range of different actors, roles and contexts get lumped together. The reality is more complex than many people (including myself) sometimes make it seem. &nbsp;Therefore, in the <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/reflections_on_non-state_actors_-_13th_jan_2016.docx">attached article</a> I have tried to disaggregate the debate in a concise form and offer some quick reflections on how we might understand and respond from a rights-based perspective in different situations. I do not pretend to be neutral. My starting point is a firm belief in a rights-based perspective and a conviction that education can and should be a powerful equalising force in society.</p><p>The classification of eleven types of non-State provision is far from perfect (many categories could be sub-divided) but includes:</p><ol><li>Community initiatives in rural areas where the State fails</li><li>Community initiatives in marginal urban areas where the State is absent</li><li>English medium schools where governments schools do not teach in English</li><li>NGO-initiated community schools / NFE centres / Philanthropic schools</li><li>Inclusive / special schools for children with disabilities</li><li>Faith-based schools</li><li>Commercial for-profit providers of low fee private schools</li><li>Private schools for the middle class and rich</li><li>Private supplementary tutoring</li><li>Voucher-based models to give parents a choice</li><li>Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)</li></ol><p>For each category I have tried to identify what might be the immediate engagement or practical response of those who are concerned with advancing the right to education – separating this from what a longer term more strategic response might look like.</p><p>Most education systems are diverse, with multiple actors and providers whether government, NGO, philanthropic, faith-based or private sector providers – but the State has a clear obligation to act as a guarantor of the right to education across all these providers, ensuring that each child is able to have their right to education respected, protected and fulfilled.&nbsp; Whilst tolerance of a diverse system is important, it is equally crucial that clear standards are set for all providers and that there is a credible capacity to monitor compliance with these standards. These standards should be consistent with core human rights commitments – such as the right to free education, to non-discrimination, to adequate infrastructure, to quality trained teachers, to a safe and non-violent environment, to a relevant education based on a broad curriculum and to transparent and accountable schools (see <a href="http://www.actionaid.org/sites/files/actionaid/prs_-_english-final__4_may_2011_2_0.pdf">Promoting Rights in Schools</a> for elaboration on these). There are tipping points and trade-offs to be conscious of. Sometimes it will be cheaper and more effective for the State to be a direct provider than to invest in a huge regulatory and enforcement framework to monitor compliance by others.</p><p>I conclude that we need to be very wary of arguments that suggest that public education systems are destined to fail, that they are the “past” and that competitive private provision is the inevitable future.&nbsp; Every country that has achieved universalisation of education access has done so through strong, coordinated government action and consistent investment in a predominantly public education system. Yes, there are crises in public education systems in many countries but these are often related to years of chronic underfunding – either owing to very low tax intakes (low tax to GDP ratios), inadequate shares of the national budget being spent on education (the 20% benchmark of national budgets should be a minimum for low income countries), poor allocation of budgets (e.g. prioritising tertiary over basic education) or poor utilisation of budgets (owing to corruption / lack of transparency / weak institutional capacity). All of these can be and need to be addressed to rebuild people’s confidence in the role of the public sector in education. Non-State provision might supplement but should not supplant the role of the State. The quality of education children receive should never be stratified, dependent on their parent’s social status or their ability to pay. We need to build diverse but equitable education systems if we want education to act as an equalising force within society.</p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/rights-based-responses-non-state-education-provision-tentative-typology-and-some-critical-re#comments Education Governance International Mon, 18 Jan 2016 13:12:04 +0000 david.archer 649082 at http://www.actionaid.org New EC funded project for empowering women and youth led CSOs in Myanmar http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/new-ec-funded-project-empowering-women-and-youth-led-csos-myanmar <div class="field field-body"> <p>Article by Kalika Bro-Jorgensen</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="BodyA">ActionAid has initiated a new four year project called “Strengthening a responsive, diverse and democratic civil society in Myanmar”. Funded by the European Commission, the overall objective is to build a more equitable, democratic and just society in Myanmar.</p><p class="BodyA">&nbsp;</p><p class="BodyA">The project will strengthen organisational and technical capacity of civil society organisations in rural and ethnic areas through trainings on human rights based approach, gender sensitivity, conflict sensitivity and all aspects of organisational management, governance and communications.</p><p class="BodyA">&nbsp;</p><p class="BodyA">The aim is for the civil society organisations to enhancetheir participation in local governance processes and policy dialogue; collectively undertake evidence based advocacy and campaigning work and monitor government implementation and spending; andenhance communication and cooperation with the media as well as government at all levels.</p><p class="BodyA">&nbsp;</p><p class="BodyA">The target group is a total of 83 mainly youth and women-led civil society organisations from rural and ethnic areas; 10 national civil society organisation networks, with a total of 6,500 members; 215 women leaders; 140 youth leaders; 6 State Governments; 2 Ministries (Planning and Rural Development); 100 young journalists; 210 Village Tract Development Committee members, Township authorities and State and Central Government Officials. The project has a budget of 2.3 million EUR and will be implemented in all 14 states and regions of Myanmar in partnership with two national partners, Capacity Building Initiative and Phan Tee Eain. Capacity Building Initiative, named ‘the most comprehensive provider of capacity building and skills training’has 15 years’experience working with civil society organisations providing specialised training, facilitation and networking and is a long term collaborator of ActionAid. Phan Tee Eain is a women’s rights specialist, working with over 200 organisations and with wide-ranging links to national and regional civil society organisations networks. The action builds on the learning and successes of ActionAid Myanmar’sdecade-long work linking active citizenship and youth mobilisation with capacity building of civil society organisations, as well as extensive experience developing mutual understanding and cooperation between civil society organisations and government.</p> </div> http://www.actionaid.org/2016/01/new-ec-funded-project-empowering-women-and-youth-led-csos-myanmar#comments Myanmar Asia International Mon, 18 Jan 2016 04:17:45 +0000 Thant.Zin 648910 at http://www.actionaid.org