Don’t listen to Davos

Wanda Wyporska | Published: 00:00, Jan 22,2020 | Updated: 00:36, Jan 22,2020


People hold placards as they take part in a gathering called by climate activists prior to the start of a march to Davos ahead of the World Economic Forum in Landquart. — Agence France-Presse/Fabrice Coffrini

The UK, a nation of food banks and Ferraris, ranks as the world’s sixth-richest economy. Advocates are demanding change.

IT’S THAT time of the year again, when the rich elites put on their designer rags and expensive watches, pack up the jewellery and head off to impress their peers at Davos. The exclusive Swiss skiing resort also becomes guard labour heaven, as the security needed is astronomical.

But hey, it’s all for a good cause because these elites are supposedly acting for the common good. Cosseted in extreme comfort, the Davos crowd will discuss how to build fairer economies, better businesses and a healthier planet, among other pressing global issues. They will listen to a range of voices and then, feeling proud of themselves, they will go back to doing what the one per cent carries on doing.

But, as we know, solutions to these issues, and to inequality in all its forms, will not come from comfort and conversation. The solutions come from us, the people. The solutions come from the populace living at the sharp end of inequality.

Our future as a species depends on the actions we take today in the face of climate change and the deep inequalities that accompany it.

Those solutions are plain as day to see. The research is there, and the practical examples are there as well. What’s missing is the political will. Much of this, I would argue, is because of pandering to that very same one per cent who profess much concern and wring their hands at Davos.

Here in the UK, the Equality Trust, inspired by the US-based Institute for Policy Studies and the Patriotic Millionaires, released a report in December 2019 revealing that just six UK billionaires owned more wealth than over 13 million people. The richest 1,000 people in the UK increased their wealth by over 253 billion pounds, nearly $330 billion, over the past five years.

At the same time, we have 14 million people living in poverty and a record number of people forced to go to food banks to meet their needs. The working poor in the UK earn wages that do not allow them the dignity and security of a stable home life. But, the UK is the sixth richest economy — and we are a nation of food banks and Ferraris.

This week, engaged citizens around the world and here in the UK are demanding that their leaders be bold and listen — not to the transnational elite gathered in Davos this week, but to us, the people. In London, we are holding a moment of mayhem. We’re creating noise, as the UK chapter of the Fight Inequality Alliance, with a range of partners. We are taking our protest to the heart of power, to Westminster, and we are speaking up and demanding change. It is time to listen to the ordinary people who pay the price of governments’ unjust policies, designed by a stealthy 0.1 per cent accountable to no one.

The fight against inequality and the concentration of power is everyone’s fight. We know that we need to put the planet and people first. Both the causes and the consequences of our climate crisis are unevenly distributed and contribute hugely to inequality. Our future as a species depends on the actions we take today in the face of climate change and the deep inequalities that accompany it.

We must uphold social rights: good, quality education; accessible housing; healthcare for all; social security entitlements that ensure an adequate standard of living for everyone; strong unions; and jobs that pay enough to live in dignity. The sixth largest economy must do much better. No child should go to bed hungry. We will not compromise for anything less than this., January 20. Dr Wanda Wyporska is the executive director of the London-based Equality Trust.

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