Wherever we live, we want similar things. To live peaceful lives in a supportive community, have access to health care for our families when we are sick, and an education for our children that gives them a solid foundation for their futures.
Despite this, millions of people – both across the world and in the UK – are denied this reality, thanks to the policy choices of those in power. Austerity, privatisation, tax dodging, unfair trade rules, climate change – these aren’t accidents. They are a result of policy choices often promoted by rich elites and corporations. The result is growing poverty, insecurity and sickness, and the destruction of our shared home on which we all rely.
The only way to end poverty and inequality is to address its causes. That requires a new vision in which people across the world work in solidarity to tackle those responsible, and build a world in which all people have a fair share of wealth and power. Whilst this is a big task, the following things provide a starting point:
Name the problem. We need to speak out about the policies that are causing the problem and name the people responsible for them. The big corporations, the wealthy elites and the leaders of rich countries and financial institutions. We need to name those who use their power to construct rules that work for them, at the expense of the rest of us and our planet.
To do this we need to understand how these problems were built in the first place. The causes of global poverty along with the role of the British Empire can be better taught throughout the school curriculum.
Secondly, we need to set out a new vision that shatters the neoliberal ideology of everyone for themselves, and rebuilds it with one collective responsibly for our shared home. To achieve this we need to work in solidarity with people, across borders to construct trade agreements that support health; drug policies that work for people; and strong public services to provide a firm foundation for all families.
This requires us to rebuild power dynamics between people and countries. We can see aid as just one of the forms of wealth redistribution that are needed both nationally and internationally. It can be spent on assembling robust health systems so that everyone in the world can access free, quality healthcare, and strong public services.
Finally, we need to design the mechanisms to make change happen. We can’t continue with this approach in which DFID works to ease poverty whilst other government departments create it. We need a whole of government approach to make sure all UK policies do not continue to impede the lives of others.
It is precisely because of the responsibility that the British government and corporations bear for global poverty that means that the potential for change is enormous. If we acknowledge the responsibility for the causes of poverty and champion a cross government approach that steps up to the challenge of addressing it, the impacts on poverty and lives of people throughout the world will be immense.
Read more in our joint briefing ‘reclaiming internationalism’ produced with other members of the Progressive Development Forum.