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World leaders should choose people over profit

Rising hunger, inequality, loss of livelihoods, climate change, environmental degradation, war and vaccine inequality pushed excluded people to the margins

We want climate justice!

We want economic justice!

We want social justice!

We want an end to war!

We want peace and happiness!

We want an end to inequality!

These slogans were echoed in the virtual Global People’s Assembly held from September 20 – September 22, this year. The meeting was held parallel to the 77th United Nations General Assembly. It was attended by over 1,000 delegates from 127 countries. The participants, representing diverse excluded and marginalised communities and civil societies, demanded “development justice.”

Global People’s Assembly was organised by a wide range of civil societies, including Global Call to Action Against Poverty, Action for Sustainable Development, CIVICUS, Forus, GFoD, Women Major group and others. 

Similar National People’s Assemblies were also organised in 28 countries, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, El Salvador and others.

These assemblies aim to galvanise the voices of marginalised communities — including indigenous communities, old-age people and persons with disabilities — among others.

The promise of social justice and a fair, rights-based, equitable and ecologically-just world seem hollow even seven years after adopting the Sustainable Development Goals. Almost all 17 goals are in jeopardy despite nearing the Agenda 2030 deadline.

“The cascading and interlinked crises are putting the Agenda 2030 in grave danger along with humanity’s own survival,” the SDG 2022 report underscored.

Who is responsible for it? One possible reason for this is the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

The political, financial, economic and social architecture, as well as the individuals who lead these systems, are failing us, stated the declaration adopted by the Global People’s Assembly.

Rising hunger, inequality, loss of livelihoods, climate change, environmental degradation, war, crumbling health system exposed during the pandemic and vaccine inequality pushed excluded people to the margins and made the planet uninhabitable.

Global leaders are failing us again and again. Take the case of the inequality in the Covid vaccination

A little over 22 per cent of Africa is fully immunised, while rich countries are at a very advanced stage of vaccination.

A proposal by India and South Africa to adopt a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver for the Covid vaccine, test and treatment at the WTO was vehemently opposed by the United Kingdom and the European Union.

For the last two years, these countries have been succumbing to pressure from the pharma companies that produce vaccines. 

Finally, the decision taken at the WTO Ministerial Conference 12 gave some concessions on the Covid vaccines. But this would not lead to mass production and distribution of vaccines, ending vaccine inequality. 

Civil society’s clamour demanding a ‘peoples vaccine was ignored. Profit won over people. 

The global hunger levels have increased to 276 million from 135 million in the last two years. The food crisis has taken a colossal scale in countries like Yemen, the Central African Republic, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Sudan, Syria and others, stated a report by OXFAM, an international non-profit.

Hunger hotspots were also seen in Brazil, India and South Africa, where COVID-19 infections were extreme. The Climate crisis has also gone to an unprecedented level.

The lukewarm response of leaders to the rising global temperature is also reflected in the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

The findings state that greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase and the current plans to address climate change are not enough to mitigate the crisis.

The governments must phase out all fossil fuel subsidies by 2024. Rich countries should provide full compensation for losses and damage caused by the impacts of climate change on vulnerable groups and countries. 

In order to achieve global justice, we must achieve climate justice and in order to achieve climate justice, we must ‘stop ecocide’. Ecocide is a crime against my generation and against humanity,” said Emma Buretta, a 16-year-old climate activist from New York.

Ecocide is the human impact on the environment, causing mass destruction to the environment.

Emma coordinated the global climate strike by Friday for Future in New York, demanding the Biden administration declare a climate emergency

The state of democracy and civic space is at an all-time low.

“Civic space conditions continue to remain a challenge throughout the world with only 3.1 per cent of the global population living in countries where fundamental freedoms are respected and protected,” said John, Secretary General, CIVICUS.

The global assembly called upon world leaders to take bold and transformative measures as promised in the Agenda 2030 and the Paris climate deal to save the Earth and humanity.

The assembly demanded TRIPS waiver for Covid vaccine, testing and treatment and upholding the human rights of women, children, the elderly, youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and other such groups.

“Caste-based discrimination and untouchability is the fundamental root cause of extreme poverty, violence and exclusion faced by Dalits,” stated Bhakta Biswakarma of Asia Dalit Rights Forum, a rights-based organisation.

Such injustice and inequalities have to be eliminated by formulating and implementing effective national and international policies, he added.

Views expressed are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth

The author works as the Asia Coordinator of GCAP, a global campaign working on issues of poverty and inequality

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