The UN High-Level Panel looking at what should replace the Millenium Development Goals after 2015, co-chaired by David Cameron, is meeting in Monrovia, Liberia this week (President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is another co-chair). Civil society representatives at the panel have produced an excellent submission starting from the understanding that neoliberal growth models have enriched corporates and either left poverty and unemployment untouched or even made it worse. The civil society statement stressed (as Ivan Lewis did earlier in the week) that inequality was the main problem that needs addressing, although it also touched on issues like hunger and climate change.
Particularly interesting for the TUC was the paragraph on workers’ rights, which is worth representing in full (you can sort of tell it’s a composite):
“reform labour laws and policies to ensure full and decent employment for all and that all workers including disabled workers obtain a living wage, and support for freedom of association, collective bargaining and social dialogue for decent work; to urgently address the human rights of women workers to equal wages, maternity leave, child care, safe and decent working conditions including clean toilets, private spaces for breast feeding, adequate rest breaks, the prevention of practices such as virginity tests, and protection from sexual violence in the workplace;”
Inequality between and within countries is fast replacing poverty itself as the key issue facing the development community, which makes the current concentration of UK aid agencies on food (with only passing references to the issues that determine its unequal distribution) all the more strange (I look forward to the day when British aid NGOs make workers’ rights and full employment their main campaign….)
Brendan Cox of Save the Children, a key figure in the IF campaign who is in Monrovia for the panel visit, produced a typically thoughtful reflection on the week that only mentioned hunger once (it might be reading too much into his words to highlight the conscious banality of his comment that “we know … hunger is awful”!)
Brendan highlighted inequality as an issue where:
“On inequality there is growing agreement but still some individuals with strong personal views who could hold the group back”
Who can he mean?