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Issue #1855      February 6, 2019

Beyond Davos

On the eve of yet another World Economic Forum, Zubair Sayed looks at how people are mobilising to find solutions to social problems exacerbated by inequality.

The world’s business and political elites will again cosy up to each other later this month at the exclusive Swiss mountain resort town of Davos, as the World Economic Forum (WEF), hosts its annual meeting. During the last few years inequality has been on their agenda – despite the irony of their role in fuelling it. Leading inequality economist Branko Milanovic says that Davos has been “singularly unsuccessful in convincing governments to do anything about rising inequality”.

Beth Mukami speaks with children on the street in Dandora

The statistics on inequality are staggering and becoming all too familiar. Last year it was reported that 42 people own the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity. And that 82 percent of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1 percent of the global population.

Waiting for change to come from the top has never worked and won’t work now. But a much more exciting story is emerging from frontline organisers across the world. A story of the people most affected by inequality getting together to build collective power and force governments to shift policies in the interests of the 99 percent.

These are the frontline everyday heroes fighting inequality. Many of them are part of a new and growing global movement of activists and organisations that form part of the Fight Inequality Alliance. The alliance unites social movements, environmental groups, women’s rights groups, trade unions and NGOs across the world and believes that large-scale social change comes about when people, not elites, organise and challenge those in power.

Their stories highlight how, in many different ways, ordinary people are coming together to mobilise and fight against inequality, and to find solutions to social problems exacerbated by inequality.

The inspirational Beth Mukami from the Dandora slum outside Nairobi in Kenya, started the Dandora Community Justice Centre after dealing with the horror of her husband being killed. Her story is one of fighting against the odds.

Taylor lives in an Indigenous community on the outskirts of Guadalajara, the second largest city in México. Her community includes Indigenous migrants from southern Mexico and Central America, that suffer discrimination and unemployment. She also experiences gender, youth and sexual diversity discrimination and, to challenge the status quo, started – with neighbours and volunteers from a group called Documotora – a documentary workshop to document the problems, challenges and strengths of her community.

Zambian youth activist, Mzeziti Mwanza, campaigns for human rights and against inequality, especially for reduced inequalities in health care and access to education, with a focus on gender equality. In cities from Manila to Guadalajara, ordinary people will mobilise and gather in their thousands to demand and present solutions to rising inequality. They are demanding an end to the age of greed that has seen extreme wealth and power skyrocket to epidemic proportions.

In Mexico, the city of Guadalajara will host a walk called “From el Colli to Davos”. It starts from a hill where rural and Indigenous migrants settle informally, expelled from the city and deprived of opportunities and services for a better life. It will culminate with a number of cultural activities, including a hip-hop and art contest and gathering people’s demands for change.

In Zambia, there will be a festival in Shang’ombo, one of the poorest and most neglected districts of Zambia. The festival will highlight how politicians and elites make promises here during election campaigns and then forget the people, as well as people’s stories of inequality and their solutions. It will feature music stars Petersen Zagaze, BFlow and Maiko Zulu.

In Kenya, Dandora slum in Nairobi will play host to the Usawa Festival (or Equality Festival), where hip hop star Juliani will perform, and alliance members will create a space for people to bring forward their solutions to inequality.

Tackling inequality will take a step forward during that week, but it will happen because people are not waiting for answers, they are organising for change – in spite of Davos, not because of it.

New Internationalist

Next article – Beacon of Solidarity – Final Declaration of the 36th Southern Cross Brigade 2019

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