In January 2019, Home Secretary Sajid Javid MP called 200 people seeking safe haven in the UK a ‘crisis.’
We are without a doubt in crisis. However, the Home Secretary seems to have missed the point, while at the same time showing complete disregard for the plight of those men, women and children risking their lives. The crisis we are facing is that of deepening extreme inequality: a consequence of a failing economic system where less than 1% of the global population has amassed half the world’s wealth. Tackling global migration requires the Home Secretary and the government to focus on the real crisis of inequality and the structural reasons why people are forced to move from their homes, instead of engaging in the toxic logic of walls and fences.
While the small elite continue to get richer and more powerful, half of the world’s population survives on $5 a day. Billions are denied the right to housing, shelter, education and health – fundamental rights, enshrined in international human rights law. Meanwhile, the bosses of big business award themselves millions, and manoeuvre their corporate interests to ensure their companies pay the least tax possible.
In this pursuit of profit over people, protection of human rights has been undermined and disregarded. Even 70 years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, millions are still denied the right to live free from persecution and injustice. Far too many people are still denied access to education, and affordable healthcare. Workers face dangerous factory conditions and remain stuck in poverty wages just to survive. Despite commitments to human rights, our own government is complicit in fuelling conflict by doubling its arms sales in the past year to countries on its own list of human rights abusers such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel and Pakistan.
With the concentration of power in the hands of such a small few, we know the global economic system is broken. Not only has it caused a crisis of shocking inequality and human rights abuse, but a crisis of climate injustice. Increasing global temperatures has unleashed killer floods, droughts and famines across the global South. Corrupt corporations are responsible for over 70% of carbon emissions, yet it’s those least responsible for climate change whose lives are devastated by these catastrophes –damaging their ecosystems and livelihoods.
We have always believed that poverty is political: a result of decisions made by powerful governments, corporations, and elites to maintain the status quo for their own benefit. The crisis of inequality can and will be overcome. Not by the billionaires at Davos or by politicians demanding fences and walls, but by ordinary people of conscience around the globe.
Winning the war on want will require transformational change. It will require active solidarity with frontline communities across the world fighting for their rights and defending their livelihoods. It will require collective power on the streets as we reject the current politics of hatred and bigotry, which has added fuel to the fire of shocking inequality.
We must continue to build our movement against powerful odds. War on Want will continue to hold corporations accountable for their long lists of human rights violations in pursuit of profit. At the end of 2018, we saw global banking giant HSBC bow to our campaign pressure and divest from Elbit Sytems, one of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers. Earlier this year, we saw people coming together nationwide in solidarity with the Stansted 15 human rights defenders, which reiterated our rejection of the government’s hostile environment of deportations and detentions. We saw a landmark victory with our long-time partner in South Africa, affirming their right to say no to destructive mining in their community.
Our message is clear: we are committed to creating a fairer, safer and more equal world for us all amongst the crisis of inequality. We will do so with compassion, humanity and commitment.
This article first featured in the Summer/Spring 2019 edition our magazine for members, Up Front. Not yet a member of War on Want? Join us here.