October 17, 2017
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the declaration by the UN General Assembly of 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The new 2030 Agenda and the Sustainably Development Goals contain structural aspects which are essential in order to achieve the eradication of poverty in a sustainable and fair world. Quality employment, changes in the production model or the fight against climate change are necessary and relevant fields in any country, whatever their level of development.
The most significant example of the systemic character of the SDGs is Goal number 10, which refers to inequality and its rampaging increase, and it is on everyone’s lips today. And not only among those transforming economists such as Piketty or other social movements. Also, unusual suspects who are “against the system” like Christine Lagarde or American billionaires have said that the extreme inequality is one of the biggest risks of our time. The Pope has been, as in other subjects, more prophetic and compelling than anybody else and has said that inequality is “the root for all social ills”, developing his argument in multiple interventions.
There is remarkable agreement based on multiple investigations about inequality not only being unfair. When it grows and persists, as is the case in the majority of countries it stops growth, it makes it even less inclusive and sustainable, it breaks cohesion and social stability and it prevents us from eradicating poverty. The theory of the overflow by which generating wealth is enough to end poverty is now dead. Nowadays, the wealth that is created is obscenely accumulated by very few, with 1% co-opting laws and policies and already own the same wealth as the rest of humanity. A recent report presented by Oxfam shows that only 62 billionaires have the same wealth as 3.6 billion people.
Where there is less agreement is in the solutions, or let’s say there’s more fear. This is a reverential fear that those of us who feel “safe” have against disrupting the established order and trespassing uncertain territory. We are scared of a transformative change. Vulnerable people do not have a choice, they already lost that fear.
A consequence of this fear is the difficulty to fight inequality with ambitious objectives, transformative policies and clear indicators. A good example of this is SDG number 10. Its first objective is focused on increasing the income of the poorest 40% of each country to bring it above the national average. As it is not referring to the income of the wealthiest 1% or 10%, the goal falls short. It doesn’t take into account the finite nature of the resources and the necessity to ensure the planetary sustainability, nor does it ensure that the middle class won’t become poor where it stands strong or that it barely escapes poverty where it is emerging.
The rest of the content of the SDG 10 has the right references of economic inclusion and fiscal, wage and social protection policies that help make progress towards equality. Well, we know that these aspirations won’t be achieved with rhetorical commitments but with brave and strong political measures that reduce the wage gaps, end tax evasion and avoidance and ensure a basic income for the most vulnerable population. Fair taxation must assure social policies that are strong enough to guarantee, among other rights, the right to quality and equitable education which will work as a catalyst of the rest of human rights.
Today, just like the rest of the year, is a great occasion to remember and highlight the importance of working for education opportunities to break the poverty cycle and the realities of inequality and exclusion facing the most impoverished communites.