It’s time to lift lives for good

If you’re in the UK, you may already have seen our new campaign: Lift Lives for Good. Oxfam’s head of economic justice, Hannah Stoddart, introduces it here and explains why 2014 will be all about tackling climate change and inequality.

Today Oxfam launches a major campaign to communicate our vision of change. Lift Lives for Good is about change that lasts, where empowered individuals alter the course of their own lives and catalyze change across their communities. 

The world’s richest 1% now hold more than 46% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 90% have just 14%.But for this change to truly last, political solutions are needed to tackle the underlying causes of poverty, with empowered individuals and communities calling for an end to the injustices that stop them from lifting their lives for good. 
This is why Oxfam is announcing its two priority campaign issues for the future: inequality and climate change. Oxfam witnesses daily the injustice of growing inequality, which acts as a barrier to fighting poverty, and the creeping and insidious impacts of climate change on the people we work with.

Unfair distribution of the world’s resources

Inequality and climate change are born of the same injustice – a gross unfairness in the distribution of the world’s resources. The 2013 Global Wealth Report shows that the richest 1% now hold more than 46% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 90% have just 14%.

The world’s richest developed countries account for around 70% of historic carbon emissions since 1850. And richer people have bigger carbon footprints: studies suggest that in 2008, over half the world’s carbon emissions came from just 700 million high emitters.

By concentrating wealth and power in the hands of the few, inequality robs the poorest people of even the minimal support they need to lift their lives, and means their voices increasingly go unheard. It means there is less money to spend on poverty-busting public services like health and education, as the richest not only take more than their fair share, but also rig the rules to escape paying the taxes that could be used for the public good. Unfair and secretive tax systems cost developing countries an estimated $160bn each year, effectively robbing
poor people of the services and funds that could enable them to better their lives. Climate change could increase the number of people at risk of hunger by 10-20% by 2050

At the same time, through its devastating impact on crops and livelihoods, climate change is undoing poor people’s efforts to feed their families and overcome poverty. The world’s poorest people face the greatest risk from climate change and are already bearing the brunt of its impacts.

Climate change was a key factor in the 2011 Horn of Africa drought and analysis suggests that climate change could increase the number of people at risk of hunger by 10-20% by 2050.

Yet rich countries are failing to deliver the desperately needed finance to help the poorest countries overcome climate change, and the lack of a global deal to curb emissions means that business as usual is still the rule of the day. This is why for every $1 that is spent supporting renewable energy, $6 go to subsidies that prop up the fossil fuel industry

Man-made problems: man-made solutions

But both inequality and climate change are man-made and can be overcome in a way that delivers benefits to everyone. Cracking down on tax dodging could help to claw back some of the $100bn that is lost every year to tax havens – money that could be spent on public services and initiatives to build better resilience to climate change. Investing in a low-carbon future in the UK and overseas can deliver lower cost energy to the poorest as well as boosting economies. There are political solutions which, with the right leadership, can lead to lasting change
that lifts lives for good. 
The countdown to 2015 – the deadline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, establishing a new set of global development goals, and agreeing a global deal to curb carbon emissions – is fast approaching. 2015 is also the year of the UK general election.

Will UK political leaders seize the opportunity to tackle the two greatest challenges of our generation and lift lives for good? Or will they continue with ‘business as usual’ and leave future generations to pick up the pieces?

Oxfam is watching closely…

What next?

Author: Hannah Stoddart
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.