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Davos and global justice

"Deep-rooted social and economic trends are manifesting themselves increasingly disruptively across the world. Persistent inequality, particularly in the context of comparative global economic weakness, risks undermining the legitimacy of market capitalism. At the same time, deepening social and cultural polarization risks impairing national decision-making processes and obstructing vital global collaboration.

Technology continues to offer us the hope of solutions to many of the problems we face. But the pace of technological change is also having unsettling effects: these range from disrupting labour markets through automation to exacerbating political divisions by encouraging the creation of rigid communities of like-minded citizens. We need to become better at managing technological change, and we need to do it quickly.

Above all, we must redouble our efforts to protect and strengthen our systems of global collaboration. Nowhere is this more urgent than in relation to the environment, where important strides have been made in the past year but where much more remains to be done. This is a febrile time for the world. We face important risks, but also opportunities to take stock and to work together to find new solutions to our shared problems"

The above statement was not made by the Green Party, although Greens would agree with its message. It is actually taken from a report produced by the World Economic Forum, a gathering of the rich and the powerful which takes place annually in the mountains of Switzerland. Its participants would have us believe that they are committed to the well being of the whole planet and its peoples. Believe that if you will.

It does perhaps reflect an awareness that growing discontent from large numbers of the 99% is a threat to the stability of arrangements which have served the interests of the 1 % so well.

Oxfam said it was “beyond grotesque” that a handful of rich men headed by the Microsoft founder Bill Gates are worth $426bn (£350bn), equivalent to the wealth of 3.6 billion people ( half of the world's population ). It called for ' fundamental change ' to ensure that the world economy worked for everyone and not just a privileged few. Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said:

“This year’s snapshot of inequality is clearer, more accurate and more shocking than ever before. It is beyond grotesque that a group of men who could easily fit in a single golf buggy own more than the poorest half of humanity.

While one in nine people on the planet will go to bed hungry tonight, a small handful of billionaires have so much wealth they would need several lifetimes to spend it. The fact that a super-rich elite are able to prosper at the expense of the rest of us at home and overseas shows how warped our economy has become.”

Outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden ( 'demob happy' perhaps ?) went as far as to say that the top 1% was not ' pulling it's weight' and advocated that income tax be made more progressive to reduce the gap.

The Guardian newspaper, noting that many who came to the conference will have flown in on private jets, which burn as much fuel in an hour as typical use of a car does in a year, concluded that "mainstream politicians from Britain through continental Europe to America have continued to push the same old dead economics: a reliance on a bloated finance sector, a penchant for austerity (even when it is not working, as the Office for Budget Responsibility pointed out today about Britain’s budget position), and a hankering after the same failed economics " ( Guardian editorial 17/1/17 )

The above sentiments are all well and good, although the notion that 'enlightened' members of the global elite, recognising the errors of their ways and the greed and corruption that underpins the economic model on which their vast wealth depends, will willingly give it up in the interests of the common good beggars belief. Fundamental change will require a powerful world wide movement to be built, uniting the people of the world ( the 99%) to demand a radical redistribution of wealth and a sustainable use of resources on a finite planet. A daunting task no doubt but one that we must rise to if we are to achieve global justice, in a world that has never been wealthier but where such wealth remains so unequally shared.

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