FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION
an article by Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam International (abridged)
Activists from around the world will defy the terrorists to attend the World Social Forum in Tunis on March 25, determined to make the occasion a beacon for free speech, justice and equality. I am proud to join the leaders of Greenpeace, ActionAid, Civicus and the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) in highlighting the urgent need to tackle the vested interests of the 1 percent, in order to build a better world for all of humanity. . .
Wealth is used to entrench inequality, not to trickle down and solve it. Our research shows how pharmaceutical and financial lobbyists spend hundreds of millions of dollars to influence government legislation in their industries’ favour, saving them billions of dollars, for instance by securing the banks’ huge state bailouts. Across the world, we see that great money doesn’t only buy a nice car or a better education or healthcare. It can buy power: impunity from justice; an election; a pliant media; favourable laws. With the privatisation of our universities it can even buy the world of ideas. There will be no victory in the fight against poverty unless this trend of worsening inequality is reversed. . .
This is a system that sees a world possessed of huge wealth nevertheless leaving the vast majority of humanity behind with virtually nothing at all. One where women are systematically exploited; at the current rate of progress it will take 75 years before women are paid the same as men, never mind that women’s unpaid care work continues to remain invisible. And it is a system that is leading us to runaway climate change.
Yet the 1 percent are quick to tell us that there is no real alternative. Sadly, they say, nothing is ever perfect and of course there will be winners and losers (and typically, by implication, talented winners and feckless losers). But that we should be grateful – it’s the best we can hope for. What an appalling failure of imagination. What a shocking lack of faith in human invention, ingenuity and spirit. I am sure of two things. One is that another world is possible; the second that it cannot be imagined or created by the 1% – it is up to us.
I believe we can build a human economy where people are the bottom line. We need a world where people do not have to live in fear of the economic repercussions of getting sick, or losing their home or job. Where every child gets to fulfil their potential. Where corporations pay their fair share of taxes and work for the good of the majority, not just their shareholders. Where the planet is preserved and sustained for our children and their children’s children.
Comment by Helen, August 2004:
At the Forum, almost everything touched on the culture of peace, although only a few speakers linked their talks to the UN initiative, prompting a leader of the French Peace movement to remark he was disappointed that the culture of peace was not better represented at the Forum. The response to CPNN was positive, but most people were unaware of its existence. Next time there should be culture of peace events, pins and t-shirts, as well as the CPNN cards and flyers that we gave out.