In a shantytown perched in the hilly outskirts of Lima, Peru, people were dying. It was 1994, and thousands of squatters — many of them rural migrants who had fled from their country’s Maoist guerrilla insurgency — were crammed into unventilated hovels, living without basic sanitation. They faced outbreaks of cholera and other infectious diseases, but a government austerity program, which had slashed subsidized health care, forced many residents to forgo medical treatment they couldn’t afford. When food ran short, they formed ad hoc collectives to stave off starvation.
A Catholic priest ministering to a parish in the slum went looking for help, and he found it in Jim Yong Kim, an idealistic Korean-American physician and anthropologist. In his mid-30s and a recent graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim had helped found Partners in Health, a scrappy nonprofit organization whose mission was to bring modern medicine to the world’s poor. The priest had been involved with the group in Boston, its home base, before serving in Peru, and he asked Kim to help him set up a clinic to aid his flock. No sooner had Kim arrived in Lima, however, than the priest contracted a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis and died.
Kim was devastated, and he thought he knew what to blame: the World Bank. Like many debt-ridden nations, Peru was going through “structural adjustment,” a period of lender-mandated inflation controls, privatizations, and government cutbacks. President Alberto Fujimori had enacted strict policies, known collectively as “Fujishock,” that made him a darling of neoliberal economists. But Kim saw calamitous trickle-down effects, including the tuberculosis epidemic that had claimed his friend and threatened to spread through the parish.
Today is a day to celebrate the achievements that through generations union men and women have won: peace, democracy, rights and decent work for millions of people.
But even as we celebrate the successes and triumphs of the great tradition of trade union solidarity, we know that the challenges faced by people across the world require collective strength and commitment to carry forward the fight for democratic rights and freedoms, equality and social justice.
Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: "Over two million workers die needlessly every year because their workplaces are dusty, dirty and dangerous. The risks are as obvious as they are preventable, whether they are falls from height, crippling workloads or chemical exposure. Every single death represents an employer’s failure to act."
Occupational cancers alone kill at a rate of one worker every minute worldwide, Burrow says. "Yet pressure from corporate interests means that even asbestos, one of the worst industrial killers, is banned in only a minority of countries. This is not legitimate business activity – it is criminal behaviour."
RBW Project Director Aldo Caliari reports on the outcomes of the first ECOSOC Financing for Development Forum, centerpiece of the reinvigorated follow up created by the Third Financing for Development Conference held last year.
2015 was an eventful year for everyone who cares about sustainable development. Three large conferences (financing for development, Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Climate agreement) unveiled, together, an ambitious agenda of multilateral efforts to eradicate poverty while preserving and nurturing our planet.
But those observing the first event to follow up on such lofty and ambitious commitments were suddenly awakened to the bitter reality of transitioning from paper to the realities of implementation
Many people from African countries, especially the youth, leave their homes in hope for a better life. The Global North contributes to these migration movements in various direct and indirect ways, from destroying the livelihoods of farmers and fisher (wo)men to the changing climate. Under these conditions migration is often the only way for young people to survive.
On the 17th of April, Italians were called to vote in a national referendum, on the extension of licenses to extract petrol and gas from the seas. The government, the media and those in the economic circles, all took a position against the referendum, claiming that 2000 jobs were at a stake. The proponents of the referendum (among them five regions), lost. Italy is following a consistent trend, after the Summit on Climate Change (Paris December 2015), in which all countries (Italy included) took a solemn engagement to reduce emissions.
The financial secrecy and tax evasion revealed by the Panama Papers has an extraordinary human cost in developing countries and threatens the realisation of the UN’s ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.
The ongoing leak — made public by media outlets including German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – has already prompted protests and investigations around the world. The papers connect thousands of prominent figures to secretive offshore companies in 21 tax havens and reveal the inner workings of the offshore finance industry.
Most advocates of basic income only answer the arguments of the right – mainly concerning the willingness to work – and never imagine there can be valid arguments for the left to resist their proposals.
In that sense we have to be grateful to Philippe van Parijs that he addresses social democracy specifically in his defence of basic income. However, his answers are not very satisfactory.
Let me start with the easy point on which we fully agree: social assistance needs fundamental changes.