Every person on this planet shares a common humanity
by Senator Bernie Sanders
There is a global struggle taking place of enormous consequence. Nothing less than the future of the planet – economically, socially and environmentally – is at stake.
At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, when the world’s top 1% now owns more wealth than the bottom 99%, we are seeing the rise of a new authoritarian axis.
While these regimes may differ in some respects, they share key attributes: hostility toward democratic norms, antagonism toward a free press, intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities, and a belief that government should benefit their own selfish financial interests. These leaders are also deeply connected to a network of multi-billionaire oligarchs who see the world as their economic plaything.
Those of us who believe in democracy, who believe that a government must be accountable to its people, must understand the scope of this challenge if we are to effectively confront it.
It should be clear by now that Donald Trump and the rightwing movement that supports him is not a phenomenon unique to the United States. All around the world, in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.
This trend certainly did not begin with Trump, but there’s no question that authoritarian leaders around the world have drawn inspiration from the fact that the leader of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy seems to delight in shattering democratic norms.
Three years ago, who would have imagined that the United States would stay neutral between Canada, our democratic neighbor and second largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia, a monarchic, client state that treats women as third-class citizens? It’s also hard to imagine that Israel’s Netanyahu government would have moved to pass the recent “nation state law”, which essentially codifies the second-class status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, if Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t know Trump would have his back.
All of this is not exactly a secret. As the US continues to grow further and further apart from our longtime democratic allies, the US ambassador to Germany recently made clear the Trump administration’s support for rightwing extremist parties across Europe.
In addition to Trump’s hostility toward democratic institutions we have a billionaire president who, in an unprecedented way, has blatantly embedded his own economic interests and those of his cronies into the policies of government.
Other authoritarian states are much farther along this kleptocratic process. In Russia, it is impossible to tell where the decisions of government end and the interests of Vladimir Putin and his circle of oligarchs begin. They operate as one unit. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, there is no debate about separation because the natural resources of the state, valued at trillions of dollars, belong to the Saudi royal family. In Hungary, far-right authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán is openly allied with Putin in Russia. In China, an inner circle led by Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while it aggressively promotes a version of authoritarian capitalism abroad.
We must understand that these authoritarians are part of a common front. They are in close contact with each other, share tactics and, as in the case of European and American rightwing movements, even share some of the same funders. The Mercer family, for example, supporters of the infamous Cambridge Analytica, have been key backers of Trump and of Breitbart News, which operates in Europe, the United States and Israel to advance the same anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim agenda. Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson gives generously to rightwing causes in both the United States and Israel, promoting a shared agenda of intolerance and illiberalism in both countries.
The truth is, however, that to effectively oppose rightwing authoritarianism, we cannot simply go back to the failed status quo of the last several decades. Today in the United States, and in many other parts of the world, people are working longer hours for stagnating wages, and worry that their children will have a lower standard of living than they do.
Our job is to fight for a future in which new technology and innovation works to benefit all people, not just a few. It is not acceptable that the top 1% of the world’s population owns half the planet’s wealth, while the bottom 70% of the working age population accounts for just 2.7% of global wealth.
Together governments of the world must come together to end the absurdity of the rich and multinational corporations stashing over $21tn in offshore bank accounts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and then demanding that their respective governments impose an austerity agenda on their working families.
It is not acceptable that the fossil fuel industry continues to make huge profits while their carbon emissions destroy the planet for our children and grandchildren.
It is not acceptable that a handful of multinational media giants, owned by a small number of billionaires, largely control the flow of information on the planet.
It is not acceptable that trade policies that benefit large multinational corporations and encourage a race to the bottom hurt working people throughout the world as they are written out of public view.
It is not acceptable that, with the cold war long behind us, countries around the world spend over $1tn a year on weapons of destruction, while millions of children die of easily treatable diseases.
In order to effectively combat the rise of the international authoritarian axis, we need an international progressive movement that mobilizes behind a vision of shared prosperity, security and dignity for all people, and that addresses the massive global inequality that exists, not only in wealth but in political power.
Such a movement must be willing to think creatively and boldly about the world that we would like to see. While the authoritarian axis is committed to tearing down a post-second world war global order that they see as limiting their access to power and wealth, it is not enough for us to simply defend that order as it exists now.
We must look honestly at how that order has failed to deliver on many of its promises, and how authoritarians have adeptly exploited those failures in order to build support for their agenda. We must take the opportunity to reconceptualize a genuinely progressive global order based on human solidarity, an order that recognizes that every person on this planet shares a common humanity, that we all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water, breathe clean air and live in peace.
Our job is to reach out to those in every corner of the world who share these values, and who are fighting for a better world.
In a time of exploding wealth and technology, we have the potential to create a decent life for all people. Our job is to build on our common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other. We know that those forces work together across borders. We must do the same.
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Development and Security rely on Peace, Justice and Inclusion
by 85 non-government peacebuilding organizations
International Day of Peace, 21 September 2018
If current trends persist, by 2030 more than half of the world’s poor will be living in countries affected by high levels of violence. Yet, resources devoted to peacebuilding and prevention represent only a fraction of those for crisis response and reconstruction.
Similarly, while the new international frameworks for development, humanitarian action, and peace and security have highlighted the need to focus on peace, justice and inclusion, little has changed in practice.
Member States have affirmed the centrality of peace and prevention,first through their commitment to “foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies” in the 2030 Agenda, and then with the twin resolutions on Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace.
Recent research and analysis, including the UN World Bank study Pathways for Peace:Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict and the new report The Missing Peace: Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security, have reaffirmed the necessity of mechanisms for addressing difference and grievances, of strengthening social resilience, and supporting processes that increase trust and inclusion.
Despite this growing body of evidence, in many cases governments are pursuing security using militarized approaches, either in the absence of, or in isolation from, policies that decrease exclusion and inequality–core drivers of conflict. This has been accompanied by an eroding commitment to long-term multilateral approaches to global challenges.
Rather than embracing diversity, many governments are actively seeking to shrink the already limited space available to civil society actors, locally, nationally and in international settings.
If we are to have a hope of eliminating extreme poverty, fostering sustainablypeaceful and prosperous societies worldwide, and addressing conflict and its roots, then governments need to urgently re-align their priorities.
The 73rd session of the UN General Assembly provides many opportunities for Member States to re-commit to peace.
The year begins with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the convening of the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit. It will then include an interim report by the UN Secretary-General on implementing peacebuilding and sustaining peace, and the High Level Political Forum where SDG16 will be reviewed.
The year will also see an increasing focus on preparations for the 74th session, which will feature the quadrennial 2030 Agenda Summit and the comprehensive review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture.
As organizations devoted to the building of peace around the world, we call on the international community to take these steps:
• Fully embrace the commitments to peace in the 2030 Agenda: One of the main achievements of the 2030 Agenda was to commit to a radically different approach to development in conflict-affected and transitional environments, where the traditional approaches of the MDGs had largely failed.
Fostering inclusion, ensuring access to justice, strengthening the social fabric and delivering good governance have repeatedly been shown to be essential to achieving development outcomes.
Progress against the 36 targets across the 2030 Agenda that are necessary to achieve peace, justice and inclusion needs to be highlighted in all SDG reporting at all levels, reflecting the role of peace as an indispensable condition of development.
• Reaffirm a commitment to human rights, the foundation for human dignity and just societies: The theme for this year’s International Day of Peace is The Right to Peace - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70. Human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, are the foundation of a world order based on equality and inclusion, and are the ultimate yardstick against which we can measure the 2030 Agenda aspiration of ‘no-one left behind’.
It is time for Member States to fully commit to the equal importance of the three UN pillars of development, human rights and peace and security, and to support efforts to mainstream and integrate human rights norms, tools and methods.
• Foster social resilience by strengthening inclusion and addressing inequality: Peace issues are core to the discussion of resilience. Resilient societies are those where the social fabric is strong. They are just and inclusive, where the relationships between individuals, their communities and the state are based on trust and the respect, protection and fulfillment of everyone’s human rights, and where there are robust mechanisms for addressing inequalities, difference and grievance.
Fostering resilience is the foundation of long-term preventive efforts, from preventing conflict to reducing the impact of internal and external crises, natural and man-made, and requires action both to accompany local efforts and also to provide a supportive international environment.
• Think local and act global: recommit to multilateralism as a safeguard for the most vulnerable: National implementation alone will not suffice to achieve the SDGs: 40% of the SDG 16+targets require implementation at regional and international levels.
This is particularly the case with issues of peace, where fostering the external drivers of peace, justice and inclusion requires concerted action by states, as duty holders, to support responsible trade, reduce arms flows, promote constructive financial, tax and investment practices, and to strengthen a rules-based system that creates a more effective enabling environment that privileges the long-term peace, development and human rights needs of all people and communities.
• Protect and support civil society in fostering sustainable peace: Social, political and economic changes that contribute to increasing peace are more robust if they are owned, implemented and sustained by local actors, including youth and women.
Nevertheless, civil society inclusion continues to be under threat around the world, with onerous restrictions imposed on the ability of civil society groups to be effective, speak out and access funding. We call on Member States to recommit their support for and partnership with local and community actors, and for the UN system to model inclusion in all its local and global processes.
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