International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
by United Nations News
“Racial discrimination still has not been banished to the history books. This vicious form of exclusion and intolerance continues to manifest itself on the sports field, in the media, on the streets, in the workplace and even in the corridors of power,” said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, once again, we are seeing the ugly face of racial discrimination presented in public discourse,” she added, explaining that that is why this year’s theme for the International Day is ‘Mitigating and countering national populism and extreme supremacist ideology’.
Linking the day with the massacre of worshippers in New Zealand, that left 50 dead and dozens injured, two independent UN human rights experts said in statement that the tragedy “reminds us that racism, xenophobia and religious hatred are deadly and that the result of ethno-nationalist populism and supremacist ideologies is racial violence, exclusion and discrimination.”
The experts, Tendayi Achiume and Michal Balcerzak, added that States should “act immediately to stem the tide of hate and discrimination, to protect vulnerable populations and to ensure racial equality,” the experts stressed, explaining their dismay over the “role that public authorities continue to play in stoking racial discrimination and intolerance by acts of commission and omission.”
For over 50 years since the adoption of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which entered into force in 1969, the UN has been tackling the issue, calling upon States to act immediately to end racism and to ensure equality and dignity for everyone.
"Hate speech is entering the mainstream, spreading like wildfire through social media and radio. It is spreading in liberal democracies and authoritarian States alike," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. "These dark forces menace democratic values, social stability and peace. When people are attacked, physically, verbally or on social media because of their race, religion or ethnicity, all of society is diminished. It is crucial for us all to join hands, stand up and defend the principles of equality and human dignity," he explained.
Ms. Achiume and Mr. Balcerzak noted that “States’ politics and legislation seldom reflect the urgency of this obligation” and that “instead, States and leaders have deployed political rhetoric that demonises racialised groups and emboldens supremacist ideologues.”
“Some States even deny the existence of racial discrimination or minorities within their borders,” insisted Ms. Achiume and Mr. Balcerzak, adding that “the work of fighting intolerance and discrimination is not for States and public authorities alone” and that “every single person, especially those who enjoy racial privilege on a daily basis, must play their part to put an end to the racism, xenophobia and related intolerance that prevail today.”
The sentiment was echoed by UNESCO chief Azoulay who explained that “the fight against discrimination is one we must all lead”. She further noted that “the internet can be fertile ground for the spread of racial discrimination, xenophobia and supremacist ideologies, often targeting migrants and refugee, as well as people of African descent”.
To tackle this, UNESCO – which is mandated to increase awareness worldwide on the issue – has developed tools for media and information literacy, to combat discriminatory attitudes online and ensure a safe online space that enhances mutual understanding, critical thinking and intercultural dialogue.
In addition, Ms. Azoulay noted that “on a daily basis, racial discrimination continues to silently deprive people of their basic rights to employment, housing and a social life embodied through iniquitous laws”.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, released a video statement in which she stated that “racism is the opposite of everything we stand for,” and that ideas of “racial, religious, ethnic or national supremacy have no basis whatsoever in reality”:
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Billionaire fortunes grew by $2.5 billion a day last year
by Oxfam, George Washington University, Bloomberg
21 January 2019
Billionaire fortunes grew by $2.5 billion a day last year as poorest saw their wealth fall, reports Oxfam International.
Billionaire fortunes increased by 12 percent last year – or $2.5 billion a day - while the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 percent, reveals a new report from Oxfam today. The report is being launched as political and business leaders gather for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
‘Public Good or Private Wealth’ shows the growing gap between rich and poor is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging our economies and fuelling public anger across the globe. It reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging, on the other. It also finds that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “The size of your bank account should not dictate how many years your children spend in school, or how long you live – yet this is the reality in too many countries across the globe. While corporations and the super-rich enjoy low tax bills, millions of girls are denied a decent education and women are dying for lack of maternity care.”
The report reveals that the number of billionaires has almost doubled since the financial crisis, with a new billionaire created every two days between 2017 and 2018, yet wealthy individuals and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades.
Getting the richest one percent to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth could raise more money than it would cost to educate the 262 million children out of school and provide healthcare that would save the lives of 3.3 million people.
Just four cents in every dollar of tax revenue collected globally came from taxes on wealth such as inheritance or property in 2015. These types of tax have been reduced or eliminated in many rich countries and are barely implemented in the developing world.
Tax rates for wealthy individuals and corporations have also been cut dramatically. For example, the top rate of personal income tax in rich countries fell from 62 percent in 1970 to just 38 percent in 2013. The average rate in poor countries is just 28 percent.
In some countries, such as Brazil, the poorest 10 percent of society are now paying a higher proportion of their incomes in tax than the richest 10 percent.
At the same time, public services are suffering from chronic underfunding or being outsourced to private companies that exclude the poorest people. In many countries a decent education or quality healthcare has become a luxury only the rich can afford. Every day 10,000 people die because they lack access to affordable healthcare.
In developing countries, a child from a poor family is twice as likely to die before the age of five than a child from a rich family. In countries like Kenya a child from a rich family will spend twice as long in education as one from a poor family.
Cutting taxes on wealth predominantly benefits men who own 50 percent more wealth than women globally, and control over 86 percent of corporations.
Conversely, when public services are neglected poor women and girls suffer most. Girls are pulled out of school first when the money isn’t available to pay fees, and women clock up hours of unpaid work looking after sick relatives when healthcare systems fail.
Oxfam estimates that if all the unpaid care work carried out by women across the globe was done by a single company it would have an annual turnover of $10 trillion – 43 times that of Apple, the world’s biggest company.
“People across the globe are angry and frustrated. Governments must now deliver real change by ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and investing this money in free healthcare and education that meets the needs of everyone - including women and girls whose needs are so often overlooked. Governments can build a brighter future for everyone – not just a privileged few,” added Byanyima.
Do We Really Need Billionaires, asks Lawrence Wittner, Professor of History emeritus at the George Washington University.
According to numerous reports, the world’s billionaires keep increasing in number and, especially, in wealth.
In March 2018, Forbes reported that it had identified 2,208 billionaires from 72 countries and territories. Collectively, this group was worth $9.1 trillion, an increase in wealth of 18 percent since the preceding year.
Americans led the way with a record 585 billionaires, followed by mainland China which, despite its professed commitment to Communism, had a record 373. According to a Yahoo Finance report in late November 2018, the wealth of U.S. billionaires increased by 12 percent during 2017, while that of Chinese billionaires grew by 39 percent.
These vast fortunes were created much like those amassed by the Robber Barons of the late nineteenth century. The Walton family’s $163 billion fortune grew rapidly because its giant business, Walmart, the largest private employer in the United States, paid its workers poverty-level wages.
Jeff Bezos (whose fortune jumped by $78.5 billion in one year to $160 billion, making him the richest man in the world), paid pathetically low wages at Amazon for years, until forced by strikes and public pressure to raise them.
In mid-2017, Warren Buffett ($75 billion), then the world’s second richest man, noted that “the real problem” with the U.S. economy was that it was “disproportionately rewarding to the people on top.”
The situation is much the same elsewhere. Since the 1980s, the share of national income going to workers has been dropping significantly around the globe, thereby exacerbating inequality in wealth.
“The billionaire boom is a symptom of a failing economic system,” remarked Winnie Byanyima, executive director of the development charity, Oxfam International. “The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited.”
As a result, the further concentration of wealth has produced rising levels of economic inequality around the globe. According to a January 2018 report by Oxfam, during the preceding year some 3.7 billion people about half the world’s population experienced no increase in their wealth.
Instead, 82 percent of the global wealth generated in 2017 went to the wealthiest 1 percent. In the United States, economic inequality continued to grow, with the share of the national income drawn by the poorest half of the population steadily declining.
The situation was even starker in the country with the second largest economy, China. Here, despite two decades of spectacular economic growth, economic inequality rose at the fastest pace in the world, leaving China as one of the most unequal countries on the planet.
In its global survey, Oxfam reported that 42 billionaires possessed as much wealth as half the world’s population.
Upon reflection, it’s hard to understand why billionaires think they need to possess such vast amounts of money and to acquire even more. After all, they can eat and drink only so much, just as they surely have all the mansions, yachts, diamonds, furs, and private jets they can possibly use. What more can they desire?
When it comes to desires, the answer is: plenty! That’s why they drive $4 million Lamborghini Venenos, acquire megamansions for their horses, take $80,000 “safaris” in private jets, purchase gold toothpicks, create megaclosets the size of homes, reside in $15,000 a night penthouse hotel suites, install luxury showers for their dogs, cover their staircases in gold, and build luxury survival bunkers.
Donald Trump maintains a penthouse apartment in Trump Tower that is reportedly worth $57 million and is marbled in gold. Among his many other possessions are two private airplanes, three helicopters, five private residences, and 17 golf courses across the United States, Scotland, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates.
In addition, billionaires devote enormous energy and money to controlling governments. ”They don’t put their wealth underneath their mattresses,” observed U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders; “they use that wealth to perpetuate their power. So you have the Koch brothers and a handful of billionaires who pour hundreds of millions of dollars into elections.”
During the 2018 midterm elections in the United States, America’s billionaires lavished vast amounts of money on electoral politics, becoming the dominant funders of numerous candidates. Sheldon Adelson alone poured over $113 million into the federal elections.
This kind of big money has a major impact on American politics. Three billionaire families the Kochs, the Mercers, and the Adelsons; played a central role in bankrolling the Republican Party’s shift to the far Right and its takeover of federal and state offices.
Thus, although polls indicate that most Americans favor raising taxes on the rich, regulating corporations, fighting climate change, and supporting labor unions, the Republican-dominated White House, Congress, Supreme Court, and regulatory agencies have moved in exactly the opposite direction, backing the priorities of the wealthy.
With so much at stake, billionaires even took direct command of the world’s three major powers.
Donald Trump became the first billionaire to capture the U.S. presidency, joining Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin (reputed to have amassed wealth of at least $70 billion), and China’s president, Xi Jinping (estimated to have a net worth of $1.51 billion).
The three oligarchs quickly developed a cozy relationship and shared a number of policy positions, including the encouragement of wealth acquisition and the discouragement of human rights.
Admittedly, some billionaires have signed a Giving Pledge, promising to devote most of their wealth to philanthropy. Nevertheless, plutocratic philanthropy means that the priorities of the super-rich (for example, the funding of private schools), rather than the priorities of the general public (such as the funding of public schools), get implemented.
Moreover, these same billionaires are accumulating wealth much faster than they donate it. Philanthropist Bill Gates was worth $54 billion in 2010, the year their pledge was announced, and his wealth stands at $90 billion today.
Overall, then, as wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, most people around the world are clearly the losers.
* Global Wealth Inequality, by Gabriel Zucman - University of California, Berkeley: http://bit.ly/2E2KK0t
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