The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London overlooking the river.

The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London in the UK. Image: Shutterstock

UK General Election: Oxfam’s asks for an equal, green world

For the first time in 25 years, extreme poverty and inequality are on the rise. Hardship and hunger are a daily reality for many people worldwide, including in the UK where over a fifth of the population are living in poverty. At current rates, it will take 230 years to end poverty, but we could have our first trillionaire in just a decade.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

A more equal, peaceful world is possible. One where the air is clean, because renewable energy is powering our communities the world over. One where lives are no longer routinely upended by violence, crop failures or hurricanes, because when disasters strike everyone has access to protection and a right to safety. One where international laws are not just words on statute books, but protect all people from oppression. And where no one is forced to choose between heating or eating, because everyone has a right to live without poverty.

To get there we urgently need to shift away from economies that are rooted in inequality and exploitation, to economies that centre the wellbeing of people and planet.

We call on whoever forms the next UK government to commit to four principles to get us on the much-needed path to a kinder, radically better world, where everyone has the power to thrive, not just survive.

1. Prioritise a more peaceful and safer world, including an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Palestine and Israel

Conflict and violence are rooted in poverty and injustice. The ongoing crisis in Gaza shows only too clearly how humanitarian misery is driven by armed conflict, injustice, unresolved root causes, and a failure to universally apply international law.

The UK must have a foreign, development, and domestic policy that is rooted in the understanding that inequality, gender and racial injustice, as well as the climate crisis, present a fundamental challenge to overcoming poverty and insecurity everywhere.  This means working with and investing in inclusive and locally led organisations. It means being an outward-looking, welcoming, and compassionate country and understanding that in an interconnected and interdependent world, how we do ‘foreign’ policy affects us at home too.

The first challenge is the rapidly declining situation in Gaza, with over 35,000 people killed and a people facing famine. Top of the agenda for the UK must be to do what it can to help secure an immediate and permanent ceasefire and stop arms sales to Israel.

2. Ensure fast and fair action for climate justice

The climate crisis is devastating lives and pushing people deeper into poverty. The countries least responsible are disproportionately suffering its impacts. Meanwhile, the efforts of high-income countries to reduce emissions are not happening at the pace needed and little effort is being made to ensure the transition to green energy is not only fast, but also fair.

A newly elected government must swiftly help cut UK emissions and ensure a fast and just transition away from fossil fuels, in a way that generates shared prosperity, and also urgently step-up UK support to countries on the sharpest end of climate breakdown, including by meeting its international climate finance commitments.

3. Support a global economic system that prioritises people and planet

Economic inequality between countries is growing and money that should be available to governments to invest in public services, like healthcare or education, is instead being extracted through debt repayments, harmful tax practices and unequal terms of trade. There are enough resources in the world to address the challenges we face, but we need a fairer global economic system that puts people and the planet first.

There are processes happening right now at the UN and G20, which mean that the next government will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to support fairer tax systems, bring extreme wealth and profit into public hands, and reduce inequality – it must take it.

4. Build a fairer and more caring UK economy that values paid and unpaid carers

The set of systems that drive poverty and injustice globally also drive poverty and injustice in the UK. The undervaluation of paid and unpaid care work, which is often carried out by women, provides a huge invisible subsidy to our economies. Those with unpaid caring responsibilities are often not supported to access and remain in paid work, and instead have to rely on an inadequate social security system.

High-quality and universally accessible care should be available to all. This could start with ensuring that care workers are paid at least the real Living Wage, and strengthening the social safety net for all, including for those who cannot work or have to reduce their working hours due to caring responsibilities, disabilities or illness.

Is it possible to do all of this?

There are enough resources in the world to address the challenges we face. But decades of tax cuts for the richest and corporations have fuelled today's extreme inequality and the climate crisis.

The next UK government must offer hope by ensuring that excess wealth and profit plays a redistributive role towards our collective, fairer future. A small 1-2% wealth tax on assets over £10 million in the UK would affect just 0.04% of the population and could raise up to £22 billion per year. Or simply ending the public money supporting fossil fuel production could raise an additional £3.3 billion. These are just some of the options on the table that could help fund a course toward higher living standards, healthier and more productive communities, and more resilient economies over the long run.

Let’s rise above the myth that there’s not enough to go around, that the government of the day can't raise more money to make fairer choices, that it’s a choice between ‘us’ and ‘them. It's time to build the fairer future we all deserve. Let’s come together in unity and use our voices in this election to demand an equal, green future for us all.