The fact that the world has enough resources to feed and house every human being on this planet makes the very existence of poverty an injustice. Yet poverty persists and continues to grow. When only 1% of the world’s population owns two-thirds of global wealth it is clear that poverty is not inevitable but is a result of a faulty system that does not allow for the redistribution of wealth. On the 20th of February it is our duty to reflect upon at what and whose expense do the 1% prosper.
On 26th November 2007, the UN General Assembly declared that the 20th February will be celebrated annually as the World Day of Social Justice. There is much progress to be made, as the equality gap continues to widen and, in accordance with the popular contention, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Even closer to home, at a time when Malta boasts of a surplus and unprecedented economic growth, an increase in poverty, homelessness and social injustice is undeniably evident. The lack of a level playing field entails that growth does not mean growth for all.
Every year, the United Nation gives a theme to the World Day of Social Justice. This year, the theme is : ‘If you want peace and development, work for social justice’. The focus of this theme is on creating better quality jobs and access to jobs for the bottom 40% who have the potential to be instrumental in closing the equality gap by increasing their income. The equality gap in Malta’s society and economy is even wider for migrant workers and refugees, who can be exploited for cheap labour and often face a lack of access to basic services. Social justice requires a change in our society so that humans are valued over corporations. The 20th of February reminds us that humans are not commodities and that the goods you buy are not cheap if they are at the expense of the dignity of a human.
Whilst reading this, one might wonder what one could possibly do to change this seemingly hopeless state of affairs. One thing we can all do is to take a step back and look at what we purchase on a regular basis.
Do we know where these products come from? Do we know the conditions that workers faced to produce them? Are we aware of the wage they received for us to purchase them at the cost we paid?
If the answer is no then it is time to answer these questions! Consumers can have a powerful impact on the behaviour of corporations if they demand that they manufacture and sell ethically. Employers are dependent on our purchasing power so let’s take the initial step and educate ourselves on this day so that together we can create a fairer world for all.
Want to promote social justice? Then why not start by supporting local organisations and businesses that operate ethically. Take a look at this map of some companies on our little island that do just that. The map was developed as part of the European-wide SUSY project that Kopin was part of, whose goal was promoting a sustainable economic system without focusing on just profit making.
Let’s work together towards a more equal society on this World Day of Social Justice!
Article by Kaye Vassallo