Global wealth is increasingly being concentrated in the hands of a small wealthy elite. These wealthy individuals have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and pharmaceuticals/ healthcare.
Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further. The most prolific lobbying activities in the US are on budget and tax issues; public resources that should be directed to benefit the whole population, rather than reflect the interests of powerful lobbyists.
GLOBAL WEALTH IS INCREASINGLY BEING CONCENTRATED IN THE HANDS OF A SMALL WEALTHY ELITE
Global wealth is becoming increasing concentrated among a small wealthy elite. Data from Credit Suisse shows that since 2010, the richest 1% of adults in the world have been increasing their share of total global wealth. Figure 1 shows that 2010 marks an inflection point in the share of global wealth going to this group.
In 2014, the richest 1% of people in the world owned 48% of global wealth, leaving just 52% to be shared between the other 99% of adults on the planet  Almost all of that 52% is owned by those included in the richest 20%, leaving just 5.5% for the remaining 80% of people in the world. If this trend continues of an increasing wealth share to the richest, the top 1% will have more wealth than the remaining 99% of people in just two years, as shown on Figure 2, with the wealth share of the top 1% exceeding 50% by 2016.
The very richest of the top 1%, the billionaires on the Forbes list  have seen their wealth accumulate even faster over this period. In 2010, the richest 80 people in the world had a net wealth of $1.3tn. By 2014, the 80 people who top the Forbes rich list had a collective wealth of $1.9tn; an increase of $600bn in just 4 years, or 50% in nominal terms. Meanwhile, between 2002 and 2010 the total wealth of the poorest half of the world in current US$ had been increasing more or less at the same rate as that of billionaires; however since 2010, it has been decreasing over this time.
The wealth of these 80 individuals is now the same as that owned by the bottom 50% of the global population, such that 3.5 billion people share between them the same amount of wealth as that of these extremely wealthy 80 people. As the wealth of everyone else has not been increasing at the same rate as that for the top 80, the share of total wealth owned by this group has increased and the gap between the very rich and everyone else has also been increasing. As a result, the number of billionaires who have the same amount of wealth as that of the bottom half of the planet has declined rapidly over the past five years. In 2010, it took 388 billionaires to equal the wealth of the bottom half of the world‟s population; by 2014, the figure had fallen to just 80 billionaires (see Figure 4).
Updating the Credit Suisse wealth data – and Oxfam’s 2014 statistic
In January 2014 Oxfam calculated that in 2013, 85 people had the same wealth as the bottom half of the world‟s population, a number that was cited worldwide due to the extreme level of wealth inequality that it illustrated. The paper used data from the Forbes list published in March 2013 and from the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook with data for „mid 2013‟.
In October 2014, Credit Suisse updated their wealth estimates; the share of wealth held by each global decile and the total global wealth estimates for the years 2000–2014 at the end of each year. The new estimates include an update to the wealth numbers for 2013, from which Oxfam calculated the 85 statistic. This briefing uses the updated number for 2013 and all other years as published in 2014. Based on these updated figures, in 2013 the number of billionaires holding the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% was recalculated to be 92.
WEALTHY INDIVIDUALS HAVE GENERATED AND SUSTAINED THEIR RICHES THROUGH INTERESTS AND ACTIVITIES IN A FEW IMPORTANT ECONOMIC SECTORS
In 2014 there were 1,645 people listed by Forbes as being billionaires. This group of people is far from being globally representative. Almost 30% of them (492 people) are citizens of the USA. Over one-third of billionaires started from a position of wealth, with 34% of them having inherited some or all of their riches. This group is predominately male and greying; with 85%of these people aged over 50 years and 90% of them male.
There are a few important economic sectors that have contributed to the accumulation of wealth of these billionaires. In March 2014, 20% of them (321) were listed as having interests or activities in, or relating to, the financial and insurance sectors, the most commonly cited source of wealth for billionaires on this list. Since March 2013, there have been 37 new billionaires from these sectors, and six have dropped off the list. The accumulated wealth of billionaires from these sectors has increased from $1.01tn to $1.16tn in a single year; a nominal increase of $150bn, or 15%.
Table 1: Richest 10 billionaires (ranked in 2013) who have made (at least part of) their fortunes from activities related to the financial sector, and their increase in wealth between March 2013 and March 2014.
Between 2013 and 2014 billionaires listed as having interests and activities in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors saw the biggest increase in their collective wealth. Twenty-nine individuals joined the ranks of the billionaires between March 2013 and March 2014 (five dropped off the list), increasing the total number from 66 billionaires to 90, in 2014 making up 5% of the total billionaires on the list. The collective wealth of billionaires with interests in this sector increased from $170bn to $250bn, a 47% increase and the largest percentage increase in wealth of the different sectors on the Forbes list.
Table 2: Richest 10 billionaires (ranked in 2013) who have made (at least part of) their fortunes from activities related to the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, and their increase in wealth between March 2013 and March 2014.
COMPANIES FROM THE FINANCE AND PHARMACEUTICAL SECTORS SPENT MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN 2013 ON LOBBYING
The biggest and most successful companies from both the finance and insurance sectors and the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors achieve extremely high profits and therefore command substantial resources which they use to compensate their owners and investors, helping to accumulate their personal wealth. But these resources could also potentially be used for economic and political influence. One way that companies explicitly use their resources for influence is through the direct lobbying of governments, particularly on issues and policies which affect their business interests.
During 2013, the finance sector spent more than $400m on lobbying in the USA alone,12% of the total amount spent by all sectors on lobbying in the US in 2013. In addition, during the election cycle of 2012, $571m was spent by companies from this sector on campaign contributions.The financial sector is found by the Centre for Responsive Politics to be the largest source of campaign contributions to federal candidates and parties. Billionaires from the US make up approximately half of the total billionaires on the Forbes list with interests in the financial sector. The number of US finance billionaires increased from 141 to 150, and their collective wealth from $535bn to $629bn; an increase of $94bn, or 17% in a single year.
In the EU, an estimated $150m is spent by financial sector lobbyists towards EU institutions every year.Between March 2013 and March 2014, the number of billionaires in the EU with activities and interests in the financial sector increased from 31 to 39, an increase in collective wealth of $34bn, to $128bn.
While corporations from the finance and insurance sectors spend their resources on lobbying to pursue their own interests, and as a result go on to increase their profits and the associated wealth of those individuals involved in the sector, ordinary people continue to pay the price of the global financial crisis. The cost to the US taxpayer of the bailout of the financial sector was calculated to be $21bn. While the financial sector has recovered well as a result of this bailout, median income levels in the USA are yet to return to their pre-crisis levels.The ongoing cost to the tax payer for „systematically important financial institutions‟ – in other words those that are too big to fail – has been estimated by the IMF to be $83bn every year.
During 2013, the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors spent more than $487m on lobbying in the USA alone.This was more than was spent by any other sector in the US, representing 15% of $3.2bn total lobbying expenditures in 2013. In addition, during the election cycle of 2012, $260m was spent by this sector on campaign contributions. Twenty-two of the 90 pharmaceutical and healthcare billionaires are US citizens.
At least $50m is spent by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry on lobbying each year in the EU, where 20 of the 90 billionaires who made their money from pharmaceuticals and healthcare reside, and who together increased their wealth in the last year by $28bn.
While millions are being spent on lobbying by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies and billions being made by individuals associated with these companies, a health crisis has erupted in West Africa. The Ebola virus has been threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in 2014.
Companies have responded positively to the Ebola crisis: some pharmaceutical companies are investing in research to find a vaccine, the full costs of which are not yet known. The three pharmaceutical companies that are members of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) and that have made the largest contribution to the Ebola relief effort, have collectively donated more than $3m in cash and medical products.But the amount of money that has been spent on Ebola and other activities that have a broader benefit to society needs to be looked at in the context of their expenditure on corporate lobbying to influence for their own interests. These three companies together spent more than $18m on lobbying activities in the US during 2013.
To put the funding for the Ebola crisis in perspective, the World Bank estimates that the economic costs to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone was $356m in output forgone in 2014, and a further $815m in 2015 if the epidemic is slow to be contained.The largest increase in wealth between 2013 and 2014 by a single pharma-related billionaire could pay the entire $1.17bn cost for 2014–15 three times over. Stefano Pessina increased his net worth by $4bn, from $6.4bn to $10.4bn in a single year; the largest single increase in wealth of all the billionaires listed with pharmaceutical and healthcare interests.
THE MOST PROLIFIC LOBBYING ACTIVITIES IN THE US ARE ON BUDGET AND TAX ISSUES
The billions that are spent by companies on lobbying, giving them direct access to policy and law makers in Washington and Brussels, is a calculated investment. The expectation is that these billions will deliver policies that create a more favourable and profitable business environment, which will more than compensate for the lobbying costs.
In the US, the two issues which most lobbying is reported against are the federal budget and appropriations and taxes.These are the public‟s resources, which companies are aiming to directly influence for their own benefit, using their substantial cash resources. Lobbying on tax issues in particular can directly undermine public interests, where a reduction in the tax burden to companies results in less money for delivering essential public services.
RISING INEQUALITY IS NOT INEVITABLE
In October 2014 Oxfam launched its Even It Up campaign, calling for governments, institutions and corporations to tackle extreme inequality. This briefing provides further evidence that we must build a fairer economic and political system that values every citizen. Oxfam is calling on world leaders, including those gathered at the 2015 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, to address the factors that have led to today‟s inequality explosion and to implement policies that redistribute money and power from the few to the many.
1 Make governments work for citizens and tackle extreme inequality
Specific commitments must include: agreement of a post-2015 goal to eradicate extreme inequality by 2030; national inequality commissions; public disclosure of lobbying activities; freedom of expression and a free press.
2 Promote women’s economic equality and women’s rights
Specific commitments must include: compensation for unpaid care; an end to the gender pay gap; equal inheritance and land rights for women; data collection to assess how women and girls are affected by economic policy.
3. Pay workers a living wage and close the gap with skyrocketing executive reward
Specific commitments must include: increasing minimum wages towards living wages; moving towards a highest-to-median pay ratio of 20:1; transparency on pay ratios; protection of worker‟s rights to unionise and strike.
4. Share the tax burden fairly to level the playing field
Specific commitments must include: shifting the tax burden away from labour and consumption and towards wealth, capital and income from these assets; transparency on tax incentives; national wealth taxes and exploration of a global wealth tax.
5. Close international tax loopholes and fill holes in tax governance
Specific commitments must include: a reform process where developing countries participate on an equal footing, and a new global governance body for tax matters; public country-by-country reporting; public registries of beneficial ownership; multilateral automatic exchange of tax information including with developing countries that can‟t reciprocate; stopping the use of tax havens, including through a blacklist and sanctions; making companies pay based on their real economic activity.
6. Achieve universal free public services by 2020
Specific commitments must include: removal of user fees; meeting spending commitments; stopping new and reviewing existing public subsidies for health and education provision by private for-profit companies; excluding public services and medicines from trade and investment agreements.
7. Change the global system for research and development (R&D) and pricing of medicines so that everyone has access to appropriate and affordable medicines
Specific commitments must include: a new global R&D treaty; increased investment in medicines, including in affordable generics; excluding intellectual property rules from trade agreements.
8. Implement a universal social protection floor
Specific commitments must include: universal child and elderly care services; basic income security through universal child benefits, unemployment benefits and pensions.
9. Target development finance at reducing inequality and poverty, and strengthening the compact between citizens and their government
Specific commitments must include: increased investment from donors in free public services and domestic resources mobilization; and assessing the effectiveness of programmes in terms of how they support citizens to challenge inequality and promote democratic participation.
A full list of Oxfam‟s recommendations to governments, institutions and corporations can be found in the report Even It Up: Time to end extreme inequality published in October 2014.
All URLs last accessed in December 2014 unless otherwise stated.
1 Credit Suisse (2013 and 2014 respectively) “Global Wealth Databook‟, found at https://www.credit-suisse.com/uk/en/news-and-expertise/research/credit-suisse-research- institute/publications.html
2 Forbes, Billionaires list, available in real time at http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/#tab:overall. Annual data taken from list published in March of each year.
3 These are not the same individuals over time; some billionaires may enter or exit this elite group from year to year.
4 Values given in „Money of the Day‟ for each year, based on current exchange rates against the US$. Value of $970.9bn in 2014 money is approximately $1,042bn; therefore between 2009 and 2014 billionaires increased their wealth in real terms by approximately 82%. Variation in wealth over time can also be driven by exchange rate fluctuations, where assets are owned in currencies other than the US$, but need to be converted to US$ values for the purposes of this Index.
5 For detailed explanation of the calculation, see http://oxfamblogs.org/mindthegap/2014/11/19/have-you-heard-the-one-about-the-85-richest- people/
6 R. Fuentes-Nieva and N, Galasso (2014) „Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality‟, Oxfam, http://oxf.am/KHp
7 Fifty people with no recorded age in the Forbes data set were excluded from the summary statistic.
8 Six people listed as male and female couples and were excluded from the summary statistic.
9 Billionaires were coded as having business interests or activities in the finance sector if the description of the source of wealth was interpreted to be related to the finance sector. In some cases the source of wealth is explicitly listed as „finance‟, in others the company name, such as Bloomberg, a financial sector media service. Some billionaires have interests in more than one sector, including finance.
10 Data from Centre for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indus.php?id=F&year=2013. Total spend for finance, insurance and real estate, minus real estate.
11 Data from Centre for Responsive politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.php?ind=F&Bkdn=DemRep&cycle=2012
Total contributions for finance/insurance/real estate, minus real estate.
12 Corporate Europe Observatory (2014), “The Fire Power of the Financial Lobby”, http://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/attachments/financial_lobby_report.pdf. Research finds annual spend of €123m, converted to USD at 1.24 (FX rate as of 10 December). The actual numbers are likely to be far higher. This underestimate is also due to the lack of a mandatory register at the EU level that provides reliable information for a proper monitoring of industry lobbying
13 Congressional Budget Office (2013), “Report on the Troubled assets Relief programme”
14 United States Census Bureau (2014), „Income and poverty in the United States – 2013‟
15 IMF (2012), “Quantifying Structural Subsidy Values for Systematically Important Financial Institutions”. Value of subsides calculated into US$ per year terms by Bloomberg http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2013-02-20/why-should-taxpayers-give-big-banks-83- billion-a-year-
16 Data from the Centre for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/indus.php?id=H&year=2013
17 Data from the Centre for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=H
18 Corporate Europe Observatory (2012) “Divide and Conquer: A look behind the scenes of the EU pharmaceutical industry lobby”, http://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/28_march_2012_divideconquer.pdf
As registration to the Transparency Register is voluntary; many pharmaceutical companies choose not to declare their expenditures. If recorded properly, expenditure on lobbying activities by the industry could be shown to be as high as €91m annually.
19 The three largest cash and in-kind contributors that are members of the IFPMA are GSK, Johnson and Johnson and Novatis
21 World Bank (2014) „The Economic Impact of the 2014 Ebola Epidemic‟, World Bank Group, 2 December 2014, https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/20592/9781464804380.pdf?sequence=6
23 Data from the Centre for Responsive Politics, https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/top.php?indexType=u&showYear=2014
24 E. Seery and A. Arandar (2014) „Even It Up: Time to end extreme inequality‟, Oxford: Oxfam International, http://oxf.am/Ffd
© Oxfam International January 2015
This paper was written by Deborah Hardoon. It is part of a series of papers written to inform public debate on development and humanitarian policy issues. For further information on the issues raised in this paper please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
This publication is copyright but the text may be used free of charge for the purposes of advocacy, campaigning, education, and research, provided that the source is acknowledged in full. The copyright holder requests that all such use be registered with them for impact assessment purposes. For copying in any other circumstances, or for re- use in other publications, or for translation or adaptation, permission must be secured and a fee may be charged. E-mail email@example.com. The information in this publication is correct at the time of going to press.
Gender and Climate Change: Where are we and what next?
Climate change affects women more profoundly than men. Often, women bear the brunt of extreme weather events because they lack economic, political and legal power, especially in developing countries.
Because of cultural barriers and their lower economic status, women often have fewer assets to fall back on than men. They are largely absent from decision-making because of unequal participation in leadership roles – further compounding their vulnerability. So when it comes to coping with climate change, women usually have fewer adaptive strategies than men.
The women who live in poor rural communities use natural resources in a different way than men because they possess fewer assets. It is women, for example, who are responsible for collecting firewood, fetching water, growing food – or foraging for it – making them more vulnerable to the climatic changes that affect these resources. So the international community must pay attention to gender dynamics when it develops climate change policies and puts them into action.
International recognition – where are we now?
International frameworks are beginning to incorporate a gender dimension into action on climate change. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) emphasises gender balance and increased participation of women in its processes and in national delegations. It also calls for the development of gender responsive climate policies at all levels.
Gender is also getting more attention at climate change conferences. In 2014, at COP20 in Lima, a Programme of Action on Gender was established ‘to advance implementation of gender-responsive climate policies’. The Paris Agreement of 2015 acknowledged the importance gender equality and empowerment of women in climate action. In 2017, COP23 established a Gender Action Plan. So there is forward momentum.
And with developing countries calling for more money to address climate change, there is also an increasing emphasis on gender-responsive budgeting. The Green Climate Fund – the largest international fund for countering climate change – is shifting towards a more gender-sensitive approach and recently developed a Gender Policy and Action Plan.
The Commonwealth, gender and climate change
The Commonwealth has a long history of championing small states, women and young people. In 2015, the Commonwealth Summit introduced a Women’s Forum to amplify the voice of women and raise key gender issues to leaders. Gender and climate change issues gained further momentum at the 2018 Summit in London, when heads of government committed to accelerating action to achieve targets under the Paris Agreement and the Women’s Forum called for the Commonwealth to take gender into account in addressing climate change.
Gender and climate change is one of four gender priorities of the Commonwealth. That means the Commonwealth is shaping its work to reflect gender considerations. However, more can be done to build on synergies and collaborate with partners to increase support to small and vulnerable states.
The urgency of climate change requires more progress at a greater pace. Increasing the participation and engagement of women in addressing it is a first and critical step. I look forward to seeing progress and will follow discussions on the Gender Action Plan at COP24 in Poland later this week. Even more important will be the first report on its implementation in 2019 because – as they say – the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Sharing experiences and learning from what is already happening is important in understanding gaps and challenges and in developing better responses and strategies, so I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic. Are there challenges and lessons learned that you feel are important and that can shape the agenda moving forward, especially in the Commonwealth?
Young Voices Program: Global Space for Youth Empowerment
Young people matter. Not just because they can be powerful constituencies to recruit or consumers to develop. They matter in their own right and their growth is fundamental for the future stability and civilized success of societies, countries, and the world.
Unfortunately, a space for them to be themselves – to express and explore their own thoughts and to learn to articulate their own voices – is limited, especially on a global scale. Within the limited spaces available, most are politicized if not outright commercialized. Too often, youth have been used as vehicles for narcissistic adults, power-hungry politicians, and greedy conglomerates. In other words, around the globe grownups have maximized, exploited, and manipulated the power and potential of the young, all supposedly in the name of ‘youth.’
With seventeen years of experience in educational and youth empowerment projects in Thailand and Asia, I have witnessed how these exploitations take place. Politicians talk about the importance of education, but only in terms of gaining votes for themselves. Political transactions are not bad in and of themselves, if the votes can bring about better schooling, equal opportunities, and gender equity, just to name some rightful benefits. More often than not, however, these talks on education are shallow rhetoric that cease to impact reality after the votes have been dropped into the ballot boxes.
The commitment to education is there, don’t get me wrong. Countries spend billions of dollars on it. But the commitment for youth excellence, for the articulation of original youth analysis, is lacking. More space is needed for youth to express themselves, their concerns for their society, and debate the ideas openly and civilly. Elite schools have done this for centuries – bringing the best and brightest minds together in a room to debate and articulate their thoughts. But with the internet, online spaces have become critical in creating opportunity for youth dialogues and learning spaces. But now the online arena also carries with it dangers: we need to create spaces that provide enlarged, engaged, and equitable venues for youth to participate in the important issues of the day, without fear of retaliation, retribution, or politicization. More youth need to get involved in expressing their ideas on issues that matter to them, to truly become globally-engaged citizens now. This is not so much about a virtual ‘safe space’ as it is a declaration of creating virtual engaged spaces. These are too few and far between in today’s world.
Thus, increasing quality online courses make quality learning fairer and more accessible to youth worldwide. This is why we propose the creation of an online platform on Modern Diplomacy, one of the most vibrant e-magazines in Europe, with massive followers far beyond it. This MD platform believes in the freedom of expression and sharing of ideas. It will allow youth – students across the world in all types of institutions – to not just share their ideas but have opportunities to engage with their own readers, creating a vibrant dialogue and budding global youth network.
Professor Anis Bajrektarevic, professor of Law from the University of Vienna and Chairman of Modern Diplomacy, put it bluntly by saying we are in a crisis of the “cognitive:” namely, there is a dearth of “cognition.” In some circles, the talk already flows about the existence of a “cognitive war:”
“To address this issue, we need to rethink our global intellectual flow, create information pathways for youth to create their own narratives beyond traditional convention so they can articulate themselves, learn to become self-assured, and explore their boundaries and limitations”.
With this new MD platform project, youth can write about current affairs, contest theories, or share their own original creative trajectories. They can learn from each other by being engaged and reading new ideas not as a form of competition but as a spur for new intellectual growth. In addition, they can get feedback to improve their writing from a team of international, experienced, and well-articulated youth editors. Aditi Aryal, one of the editors for the MD Young Voices program, is an experienced and highly-regarded international writer. Growing up in Nepal and India, she has extensive experience in writing, addressing social taboos, and gender restriction in the South Asian context:
“Modern Diplomacy is a huge platform that permits the expression of unfettered ideas and opinions. It has always been a vibrant platform that allows writers to express freely without having to face backlash, judgment, or censorship. As I began my writing journey with Modern Diplomacy, I grew not only as a writer but also as a thinker. It has always supported my quest for expression of ideas without obstructions. I have found in Modern Diplomacy a secure space that has nurtured me, my writing, expression, and thoughts. There could not have been a more conducive platform for this growth that I have seen in myself”.
Another leading editor is Selene Sandoval, graduate student at Teachers College- Columbia University. Being a first-generation student of color to attend college in her family, Selene brings a passion for education, equity, and social empowerment. An experienced writer and tutor, she can help train and inspire other young writers to express and articulate themselves:
“My current belief for youth is that we have a voice stronger than we might realize. That is why it is essential for students around the world to research and be involved in issues that are affecting our generation, whether it be education, politics, or social issues. Students have historically been at the forefront of radical shifts in society by expressing their opinions on such issues like civil rights. Not only is it a way to express your opinion on current events and news around the world, but it is a way to grow as a writer. Writing as a basic skill is fundamental because it is part of every field. The more we are able to effectively communicate our ideas through writing, the more we are able to develop our professional careers. Modern Diplomacy can be the platform where you express your interests in a way that may be palatable for other youth to read and understand.”
‘Young Voices’ as a platform requires space where the communication and interaction of minds and ideas flow freely without judgment. By learning and engaging dissimilar perspectives and engaging in healthy debates and discussions, across all analytical disciplines and geographical locations, we welcome any age group to be participants! We at Modern Diplomacy seek to provide young people a constructive and cohesive community to build around them, based on the freedom of expression, intense analysis, and rigorous, rational thought.
Articles selected will be published on Modern Diplomacy online and the best articles will be published in our geopolitical Ebook series.
Articles can be submitted for reviews at mdyv[at]moderndiplomacy.eu
The need for speed on modern slavery
Three years ago, world leaders committed to take effective measures to end modern slavery by 2030. By the best estimates, there are around 40.3 million people in modern slavery. Reaching that goal would mean 9,127 people being removed from or prevented from falling into modern slavery each and every day between now and 31 December 2030.
How close are we to meeting that proposed rate of change? Until now, the short answer has been: we don’t really know. There has been no centralized place to access information on the rate of change towards this goal.
That changed on Sunday, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Delta 8.7 – a project of the Centre for Policy Research at United Nations University – began publishing country data dashboards measuring the change towards this goal.
These dashboards bring together the best available data on modern slavery, forced labour, human trafficking and child labour for each country. They also provide contextual information, including details of what each country is doing to bring these numbers down, and links to relevant legislation, national action plans and social protection arrangements. Over the coming months, more of these dashboards will be steadily rolled out.
So what do these dashboards tell us?
First, the dashboards suggest we are nowhere near the rate of change needed to meet the goal of ending modern slavery by 2030.
Even the countries that are performing best, with double-digit reductions in child labour, are not achieving the sustained reductions needed to meet the 2030 targets. Until we have more complete country coverage it will be too early to draw conclusions on a ‘global’ reduction rate, but the signs from the first set of dashboards are that a steep increase in reduction rates is needed.
Second, they show that we need to rapidly improve our ability to measure these reduction rates.
Most of the countries covered have reliable data only for child labour. Our ability to measure reduction of modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking is much weaker. That stands to reason: countries have invested more, over a longer period, in measuring child labour. Only recently have they begun to invest in efforts to measure modern slavery and forced labour with the same scientific rigor.
There are promising signs on this front, though. In October national statisticians from around the world agreed a new method for measuring forced labour, which should make better data available in the next few years. The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime has also been working with countries to strengthen measurement of human trafficking.
Third, the country dashboards suggest that there may be lessons from the effort against child labour for the fight against adult forms of modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking. Some of the reductions in child labour identified in the dashboards are impressive – for example, child labour decreased 59% between 2002 and 2015 in Brazil, while in Argentina it decreased 31% in just one year between 2011 and 2012. Figuring out ‘what worked’ in the fight against child labour may be instructive as we seek to identify ‘what works’ in the fight against modern slavery – and scale it up.
Generating this type of knowledge can take time. Starting in February 2019, the project will work with partners to accelerate the knowledge-generation process on ‘Code 8.7’, by bringing artificial intelligence and machine learning into the equation. Computational science offers a way to accelerate the process of understanding what works to end modern slavery.
Ultimately, however, it will be up to world leaders to learn these lessons – whether generated by artificial intelligence or the old-fashioned human kind. Unless world leaders accelerate their own learning and efforts, chances are, we will not come close to meeting their lofty goal.
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