Initiative for Equality, or IfE (pronounced “ee-fay”), is a global network of advocates in over 80 countries working towards a world in which social, economic and political inequalities are substantially reduced and no one is excluded from decision-making. We develop information, strategies, and leadership skills; we share ideas and collaborate; and we empower communities to tell their stories as we search for a new paradigm of justice and equality. We hope you will join us!
PUTTING CITIZENS IN CHARGE: A transition from a development paradigm of “aid and charity” to one of “justice and equality” is currently underway, with the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) talking about human rights, equality, and participation by all, including the poorest and most marginalized people. But in order for the transformative potential of the new SDGs to become a reality, we need to ensure that the priorities of local people are central to the development agenda, and to hold multilateral institutions and governments accountable for meeting the goals and targets. Given current trends, citizen-led initiatives may be the only reliable way to ensure relevant monitoring and promote accountability. IfE is organizing a global participatory monitoring and accountability alliance, based on our Field Hearings network but open to others. Our goal is to put citizens in charge of their own development agenda. Read more about this initiative to support citizen monitoring and accountability efforts around the world, then join us!
PARTNERS MONITOR RELIEF EFFORT IN NEPAL: IfE’s Field Hearings partners in Nepal are organizing a citizen’s monitoring network to watch over the relief effort following recent large earthquakes there. Allegations of corruption, politics, and delays due to red tape have caused mistrust and raised concerns about the adequacy of the relief effort. This participatory monitoring & accountability (PMA) initiative will work through local citizens to track the promises made and actual results on the ground in various communities, using this information to hold government and international agencies accountable. Under the coordination of Field Hearings partners Bhola Bhattarai (National Forum for Advocacy - Nepal) and Purna Nepali (Consortium for Land Research and Policy Dialogue), IfE partners will gather information from citizens in communities across the country. Noted disaster reduction and response expert Dr. Ben Wisner (UCL Hazards Research Centre, University College London) is serving as an informal advisor to the group.
FIELD HEARINGS IN THE NEWS: Two news articles about the Field Hearings initiative have appeared recently. Cameroons Field Hearings partner and journalist Monde Kingsley Nfor has written an article titled “Bringing Cameroon’s Marginalised to the Poverty Debate,” published in December by Inter Press Service News Agency, a global wire service. According to one Cameroons official quoted in the article, if the poor are to benefit from development it is vital that they have a say in the decisions that affect them. Another article, by Field Hearings partner and journalist Anna da Costa, appeared on the website of the global news outlet and charity Thomson Reuters Foundation in late January. The article titled “Global field hearings give marginalised a voice” describes a Field Hearing in the wastepicking community of Dharavi slum, Mumbai, India. A UN official is quoted as saying that through the Field Hearings “…the voices of people in the grassroots are being taken directly to policymakers.”
100 RICHEST COULD END EXTREME POVERTY: According to a press briefing prepared by Oxfam, the 100 richest billionaires in the world added $240 billion to their annual incomes in 2012 – enough to end extreme poverty four times over. The Brookings Institution had earlier calculated that ending extreme poverty (supplementing the income of each poor person in the world to bring their daily income up to $1.25/day) would require around $66 billion per year (see report). The Oxfam report, released for the 2013 World Economic Forum at Davos, points out that inequality has risen dramatically in the past 30 years. This is harmful, they say, because extreme wealth and inequality is economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive, environmentally destructive, and unethical. They call for a goal of ending extreme wealth by 2025, arguing that in a world of finite resources, we cannot end poverty unless we reduce inequality.
THE EVERGREEN COOPERATIVES in Cleveland, Ohio (US), started up by the Democracy Collaborative and other partners in 2009, have transformed the lives of many people in the low-income neighborhoods of Cleveland. Read all about them here or watch a video here. Workers gain equity in these worker-owned businesses, and make decisions about how the business is run. These cooperatives are based on the model of the Mondragon Cooperatives, a group of Basque worker-owned businesses that now does over $20 billion worth of business each year. IfE’s Participatory Enterprises Project (PARTICEN) will look at these and other models for economic activity that increases equality and democratic control in the workplace. Click here to read more about our Participatory Enterprises Project, and click here to see a summary of various pro-equality economic models, including credit unions and publicly owned banks, housing cooperatives, and other public or cooperative ways to meet human needs.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” - 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Without the concept of equality, the human rights framework loses its ethical power. If we truly intend to protect universal human rights, there is no question that we must work to protect these equally for every individual, in every culture. In fact, if human rights are not upheld equally, they could no longer be considered “human rights.” IfE works from the premise that equality – of social, economic, and political status – is, in itself, a fundamental human right that underlies and supports all the other rights. And while we must work to protect equal freedom from discrimination, arbitrary arrest and detention, slavery, torture, and constraints on speech and movement, we must also work to ensure equal rights to the social, economic, political, and natural resources necessary to meet human needs sustainably and support human well-being, freedom, justice, and peace. Join us!
In this 17-minute youtube video, social epidemiologist Prof. Richard Wilkinson presents the data on the harmful effects of inequality within countries, and discusses possible causes: Wilkinson and his colleagues are leading researchers on the impacts of socioeconomic inequality. Visit Wilkinson’s Equality Trust website to see more information about why inequality harms people: