Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice

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This text was written by Anna Osuska, Intern at RWI.

The World Day of Social Justice 2023

The World Day of Social Justice is observed annually on February 20th, since 2007. Each year, a different aspect of social justice is chosen to become the overarching theme for that year, with this year’s theme being ‘Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice’.[1] As every year, a commemorative event is hosted at the UN headquarters, where current developments and possibilities for strengthening social justice are discussed.

Social justice entails in broad terms that everyone’s economic, political and social rights are respected in an equal manner. It refers to fairness and equality in terms of accessing for instance housing, healthcare or employment. In an ideal world where social justice is fully observed, all people have access to these amenities on an equitable basis.[2] But unfortunately, this notion is far from reality.

In the past years, crises such as the pandemic, armed and geopolitical conflicts, as well as climate change have affected the living and working conditions of millions of people. Consequently, people have suffered and it has become clear that societal developments affect economies to a greater extent than we imagined. Work opportunities and work conditions have deteriorated significantly and the seemingly inadequate responses from national authorities have caused populations to develop mistrust towards their governments. Hence, this year’s agenda for the UN commemorative event focuses on re-establishing this trust and strengthening global cooperation around these issues.[3]

A substantial problem contributing to social injustice, which has worsened significantly over the past few years, is income inequality. This encompasses not only the gender pay gap, but also the unfair distribution of income that exists between the wealthy and the impoverished. A striking example showcasing the severity of this issue is the fact that during the first years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world’s ten richest men more than doubled their income, while billions of people fell into poverty.[4]

This glaring injustice is also reflected in taxation rates. Billionaires generally pay minimal income tax, such as 3% or less, while people who can barely survive off their income are often taxed at rates of 40%. If this continues, people will never have equal access to housing, healthcare nor food.[5] Furthermore, the currently growing inflation rate makes prices skyrocket, which aggravates this issue even more. Some people can barely afford their basic necessities nowadays.

Sadly, it has already been established by the World Bank that the sustainable development goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 will likely not be met. This has become clear after the economic recessions caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which have led to enormous economic setbacks.[6]

Although the economic situation has somewhat improved after the pandemic in 2021, the World Bank estimates that global economic growth will decrease to 1,7% in 2023, which is the third weakest in nearly three decades. For comparison, the figure was 5,9% in 2021.[7] This means that the dire financial situation that a huge portion of the population is already in will be further aggravated. All this while the world’s billionaires keep getting wealthier.

Although current developments make enhancing social justice difficult, the era of rising globalization that we live in offers many opportunities for improvement through trade, capital flows and technological developments.[8] Hence, we should make the best use possible of these opportunities in order to counteract the obstacles posed by the events of the recent years. Therefore, this year’s discussion at the UN will also revolve around pinpointing the opportunities that exist in the digital economy, among other.[9] Another imperative part of this year’s discussions will be involving young entrepreneurs and youth advocates in the dialogue, as they are the future.

On this important day that we commemorate social justice, it is thus imperative for us to realize the extreme inequalities that a huge part of the population is subjected to and the suffering this causes. Unless we all work together to turn this around, we will never be able to eradicate poverty and get rid of the inequalities that polarize our society.

[1] https://www.un.org/en/observances/social-justice-day

[2] https://nationaltoday.com/world-day-of-social-justice/

[3] https://www.un.org/en/observances/social-justice-day

[4] https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/ten-richest-men-double-their-fortunes-pandemic-while-incomes-99-percent-humanity

[5] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/01/global-inequality-is-a-failure-of-imagination/

[6] https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/world-bank-says-goal-ending-extreme-poverty-by-2030-wont-be-met-2022-10-05/

[7] https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/38030/GEP-January-2023.pdf

[8] https://www.un.org/en/observances/social-justice-day

[9] https://www.un.org/development/desa/dspd/international-days/world-day-of-social-justice/2023-2.html

Featured image: Logan weaver, Unsplash 

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