The Growing Movement Against Inequality

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Above Photo: From Fightinequality.org

Most movements fighting inequalities grow as a direct response to the impacts of inequality people experience worldwide, according to new research entitled The State of the Growing Movement Fighting Inequality released today by the global Fight Inequality Alliance.

The research found the three biggest struggles where inequality movements are most active are natural resources, elite capture and corruption, and women’s rights and feminist agendas.

“When people are faced with the realities of inequality every day, they link up and find power in uniting with each other to tackle the root causes and fight for system change. We are seeing this in how movements such as the climate movement, trade unions, community, indigenous rights, feminist and civil rights groups, and many others are increasingly joining together to fight inequality. Often movements organising and challenging power face increasing repression and sometimes violence from the state,” said Jenny Ricks, global convenor of Fight Inequality Alliance.

The fight for access to and control over natural resources, including land, reflects underlying dynamics of political and economic power in countries—for example, reflecting the historical consequences of colonialism, and patriarchal and racist systems on the rights and liberties of Indigenous Peoples and communities. This is also linked to concerns about the climate crisis and how to create an energy transition that doesn’t reinforce existing inequalities.

Many activists in the study also spoke about injustices stemming from elite capture of wealth, power and corruption, which is linked and often fueled by the use of or control over natural resources.

There is also a strong push and need to bring feminist analysis, agendas and action into broader inequality movements to make them truly transformative. Additionally, the growth of the #metoo movement has seen renewed attention on women’s rights and power dynamics within organisations and movements. It has proven to be the beginning of a necessary wake-up call within civil society for many movements when abuses of power and harassment have surfaced. Respondents interviewed for the study grappled with patriarchy and advancing feminist agendas in their own movements.

The report also warned against certain practices that are faced by movements as they grow, such as enforcing stereotypes and biases. These practices include gender or racial biases in assigning leadership positions or representation, marginalising members of the grassroots or communities, and micromanaging how local groups campaign or organise.

“It is critical to be conscious and deliberate about who participates in and leads movements against inequality if movements are to reshape who has power rather than inadvertently reinforcing existing inequities,” said Ricks. “This means being accountable to grassroots activists and concerns and ensuring access to power and leadership by people of colour, women and young people.”

The report found that the movement wants to become more globally connected. 74% of survey respondents chose ‘Opportunities for joint international campaigning, visibility and support’ as a top form of support and connection they wanted from others in the movement. In this era of far-right populism, with leaders preaching hate, fear, greed, nationalism, and with multilateralism at a perilous point, this shows that an internationalist movement is possible, and wanted by those who need it most.

The report used interviews and surveys with over 170 frontlines activists across the world from 23 countries across Africa, Asia, The Americas and Europe. It revealed some important trends in understanding and supporting these ongoing struggles to achieve transformative change.

This comes in the middle of global protests happening in many countries to fight the different manifestations of inequality, particularly in Lebanon, Chile, Ecuador, France and Haiti, among many others.

Levels of inequality within and between countries have been rising. The neoliberal economic system has enabled an explosion in the concentration of wealth and power in our societies: 26 individuals now hold the same wealth as the 3.8 billion poorest people.[1] Interconnected and systemic forms of oppression and inequity such as racism, patriarchy and homophobia shape the daily realities of the majority of the world’s population.

This research was initiated by Fight Inequality Alliance with the support of the Atlantic Fellows for Social and Economic Equity programme at the International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science. Fight Inequality Alliance partnered with Rhize to lead the research.