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Social Sustainability

Social Sustainability

Why global inequality is the greatest threat to world peace

By Xander Urbach

Historically global inequality has been prone to conflict, concrete changes to this problem have been attempted but were never successful. Ever since globalization started to reach certain parts of the globe it has imposed inequality on its citizens. The last few decades we have seen inequality spike and in large parts of the world this has led to serious conflict. I will argue that global inequality is not only a threat to world peace it is justifiably right to use violence in this relation. First, let me start out by giving a quick historical outline on global inequality before I will address the issues to world peace. Worth noting, another term for wealth is prosperity.

Western imperialism laid ground for the liberal capitalist paradigm, which has been in fear of losing its dominance over the last 70 years. Yet, more than ever has this much wealth been in the hands of so few. Oxfam Novib reports that with this pace the wealthiest one percent will own more than the other ninety-nine percent by 2016. The structural adjustment programs issued by neoliberal thinking of the 1970’s and 80’s are central to growing global inequality. The rather arrogant modernization theory followed by the western superpowers forcing the Global South to wait, open up their economies and economic prosperity would eventually follow. This however, did not work for most developing economies whereas western investors profited immensely. Consequently, the rich got richer and the poor stayed poor.

Moving on to present days, inequality is going through a period of Renaissance. Famously cited Thomas Piketty has recently contributed to the topic with an elaboration on global inequality called: Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Stressing the problematic trend of the wealthy getting richer faster than the non-wealthy. Also the financial crisis of recent years has only widened the gap between the poor and rich. Making the rich who are able to speculate on heavy losses in the global economy richer and letting the poor who are merely able to lose their job stay poor. Leading up to this year’s World Economic Forum, Oxfam Novib urged the world leaders to end extreme inequality and relieve the poor who suffer most.

So, what is justifiable about 1% of the population having the same amount of wealth as the other 99% do? What is right about the 80 richest sharing the same amount of wealth with 3.5 billion other people?[1]  Intrinsically you could argue there’s nothing wrong with a small amount of people having a large part of the wealth. Considering the others are able to provide for themselves and have access to basic human needs (e.g. food, water, shelter or healthcare). Yet, for many of these people this is not the case. 1 billion children in the world today are deprived of at least one basic human necessity, leaving the situation precarious.[2] War, social conflict or unstable situations lead to larger shares of people being deprived from basic needs, but what if there’s no alternative but to take up arms?

[pullquote]“I do not deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by the whites.”

– Nelson Mandela[/pullquote]The causality of inequality leading to violence has never been proven. Nevertheless, most live conflicts today take place in Africa. The continent with the smallest share of total wealth in the world. Many things cause wars, yet without advocating any form of violence, who wouldn’t fight for their existence?

In a world where there is inequality there will be violence. In Western Europe we have extricated our self from violence by attempting to equalize our society through social welfare. However, we have only been able to do so because of our wealth, which we never would have had without exploiting other regions of the world. Now immense amounts of refugees, fleeing either economic deprivation, civil wars, environmental disasters or social oppression are knocking on our doors. The people whom we have taken everything from are asking for our help. They are physical bearers of my argumentation, global inequality is the greatest threat to world peace.

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