ASAP’s Membership Director Jason Hickel has written a new book titled The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions.
For decades we have been told a story about the divide between rich countries and poor countries.
We have been told that development is working: that the global South is catching up to the North, that poverty has been cut in half over the past thirty years, and will be eradicated by 2030. It’s a comforting tale, and one that is endorsed by the world’s most powerful governments and corporations. But is it true?
Since 1960, the income gap between the North and South has roughly tripled in size. Today 4.3 billion people, 60 per cent of the world’s population, live on less than $5 per day. Some 1 billion live on less than $1 a day. The richest eight people now control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world combined.
What is causing this growing divide? We are told that poverty is a natural phenomenon that can be fixed with aid. But in reality it is a political problem: poverty doesn’t just exist, it has been created.
Poor countries are poor because they are integrated into the global economic system on unequal terms. Aid only works to hide the deep patterns of wealth extraction that cause poverty and inequality in the first place: rigged trade deals, tax evasion, land grabs and the costs associated with climate change. The Divide tracks the evolution of this system, from the expeditions of Christopher Columbus in the 1490s to the international debt regime, which has allowed a handful of rich countries to effectively control economic policies in the rest of the world.
Because poverty is a political problem, it requires political solutions. The Divide offers a range of revelatory answers, but also explains that something much more radical is needed – a revolution in our way of thinking. Drawing on pioneering research, detailed analysis and years of first-hand experience, The Divide is a provocative, urgent and ultimately uplifting account of how the world works, and how it can change.
Jason Hickel is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics. Originally from Swaziland, he spent a number of years living with migrant workers in South Africa, studying patterns of exploitation and political resistance in the wake of apartheid. Alongside his ethnographic work, he writes about development, inequality, and global political economy, contributing regularly to the Guardian, Al Jazeera and other online outlets. His work has been funded by Fulbright-Hays Program, the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Charlotte Newcombe Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust. He lives in London.
ASAP was recently cited on Channel 4 in a segment titled “Poverty ‘neglected’ in party manifestos“. The segment echos the conclusion of ASAP UK’s audit of the major parties’ manifestos in the 2017 UK General Election: that political parties are failing to address growing levels of poverty across the country. Presenter Jackie Long then visits housing estates on North Tyneside to interview residents about the election and political parties.
An audit of the major UK political parties’ manifestos by a group of leading academics and ASAP (Academics Stand Against Poverty UK) has revealed a failure to grasp the key issues behind growing levels of poverty in the UK and the lack of a realistic path for a sustainable and prosperous future.
Using a scoring system to assess the likely effectiveness of party policies to reduce poverty, the Conservatives, with a score of less than two out of five, were substantially behind Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who both score more than 3.6 and 3.2 respectively.
The key results were:
- Labour scored highest across all policy areas except the Environment and Sustainability, with an overall score of 3.6, compared to 3.2 for the Liberal Democrats and just 1.5 for the Conservatives
- The Liberal Democrats came a close second to Labour, and stand out in comparison to the other parties for their environmental policies
- The Conservatives scored worst in every topic, never scoring higher than 2, indicating low confidence in their policies across the board
Catarina Tully, Co-Chair of ASAP UK, said, “According to ASAP’s audit, Labour’s plans are the most transparent and detailed, and most likely to lead to improved quality of life for British society generally. The Conservative Party’s manifesto is the vaguest and offers little that is concrete in the way of plans for raising quality of life. The truth is that, across the board, the parties fail to mention Britain’s deep economic sustainability problems: significant current account and trade deficits plus rising household debt. Since our last audit prior to the 2015 General Election, the Conservatives have gone backwards, scoring no more than two out of five across all policy areas, whilst the Labour Party has leapfrogged the Liberal Democrats, standing out particularly for their social agenda.”
The audit is a detailed analysis of each of the parties’ manifesto commitments by experts in a range of policy areas. Each area was rated on a scale of one to five of confidence level in how each party’s manifesto addresses poverty and enables a flourishing life for the UK public.
The audit was undertaken by leading academics from 23 universities across the UK to help voters make informed decisions on election day. ASAP believes that recent trends in poverty have become more acute over the last two years suggesting austerity is affecting the most vulnerable in society disproportionately. It also has specific concerns about the quality of information and use of manifestos in the political debates.
Catarina Tully added, “Never has the need for credible and authoritative analysis been more important. The proliferation of fake news weakens democratic systems, meaning trust in politicians, the media, and even institutions like charities is at an all time low. ASAP UK believes academics and their expertise play a critical role in better informing the debate around the election.”
For more information about the audit, please visit ukpovertyaudit.academicsstand.org.
Nita Mishra, PhD scholar at University College Cork and Convenor of ASAP Ireland, will speak at two events in Dublin this month.
The Poverty of Lives: Women and Abuse across India and Ireland at Kimmage Development Studies Centre, 18 May 2017
Lucy Kurien, a Catholic nun from Kerala in India, will deliver the keynote address, joined by Nita Mishra of ASAP Ireland and author Catherine Dunn. The event is supported by Ireland-India Institute and Gender Study Group, Development Studies Association Ireland.
India and Europe: Debating the Challenge of Climate Change at Dublin City University, 25 May 2017
DCU Ireland India Institute will host an international conference on the challenge of climate change for India and Europe on Thursday 25 May 2017 in DCU’s All Hallows campus. This conference takes place against the backdrop of an uncertain global context that challenges the progress of recent years, including the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The conference will bring together Indian and European experts to analyse the respective perspectives of the European Union and India climate change and sustainable development. The conference is supported by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Nita Mishra will speak on “Critical perspectives on climate change and development in India”.
The XXVIII World Congress of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR) will be held in Lisbon, Portugal from July 17 to July 21, 2017.
The Congress theme will be “Peace Based on Human Rights”. The languages of the Congress will be English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese.
Special Workshops must be proposed by May 15
Abstracts for Working Groups must be submitted by May 15
For more information and to register for the meeting, please visit ivr2017lisbon.org.