The Government yesterday announced its final pre-election budget and, as expected, there was quite a bit in there on tax avoidance. That's hardly surprising - we know that there is overwhelming public support for action on tax dodging. Unfortunately none of the big parties have yet gone far enough - and yesterday's budget announcements don't change that.
Oxfam is in Liberia and Sierra Leone for the long haul. We're continuing to work with communities to build understanding of Ebola treatment and how to stay healthy, providing financial support to help families get back on their feet, and helping them guard against infectious diseases by equipping schools and clinics with clean water and sanitation.
It may be a rebalance of the economic powers, but the planet is far from being the place of equality. Oxfam claims that "in 2010, it took 388 billionaires to equal the wealth of the bottom half of the world's population and by 2014, the figure had fallen to just 80 billionaires." If the trend continues, warns the humanitarian group, in two years the richest 1% will have more than the remaining 99%.
Today Oxfam announced that the combined wealth of the richest 1% will overtake that of the other 99% of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked. Inequality is spiralling out of control, but consensus on taking action against this issue of our time is gathering pace.
Up to 4.3 million tonnes of surplus food is produced each year, but only 2% of that goes to charities to feed the hungry. Around 3.7 million tonnes of this is destroyed or burned. While the political pressure simmers, an army of young activists are striving to tackle these issues from the front line. Chief amongst them is Grace Jones, a 15-year-old campaigner from Croydon.
It isn't hard to find evidence of income inequality in the UK. One easy way of showing the blatant inequality in our society is by comparing the rises in NMW against the raises of CEO salaries over the same time period. If the NMW had risen at the same rate a CEO's salaries then the NMW would now be a whopping £19 p/h. With that in mind, a £10 per hour NMW does not seem too much to ask.
Friday's Parliamentary vote on Michael Moore's Private Members' Bill is a chance for MPs to reconfirm the UK's status as a global leader in the fight against poverty. I urge them to grasp it. It is surely not too much to ask the UK to continue to give 7p in every £10 of national income to help the world's poorest people...
Oxfam and other aid agencies are warning that rival groups in South Sudan are regrouping ready to resume violence once the rainy season ends this month. An upsurge in fighting would exacerbate what is already the world's worst food crisis and could lead to famine. The number of people facing dangerous levels of hunger is expected to increase by one million between January and March.
This is not just a humanitarian imperative; it is in all our interests to act. In the globalised 21st Century conflicts are not easily contained by borders. As the Stern Review made clear, tackling climate change will ultimately be cheaper than allowing it to proceed unchecked. But it is the human cost of these crises, the children of Gaza, the homeless Philippines and the South Sudanese families who do not know where their next meal is coming from that really demand our action. The UK public have shown they are up to the task; it is time for world leaders to do likewise.
This summit, attended by Heads of State, ministers and experts from all over the world is an opportunity to do so. While I am there, I will be thinking of women like Aliah from Yemen, who tried to run away from her new 30-year-old husband when she was 16, only to have her family beat her and force her back. Years later, those same widespread beliefs and traditions held in her community then forced her to marry off her own 16-year-old daughter. As we gather at the summit we must remember stories like these. These practices violate the fundamental rights of women and girls. Making child marriage and FGM illegal is critical. But it's not enough if nothing is done to challenge strong-held beliefs passed down through generations.
Myself and my regional team are joining thousands of people across the world by taking part in the Live Below the Line Challenge. For 5 days, we will be living on £1 a day for food and drink, with the aim of raising funds for Oxfam, to help improve the lives of the world's poorest, at home and abroad...