Will Global Governments Have the Courage to Take on the 1 Percent?

Today, one billion people on this planet live in poverty. One in nine of us do not have enough to eat, even though there's plenty of food for us all.

Poverty is rooted in injustice. When men and women, boys and girls, are denied the right to education, the right to own land, the access to basic services like healthcare and clean water, a fair price for the crops they grow, a fair wage for the work they do, or the right to be part of making decisions that affect them, the result is poverty.

But poverty is also entrenched by the extreme inequality.

The 80 richest individuals on this planet now have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (more than 3.5 billion people).

The extremely wealthy have disproportionate influence on policies that impact us all. This corrupts our politics, and leads to poorer people being denied the economic opportunity to flourish in life. Money doesn't just buy a nice car; it also buys better education or healthcare. Increasingly, it can buy impunity from justice, a pliant media, favorable laws, business advantage and even elections. This in turn perpetuates the policies that allow a tiny elite to accumulate ever more wealth at the expense of the majority.

So the cycle continues.

By next year, the wealth of the richest 1% will be equal to that of everyone else put together. There will be no victory in the fight against poverty unless this trend of worsening inequality is reversed.

Building on the successes and learning of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the new global goals -- called the Sustainable Development Goals -- break fresh ground in the fight against poverty.

These ambitious goals go beyond band-aid solutions and attempt to address complicated issues at the root of poverty including -- and especially -- economic inequality.

For the first time, there is a goal specifically aimed at tackling income inequality. While the goal does not attempt to curb the ever-accelerating wealth of the richest elite, it is a significant step forward because we know that we cannot fight poverty without fighting inequality.

Inequality is not inevitable. It is the direct consequence of political choices. But turning the inequality goal into a reality will require a fundamental change of approach on how governments take on vested interests, and how resources are shared. All governments, rich or poor, must make the fight against extreme inequality central to their national strategies and commit to policies aimed at ensuring everyone has a reasonable chance to thrive, not just the few.

Most certainly addressing inequality requires that governments must invest in social security, health and education. But we also know that the way in which the money is raised is vital: progressive, direct taxation does much more to reduce inequality and poverty than indirect taxes like VAT.

Tax rules must be fair at the national and at the international level, too. Multinational companies are exploiting loopholes in the global tax system to cheat developing countries out of billions of dollars every year -- money they desperately need to invest in tackling poverty and inequality.

Current global-reform processes are too narrow to tackle the fundamental flaws in the system that affect the poorest counties and do not do enough to include developing countries at the negotiating table. We need to progress on a truly inclusive international process to shape fair global-tax rules for all.

Yet we won't tackle inequality through taxation and spending alone. Brazil is an interesting example, as reducing inequality there relied on more than the impressive Bolsa Familia cash-transfer program; it also required positive government action to increase the minimum wage.

We can imagine a world where people do not have to live in fear of the economic repercussions of getting sick, or losing their home or job, where every child gets to fulfill their potential. Where corporations pay their fair share of taxes and work for the good of the majority, not just their shareholders. Where the planet is preserved and sustained for our children and their children's children. The new global goals promise this.

It is not an impossible dream; it is in fact a practical possibility. But it will depend on governments taking on the power of the 1% in favor of the interests of the most poor and most marginalized. Our leaders have set the goals, now we the people must rise to see them met.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals," in conjunction with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The proposed set of milestones will be the subject of discussion at the UN General Assembly meeting on Sept. 25-27, 2015 in New York. The goals, which will replace the UN's Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), cover 17 key areas of development -- including poverty, hunger, health, education, and gender equality, among many others. As part of The Huffington Post's commitment to solutions-oriented journalism, this What's Working SDG blog series will focus on one goal every weekday in September. This post addresses Goal 10.

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