Talking about a revolution: global civil society aims to save the planet


​World's biggest civil society coalition says decisions made at two conferences this year will be crucial to the future of humankind

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15th January 2015 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

The fightback for the future of the planet begins this year – and will be spearheaded by the world's biggest ever civil society movement.

A massive, worldwide coalition has been formed to press for immediate steps to eradicate poverty and stop man-made climate change.

And the stakes couldn't be higher because almost a billion lives hang in the balance, say the organisations.

2015 could be a turning point – as two conferences will take place which have the potential to shape the future of humanity.

In the run up, more than 1000 groups throughout the globe have come together to form Action/2015 to put pressure on world leaders.

Action/2015 is headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, and is one of the biggest campaigns ever to launch, combining environmental, human rights, development organisations and faith networks.

From household names like Amnesty International and Save the Children to grassroots NGOs working with local communities, the movement aims to make sure the agreements of 2015 are shaped by the people.

A turning point: the economics of human survival

New calculations released by Action/2015 shows that, even using relatively conservative scenarios, the world governments have the power to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty – on less than 82p a day –  dramatically from over a billion to 360 million by 2030.

Based on work by the University of Denver, in the year 2030 about four per cent of the global population would live in extreme poverty (compared to 17% today) if critical policy choices on inequality, poverty investment and climate change are made this year and implemented thereafter.

Estimates of other researchers, looking at a longer list of variables, show that the eradication of extreme poverty is achievable for the first time in history – a key objective of the campaign.

However, if leaders fail to deliver and build on the growing momentum for ambitious deals at the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development in September and the UN climate talks in Paris in December, and scale back their efforts, the number of people living in extreme poverty could actually increase to 1.2 billion by 2030.

This increase would be the first in a generation and almost a billion higher (886 million) than if resolute action is taken. Under this  scenario one in three of the world’s population would live under $2 a day.

Alongside Malala, dozens of high profile activists including Bono, Ben Affleck, Bill and Melinda Gates, Hugh Jackman and Annie Lennox have backed the coalition of more than a thousand organisations in more than 120 countries.

The campaign is calling on world leaders to agree plans to eradicate poverty, prevent dangerous climate change and tackle inequality at two crucial summits later this year – the UN Special Summit on Sustainable Development in September and the UN Climate talks in Paris in December (see panel above).

Malala, who put her life on the line for the right to education, said: "People globally want an end to injustice, poverty and illiteracy. Our world is interconnected and youth are ready and mobilised more than ever to see real change take place.

"Together, we are demanding our leaders take action in 2015 and we must all do our part. I will continue to work tirelessly to call on world leaders to seize this opportunity to guarantee a free, quality primary and secondary education for every child. That is my goal and I hope that my voice will be heard as it is the voice of millions of children who want to go to school."

Ben Jackson, chief executive of Bond, the membership body for UK charities working in international development, said: “If we get this wrong, we could see the number of people living in poverty increase for the first time in our generation. But if we get it right – tackle poverty, inequality and climate change – we could eradicate extreme poverty within a generation.

“The UK has the potential to play a critical galvanising role on these issues but we’re worried with a UK election in the middle of the year they might take their eye off the ball.

“We want all party leaders to commit to keeping these issues at the fore – and making time to set out their agenda before during and after the campaign.

“With two summits of this importance within just months of each other, 2015 could be one of the most important years for our planet since the end of the Second World War, but only if we rise to the occasion. The UK’s voice can’t be absent.”

The prize is the planet

Action/2015 is calling on the public to join the campaign's call to ensure world leaders commit to a better world. Throughout the year, the campaign will provide ways for everyone everywhere to get involved in influencing the outcomes of these global debates that could achieve:

* an end to poverty in all its forms

* the meeting of fundamental rights, tackling inequality and discrimination

* an accelerated transition to 100% renewable energy;

* a world where everyone can participate and hold their leaders accountable.

Many of action/2015's activities are being spearheaded by 15-year-olds – a constituency who will be among the most affected by the agreements made by world leaders this year.

In the UK, where more than 40 international charities are taking part, two of Britain’s leading youth activists Bhavi Elangeswaran and Katie Knight travelled to Downing Street to meet Prime Minister David Cameron and demand he stands up and raises his ambitions to change the future for people and planet.

Bhavi said: “My family is from Sri Lanka, one of the countries hit hardest by the Boxing Day tsunami, 10 years ago. By 2030 I will be an adult, and may have children of my own. Whether in Sri-Lanka, the UK or elsewhere, I want them to live in a world where there are fewer extreme weather events. 

"Poor people are hit hardest by climate change. So I want my children to live in a world where there is less poverty. I told the Prime Minister that 2015 is a chance to make that happen. My generation might not yet be the ones making the decisions but we can make David Cameron and other party leaders understand that the world is watching them.”

Heather Cameron, aged 15 and from East Lothian, is a Scottish campaigner for Action/2015. She said: “I am excited and honoured to be one of the 15 year olds chosen to take part in Action/2015 because it gives me an opportunity to add the voice of our generation to the global action this year. 

"The Sustainable Development Goals decided on later this year will shape the world that, in 15 years, will be the responsibility of our generation, today's young people. This makes it crucial that we are heard this year and now.”

Across the globe other activities include:

In Boliviathree coordinated rallies in Laz Paz will bring together younger and older people, each one representing one of the core issues of the campaign – climate change, inequality and poverty.

In Costa Rica, young people will take to their bicycles to raise the profile of the campaign in a cycle rally which will deliver the message of the campaign to leaders and the public.

In India, young people are meeting their leaders in 15 states and over 150 districts to deliver their messages of hope for 2015.

In New York, the secretary-general of the United Nations Ban Ki- moon will meet a group of 15 year olds to discuss why we need global action in 2015.

In Nigeria, 15 year olds will present their hopes for the future to finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at a live concert.

In Norway, a delegation of 15-year-old campaigners from across the country will meet with Prime Minister Erna Solberg to challenge her to play her part in the summits and secure a safer future for people and planet in 2015.

In Tanzania, 15 year olds will meet vice president Mohamed Gharib Bilal to discuss their aspirations for the future and the action they want from political leaders in 2015. 

In Uganda young people will challenge the speaker of Parliament to listen to their demands when they hand over a petition signed by over 10,000 young people.