Meeting the Pope: Working to overcome poverty and inequality

This last month, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace convened a seminar to discuss the urgent questions of a more inclusive global economy and governance for the common good.

I was honored to join the conversation, along with leading economists, central bankers, Nobel Prize winners, and heads of international and intergovernmental organizations.

Pope Francis has been eloquent on inequality being the root of social evil. He reasons that it will be by putting the human being back into the heart of economics and politics, and ending the ‘economy of exclusion’, that poverty can be overcome and the planet safeguarded.

Oxfam too believes that extreme inequality must be overcome. This injustice is undermining the efforts of millions of people to escape poverty and hunger. Poverty and extreme economic inequality are historic challenges, and neither is likely to be overcome in isolation. We are at a unique moment in time where the eradication of poverty should be within our reach. Instead, we are witnessing an increase in inequality as indifference is globalized, and the absolute autonomy of markets defended.

In the next 12 months, a new set of global development goals will be agreed. These goals will form the development narrative which will guide the actions of all governments in their policy-making towards a more sustainable and equitable world. The messages contained in the final statement of The Global Common Good seminar lend a powerful voice to this mission.

There was agreement amongst us meeting in Vatican City that as a human community, we must put people and their well-being at the center of our economic and political life. To this end, we committed ourselves to measures including supporting ambitious and inclusive Sustainable Development Goals centered on human dignity and a new global climate agreement.

There was good discussion of international tax transparency, and work led by the OECD on behalf of the G20 to address tax dodging and unfair corporate tax rules. All countries stand to benefit from a fairer global tax regime, and Oxfam supports the involvement of developing countries who have most to gain from the revenues that would flow from corporate tax into public services.

We agreed that the active participation of citizens in their nations' economies and politics, and of corporations through social and environmental responsibility, are crucial for tilting the balance towards a fairer and safer world.

All people should have a chance to hope and dream. For billions of people, achieving a more inclusive economy will mean the difference between merely surviving, and really living.

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