Let’s get real

// 22 September 2009

Just came across this useful call to action piece by Katherine Marshall in The Washington Post.

As the author points out, it is the season of Big Important Global Political Meetings. Internationally, there is the upcoming G20 Summit in Pittsburg (starts on Wednesday), the Annual Meeting of the World Bank and the IMF (6-7 October), and the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (7-18 December).

Marshall highlights how difficult it seems to be to keep two issues in particular live on the emerging global agendas despite the fact that they represent, in my opinion, perhaps the most important social justice failings we are currently witnessing on the one hand, and also the most important keys to overall human development on the other: poverty and gender inequalities. Citing the unhelpful coverage of the pre-talks for the G20 as an example, she writes:

Maybe that’s not a fair screen, but it underscores how very hard it is to keep issues of social justice on the agenda when world affairs are discussed.

What Marshall doesn’t say explicitly is the extent to which the decisions to marginalize women’s rights and poverty are political decisions. This means they can be influenced, and also that there are people we can hold to account for them. It also means that there is nothing inevitable about the state of the world we are living in – we are creating it, so we can undo it. For my part, I’d really love to see some leadership from our politicians, someone who will stand up and say, ‘Enough already with the political posturing and the pseudo-economic analysis; let’s get real.’

The author does offer some ideas for ways forward. For example, she discusses how the information decision-makers collect and use to influence their decision-making is itself part of the problem: in asking the wrong questions, they get information that does not actually address the key global challenges.

I’m always frustrated that we know so much about financial and market transactions, down to the most intricate detail, but know so little about the human indicators that are the barometers of social welfare. The best indicator of a society’s changing circumstances may be infant birth weights, but they are not reported in newspapers.

If Marshall were to extend her logic of course, this would mean that women’s health and well-being, as perhaps the most important influence on infant birth rates, is also one of the best indicators of society’s current state of well-being – which are also not generally reported.

Closer to home, we are in the midst of the annual party conference season:

This is the time that parties set their policy agendas for the coming year. It would be brilliant of they, too, could get real and recognize that women’s rights are the issue they should be prioritizing this Autumn. What would it take do you think?

Photo by manu contreras, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Jess McCabe // Posted 23 September 2009 at 10:31 am

I know it’s the furthest away of all the meetings you highlight, but there is loads going on already in preparation for the UN climate negotations in Copenhagen this December. Just yesterday I saw this went up which has some interesting videos and statements including a couple from organisations hoping to bring a bit of a focus on women to the negotiations….

There’s also going to be a women’s march in Bangkok on 1 October more info here – the meeting in Bangkok is a sort of step along the way to the big UN meeting in December.

Here in the UK, this is something we can support by lobbying the government, too, I think…

Shea // Posted 23 September 2009 at 7:38 pm

The point about infant birth weight is interesting…..the UN development agency have long used maternal & infant mortality as a performance indicator of a country’s status and development.

The New Internationalist does a great country profile, with female participation in education/political representation and health care being one of the assessments. I think its probably one of the most reliable measures of development and quality of life.

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