As we gear up for the Global Protest to Fight Inequality on Thursday 18 January, we will hear from people across the Fight Inequality Alliance about why, where and how we will protest as the World Economic Forum meets in Davos, and how you can get involved.

By: Jenny Ricks, Global Convenor, Fight Inequality Alliance

What is Davos?

Davos is a town in Switzerland where a ski resort hosts the World Economic Forum’s annual meetings. These have been happening every January for over 50 years. During the World Economic Forum, the top 1% make deals and discuss topics that affect everyone.

The Hypocrisy of Davos

Davos remains gloriously hypocritical on inequality. The world's political and economic elite gather to tackle global issues such as poverty and inequality despite being part of the problem, and the biggest beneficiaries of such problems. The contrast between the concerned words and the (in)action (none or negative) has been well skewered by economist Branko Milanovic. This will not self-correct. We know it is ridiculous to keep looking to Davos for the answers to inequality.

What Davos is Really About

It’s more realistic to say that Davos is a parade of rich people feigning concern for the poor while protecting their own interests. They continue to perpetuate the neoliberal system that enriches them while people and the planet are pushed to the breaking point. So why do we need to protest as a movement fighting inequality across the world?

Here’s 3 reasons.

  1. Davos commands the media spotlight. Let’s call out their hypocrisy.

    The World Economic Forum holds no formal or official role in global governance. It’s a club of the rich and powerful with a lot of ‘’de facto’’ power. The world’s media cover the main debates and pronouncements about what world leaders and multinational CEOs say is important. It is a place where narratives that shape our conversations and our economies are set. So it is a conversation we need to disrupt.

    In its 53 years as the talking shop of the 1%, Davos has never looked more out of step. What billionaire elites are unable and unwilling to understand, even in this time of climate and inequality crisis, is that they do not want to change the broken system of which they are the main beneficiaries. Arsonists do not make good firefighters.

    Instead, people on the front lines of inequality from Kenya to the Ivory Coast, from the Philippines to Mexico and beyond are busy building alternatives for a new system that will leave neoliberal capitalism, racism, patriarchy and environmental destruction behind. Elites are not willing to understand that change is coming from the streets without them, in spite of them, and because of them. Time’s up for Davos, a symbol of a broken system. Let’s tell the world what the real solutions to inequality are this week as we mobilise in our Global Protest to Fight Inequality.

  2. Change only comes when we organise our people power in greater numbers

    Every January during Davos, our members from Oxfam release eye watering statistics about inequality. You may have seen the media headlines over the years. It does a great job of crystallising for us the depth of the mess we’re in, in a way I can talk to anyone about quickly, and provides a wedge into what sits beneath – the wider, systemic and intersectional problem. But killer stats only take us so far.

    For people living on the frontlines of inequality across the world, change is in short supply. We’ve won the debates on how bad inequality is and the fact that it requires deep change. Everyone says they agree things need to change. But in practice, we are far from agreement with the rich and powerful about what change needs to happen and who should be driving that change.

    So where is the change going to come from? Inequality is, at heart, an issue of power. We founded the Fight Inequality Alliance because we knew that change comes when People Power becomes stronger than those driving and benefitting from the status quo. The policy prescriptions that would do the most to ensure societies that work for all are largely known and already campaigned on by many. Women’s rights groups, social movements, young people, trade unions, environmental groups, NGOs, have all been tackling aspects of the inequality agenda for a long time in their struggles for a just and equitable world.

    But given the intense concentration of power and wealth in so few hands across the globe, the dangerous sweep of right wing extremism, sexism, austerity, misogyny and discrimination, accompanied by a crackdown on democratic rights and freedoms, these struggles needed to join up and build collective power on a larger scale.

    So this is what we are focussing on – those on the frontlines of inequality organising from below and across bordervs to shift the balance of power to create the just, equal and sustainable world we’re all fighting for. Key to this is more organising and collective action, led by women, young people, social movements, and indigenous groups.

  3. We have a powerful track record of Global Protests

    Which leads me to the Global Protest to Fight Inequality. It has emerged as our movement’s biggest global mobilisations, since its origins in 2017. See here for some historical highlights. Why has the Global Protest grown as a major mobilising high point? Because the problem of inequality is known by all and lived daily by the many. The grotesqueness of the current levels of wealth held by the 1% are unsustainable and morally repugnant.

    People are tired of the same conversations. On some level, people recognise instinctively that the status quo is wrong, but have felt that we are lacking the ability or collective power to drive the changes we need, as Martin Luther King warned us. Partly we have been looking in the wrong place for answers. It’s time to listen to the people who know the most about inequality.

What Comes Next?

There’s an appetite to hear the counter story. We have made a good start, and it’s a journey we’ll continue on over the coming years. But this must lead to change – a new system will be born, but it will be citizens that are in the driving seat. That is what the Global Protest week is all about. Showing who is leading change in our communities and countries, and who really has the answers to fighting inequality.

The fight against inequality is well under way. Change will be fought from the grassroots and connected to the national and global levels, not the other way round. Adjust your gaze.