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Annual Report for 2019: Share the World's Resources

Guest content
09 May 2019

Contents


Summary

As public awareness grows of a multifaceted global emergency, STWR has persisted throughout 2018 in its efforts to promote international economic sharing as the only viable path towards a sustainable future. We are now focusing on our overarching cause for implementing socioeconomic rights worldwide and transforming the United Nations, which is a far-reaching vision that we uphold through all our organisational activities. This includes an ongoing research and book writing project on the challenging subject of democratic world governance; our grassroots initiatives and programme of events; and a new website that helps to augment our campaign identity and educational resources. Our immediate future plans are to complete two major upcoming book projects, and further advance our goal of generating support for peaceful mass demonstrations that revolve around Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Overview of news and website postings

2018 marked an important milestone on the long road towards sharing the world’s resources, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights marking its 70th anniversary in December. Sadly, there was little to celebrate for the world’s majority poor, as related in the various news and articles posted on STWR’s website during the year. The United Nations warned early in April that record-high food insecurity trends were worsening, and millions of people remained on the edge of starvation despite the massive fund-raising efforts to avert famines in 2017. Global hunger was again on the rise after officially declining for more than two decades; the World Bank reported slowing progress on extreme poverty; and development targets to improve the lives of the world’s poorest children were ‘woefully off track’. Still an estimated 6.3 million children are dying before their 15th birthday from largely preventable causes, or 1 every 5 seconds.

Against this shameful backdrop, STWR continued to publish relevant information and commentaries about the unnecessary extent of our divided world. While thousands of refugees and poor migrants were dying on route to a ‘new walled order’, the gap between the richest 1% and everyone else was widening to unimaginable proportions. Policy responses in most countries invariably moved in the wrong direction towards austerity, privatisation and deregulation, instead of tackling inequality through redistributive measures and global standards that help ensure corporations and individuals pay their fair share. Almost all the evidence pointed to the insanity of an economic model that promotes growth and profit at all costs, enriching the few while massively overconsuming the earth’s resources and increasing greenhouse gas emissions beyond sustainable limits.

But not everything was bad news. Amidst all the warnings of a new global financial and debt crisis and a growing ecological emergency, the call for sharing the world’s resources rung out from many quarters. For example, the issues of equity and #FairShares were still a core focus of civil society campaigning at the UN climate talks (COP24) held in Poland. The UN General Assembly passed a new Declaration on the Rights of Peasants which was an important development in international human rights law, and a hopeful step forwards in assisting the world’s small farmers to promote food sovereignty and realise the right to adequate food. New economic paradigms based on the principle of sharing also gained increasing prominence, from ‘doughnut economics’ and other systemic alternatives to agroecology, the ‘sufficiency vision’ and a ‘radical sharing economy’ along the right lines of sustainability and participatory democracy.

If we add to this mix the international civil society campaigns that have indirectly called for sharing economic resources over the past year (too numerous to mention in their diverse causes for distributive justice and human rights), then there is more reason to be hopeful about current world affairs. This would include a new politics of sharing that is committed to tackling structural inequality both between and within nations, as well as the many renewed calls for governments to redirect public expenditures to put ‘people before corporations’. STWR also stands behind ongoing proposals for reforming global governance institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, in addition to longstanding initiatives for democratising the United Nations—all issues that returned to the fore in 2018 and were represented via our website and online social networks. Overall, there are increasing signs that people everywhere are awakening to the need for a fairer sharing of resources on both national and international levels, which the STWR team remains committed to promoting by every available means at our disposal.

STWR’s research and writing

Our writing and publications throughout the year highlighted this increasing awakening of public awareness to a multifaceted global emergency, with a focus on the critical reality of extreme hunger and human deprivation. Too often the immediate needs of the millions of impoverished people worldwide remain neglected in grassroots activism and progressive policy thinking, hence STWR has continually striven to redirect the consciousness of ordinary people towards an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. In particular, we continued to promote the UN’s radical vision of economic justice that is contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, above all its 25th Article that proclaims the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living.

For example, one of our research and writing projects aimed to demonstrate the transformative implications of rendering Article 25 into an enforceable framework of international law, which would automatically necessitate a vast redistribution of wealth and resources on an unprecedented global scale. Our publications on this theme—which were widely reposted on progressive media sites—also provided a useful background of information for our campaigning activities and programme of university talks (see more below). Another publication by STWR along these lines concerned the 10th anniversary of the global financial crisis, for which we advocated the need for a monumental mobilisation of citizens from below when another crisis inevitably resurfaces. That may be our last chance, we maintained, for resurrecting long-forgotten proposals in the UN archives to enact a full-scale reordering of global priorities and effectively bail out the world’s poor.

The main research undertaking during the year concerned the ongoing preparation and writing of STWR’s most ambitious book project to date, which concerns the latest publication by Mohammed Mesbahi on the subject of world governance. The book is unique in coupling a long interview (transcribed and edited) with a conventional prose form of writing by the author, forming two interrelated sections that are both individually longer than any single publication STWR has written before. Compiled as part of the series ‘Studies on the Principle of Sharing’, the book gives a consummate insight into the means of achieving a genuinely democratic form of governance for the entire planet and its peoples. Demonstrating an erudite understanding of the complex political and theoretical issues, the book goes on to explore—similar to Mesbahi’s most recent previous works on the climate crisis and a universal basic income—the inner or spiritual side of world governance that is essential for understanding how a true ‘parliament of nations’ may arise and advance in the coming century and beyond.

Although preparation for this important book has taken a considerable amount of research and editing time over the past year, consuming much of both of Mesbahi’s time and that of STWR’s editor Adam Parsons, we believe that it will form a core part of our organisation’s library of teaching on the more philosophical aspects of international economic sharing and right human relations. Further research is being compiled simultaneously on other book projects that are planned for completion following the present work.

Although our writing output as an organisation has consequently receded in the past year, we believe that these upcoming book publications will be a longstanding source of inspiration for STWR co-workers and the global justice community at large. As the theory and praxis of sharing slowly grips the popular imagination, it is hoped that the books may also generate a sustainable source of financing for STWR over the longer-term. There are several publications available in a digital format on our website that have still to be converted into professional books (and consequently made available in our online shop), including the first book in the series of studies on the principle of sharing which comprises a unique collection of long articles by Mesbahi. The upcoming book on world governance will form the 7th book in the series to date.

Meanwhile, several translated versions of our publications have continued to be released during 2018, particularly new Italian versions of the ‘Studies’ that have built up a sizeable collection. German translations of all of Mesbahi’s published works have also been completed, with the release of ‘The Commons of Humanity’ and ‘Towards a Universal Basic Income for all Humanity’ in 2018 (translated by STWR co-workers Sonja Scherndl and Ute Redl). Furthermore, our Japanese mirror website hosts the vast majority of our materials and other selected guest content, as managed and coordinated in-house by Hodaka Murata. All of Mesbahi’s books and long articles are now available in Japanese, as well as most of STWR’s past reports and publications, which altogether has built www.sharing.org/ja into a considerable repository of online resources in its own right.

Campaigning and events

The focus of our campaigning work remains centred on STWR’s core proposal and vision, as highlighted in our flagship publication—for activist groups and concerned citizens to join us in forging worldwide demonstrations for Article 25. This represents a far-reaching and ambitious aim that is likely to form the mainstay of our outreach activities for the foreseeable future. This year, we attended the Green Party spring conference where we hosted an event that introduced participants to our vision of implementing Article 25 and paving the way for a truly universal basic income in all countries. Led by our co-workers Victoria Gater and Sonja Scherndl, our presentation was held in a well-equipped auditorium at the Bournemouth International Centre, sparking a lively discussion with a large and interested audience.

We also attended national events in the UK (and promoted others further abroad) that related to the fundamental rights for adequate food, housing, healthcare and social security for all. These included numerous demos like the TUC march in London, UK for the defence of public services; the ‘NHS belongs to us’ march to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Britain's universal healthcare; and the new Poor People’s Campaign across the USA that reinvigorated Martin Luther King's initiative, 50 years on (along with similar UK initiatives). Other events we attended or were involved in included those surrounding the UK visit of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, which created a stir across Britain following his exposé of how far Britain has strayed from its human rights obligations due to the current government’s austerity policies and dismantling of the social safety net.

Alongside these events we conducted various small-scale initiatives that aimed to promote our call for Article 25. For example, we created simple and striking posters that were fly posted with the help of co-workers around London and the UK, and we frequently spread similar postcards in various locations across the city and further afield. Unique placards were also created for our participation in national events, and invitations widely disseminated for members of the public to join us on demonstrations.

In addition, we created a dedicated campaigns section on our website for readers to find out more about our overall cause, and to engage with our various activities. Later in the year, we then began a series of talks to university groups on our vision of reclaiming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for ‘we the peoples of the United Nations’, beginning with events at Kingston University and Kent Law School. These were all well received and helped us to hone our ideas on a ‘people’s strategy for world transformation’, as majorly informed by Mesbahi’s writings and adapted for short presentations to students and the general public.

From STWR’s perspective, it is far more fruitful for us to generate support from ordinary citizens and grassroots activists at this stage, rather than to try and influence specific government policies at either national or intergovernmental levels (such as the ongoing events for the Sustainable Development Goals or the annual UN climate change conferences). We are therefore continuing our programme of talks to universities and other groups at any opportunity over the coming year. We will also continue to grasp any opportunity that arises for interviews or editorial writing, like our recorded conversation with Seven Billion Today on YouTube about our campaign, or our full-page editorial in the Hackney Gazette newspaper.

New website and online communications

For some time STWR has wanted to update and improve its website, which we finally implemented in the second half of 2018 with the help of Dave Gray from Insite Connections, alongside design assistance from Studio Blackburn. Our main intention was to create a more campaigning look and less corporate feel to the site, while simplifying its structure to make it easier to navigate. Hence our resources on Article 25 are more centrally placed, with advertisement banners on the homepage for our flagship publication.

We’ve retained some of the core features as an interim measure (like the homepage boxes and our existing ‘learn more’ pages), while making the site more interactive by adding twitter feeds and combining all latest posts into a single stream. Another key feature is the dedicated foreign language pages, as denoted by flag icons on the main header that include our Japanese mirror website. We’ve also created a mobile version of the website for the first time, and have further plans for improving its search engine rankings and useability in 2019. At the present stage of STWR’s evolution as a campaigning organisation, the new site gives us a good basis for building our identity and promoting support for the cause of global economic sharing.

To that end, we maintained our social networking platforms (twitter, facebook, Medium, YouTube) with relevant posts from STWR and related causes, and we continued to send periodic newsletter updates to our subscribers. Like many other NGOs in Europe, we were given advice to update our subscriber lists in order to comply with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements that came into force at the end of May 2018. We therefore decided to re-confirm all of our individual supporters, and simultaneously switch our newsletter provider to mailchimp. Although this inevitably took a toll on our number of ‘GDPR-compliant’ subscribers, we have retained a dedicated core of supportive readers who we interact with on a regular basis. A number of these supporters are working with us as volunteers to help raise awareness of our campaign as we push forward with new projects over the coming year.

Plans for future work

We have three broad priorities that we seek to implement in 2019:

  1. Ongoing research and book publications

As outlined above, our most important research and writing project concerns the upcoming book publication on world governance which will be larger in volume than any STWR project heretofore. Authored by Mohammed Mesbahi with research and editing assistance from Adam Parsons, the book will provide a comprehensive insight into the theoretical basis of international resource sharing from a political and economic perspective. It will also provide a deeper spiritual and philosophical assessment of the meaning and significance of democratic global governance, thus contributing to the more educational aspects of STWR’s work.

At the same time, Mesbahi and Parsons have compiled the material for a second upcoming book that will provide a more philosophical background to STWR’s core proposal for worldwide demonstrations based on heralding Article 25. We also plan to reprint special edition hardcover versions of ‘The Commons of Humanity’, ‘The True Sharing Economy’, our treatise on climate change and our compilation of long articles that are all awaiting conversion into book format. All of these forthcoming books will be made available in our online shop as soon as publishing is completed.  

  1. Campaigning activities

Following our work on a universal basic income, the sharing economy and climate change over recent years, the focus of our activities is now centrally on our vision of achieving basic socioeconomic rights for all. In line with the abovementioned activities, our advocacy and campaigns work is therefore mainly concerned with promoting the cause of Article 25. We will continue to raise awareness of our proposal and try to influence ordinary citizens to be inspired by this vision of peaceful mass protest towards ending poverty and hunger on the basis of an international emergency, and wherever it may exist (both in our own countries and overseas). For the time being, this campaigning activity will continue to involve participation in existing demonstrations and events that relate to the cause of Article 25 and economic sharing. It will also entail many innovative grassroots initiatives to promote and publicise the overall cause, as well as an ongoing programme of talks to universities and any interested groups.

  1. Augmenting STWR’s campaigning and website resources

Further to our outreach and campaigning work, we aim to increase the available resources on STWR’s new website and online networks which will include:

  • Freely downloadable campaign materials for interested parties who want to participate in relevant demonstrations or conduct their own events related to Article 25.
  • Publishing regular events for supporters posted on our dedicated events page.
  • Improvements to our FAQ and introductory pages to incorporate more information about our campaign strategy and vision.
  • Expanded ‘learn more’ pages about sharing the world’s resources.
  • New translated materials on our existing foreign languages pages, with the possibility of adding more languages in due course.
  • The release of new book publications which will be made available on STWR’s online shop as soon as they are printed.

We will also continue to promote our longstanding ‘global call for sharing’ through our website and online networks, as this can still provide newcomers to STWR with a short and accessible introduction to our organisational identity and purpose.

Supporting STWR's ongoing research and advocacy work

Our work would not be possible without your support. STWR is funded entirely through private donations from individuals, and we do not receive any funding from governments or other institutions. Nor are we affiliated with any political party or corporate enterprise. Since we are not a registered charity and all of our funding is provided on an unrestricted basis, we remain free to take an explicitly political position on the global issues we address, and we are able to channel our limited income directly towards our research and advocacy. As is currently the case for many progressive organisations, our small team of staff and volunteers are facing mounting budgetary pressures. Your donations can help us to maintain our website and continue researching, writing and communicating our work while generating support within the global justice movement for the principle of sharing as a solution to global crises. Please consider making a donation by following this link: www.sharing.org/donate