Law Student, McGill University
Today is World Day of Social Justice, a moment for us to celebrate and re-solidify our commitment to advancing equality and human rights for all.
The pursuit of social justice is a common cause shared by countless international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) around the world. The United Nations’ pursuit of social justice is reflected in its promotion of gender equality, protection of Indigenous peoples and migrants, and the elimination of barriers people face as result of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion or disability.
World Day of Social Justice is an important opportunity to learn about and promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among a number of related priorities, the UN supports innovative efforts and projects that seek to eradicate poverty, promote gender equity and ensure access to justice for all. As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon advocated, “We must step up efforts to ensure that all people, without discrimination, are able to access opportunities to improve their lives and those of others.”
Unfortunately, poverty remains one of the most pressing social justice challenges the world is facing. According to the World Bank’s 2015/2016 Global Monitoring Report, over 700 million people around the world, though largely concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, live on less than two dollars per day. However, poverty is a complex multi-dimensional condition with consequences far beyond income insecurity. UN organizations have defined poverty as “…the sustained or chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices, security and power necessary for the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living and other civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.” Moreover, we have learned that social isolation is a key aspect that must be understood as both a consequence of living in poverty and a cause of its persistence.
Another crucial element to overcoming poverty and achieving the SDGs is the empowerment of women and girls. This is because, in the world’s poorest communities, women and girls bear the brunt of poverty and are often prevented from unleashing their economic and entrepreneurial power. Indeed, women and girls are not only the face of poverty, but they are also a critical key to overcoming it.
Among many exceptional international NGOs fighting poverty around the world is CARE, which operates in 95 countries to improve the lives of more than 65 million people through 900 diverse and innovative projects. This leading humanitarian organization has been fighting global poverty and advancing social justice issues since 1945 by providing emergency relief and establishing long term international development projects. CARE’s broad range of programmes address food insecurity, education, health, economic development and emergency responses, all with emphasis on empowering women and girls and promoting gender equality. As CARE notes, despite producing half of the world’s food and putting in two-thirds of the world’s working hours, women only make 10% of the world’s income.
World Day of Social Justice reminds us that every human being has the right to belong, connect and thrive. But it is what we do to overcome these challenges every day thereafter that really counts. Each day provides opportunities for us to share small gestures of compassion and hope, as every individual has the capacity to become a leader for change. So, what will you do today and in the days to come to promote social justice?