The United Nations has spotted the growing movement for worldwide basic income, and has quoted parts of World Basic Income's proposals for funding the scheme in a report of the Human Rights Council's 35th Session.
UN sees economic insecurity as a key human rights issue
The report by the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights stresses the need for the human rights movement to pay attention to economic insecurity, and it explores basic income as a potential solution.
The report is focused on national basic incomes, but it highlights the existence of an emerging movement for a parallel global scheme.
The report reads: "The concept of a basic income on a global scale has attracted little scholarly attention, but at least two organizations, the Global Basic Income Foundation and World Basic Income, are promoting it. According to the latter, a global basic income would be a “global scheme that gathers and redistributes money, in amounts ranging from a few dollars to over $2,000 per month, depending on circumstances”. The long-term goal is redistribution of wealth and natural resources through “collective shareholdings in global companies, international taxes such as a carbon tax or financial transaction tax, royalties on goods like intellectual property or the extraction of natural resources, or fees for the use of shared goods, such as charging airlines a fee for using our shared airspace”. The present report does not seek to examine the feasibility or otherwise of such an approach."
World basic income is on the agenda
The movement to take basic income to the world level is relatively new, so it is very exciting that the United Nations has independently researched it. In order to gain widespread support, the idea itself first needs to spread. The UN has enormous global reach, so concepts and organisations mentioned there can reach decision-makers and communities across the globe. The proposal for worldwide basic income is clearly gathering momentum on the world stage.
A new Ipsos survey of twelve countries showed very significant support for basic income, and in several countries the majority of people believed the government should go ahead and introduce the scheme.
In January 2017, the Belgian organisation Eight began providing a basic income in the village of Busibi, Uganda. They are making a film about the experiment, and the first episode is now available at http://villageone.film/
The film records the people of Busibi talking about their lives and struggles. In Episode 1, residents talk about what they have and what they lack. Besweri explains, “Busibi is a very good island, which is surrounded by a swamp. People produce their own food, they have animals, they have houses but they are only mud-and-water houses, not permanent ones. There is no electricity and no improved water system – they are using hand-dug wells. They are poor, yes, but they are not the poorest among the poor.”
World Basic Income spoke with Alice Krozer of the University of Cambridge, author of the report 'A regional basic income: towards the eradication of extreme poverty in Central America', published by the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in 2010.
While the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) is fast becoming mainstream, questions remain as to what the 'U' in UBI should mean. Does ‘universal’ refer to all people within one country, or should it mean everyone across the globe? And should we all get the same basic income, no matter where we live?
This Saturday, we are holding the world's first ever conference to explore the proposal for a worldwide basic income. We are delighted that twelve excellent speakers and around 120 guests will be packing out our small venue in Salford.
During 2016, the world's 500 richest people got even richer. Their combined fortunes rose by 5.7%, adding $237 billion to their total net worth. The worldwide basic income that we at WBI propose is $10 per person per month. That requires $75 billion per month to fund.
Imagine if the world's richest people had all decided that this year, for once, they just didn't need any more money, and decided to share out this year's gains around the world. This would have funded more than three months of world basic income – a crucial cash injection for every woman, man and child on the planet.
According to the World Bank, India is a lower-middle income country, but it still has the highest number of people living below the extreme poverty line in the world. Over a thousand existing anti-poverty programmes have not resolved the problem.
But, following successful pilot experiments and pressure from civil society, the government is now beginning to consider giving an annual basic income of 10-15,000 rupees (£118 to £177) to every person in India.
A while ago I read an article that proved to me, once and for all, that economic growth will not solve poverty. Based on data from the last two decades showing how the benefits of growth are distributed, analysts had assessed how much would be needed to lift everyone above a $5 a day poverty line. To achieve this, they found that the world economy would need to grow to 173 times its current size, and the average gross income per person would need to be over $1.3 million.
An average income of over a million dollars each, just so that the unluckiest people can earn $5 a day?
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Title photograph by Koustav2007 (Own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons