The following text is the Executive Summary of Share the World’s Resources latest report: Sharing as our Common Cause. You can read or download the whole report here.
This report demonstrates how a call for sharing underpins many existing initiatives for social justice, environmental stewardship, true democracy and global peace. On this basis, STWR argues that sharing should be more widely promoted as a common cause that can help connect civil society organisations and social movements under a united call for change.
Across the world, millions of campaigners and activists refuse to sit idly by and watch the world’s crises escalate, while our governments fail to provide hope for a more just and sustainable future. The writing is on the wall: climate chaos, escalating conflict over scarce resources, growing impoverishment and marginalisation in the rich world as well as the poor, the looming prospect of another global financial collapse. In the face of what many describe as a planetary emergency, there has never been such a widespread and sustained mobilisation of citizens around efforts to challenge global leaders and address critical social and environmental issues. A worldwide ‘movement of movements’ is on the rise, driven by an awareness that the multiple crises we face are fundamentally caused by an outmoded economic system in need of wholesale reform.
But despite this growing awareness of the need for massive combined action to reverse ongoing historical trends, clearly not enough is being done to tackle the systemic causes of the world’s interrelated problems. What we still lack is a truly unified progressive movement that comprises the collective actions of civil society organisations, grassroots activists and an engaged citizenry. A fusion of progressive causes is urgently needed under a common banner, one that can create a consensus among a critical mass of the world population about the necessary direction for transformational change. As many individuals and groups within the progressive community both recognise and proclaim, this is our greatest hope for bringing about world renewal and rehabilitation.
This report demonstrates how a call for sharing is central to the formation of this growing worldwide movement of global citizens. As more and more people begin to raise their voices for governments to put human needs and ecological preservation before corporate greed and profit, the call for sharing is consistently at the heart of civil society demands for a better world. In fact, the principle of sharing is often central to efforts for progressive change in almost every field of endeavour. But this mutual concern is generally understood and couched in tacit terms, without acknowledging the versatility, commonality and wide applicability of sharing as a solution to the world’s problems.
For illustrative purposes, the many causes, initiatives and movements highlighted in this report’s ‘mapping’ section are broadly grouped according to five main categories: social justice, environmental stewardship, global peace, participative democracy, and multi-issue movements. For each of the causes outlined that fall within these overarching themes, it is not difficult to see how most – if not all – are essentially founded on a demand for a more equitable sharing of wealth, power or resources either within countries or internationally. For this reason, we argue that sharing should be more widely promoted as a common cause that can potentially help connect the world’s peace, justice and environmental movements under a united call for change.
How is the call for sharing expressed?
In many ways the need for greater sharing in society is longstanding and self-evident, as there can be no social or economic justice when wealth and income inequalities continue to spiral out of control, increasingly to the benefit of the 1% (or indeed the 0.001%). There is now an almost continuous and high-profile discussion on the need to tackle growing extremes of inequality, which is a debate that is often framed entirely – if not always explicitly – around the need for a just sharing of wealth and power across society as a whole.
At the same time, advocacy for new development paradigms or economic alternatives is increasingly being framed and discussed in terms of sharing. This is most apparent in the international debate on climate change and sustainable development, in which many policy analysts and civil society organisations (CSOs) are calling for ‘fair shares’ in a constrained world – in other words, for all people to have an equal right to share the Earth’s resources without transgressing the planet’s environmental limits. Furthermore, some prominent CSOs – including Christian Aid, Oxfam International and Friends of the Earth – clearly espouse the principle of sharing as part of their organisational strategies and objectives, and call for dramatic changes in how power and resources are shared in order to transform our unjust world.
The renewed concept of the ‘commons’ has also fast become a well-recognised global movement of scholars and activists who frame all the most pressing issues of our time – from unsustainable growth to rising inequality – in terms of our need to cooperatively protect the shared resources of Earth. On a more local and practical level, there is also a flourishing ‘sharing economy’ movement that is empowering people to share more in their everyday lives through the use of online platforms and sharing-oriented business models, as well as through gift economies and shared community projects.
In most other instances, however, the fundamental demand for sharing is implicitly discussed or inadvertently promoted in popular calls for change. For example, millions of people across the world are struggling for democracy and freedom in manifold ways, from people-led uprisings against corrupt governments to those who are actively participating in new democracy movements within communities and workplaces. But there can be no true form of democracy – and no securing of basic human rights for all – without a fairer sharing of political power and economic resources, as further outlined in the section of this report on participative democracy.
Similarly, the principle of sharing underlies many of the campaigns and initiatives for peaceful co-existence, whether it’s in terms of redirecting military spending towards essential public goods, or ending the scramble for scarce resources through cooperative international agreements. From both a historical and common sense perspective, it is clear that competition over resources causes conflict – and there is no sense in perpetuating an economic paradigm where all nations are pitted against each other to try and own what could easily be shared.
Yet the basic necessity of sharing is often not recognised as an underlying cause for all those who envision a more just and peaceful world without insecurity or deprivation. This is despite the fact that the mass protest movements that have swiftly emerged in recent years, including the Arab Spring demonstrations and Occupy movements, are also invariably connected by their implicit call for greater economic sharing across society, not least in their reaction to enormous and growing socio-economic divisions.
Why advocate for sharing?
Given that a call for sharing is already a fundamental (if often unacknowledged) demand of a diverse group of progressive individuals and organisations, there are a number of reasons why we should embrace this common cause and advocate more explicitly for sharing in our work and activities. In particular, a call for sharing holds the potential to connect disparate campaign groups, activists and social movements under a common theme and vision. Such a call represents the unity in diversity of global civil society and can provide an inclusive rallying platform, which may also help us to recognise that we are all ultimately fighting the same cause. It also offers a way of moving beyond separate silos and single-issue platforms, but without needing to abandon any existing focuses or campaign priorities.
A call for sharing can also engage a much broader swathe of the public in campaign initiatives and movements for transformative change. Many people feel disconnected from political issues owing to their technical complexity, or else they feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges that face us and ill equipped to take action. But everyone understands the human value of sharing, and by upholding this universal principle in a political context we can point the way towards an entirely new approach to economics – one that is integrally based on a fair and sustainable distribution of resources. In this way, the principle of sharing represents a valuable advocacy and educational tool that could help to generate widespread public engagement with critical global issues.
In addition, a popular demand for governments to adopt the principle of sharing has radical implications for current economic and political arrangements, both within countries and internationally. This is clear when we examine the influence of the neoliberal approach to economics that continues to dominate policy outcomes in both the Global North and South, and which is in many ways the antithesis of an economic approach based on egalitarian values and the fulfilment of long-established human rights. In an increasingly unequal and unsustainable world in which all governments need to drastically re-order their priorities, a call for sharing embodies the need for justice, democracy and sound environmental stewardship to guide policymaking at every level of society.
Ultimately, only a collective demand for a fairer sharing of wealth, power and resources is likely to unify citizens across the world in a common cause. Unless individuals and organisations in different countries align their efforts in more concrete ways (a process that is already underway), it may remain impossible to overcome the vested interests and entrenched structures that maintain business-as-usual. While we face the eventual prospect of societal, economic and ecological collapse, there is no greater urgency for establishing a broad-based global movement that upholds the principle of sharing as a basic guide for restructuring our societies and tackling the multiple crises of the 21st century. In the end, this may represent our greatest hope for influencing economic reforms that are based on the needs of the world as a whole, and guided by basic human and ecological values.
This report seeks to demonstrate how a global movement for sharing is already in existence – even if it has yet to affirm its collective identity or purpose. If the case for promoting sharing as our common cause seems convincing, then it compels us to acknowledge that we are all part of this emerging movement that holds the same values and broad concerns, albeit in a disparate and as yet uncoordinated form. The following recommendations outline how we can build upon this recognition and play a part in further strengthening and scaling up a united, all-inclusive and worldwide movement for sharing.
1. Integrate the message of sharing into advocacy and campaigning activities
Based upon our recognition of the need to scale up diverse forms of sharing across the world, it is important to explore what sharing means to us personally and in relation to the issues we are working on. This will enable us to integrate the message of sharing into our campaigning efforts and activism, whenever it is appropriate to do so. We can all therefore help to build popular and persuasive frames around the need for greater sharing in our societies from the perspective of justice, sustainability, peace and democracy. See the full report for some example ideas of how to frame various progressive endeavours in terms of sharing, which also serves as a valuable ‘meme’ that can be adopted and creatively played with in relation to the four key themes outlined in the report.
2. Mobilise on collective platforms for sharing
Building effective people’s movements through collaborative processes is arguably the holy grail of civil society campaigning, and extremely difficult to achieve in practice and on a large scale. But as the crises of inequality, global conflict and environmental breakdown become ever more real and urgent, there is great scope for individuals and groups to mobilise for transformational change on collective platforms for sharing that bring together several campaign issues that may otherwise remain distinct and unconnected. The full report outlines some examples of how social movements, campaign groups and activists could coalesce their efforts in the creation of such a common cause for sharing.
3. Sign and promote STWR’s global call for sharing
Without doubt, a dramatic shift in public debate is needed if the principle of sharing is to be understood as integral to any agenda for social justice, environmental stewardship, participatory democracy or peaceful co-existence. If you agree with the need to catalyse a global movement of citizens that embrace sharing as a common cause, please sign and promote the campaign statement below. By joining the global call, any individual or organisation can influence the development of this emerging theme and vision, and help spark public awareness and a wider debate on the importance of sharing in economic and political terms.