November 12, 2014 – 2:51PM
Judith Ireland, Tom Allard
Pope Francis has written to Tony Abbott, calling for the G20 to not forget the world’s poor. Photo: Getty Images
Pope Francis has written to Prime Minister Tony Abbott ahead of the G20, calling for the leaders’ summit to focus on poor families and inequality as well as economic figures.
In a letter dated November 6, the Pope has asked Mr Abbott and his fellow heads of government “not to forget that many lives are at stake” behind the political and technical discussions of the G20 weekend.
“It would indeed be regrettable if such discussions were to remain purely on the level of declarations of principle,” Pope Francis wrote.
“There are far too many women and men suffering severe malnutrition, a rise in the number of the unemployed, an extremely high percentage of young people without work and an increate in social exclusion, which can lead to criminal activity, and even the recruitment of terrorists.”
In calling for consensus among world leaders, he said he hoped that assessment of the G20’s results “will not be restricted to global indicies, but will take into account as well real improvements in the living conditions of poorer families and the reduction of all forms of unacceptable inequality”.
The Pope also used his letter to call on all G20 member states to be “examples of generosity” in meeting the needs of victims of conflict, “especially [those] of refugees”.
The Prime Minister’s office has been contacted for comment.
The letter comes as the community arm of the G20 calls on world leaders to set a growth target that would boost incomes for the poorest 20 per cent of households around the world.
In a paper released on Wednesday, the C20 argued that G20’s two per cent growth target will not address the widening gap between rich and poor.
The current target is projected to boost world GDP by $US2 trillion over the next five years, but the C20 has questioned where the money will go, asking “will it go to those who need it most?”
Instead, the C20 is pushing for a target that would see the bottom 20 per cent of households in each G20 country increase their incomes by at least two per cent. By 2018, this would see around 950 million people with an average increased income of $US800.
C20 chair Tim Costello said the G20 had previously recognised the importance of inclusive growth at the 2013 St Petersburg Summit, but it had slipped off the agenda in 2014.
“Across the world, people are talking about the threat posed to economic stability by poverty and increasing inequality,” he said.
A new analysis by Oxfam has also revealed that inequality has grown significantly among G20 nations in the past year, with the richest 1 per cent of people enjoying an extraordinary $US6.2 trillion boost to their wealth, or 36 per cent of the total generated
The study by Oxfam found 15 of 19 G20 members (not including the European Union, a G20 member) saw inequality widen, based on assessment of how much wealth has been accrued by the top 1 per cent of people in each country.
Those 15 nations, on average, saw its richest citizens share of wealth increase by 3 per cent, led by rises of 7 per cent and 3.9 per cent in Indonesia and Russia, respectively.
The only nations to experience a decrease were Canada, Japan and the US (all down 0.1 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (down 1.6 per cent).
Overall, the wealthiest 1 per cent living in each G20 country snared $US6.2 trillion of the $US17 trillion created between 2013 and 2014, some 36 per cent of the total increase.
Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke welcomed the aggregate increase in the number of people being lifted out of poverty around the world in recent decades, but said it was disturbing to find that, nonetheless, income disparity is rising.
“It is vital that the G20 doesn’t just look at growth but shows it is serious about tackling inequality,” she said.
Like Mr Costello, Dr Szoke said it was deeply worrying that the draft final G20 communique that has been circulated does not include a commitment to “inclusive growth”, a term that was inserted into the declaration by leaders after the St Petersburg Summit.
Instead, the favoured phrase appears to be “strong, sustainable and balanced” growth.
“This is beyond semantics,” said Dr Szoke. “The reason is was included [in St Petersburg] was to show the G20 would address rising inequality and that growth needed to include all people”.