Amnesty International is a charity and “global movement” calling for universal social protection. The organization is based in England and Wales. It educates people and researches various topics related to human rights. It also mobilizes people through activist stories. Its realm of international activism covers seeking the release of political prisoners, defending sexual and reproductive rights while ending the death penalty and discrimination while securing refugee and migrant rights. Amnesty International has also developed an app for activists to use as a “panic button” if they are in danger of being arrested or detained.
In addition to its efforts to spread awareness of human rights violations happening globally, on May 10, Amnesty International issued a briefing addressing overlapping crises that have left many facing poverty and hunger titled “Rising Prices, Growing Protests: The Case for Universal Social Protection.” In the briefing, the charity calls for universal social protection, or an “integrated set of policies and programs that provide equitable access to all people and protect them throughout their lives against poverty and risks to their livelihoods and well-being.”
Overview of the Briefing
The briefing begins by naming a few of the overlapping crises resulting in global poverty, starting with economic shock. In addition to around 60% of the world’s poorest countries being in debt distress, it cites that almost all middle-income and lower-income countries have experienced a high rate of inflation in the past year. Some notable examples include Zimbabwe at 321%, Lebanon at 203% and Venezuela at 158%. This means prices of basic necessities like food and housing have quadrupled, tripled and doubled in these countries. Amnesty International reports that people live in hunger due to three main reasons: economic shocks, armed conflict and the climate crisis.
The climate crisis impacts conditions that make food production possible by heightening severe weather like storms, extreme heat and wildfires. The loss of crops and livestock has been particularly devastating for farmers around the world living in poverty. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) found that drought was the single greatest contributor to agricultural production loss, followed by floods, storms, pests and diseases and wildfires. The climate crisis threatens food security. For example, when extreme flooding occurred in Pakistan in October 2022, the FAO reported that out of the 33 million people affected, 1.9 million needed food and agricultural assistance. Also, 510,000 people were “one step away from catastrophic levels of food insecurity.” Now more than ever, universal social protection is necessary to aid food security when relieving disasters.
Amnesty International’s brief calling for universal social protection recommends global creditors reschedule or cancel their debts so countries can have an opportunity to fund universal social protection. The cost of offering basic universal social protection would be around $440.8 billion a year, which is less than the $500 billion that lower-income and middle-income countries lose to foreign investors around the world.
Amnesty International stresses the importance of investing in universal social protection as well as making it shock-responsive, meaning its coverage would increase in large-scale crises. It also recommends other countries create a global fund for low-income or middle-income countries that cannot support universal social protection at the start, especially when they need to meet urgent humanitarian needs and suffer from food insecurity. This way, a universal basic income, guaranteed minimum income and a “social protection floor” – health care, income security, etc.– can be achieved globally.