Put the people first

G20 leaders must decide to turn this crisis into an opportunity. We want to see radical change that

How times change. Seems like only yesterday that those of us who dared to oppose and expose the failures of free market economics were shouted down. Now a movement openly challenging the system and calling for the G20 to Put People First is gaining broad support.

The first manifestation, on Saturday, will see thousands of protesters drawn from a hugely diverse range of interests gather and demand fundamental change. We are spending billions of pounds of our money; we want a lot more bang for our buck than propping up banks. Put People First, represents unity amongst all sectors of society, and has a solid vision for what the G20 leaders must decide in order to turn this crisis into an opportunity. We want to see radical change that will make this a world fit for purpose in the 21st century.

We are calling for jobs and public services for all. Globally, millions are in danger of losing their jobs and their homes because the banks gambled the economies money away and the government cheered them on. Now ordinary working people are paying a huge price for the greedy deals that were allowed to take place virtually unchecked.

A typical government response would be to use the global economic slowdown as an excuse to cut back on public expenditure programmes.

Not good enough! Public service must be assured so that the people who did the least to cause this problem do not pay the highest price. Bringing forward public works programmes could also help create jobs and help countries out of recession.

We are demanding an end to global poverty and inequality. No one is pretending poverty is a consequence of the crisis. Long before the collapse of Bear Stearns rang alarm bells on Wall Street, people in the developing world have faced crisis after crisis in: food; energy and climate. This latest crisis has just compounded that. It's now time to take their unemployment, cuts in public services and deepening poverty as seriously as we take our own.

In the coming days Put People First will be crystal clear about our demands. The G20 leaders cannot be allowed to simply reaffirm pledges on aid. Aid alone is not enough. And we must not be drawn into an overly simplistic argument between protectionism vs free trade. Trade is vital for the economies of developing countries, but this trade system is fundamentally flawed because it is rigged in favour of the rich nations.

And we are imploring the G20 to deal with the climate crisis. The G20 leaders don't want to talk about climate change; but they must. Climate change is affecting us all and fundamentally challenging our economic system, hitting the world's poorest people first and worst. Poor people are already experiencing the climate crisis and are suffering from loss of livelihoods and lives in increasingly unstable environments.

The G20 must recognise that ever increasing consumption and reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable will lead us to runaway climate change. The G20
must agree a Green New Deal which prioritises a transition to a global low carbon economy.

If it sounds like we are asking for a lot, we are unapologetic. This time, the stakes are too high for our voices to be side-lined, fobbed off or shouted down.

Benedict Southworth is director of the World Development Movement