As the global polycrisis deepens, hundreds of millions continue to struggle with the cost of living. Public budgets are shrinking, and public sector wage bill cuts leave a crippling impact on the delivery of essential services.
Last year, public sector unions, social and economic justice movements, and civil society organisations, including ActionAid, gathered for Our Future is Public conference in Chile to discuss the strengthening of public services for the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights and tackle the effects of climate change. Following this meeting, the Santiago Declaration of Public Services was adopted.
Drastic public service wage bill cuts have a detrimental effect on the quality of care and the provision of services. These cuts exacerbate the barriers women often face in accessing quality public services and are often made directly to services that primarily benefit women, including childcare, education, sexual and reproductive health, and rights.
In 2021 Research by ActionAid, Public Services International, and Education International found that IMF austerity cuts in just 15 countries between 2016 to 2021 blocked the recruitment of over three million nurses, teachers, and other essential public sector workers. This hugely undermines the health and education outcomes, especially in the global South.
Adopting a 'people before profits' approach, a future that is public is one where marginalized groups no longer bear unequal responsibility in our societies and the rights of all are upheld and not dependent on the ability to pay or whether a system is profitable.
We are committed to advancing women's rights, which means building an intersectional movement for a future that is public.
David Archer, Head of Programmes and Influencing at ActionAid International, said: "The tide of privatisation that we have seen for forty years must give way to a future that is truly public. To achieve this we need international solidarity and systemic change. The Santiago declaration is an important commitment by social movements and civil society from around the world, including ActionAid, towards a just, feminist and decolonial transition..'
Fabiana Alves, campaigns lead at ActionAid International, said: "Our Future is Public Santiago Declaration for Public Services shows that there are movements and NGOs engaged to insure that our rights to health, transport, care, education and others need to be guarantee by the public sector.’
Dr Maria Ron Balsera, Tax and Education Alliance Coordinator at ActionAid International, said: “Within the Tax justice and Education Alliance, we see the impact of the biased financial architecture and global tax abuse which are depleting national budgets, worsening the chronic underfunding of education and other public services. Austerity and privatisation only make things worse, leading to violations of human rights and pushing people (especially women and girls) into poverty. Progressive tax reform is crucial to finance gender-transformative public services and reduce inequalities, particularly in education”.
Wangari Kinoti, Global Lead for Women's Rights at ActionAid International, said: "invisible power structures that sustain colonial relations of exploitation are at the root of the obscenely imbalanced global economic governance system that sabotages public services through austerity and unjust debt and this is subsidised by women’s unpaid and underpaid care and domestic work that sustains households, communities, economies and the planet. Social movements and civil society that coming together in Santiago is an important step to uprooting these interrelated colonial and patriarchal anchors’’.
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Notes to editor:
To celebrate the launch, ActionAid will join forces with organisations and movements taking part in a Twitter Storm on Thursday, 26 January, at 1 pm UTC. Our Future is Public Twitter account will post one question every 10 minutes in English and French.
ActionAid is a global federation that works with more than 15 million people living in more than 40 of the world's poorest countries. We want to see a just and sustainable world in which everyone enjoys the right to a dignified life and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work for social justice and gender equality, and poverty eradication.