A contribution to the blog by Najibullah Khoda Rahim
I come from a country where 3.5 million children are deprived of education, out of which 2.5 million are girls. I come from a country where 34% of the population lives under poverty line. I come from a country where dozens of Shia Muslims are massacred by Sunni Taliban every year due to their religious beliefs. I come from a country where it is ranked as one of the most dangerous places for women. Yes, I come from Afghanistan, the country coined by UNICEF as ‘the worst place to be born in the world’. I come from a country where social inequality is prevalent more than many other countries around the globe.
Social inequality not only has crippled Afghanistan from progress, but has been an issue which has invigorated a mass downturn in development throughout Asia-Pacific Region. There are a chain of encircling inequality issues that could be addressed within the states in this region, such as, educational inequality, economic inequality, gender inequality and regional inequality. In Pakistan 98% of its top management employees are men. According to Labor Force Statistics (LFS) 2012-2013 women make up less than 7% of Pakistan’s workforce. That leaves the majority of the women in Pakistan being reliant on men economically and deprived of education. It has in turn led to higher child mortality rate, lack of health education, income inequality, and child forced marriage and labor in different rural parts of this country. These inequalities are seen all over Asia-Pacific, such as Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia in different rates and levels. Additionally, Chinese regional inequality in terms of income, education and gender are also issues which hints the common tragedy we share. China’s income per capita is 3,700 USD, which leaves it among developing states in terms income per capita, while being the second largest economy in the world.
Additionally, our challenge in Asia-Pacific is not only inequality within the states, but also inequality among the states. It is surprising to see that at the age of globalization and gradual economic and social integration of the world, there are still inequality issues among Asian states. Unbalanced trades, territorial disputes, refugee issues, and lack of effective cooperation are some of the challenges that could be addressed. The Income per capita in Malaysia being 11000 USD raises to 52,960 USD in Singapore is the evidence for the per capita income inequality among Asia-Pacific states. Similarly, China’s trade surplus has been 28.78 Billion USD in 2018, while Afghanistan trade deficit reached 5.94 Billion USD in 2016, determining the unbalanced trade among these states. Refugee crisis, has led to many more inequality issues, hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees from Myanmar flooding into Bangladesh have created business opportunities and also security issues for the locals, while themselves live in slums and under the tents, their children deprived of quality education and healthy nutrition, and their parents unemployed. Additionally, China’s Nine-Dash Line demarcation of South China Sea, while violating United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and territorial integrity of states such as Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam, shows the political inequality and power imbalance in this region.
Our responsibility as global citizens at this point in history, where the governments have been mostly ineffective in solving these problems, is to first study and categorize inequality issues in this region. In-depth study of these inequalities will helps us focus on issues at stake, and trace back their causes. Additionally, one of the most important outcome of categorization is a focused and systematic study of specific inequality issues and pursuing opportunities for action to resolve them.
Nevertheless, taking action needs a step by step planning and clarification of objectives and tactics. Developing a strategic Advocacy toolkit by youth networks and activists could help many Asian countries to tackle some of the inequality challenges, and break their circular chain.
We are able to come up with a solution to Asia-Pacific region’s inequality issues for we are the global citizens, who are committed to the shared values and universal principles, who are inclined towards a better future for humanity. Despite all the inequalities of the world, we refuse to surrender. We understand that our thoughts and actions matter. We know that with our collective determination we can turn history towards a future where justice and equality shall prevail.