Growing International Support for UBI

Posted on October 9, 2020

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The UN Secretary General António Guterres has confirmed his support to test a Universal Basic Income (UBI) during his opening speech to the General Assembly on 22 September 2020. His speech also reminds us of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (UN) and its important role in internatonal relations. The UN was founded in 1945 after the Second World War.

You can find his full speech here . The initial part was in English and later parts are in French and Spanish. On page 9 he states in French ‘Elle suppose de mettre en place une nouvelle génération de politiques de protection sociale, comprenant notamment la Couverture sanitaire universelle et la possibilité d’un Revenu minimum universel.’ The UN secretary talks about a new generation of social protection including Universal Health Coverage and the possibility of a Universal Basic Income. Different words are used for UBI in French such as ‘Revenu minimum universel’ or ‘Salaire de base universel’. The French translation service of the UN confirmed that the UN Secretary General meant UBI. He has already expressed his support for UBI during his Nelson Mandela Lecture in July this year.

Pope Francis presented Fratelli Tutti, an encyclical on fraternity and social friendship on 3 October as a follow up of his environmental encyclical ‘ Laudatio Si’. The document discusses the importance of the common good in society which should take priority over private property and indirectly supports UBI as the common use of created goods (page 30):

The principle of the common use of created goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order”; it is a natural and inherent right that takes priority over others. ….The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right, derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods. This has concrete consequences that ought to be reflected in the workings of society. Yet it often happens that secondary rights displace primary and overriding rights, in practice making them irrelevant.’

Finally a publication Providing decent living with minimum energy: A global scenario ‘ co-authored by scientists from Leeds (UK), Switzerland, Austria and USA promotes universal decent living based on sufficiency. The abstract states:

It is increasingly clear that averting ecological breakdown will require drastic changes to contemporary human society and the global economy embedded within it. On the other hand, the basic material needs of billions of people across the planet remain unmet. Here, we develop a simple, bottom-up model to estimate a practical minimal threshold for the final energy consumption required to provide decent material livings to the entire global population. We find that global final energy consumption in 2050 could be reduced to the levels of the 1960s, despite a population three times larger. However, such a world requires a massive rollout of advanced technologies across all sectors, as well as radical demand-side changes to reduce consumption – regardless of income – to levels of sufficiency. Sufficiency is, however, far more materially generous in our model than what those opposed to strong reductions in consumption often assume.

While the authors do not use the term UBI, a universal and unconditional basic income aims for a decent livelihood with minimum energy consumption for all.