Social justice revolves around the development and understanding of retributive and distributive principles, their association with historical situations and the political economy, the impact of their institutionalization on both the individual and social development, and their assessment through various criteria and/or processes. Socio-economic justice entails the application of the principles of justice at both social and economic scales. Social justice focuses on justice in the social context rather than solely on the individual as the concept encompasses understanding how multitudes of people interact both within and between themselves (Barry, 2005). Retributive justice encompasses appropriately responding to harm while distributive justice encompasses allocation of burdens and resources fairly. The notion of a socially just world draws from the concept of social justice. This is because social justice builds on the idea of equality and human rights, economic egalitarianism as in the redistribution of property and income as well as progressive taxation.
Rawl’s theory of economic justice and the Earth Charter
John Rawl is credited for developing the “ justice as fairness” theory on which justice principles governing the social order are based on (Barry, 2005). This theory establishes a framework that depicts the societal implication of equality, personal and political liberties, equal opportunity and the cooperative arrangements that promote a more balanced growth among all members of the society. As an associational concept, this theory addresses the relationship between individuals within an organization. Social and economic justice is the third principle of the Earth Charter (a document that furthers principles and values for the sake of a sustainable development in the future) which specifically focuses on: poverty eradication as an imperative to social justice; sustainable and equitable human development in economic activities and at the economic institutional levels; human rights; equity; gender equity; and universal access to economic opportunities, health care and education as requisites for social and economic justice.
Socio-economic justice on a global context
Social economic justice issue is the top most agenda in the world today. Institutions are a reflection of organized interactions among individuals where social justice acts as the key guiding virtue. Economic justice relates to the social order and the individual person as well as it revolves around the moral principles that guide the design of economic and social institutions. An economic justice system revolves around three interdependent principles encompassing: the distribution principle; the participation principle; and the principle of harmony (Bilchitz, 2007). The concept of social-economic justice developed from the struggles revolving around the advent of socialist movements, the industrial revolution and the emergence of Christian and social democrats. Social justice includes economic justice. Reports by the United Nations point out that there has been a parallel increase in world income disparities as technological and most other modern innovations essential for economic justice only originate form rich nations. This has led to restrictions on social mobility which contributes significantly to social segmentation results. At the inception of the concept, it was regarded that the social compact and living standards would improve relatively. Socio-economic justice is the major basis for regional and international integration.
Economic justice involves the provision of equal opportunities to all and the equality to engage in economic activities whenever and wherever they wish as while receiving the incentives and benefits consumerate with their tasks and talents. Economic justice is viewed as a basis for social justice as it facilitates opportunities and developments at the international, national or local levels and within the social context (society). Economic justice has apparently grown to become the core practice and principle within the market. Social economic justice has become pervasive since valuably skilled individuals can move freely within and among nations to put the skills to more productive task. Cross-border financial and economic transactions have been relaxed resulting into equitable distribution of opportunities. Opening of world economy has enhanced economic exposure of all countries especially the developing nations to enhance equitable economic development. However, economic justice has been adversely tainted by the concentration of power and wealth leading to the rise of capitalist ethos that promotes inequitable growth (Barry, 2005). WTO for instance has been manipulated to act as a cartel by the EU and US to promote trade between the two at the expense of the developing nations. Liberalism, which is a core issue in international economic justice, relies on the extent economic justice and freedom.
United Arab Emirates
Equity among all citizens is upheld as a principle by the United Arab Emirate (UAE) constitution. The UAE law is based in the Sharia law which is founded on the Quran. About justice the Quran states, “…Give full measure and full weight, in justice… (Al-Qur’an 6: 152). In the UAE, socio-economic justice is a top priority and is facilitated by the UAE law in three ways (Mehmood, 2010). First, the economic system of the UAE (as an Islamic base) holds that every individual is guaranteed equal access to basic human needs where the rich support the poor. Secondly, any manner of economic exploitation by the well to do individuals on the weak is forbidden such as in the case of Riba. Workers and the poor have their rights protected by the UAE legislation against exploitation by capitalists and employers. Moreover, women have been granted equal rights and privileges as men to enhance gender equity. Thirdly, measures such as Sadaqat, Zakat and other legislation hindering wealth accumulation by a few are are in place under the UAE government. However, gender discrimination, which is an important aspect of social justice, is not adequately addressed. This is because most policies and practices in the UAE still restrict the role of women to the tradition of women as mothers and wives with the legal status determining what rights a woman enjoys. Social injustice is clear with the limited right to movement, early marriages and limited protection with regards to physical integrity.
In a bid to promote socio economic development UAE has in place a strategic plan to facilitate the creation of more opportunities as well as diversifying all the nationals. A review of the various socio-economic policies has enabled UAE to establish various mega projects that promote a widespread and equitable development (Ibid). Currently, sectors in the UAE social sector such as health care and education get the largest portion of the budget amounting up to 41%. The federation encompasses of seven emirates whose budget is a reflection of the sound socio-economic policies currently at work in the UAE. To promote economic justice, UAE adopts an open economy so that many people can take advantage of the sustainable surplus from annual trade as well as of the high per capita income. This seeks to promote all entrepreneurs who can take advantage of the economy. UAE’s Millennium Developments Goals (MDGs) are primarily based on the development of a socio-economically just economy where all equal access to opportunities and resources. For instance, in pursuit of MDGs, the government has implemented measures to completely eradicate extreme hunger and poverty through moves such as promotion of cooperative markets, equitable provision of land to farmers, provision of electricity and water at consumer friendly prices and equitable provision of adequate fundamental human necessities. The government also has policies that promote access by all to raw materials and machines for production a well as making available facilitated loans to promote equal opportunities.
One of the MDG is “ to attain universal primary education”. By 2005 for instance, the rate of enrollment for grade fives was about 98 percent with literacy levels for 15-24 year olds reaching 98. 55 % in 2004. Another MDG, “ promote gender equity and empower women” the government seeks to promote education as well as opportunities for women alike to enhance social economic justice (Ibid). UAE has in place policies for enhancing cooperation, commitment and coordination to promote social economic justice necessary for leveling socio-economic development across the federation. UAE has risen in terms of social and economic justice to one of the most advanced and civilized state. UAE has been effective at handling socio-economic justice challenges through comprehensive policy reform, upgrade of social and economic infrastructure to enhance access to all, and also facilitating the participation of people in the development process. To promote a sustainable and widespread equitable growth, the UAE government has, put in place effective economic liberalization policies, extensive social networks, friendly investment incentives and rural development initiatives that are founded on social economic justice principles.