Reducing inequalities must be a top global priority, MDG-F groups says
“It is high time to bring the reduction of inequality into the fight against poverty and the promotion of human wellbeing,” a group of international development experts recommended today after a high-level meeting convened by the MDG Achievement Fund and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex .
The roundtable in London, attended by representatives from the United Nations, INGO’s, national governments and academia, issued a new report recommending ways to address rising inequalities, and called for the establishment of a broad coalition of NGOs, social movements, academics, UN agencies, governments and others to advocate for their approaches and to place equity and social justice at the heart of development agendas.
“Intersecting inequalities – cultural, social, political, geographic as well as economic - produce chronic poverty, with cumulative repercussions for future generations,” said MDG-F Director Sophie de Caen and seven other participants, in a letter outlining the recommendations. “The human costs are disastrous. Compared to children of the top 20%, a child born in the lowest 20% income group is twice as likely to die before reaching age 5, three times more likely to be underweight and less likely to attend school.”
The group’s findings come at the conclusion of UN General Assembly debate, which included calls from world leaders to accelerate progress towards achieving the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline.
Recent IMF research has shown that extreme inequalities in income are a drag on higher economic growth. Millions of people - many of them children - are bearing the consequences, as they are excluded from social and economic opportunities, often doubly so because of ethnicity, religion, gender and sometimes geographic location.
Development actors are increasingly acknowledging that the key to real, sustainable gains in the MDGs lies in attacking the growing disparities between the “haves” and the “have-nots” and by improving life for the world’s most disadvantaged people.
The MDG-F/IDS report recommends following examples from at least 20 developing countries that have reduced inequalities in recent years, including Malaysia, Brazil and Chile and a few in Africa. It pointed to the expansion of social protection, minimum wages and the purposeful use of public finance to reduce inequalities as strategies that have begun to make a difference.
The report cites examples of actions, including passing legislation against discrimination, using redistribution to spur labour-intensive economic growth, providing information and outreach, investing in infrastructure, strengthening the resource base of marginalized groups and facilitating their active involvement in policy processes.
In particular, it recommends devising new indicators of development that highlight inequalities. “The way we measure development and poverty has tremendous influence on the direction of policies, public action and public debates. For instance, the prevalence of stunting amongst population groups is often a better long-term measure of developmental outcomes than prevailing measures such as Gross National Income per capita,” the report says.
Fundamentally, the report argues, the language around development must be changed to show that inequalities are not just limited to the poorest of the poor, but can affect as much as 50% of populations; that inequalities are a violation of human rights; and that a more equal distribution of income is supportive of, not antagonistic to, economic growth.
Click here to read the full report.