New coalition forms to push inequality up the development agenda

28 September 2011

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the UN MDG Achievement Fund (MDG-F) have joined forces to call upon NGOs, academics, social movements, UN agencies, governments and others to advocate for the prioritisation of equity and social justice in development agendas.

A new IDS / MDG-F report based on a recent high-level consultation argues that addressing inequality should be at the heart of recovery and development agendas. The report outlines thirteen actions needed to reverse growing inequality.

The consultation brought together 27 participants from the United Nations, British academia, international NGOs and national governments. Participants examined evidence of rising inequalities and focused on policies and action to moderate these trends.

Convening new coalition on inequality

Eleven consultation participants signed a letter published in the Guardian, which calls for the establishment of a broad coalition to advocate for the actions set out in the roundtable report. Signatories include:

  • Sophie de Caen, Director, UN MDG Achievement Fund;
  • Sir Richard Jolly, IDS;
  • Baroness Glenys Kinnock;
  • Loretta Minghella, Director, Christian Aid;
  • Duncan Green, Head of Research, Oxfam GB.

The group intends to convene further consultation meetings, conduct and disseminate research on inequality reduction and contribute to global debates surrounding the future of development and the post-2015 MDG framework.

IDS’s Sir Richard Jolly outlined priorities for the coalition, stating: “It is high time to bring the reduction of inequality into the fight against poverty and the promotion of human wellbeing. The reduction of inequalities needs to be an integral and central part of development agendas. Research has clearly shown that inequalities are not only the outcome of, but also drivers of vulnerability and poverty.”

In an op-ed for The Broker, Sir Jolly outlined the importance of addressing inequality as part of global economic recovery.

Highlighting successful actions to address inequality

After describing the scope of the problem, the IDS / MDG-F report highlights successful strategies for reducing inequalities.

Thirteen countries in Latin America, including Brazil, Argentina and Chile, have narrowed the gap between the incomes of the poorest and wealthiest groups over the last decade.

How has this progress been possible? Governments expanded social protection programmes – such as Brazil’s Bolsa Família – while also guaranteeing minimum wages and access to secondary and higher education. Successful countries used progressive taxation or channelled revenue from mining and oil revenues to fund inequality reducing programmes.

UN agencies are beginning to make inequality a priority. UNICEF is centring its efforts on promoting equity and has disseminated evidence showing that serving the social development of the poorest and most isolated groups can be the best value for money. UNDP has also made inequality a major concern.

NGOs too have made a difference by highlighting pro-equity programmes, advocating on behalf of marginalised groups and acting as brokers between parties that might otherwise not negotiate face-to-face.

Setting out a new agenda on inequality

The IDS / MDG-F report recommends thirteen priority actions which policymakers, NGOs and researchers should use in order to tackle inequality:

  1. Draw lessons from successful examples of inequality reduction like those outlined above.
  2. Advocate for a range of equity-enhancing policy options.
  3. Foster enabling environments that allow equity-enhancing policies to succeed.
  4. Design programmes to be highly sensitive to country-specific context.
  5. Measure inequality, leveraging existing data.
  6. Use new indicators to capture intersecting inequalities.
  7. Build political will and action to reduce inequalities.
  8. Frame a new narrative to challenge prevailing discourses.
  9. Advocate for policy that balances economic growth with a strong drive for equity.
  10. Use discourses of human rights to support new narratives.
  11. Think strategically and pragmatically about the best courses of action.
  12. Use the discussions of the post-2015 MDG agenda at the UN as a platform for drawing attention to inequalities as a key development problem.
  13. Form a broad coalition of partners including NGOs, social movements, researchers, UN agencies, governments and others to advocate for placing equity at the heart of development agendas.