Inequality is top development challenge parliamentary meeting told
“If the Arab revolutions have taught us anything, it is that inequality and perceptions of inequality within poor countries have now replaced poverty as the No. 1 development challenge facing the world” (John Githongo in the New York Times, July 2011)
Citing this quote in his opening remarks, IDS Research Associate Sir Richard Jolly told those attending a parliamentary meeting on inequality and development that creating more equal societies must become a global priority. Highlighting findings from a recent OECD study, Sir Richard outlined how rising inequalities are a problem for developing and developed countries alike.
Sir Richard said that the development community is increasingly concerned about rising inequalities. This concern prompted IDS and the UN Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund to convene a high level consultation on the issue in September. He argued that inequality can be responsible for slowing rates of economic growth; raising the risk of conflict and limiting the opportunities of the poorest in society.
He also stressed that there are examples of success stories in which countries have reduced inequality. Countries that have done so successfully include Brazil, Chile, Thailand and Malaysia. Sir Richard outlined several policies that have contributed to success:
- Minimum wage legislation
- Public expenditure on marginalised groups
- Broadening access to secondary education
- Building middle class support for redistributive policies
- Cash transfers to the poorest
It is important that we learn from these examples and Sir Richard was clear that we need a better evidence base to demonstrate which policies work and that can help us design more effective strategies to tackle inequality.
Baroness Kinnock reiterated the need to place equality and social justice back on the global political agenda, and recapture the central vision of the Millennium Declaration which she argued had been lost. She called for a new approach to development policy and practice, in which "everything should be seen through an equity lens".
Baroness Kinnock stressed that the individual targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) failed to capture the intersecting nature of inequality, which has cultural, income, geographical, political and gender dimensions. She proposed that the post 2015 framework which replaces the MDGs should establish goals aimed at promoting more equal societies and improving people’s capacity to work their way out of poverty.
Tony Baldry MP cautioned that discussions regarding a new framework should not distract from the task of achieving the current targets. The UK Government must not lose sight of holding national governments accountable for meeting the existing Millennium Development Goals, he argued.
In response, Chief Policy Adviser at Christian Aid Alex Cobham, argued that the development community should start thinking about a post 2015 framework immediately, and should place equality at the heart of this framework. He proposed that major donors need to make inequality a policy priority and that female education, good governance and strong and transparent systems of taxation were fundamental to achieving more equal societies.
Sir Richard concluded the meeting by inviting people to join a growing advocacy network of individuals and organisations concerned with addressing the problem of inequality.
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