Unchecked inequalities could threaten the Global Goals

21 September 2016

The World Social Science Report ‘Challenging Inequalities – Pathways to a Just World’ is launched today, examining the harmful impact of inequalities on citizens, communities and countries.

Graffiti on a wall of children looking up

The report is prepared by the International Social Science Council (ISSC) in Paris in cooperation with the UK-based Institute of Development Studies (IDS), and co-published by UNESCO. It is co-directed by Professor Melissa Leach, IDS Director, Professor John Gaventa, IDS Director of Research and Patricia Justino, IDS Research Fellow, with contributions from many other IDS researchers.

The report warns that unchecked inequalities could jeopardize the sustainability of economies, societies and communities, undermining efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

It highlights significant gaps in social science research into inequalities and calls for more robust research into the links between economic inequality and other inequalities, such as social, political, and environmental inequalities, to create more inclusive societies.

Professor Melissa Leach, IDS Director, says: “The issue of rising inequality and what to do about it looms large in the minds of governments, businesses, civil society leaders and citizens around the world. Reducing inequality is, first and foremost, a question of fairness and social justice. It is also key to eradicating extreme poverty, fostering transformations to sustainability, promoting civil progress, reducing conflict and violence, and developing inclusive governance.”

While there was a fivefold increase in studies of inequalities and social justice in academic publications from 1992 to 2013, the report explains that many of them pay too little attention to inequalities that go beyond income and wealth, such as health, education and gender, according to the report. It identifies seven intersecting dimensions of inequality: economic, political, social, cultural, environmental, spatial and knowledge-based.

The report also calls for more cooperation across disciplines, geographical borders and fields of research to help governments develop more effective policies for more inclusive societies. It identifies that international networks, open data sources, open access to publishing and software are vital to achieve this.

Download the Full Report

Download the Summary in English