30 March 2016, New York – Statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States delivered by Ambassador Ioannis Vrailas, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the ECOSOC Special Meeting on Inequality
Increasing inequalities at all levels and in all forms are a global challenge.
While there have been important global advancements towards the MDGs in various areas, the achievements have not been distributed equally. Inequalities between countries and regions both in terms of income, social outcome and opportunities continue to be high. More importantly, inequalities within countries have seen a substantive increase since 1990s despite high GDP growth rates.
Income inequalities have been on the rise: 71% of the world population lives in countries where income inequality increased between 1990 and the mid-to-late 2000s. The richest 1 percent of the world population owns about 40 percent of the world’s assets, while the bottom half owns no more than 1 percent. This is a truly universal issue.
Inequalities are pervasive and intersecting and they cut across the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental.
Inequality and poverty go hand in hand. Evidence suggests that there exists a negative relationship between income inequality and human development and that high levels of income inequality can hamper growth as well as social and political stability, and ultimately poverty reduction efforts.
We live in a world where millions of people suffer from weak or no access at all to resources like food, water or electricity; decent employment opportunities and assets; and basic services such as health, education or social protection.
Climate change and environmental degradation only accentuates and accelerates that. In fact, they represent another form of inequality, in terms of access to and use of natural resources in today’s world, in addition to raising the question of intergenerational equity.
Social exclusion, discrimination, gender inequality and the violation of human rights are forms of inequality that undermine human dignity. All these issues are often perpetuated and sometimes accelerated by poor governance, institutions and policies.
Reducing inequalities is crucial and we need a truly global, shared and coordinated response. We need a comprehensive approach that will link a wide range of areas, from more inclusive patterns of economic growth and social conditions, through access to resources, decent employment and basic services, to fight against discrimination and respect for human rights.
Inequalities call for transformation of our growth and development models. We need to make our consumption and production patterns sustainable in all their dimensions. This will require more integrated approaches and enhanced policy coherence for sustainable development.
The Sustainable Development Goals adopted last year provide us with a great opportunity and a framework to address inequalities. Tackling inequalities is a central element of the 2030 Agenda and it can be seen as a hub linking all the challenges together, across the three dimensions of sustainable development.
The 2030 Agenda commits to ‘leave no one behind’. Serious efforts are needed to reach those most marginalised and excluded. We must eliminate all forms of discrimination. Gender equality is crucial. It has to be more than a slogan and must be pursued in areas where there is systemic discrimination against girls and women.
In order to leave no one behind we will also need to escape from the ‘tyranny of averages’. This implies strengthened focus on data disaggregation and improved data availability on those most left behind and also on the distribution of income.
The EU and its Member States are fully committed to play its part, both internally and externally to respond to the universality of the agenda.
Within Europe, the inequality in income distribution lies below levels in other regions, yet it is on the rise. Europe 2020 strategy calls for inclusive and sustainable growth and it provides a framework for strengthened actions needed to promote social inclusion and to address inequality more explicitly.
Externally, one of the priorities of our development cooperation is focus on sustainable and inclusive growth as a backbone for sustained poverty reduction. Growth patterns are as important as growth rates. Development cooperation focuses on inclusive growth, characterised by people’s ability to participate and benefit from, wealth and jobs creation. To achieve this objective, we call for promotion of decent work covering job creations, rights at work, social protection and social dialogue.
We take a comprehensive approach to human development which includes support for healthy and educated workforce responding to labour markets needs, developing social protection and reducing inequality of opportunity. Support to social inclusion and human development account for at least 20% of EU aid.
We adopted and we implement the rights-based approach in our development cooperation in order to strengthen social inclusion and to reduce all sorts of discrimination. Gender equality and the empowerment of women is mainstreamed in all our actions.
Focus on redistribution, crucial to reduce inequality is taken through our support for pro-poor fiscal policies, tax policy and administration, public sector reform and strengthening of public finance management, including combating illicit financial flows and tax evasion.
Tackling inequalities in all countries, no matter their level of development is no small challenge, and we all need to address it. But it is imperative, it is right and it is smart if we are serious about achieving poverty eradication and sustainable development.
EU source: European Union
UN forum: ECOSOC
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