World leaders, in adopting the Millennium Declaration in 2000, pledged to create a more equitable world. Yet, income inequality has increased in many countries over the last few decades, as the wealthiest individuals have become wealthier while the relative situation of people living in poverty has improved little. Disparities in education, health and other dimensions of human development still remain large despite marked progress in reducing the gaps. Various social groups, especially indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and rural populations, suffer disproportionately from income poverty and inadequate access to quality services and, generally, disparities between these groups and the rest of the population have increased over time.
This is not new. The Report on the World Social Situation 2005 warned of an inequality predicament and concluded that failure to pursue a comprehensive, integrated approach to development would perpetuate such a predicament, causing all to pay the price. The Report on the World Social Situation 2013 builds on that earlier report, emphasizing that addressing inequalities is not only a moral imperative but it is also necessary in order to unleash the human and productive potential of each country’s population and to bring development towards a socially-sustainable path.
The Report examines recent inequality trends and analyses their social, economic and political impacts, highlighting new developments and paying particular attention to the situation of disadvantaged social groups. It shows that inequality not only matters to people living in poverty, but also for the overall well-being of society. The Report illustrates that growing inequalities can be arrested by integrated policies that are universal in principle yet pay particular attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations. It reminds world leaders that, in addressing inequalities, policy matters.