Inequality – a defining challenge of our time
According to a recently released Oxfam report, 62 individuals currently own as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. Income and wealth inequality are some of the more visible and discussed aspects of inequality in the 21st century, while other dimensions — unequal outcomes in education and health, for instance — continue or in some cases worsen.
A universal challenge and goal of the 2030 Agenda
On 30 March, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will convene a Special Meeting on Inequality, which has become one of the most pressing social, economic and political challenges of our time. As has become increasingly clear in recent years, inequality does not correspond with a specific stage of development or geography; it is a challenge faced by developing, middle-income and developed countries alike. At the global level, inequality between states remains a formidable challenge requiring policy action.
Given the multi-dimensional impact of inequality on economic, social and environmental dimensions, strategies for reducing inequality will need to draw on the contributions from all sectors of society. The commitment to fight inequality has been mainstreamed throughout the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, both as a stand-alone goal to reduce inequalities within and among countries, and as a guiding principle for ensuring equal opportunity and reducing unequal development outcomes.
A moral imperative and threat to peace and prosperity
Inequality is also a profound moral challenge, as economic inequalities as well as political and social exclusion represent a major impediment to achieving the vision to leave no one behind.
Inequality is closely linked to peace and security as unequal distribution of resources can foster conflict, war and displacement. Inequality can create vicious cycles of poverty that reinforce vulnerabilities and negatively affect those in greatest need, with the potential to create further instability and conflict.
Providing a platform for policy solutions
The ECOSOC Special Meeting on Inequality will take stock of recent trends in inequality and propose inclusive and action-oriented policy solutions to tackle inequalities in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The meeting will discuss inequalities in a broad context, including horizontal and vertical inequalities between groups and individuals within societies, as well as inequality between states.
ECOSOC will host this event drawing on its longstanding tradition of serving as a platform that engages all stakeholders, including representatives from civil society and the private sector. This is especially fitting given the role of civil society, academia and philanthropic organisations in pushing inequality to the forefront of international policy discussions. Similarly, the private sector — as a potential driving force for innovation and job creation — will also be central to the fight against inequality.