Mr. Liu Zhenmin Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Side Event on the High-level Segment Seventy-Second session of the United Nations General Assembly

“High-Level Round Table on Multidimensional Poverty and Inequality in Middle-income Countries and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to address this event on Multidimensional Poverty and Inequality in Middle-income Countries and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

I’d like to thank the Government of Chile for initiating this event.

The issue under consideration at this high-level round table is not an isolated one. It would be impossible for the world to achieve the SDGs without properly addressing the development needs and challenges of middle-income countries.

Despite their impressive economic growth in recent decades, middle income countries are still home to three quarters of the world’s people living in poverty.

In some, the benefits of robust economic growth have not been shared evenly. Growth has been accompanied by rising poverty and inequality. At the same time, urbanization is poorly managed, creating new pockets of poverty, environmental damage and destruction of traditional livelihood.

The damaging consequences of climate change have further aggravated the situation, leading to loss of agricultural output and large movements of people.

In middle-income countries, income inequality – as well as inequality in terms of non-monetary benefits (including access to social services) – is generally higher than in countries from other groups.

Gender-based inequality continues to be a concern in many middle-income countries. This is despite significant progress towards equality in educational attainment over the past two decades.


Today, middle-income countries – even those that have relatively high per capita income – face significant challenges along all three dimensions of sustainable development.

Looking at average income is not enough. Country classifications based on per capita income do not fully reflect the complex nature of the development challenges the countries face, and are not sufficient for determining comprehensive strategies to meet their development needs.

It is important to also refer to relevant multidimensional measures of economic, social and environmental progress, such as multidimensional poverty indices, human development indices, and indices for economic and environmental vulnerability.

In this regard, the specific development needs of middle-income countries should be addressed in a tailored fashion, considering individual country’s circumstances.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations has, for decades, actively engaged with middle-income countries. Its support includes, importantly, to assess national priorities, formulation and implementation of national sustainable development strategies.

The unique position of the United Nations, along with the diversity of mandates of the specialized agencies, provide the Organization with a comparative advantage in supporting all areas of sustainable development.

However, the ambitious nature of the 2030 Agenda, and the challenging modern realities, require further improvements in the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the United Nations, both as overall strategies and support to middle-income countries.

This requires responses tailored to the specific country’s context. Repositioning the UN development system to better support implementation of the 2030 Agenda is, in fact, one of the Secretary-General’s top priorities.

I hope that the United Nations would be in a better position to support these efforts after reform.


In closing, I commend the organizers of this timely event and assure you we all are looking forward to strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and middle-income countries as we work together to achieve the SDGs.

Thank you.

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