Second Committee puts focus on inequality and development

“We have the last chance to make a final push to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the opportunity for a significant contribution to the formulation of the new agenda,” said the Chair of the General Assembly’s Second Committee, Sebastiano Cardi, as the Committee opened its session with the general debate on 7 October.

Ambassador Cardi highlighted that setting the course for a successful shift to a universal post-2015 agenda should be the Committee’s top priority, adding that the Committee was well placed for the task. “Its broad agenda covers most of the key issues that are central to the development of societies. That is the focus of the post-2015 development agenda. It is about the future of humanity, of each and every person living on our planet, and of the well-being of our planet itself,” Ambassador Cardi said.

The opening event featured keynote speaker Professor Janet Gornick, Director of the Luxembourg Income Study Cross-National Data Center, who addressed the topic of High and Rising Inequality: Causes and Consequences. “In the last approximately three years an extraordinary development has unfolded. Concerns about inequality have attracted unprecedented attention in the United States and in many other countries,” she said as she explored the macroeconomic trends in inequality and its policy implications.

Ms. Gornick highlighted that more and better quality data were needed, particularly disaggregated data, if efforts to improve income growth among the bottom 40 per cent of the world’s population, as has been recently proposed, were to be meaningful. A Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the City University of New York, Ms. Gornick also described the work of the Luxembourg Income Study’s data archive in contextualizing inequality. She painted a comparative portrait of global inequality levels, noting that inequality had grown worldwide over the past 30 years, harming equity and justice, as well as social cohesion and democratic processes.

Among the causes of inequality, she pointed to globalization, which contributed to a reduction in the number of jobs available in high and upper middle-income countries, as well as the increased “financialization” of the global economy, as capital markets and institutions grew in importance.

Thomas Gass, UN DESA’s Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, also drew attention to the structural imbalances that remained in many countries as he delivered an opening statement on behalf of UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo. He stressed the need to continue stimulating global demand and output growth, but added that attention should be paid to the high rates of unemployment in developed and developing countries, and to the environmental impacts of growth.

“Countries must invest adequate resources to fight poverty, and strive for sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth,” Mr. Gass said. “The focus should be on job creation, reducing inequality, improving equality of opportunity in areas such as education and training, health care, and access to credit and productive assets. We should also continue to invest in agriculture in poor countries, and scale-up social protection. All these are crucial for achieving and sustaining the MDG gains,” he stressed.

Turning to the upcoming session, Ambassador Cardi emphasized the importance of a holistic vision of human prosperity that integrated economic, social, and environmental development and saw the interrelated, intergenerational, and global nature of development challenges. With the session coming on the cusp of “a new era for development”, the policy choices the Committee recommended would impact long-term sustainability, and could contribute to and enrich the debate on attaining sustainable development.

During the upcoming session, six side events are planned focusing on the following themes:

  • Lessons learned from the debt crises and the ongoing work on sovereign debt restructuring and debt resolution mechanism (14 October);
  • Investment promotion regime for foreign direct investment in LDCs (24 October);
  • Joint meeting of the Second Committee and ECOSOC on a renewed global partnership for development (30 October);
  • Promoting accountability at all levels: Monitoring the post-2015 development agenda (31 October);
  • Social Market Economy and new Instruments of Social Finance (4 November);
  • E-Government for sustainable development in SIDS (14 November).
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