Development May Not Be Sustainable if Inequalities Continue to Widen, Secretary-General Warns during General Assembly’s Thematic Debate

8 July 2013

Development May Not Be Sustainable if Inequalities Continue to Widen, Secretary-General Warns during General Assembly’s Thematic Debate

8 July 2013
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Development May Not Be Sustainable if Inequalities Continue to Widen,


Secretary-General Warns during General Assembly’s Thematic Debate


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the informal General Assembly thematic debate on inequality, on 8 July:

The Charter of the United Nations is clear.  We the peoples of the United Nations are determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.  Not for some, but for all.

That is why I welcome today’s timely debate on inequality.  We live in a time of profound change and considerable uncertainty.  Successive global crises have shocked economies and brought severe distress to the poor and vulnerable in all regions.  We have yet to see a full global economic recovery.

The impacts of climate change are growing.  Environmental degradation caused by unsustainable consumption and production threatens future development objectives.  This is the context in which we are considering the post-2015 development agenda.

The Millennium Development Goals have been remarkably successful in generating global action across a range of issues.  Six hundred million people have risen from extreme poverty.  Targeted investments in fighting malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis have saved millions of lives.  More children than ever are in school, especially girls.  More people have access to improved sources of water.  Conditions are better for 200 million people living in slums.  Child and maternal mortality is declining.

But progress has been uneven within and among countries.  And in many countries, rich and poor, we are seeing social and economic inequalities widening.  Large disparities remain in access to health and education services between the richest and poorest households.  Vulnerable populations have lower levels of education, lack skills and abilities that can allow them to compete in today’s labour market.  They have lower employment rates, earn less and are less healthy.

Poor women are at greater risk of dying during childbirth.  Poor children are less likely to get the quality education that will enable them, in turn, to escape poverty.  Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and older persons are particularly vulnerable to being trapped in poverty.  Social and economic inequalities between rural and urban areas are also worsening.  Of the more than 2.6 billion people that still lack access to safe sanitation, the vast majority live in rural areas.

These inequalities are a reproach to the promise of the United Nations Charter.  Social justice is a key ingredient of a peaceful sustainable world for all humankind.  Societies where hope and opportunities are scarce are vulnerable to upheaval and conflict.  Social and economic inequalities can tear the social fabric, undermine social cohesion and prevent nations from thriving.  Inequality can breed crime, disease and environmental degradation and hamper economic growth.

If inequalities continue to widen, development may not be sustainable.  That is why equity is emerging as a central plank in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.  Reducing inequality will need transformative change.  We need solutions to the economic and financial crises that will benefit all:  an inclusive approach to sustainable development; greater efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; more investment in health, education, social protection and decent jobs — especially for young people.

We will need to create some 470 million new jobs between 2015 and 2030.  We must also give a greater attention to empowering women in the home, the marketplace and the corridors of power.  Gender inequality is a major driver of poverty.

Tackling inequality, eradicating poverty and promoting shared prosperity must be at the heart of the United Nations sustainable development agenda.  Let us work to ensure equality of opportunity for all.

In that spirit, I wish you a productive debate.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.