14 May 2019

Inequality Can Be Curbed, Deputy Secretary-General Tells General Assembly Event, Calling for Suitable Investment in Human Capital, Infrastructure

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks at the General Assembly high-level thematic debate on “Addressing Inequality towards Inclusive Development”, in New York today:

It is my honour to join you for the General Assembly High-Level Thematic Debate on Addressing Inequality towards Inclusive Development.  The theme of today’s discussion highlights a critical aspect of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, namely, how to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 on reducing the scourge of inequality within and among countries.

Reducing poverty and inequality is the linchpin if we are to ensure that the results of the 2030 Agenda are seen and felt in the lives of everyone, everywhere — and if we are to keep our commitments to forge a people-centred and planet-sensitive future.  Our collective experience has shown that development is not sustainable if it is not fair and inclusive.

Evidence also proves that high and rising inequality hinders sustained socioeconomic growth and undermines equality of opportunities.  It poses a challenge to human development, the fulfilment of human rights, social cohesion, peace and security and sustainable development, both within and among countries.  And when considered alongside the broader impacts of globalization and rapid technological change, the growing concentration of income and wealth has led to economic anxiety, exclusion and a decline in trust in Governments and public institutions.

Despite these facts, global inequality levels remain very high.  Within‑country inequality remains a particular challenge as the top 1 per cent of earners across the globe captured twice as much of the growth in global income as the poorest 50 per cent.  SDG 10 identifies some of the key areas where action is urgent.  It places a particular emphasis on social, economic and political inclusion of those who are often marginalized or discriminated against.

High inequality is not inevitable.  Many countries have demonstrated that inequality can be curbed, with the right set of policies and institutions.  Key to this is investment in building strong data ecosystems and capacities at the national level to ensure we leave no one behind.  Investment in human capital can correct generations of injustice and inequality.  Well‑targeted social protection programmes can build community resilience.  Investment in infrastructure to promote access to opportunities, technology and innovation is a further proven pathway.  Tackling discriminatory laws and practices is critical.  We must also maximize the benefits of migration, building on the adoption of the landmark Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

The Secretary-General attaches the highest importance to an agenda of equality.  The comprehensive reforms of the United Nations development system that he has set in motion are one main manifestation of this commitment, enabling us to better support Governments to advance integrated response to the 2030 Agenda, including its central focus on Leaving no one behind.  We are also working to implement new United Nations strategies on youth, disability inclusion and legal identity.  But, we can only advance together — in partnership among all stakeholders.

Financing is crucial.  We are working to align global financial and economic policies with the 2030 Agenda, including SDG 10.  We are supporting Member States to enhance sustainable financing strategies and investments at the regional and country levels to seize the potential of financial innovations, new technologies and digitalization to provide equitable access to finance.  In this endeavour, the World Bank is a key partner.

Actions are also needed by other international institutions and by development partners to ensure that financial and other support benefits the most vulnerable developing countries.  We must also recognize that there is not just one uniform story of inequality.  Patterns and trends in inequality, and their drivers, differ greatly by country.  Understanding the local factors and variations is therefore essential in developing effective policy.

As we look ahead to the review of SDG 10 at the high-level political forum in July, we look forward to hearing more about how each and every one of you, as Member States and other stakeholders, have been able to shift the “inequality story” and put countries on a path to development that is more inclusive, more just and more sustainable.

In that spirit, I wish you a fruitful debate.

For information media. Not an official record.