UN Note Calls for Strong Action on Inequality

United Nations29 July 2013: The UN Secretariat has released a note previewing the forthcoming 2013 Report on the World Social Situation (RWSS), and calling on governments to adopt comprehensive policies and increase spending to address inequality trends.

The note, titled 'World Social Situation 2013: Inequality Matters,' emphasizes the need to reduce inequality to achieve sustainable development, recalling commitments of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20). The authors report that economic inequality has increased over the past 20 years, and argue for a comprehensive approach to tackling the issue, with a combination of policies to spark economic growth as well as redistribute wealth.

The authors argue that only increased public spending can help revive incomes and employment, sustain growth, promote industrial development and diversify economies.  They view recent austerity measures as having had long-lasting and negative impacts on inequality, and argue that investments in health, education and infrastructure will increase productivity, reduce vulnerability and address social and economic inequality.

The report examines recent trends in inequality, focusing on unemployed young people, older persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants. The authors say inequality slows economic growth and recovery, perpetuates conflict, and exacerbates crime, disease and environmental problems. They call for establishing a basic social protection floor, and for governments to end discrimination toward individuals and social groups by ensuring access to land, credit, housing, inheritance rights and justice. They also call for broadening the scope of the global partnership for development to include fairness in international trade regimes, better regulation of international financial markets, and promotion of democratic participation.

Finally, they argue that integrating inequality considerations in the post-2015 development agenda will align it with the original concept of the Millennium Declaration, and that achievement of goals should depend on progress being made in all segments of the population.

The bi-annual report follows up on implementation of the outcomes of the 1995 World Summit on Social Development (WSSD), a role assigned to the Social Policy and Development Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). [Publication: World Social Situation 2013: Inequality Matters] [RWSS webpage]