Our Perspectives

A joint endeavor: Reflections on the political feasibility of inequality reduction | Selim Jahan


Somali woman drawing water  A Somali woman draws water from a man-made pond dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. (Photo: UNDP Somalia)

Inequalities have come to occupy center stage in many discussions on development in general and the Post-2015 Agenda in particular.

This is not surprising.

Deprivation in the midst of plenty remains the daily reality for hundreds of millions of households around the world. And at the same time, a host of economic, social and cultural factors perpetuate the disadvantage experienced by a range of discriminated-against groups – from women to people with disabilities, and from ethnic minorities to people living in rural communities, just to mention some.

Despite impressive economic progress, humanity remains deeply divided.
To advance the debate on the causes and effects of inequality as well as ways in which it could be reduced, the UNDP Poverty Practice has produced a report addressing a number of these issues. Among them is the question of the political feasibility of inequality reduction, on which I will focus here.

A global survey of 375 policy-makers from 15 countries conducted for the report shows that policy-makers all over the world see the reduction of inequality as a major policy priority. However, as a result of deeply entrenched vested interests, policy-makers are also faced with significant constraints on their ability to address inequality -- even when it is very high.

That does not mean it’s impossible to take resolute action to reduce inequality. It can and has indeed happened in many instances. The key question is how political space can be created.

UNDP’s recent report, “Humanity Divided: Confronting Inequality in Developing Countries,” proposes to answer this question. The private sector should be engaged more proactively around the notion that inclusive growth is good for business. Political actors can and must find common ground around packages of interventions that address the most glaring forms of inequality.

Media can play an important role too by promoting an honest and well-informed dialogue on the causes and effects of inequality. And it is very important to create spaces for civic engagement so that the voices of those who demand greater equality can be heard.

The realization of an inclusive society is very much a common interest, something from which we all stand to gain. We need to make sure that it also becomes a joint endeavor.

Talk to us: How could dialogue on inequality be promoted in your community?

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