A sustainable future for all: The inequality and exclusion challenge | Patrick Keuleers

22 Apr 2014

Women clean out the water hyacinth that grows in water bodies in Jeypore village Woman at work in the field in Jeypore village, India. Many people are excluded from development because of their gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or poverty. The effects of such exclusion are staggering, deepening inequality across the world. (photo: Prashanth Vishwanathan/ UNDP India)

Over the past few decades, the world as a whole has experienced unprecedented progress, coupled with complex development challenges. Ending poverty remains an unfinished agenda, societies are growing increasingly unequal and too many people continue to be left behind. One percent of the global population now owns nearly half of the world’s wealth.

Inequality and exclusion are major impediments to human progress, already threatening both global security and social stability within countries. It is thus not surprising that people, and in particular young men and women, are amplifying their frustrations with a world that remains deeply unfair. Indeed, in the global “MY World” survey, people consistently ranked “honest and responsive government” among their highest priorities.

Hence, for development to be sustainable – economically, socially and environmentally – and equitable (from a human rights perspective), a new approach is needed that deals as much with the often sensitive political and governance aspects of the questions, as with the technical answers and solutions.

Aspiring for such a development outcome does not imply the promotion of a one-size-fits-all model of governance. The real challenge in integrating governance into the post-2015 development framework is no longer convincing stakeholders of its importance, but rather translating this multi-dimensional concept into a concrete, global development goal and targets.

While a variety of diverse stakeholders (parliamentarians, civil society, the private sector, foundations, member states) continue to lobby for governance to be included in the post-2015 development framework, whether and how governance will be included remains to be decided.

Expectations, however, are higher than ever before. People all over the world want to see a new development agenda that transcends the MDGs. Stakeholders called for inclusive, participatory, effective and accountable democratic governance to be at the centre of a transformative development agenda. Member States declared in September 2013 that the new development agenda should promote peace, security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all.

Improving systems of governance is a critical pathway to delivering other development goals. Inclusive and effective governance, guided by a set of ethical and democratic values and principles, is also a laudable development outcome in itself.

Our world has the capacity to design pathways to a future grounded in equitable and sustainable development, which meets the needs of current generations without compromising those of the future. Having governance, peace and security as an integral part of the new development agenda is possible. It would certainly reinforce the foundations of a sustainable future for all peoples.

Talk to us: What kind of goals does your community need for good governance?

UNDP Around the world