G77 High Level Interactive Dialogue on 'Inclusive development and inequality within and among countries'

February 12, 2019

H.E. Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh
Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As policymakers and development practitioners, we have all seen how inequality is frustratingly putting a break on development and how it dangerously fuels exclusion, insecurity, instability, violent extremism, forced displacement, weakened democracies, and increased vulnerability to climate change.

It is true that, on average, developing countries have been catching up with the developed world in terms of basic human development indicators, but inequalities amongst nations remain still unacceptably high. The place where a child is born cannot determine a gap of 30 years in life expectancy!

It is true that, overall the global bottom is catching up; when we look at basic indicators, inequality in human development is decreasing. This is expressed by falling infant mortality, strides to universal primary education, access to basic mobile technologies, and reduction in extreme poverty.

But when we look beyond averages, we see a growing distance between elites and the bulk of the population, in terms of income, access to the newest technologies, quality of education and state-of-the art health systems.

Nelson Mandela was right when he said that “massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times . . . that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils.”

Why is it that we cannot defeat that evil called inequality! – Which is impeding us to become the first generation to end poverty in all its forms and to leave no one behind, as called for by the 2030 Agenda.

Yet In the 10 targets of SDG 10, we have a sound framework to guide relevant polices to cure this disease of our modern civilization.

Why is it then that we are not collectively making a huge dent in dealing with global and in-country inequalities?

This deep ontological query is one of the reasons why UNDP will be having its next 3 Global Human Development Reports on accelerating the reduction of inequalities in the 21st century; the first to be issued, late this year.

Without prejudging the outcome of the next UNDP Human Development Report, initial empirical evidence points to two major sets of hurdles that make our efforts to deal with inequality quite sticky – which I would like to share with you:

•    The first relates to imbalances and asymmetries in global governance.
•    The second relates to gaps in in-country governance.

There is large space to improve the process of globalization, where gains can be shared fairly and equitably. Global coordination amongst governments must take place, setting a set of rules that bring greater inclusion. This includes:

•    A global tax governance system that can effectively address the illicit financial flows from developing countries; According to latest estimates, USD 1.9 trillion has left 148 developing economies over the last decade in trade-related illicit financial flows only. This constitutes about 28.5 percent of developing countries’ trade flows with advanced countries (this excludes outflows associated with tax avoidance or illegal crime); about 45% of illicit flows end up in offshore financial centers, and 55% in developed countries. One study estimates that, as of October 2017, the equivalent to 10% of global GDP is held as private offshore financial wealth (in “tax havens”) (about $8 trillion).  

•    A transfer of technology that is more accelerated. It is true that in the case of basic technologies, such as cellular phones, inequalities are falling; however, in access to frontier technologies, inequalities have increased over the last decade. In the time of deep changes driven by digitization, big data, automatization and artificial intelligence, access to new technologies will have a defining role in reducing the inequality gap.

•    Transfer of technology to developing countries is also crucial to address climate change. We need to continue helping countries to delink economic growth from a carbon emission-dependent model. Bold action on climate change could deliver USD 26 trillion in economic benefits between now and 2030. But it is imperative that our global response is just, inclusive, and leaves no one behind.  This is a policy that delivers growth, reduces inequality and protects the environment at the same time.

•    Protection of the human rights of migrants. Today, merchandise and money crossing borders are protected against discrimination (through WTO rules and investment treaties), we have not yet reached that minimum level of protection for people crossing borders.

Hence multilateralism more than ever, critically matters!

At the national level, most governments have attempted to address inequalities through left-leaning redistributive public policies or through right leaning supply side policies; but the two approaches have had very limited effectiveness.

It is inclusive governance that is THE sine qua non condition to address inequality.  Excessive inequality, which is often related to a lack of substantive freedom and justice, affects the nature of social contracts, and hence the very foundation of peaceful societies and inclusive development.

We must continue supporting countries to fight discrimination and remove structural barriers that hold back individuals and social groups based on their gender, age, ethnicity, race, disability and circumstances of birth. Promoting women’s political and economic empowerment is an important element for disrupting inequalities in our societies. This must include attention to equal pay and decent work, property and inheritance rights, access and control of land including financial services and credit.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Defeating inequality within and amongst nations is a requirement for true and fair progress. It does not take a new or radical agenda; but a mindset and a will that builds on the template offered by the SDGs. It is our deepest expectation that the upcoming G7 Biarritz Summit will be an international platform to accelerate the realization of the 10 targets of Goal 10!

I thank you.