Want to End Poverty? Tackle Inequality First

Written by Erik Solheim, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee on the World Economic Forum blog.

“There is broad support for the idea to set a global goal to end extreme poverty by 2030, as recent international conferences such as the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos and the ongoing consultations on the post-2015 agenda show. Great progress has been made in poverty reduction, but ending poverty with the current growth pattern would be difficult and harmful to the environment.

The global momentum for an ambitious goal on poverty reduction is strong, but some question whether it is possible to end poverty while growing in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable way. There are very good reasons to side with the optimists in this debate – but only if we manage to break through one major obstacle: inequality.

Income inequality within countries has been on the rise in most of the world’s regions over the past decades. So-called household income inequality, as measured by the population weighted average of the Gini index, increased by 11% in low- and middle-income countries and by 9% in high-income countries from the early 1990s to the late 2000s. Highly unequal societies are emerging, and recently the international community has given heightened attention to this issue: Statesmen such as Barack Obama, economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, religious leaders including Pope Francis and international organizations such as the UNDP and theOECD have declared that tackling inequalities a core priority for our generation. While there are plenty of convincing ethical, ideological, and political arguments against inequality, fighting it also is of utmost importance for the global goal to end poverty.”

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