Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality

Written by Faiza Shaheen, senior researcher on economic inequality for the New Economics Foundation on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog

“This month we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to force our governments to face up to an uncomfortable reality – that promises ofsustainable development are hollow without bold action on economic inequality.

The UN’s mammoth consultation on the objectives that will succeed the millennium development goals (MDGs) after they expire next year is wrapping up. After one more round of edits, the final shortlist (pdf) will be ready for debate. A goal to address inequality has swung in and out of the line-up and is unlikely to make the final draft.

This would be a grave oversight. There is little doubt that the steady stockpiling of wealth, income and power by the richest in our societies is a disaster for the sustainable development agenda. Pope Francis just about summed it up with his “root of all evil” tweet: inequality undercuts virtually everything the international community is working to achieve. To leave it out of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) is to ignore a key driver of poverty, environmental decline and ill health.

The New Economic Foundation is adding our voice to calls from leading economist Joseph StiglitzOxfam and others for a standalone SDG on eliminating extreme economic inequality.

Everyone agrees on the need to eradicate extreme poverty. Yet the evidence shows that this cannot be done without addressing economic inequality (pdf). This is especially true now that most of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries, where there may be enough money and resources to go around but they are piling up in the hands of a few.”

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