Experts Discuss Inequality in Preparation for 2019 Report
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An expert group meeting discussed global income inequality dynamics and trends, and considered the social and political costs of inequality.

Experts underscored the importance of SDG 5 (gender equality) in achieving the wider SDG agenda.

The meeting outcomes will contribute to DESA's 2019 report on the World Social Situation.

HLPF 2019 also will consider SDG 10 (reduced inequalities).

21 September 2018: An expert group meeting has considered the linkages between inequality and other major global trends, including climate change, international migration, urbanization and technological innovation. The meeting aimed to gather input on inequality and its impacts as a contribution to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ (DESA) Report on the World Social Situation 2019.

DESA’s Division for Inclusive Social Development (DISD) organized the meeting on ‘New research on inequality and its impact,’ at UN Headquarters in New York, the US, from 12-13 September 2018, in response to a suggestion by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to the UN Secretary-General to “include best practices in the reduction of inequalities within and among countries in the Report of the World Social Situation 2019.’

Since 1980, all countries have experienced a very large transfer of public to private wealth.

Experts presented research on economic and other types of inequality, such as income inequality trends, income inequality in developing countries and income mobility over the life course. Key findings on global income inequality dynamics include: since 1980, the top 1% of the population has captured twice as much global income growth as the bottom 50%; since 1980, all countries have experienced very large transfer of public to private wealth, meaning that countries (and individuals) have become richer but governments have become poorer, which can limit their ability to tackle inequality. An expert presenter explained that under business as usual, inequality will continue to rise within countries. If, however, countries adopt a European inequality pathway, global inequality will decrease by 2050, which could have “enormous impacts” on global poverty eradication.

Experts further addressed the social and political costs of inequality, considering the impacts on poverty and exclusion, and relationships between inequality, democracy, opportunity and redistribution, among other topics. On the linkages between inequality and poverty, a presenter stressed that addressing income inequalities is critical to reducing poverty, including in rich and middle-income countries (MICs), and observed that the UN, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other key players are increasing recognizing this relationship in their goals and recommendations.

On inequality and the SDGs, experts underscored the importance of SDG 5 (gender equality) in achieving the wider SDG agenda. They recognized that structural constraints, including harmful gender norms and social exclusion, can limit women’s mobility and agency, and contribute to gender inequality. They recommended a greater focus on intersecting inequalities, such as poverty and gender, to better understand the intersection of the two and promote progress across the SDGs.

Participants considered a range of other options for tackling inequality, such as promoting equal opportunity and social mobility, fiscal policy, welfare generosity and social protection. A presenter said fiscal systems “are always equalizing but can sometimes impoverish” and a domestic resource mobilization (DRM) agenda can unintentionally harm the poor. Experts underscored the importance of disaggregated data to better understand inequality and to target policies appropriately.

DISD will prepare a report on the outcomes of the meeting based on the expert presentations and interactive discussions. The outcomes are expected to feed directly into the Report of the World Social Situation 2019.

Sustainable Development Goal 10 (reduced inequalities) will be reviewed in depth during the July 2019 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). [EGM website] [Concept note] [Agenda] [UN news story on inequalities]

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