16 July 2019
Progress in Fight Against Inequalities in HLPF Spotlight
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In the “statistical snapshot” of SDG 10, Benjamin Rae, UN Statistics Division, reported that even as most countries’ income is growing, inequality continues to rise, which indicates that growth does not reduce inequalities.

Moderator Sarah Cliffe, NYU, said that as a “new Goal,” SDG 10 risks being orphaned.

The in-depth reviews of several SDGs are part fo the 2019 session of the HLPF underway in New York, US, from 9-18 July 2019.

11 July 2019: UN Member States and stakeholders reviewed progress towards SDG 10, which calls for reducing inequalities based on income, age, sex and other categories, as well as reducing inequalities between countries, which are driven by migration, development assistance and representation in international bodies, among other factors.

In the “statistical snapshot” of SDG 10, Benjamin Rae, UN Statistics Division, reported that even as most countries’ income is growing, inequality continues to rise, which indicates that growth does not reduce inequalities; specific policies are needed. He said that close to half of the world’s extremely poor people are children under the age of 14, and two thirds of the world’s undernourished people live in just two regions: sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Moderator Sarah Cliffe, Director of the Center on International Cooperation, New York University (NYU), said that as a “new Goal,” SDG 10 risks being orphaned. She noted that inequality is higher than it was 30 years ago, and gaps between groups are no longer closing; that trend has stalled. Among the drivers of inequality trends, Cliffe identified technology, globalization, fiscal austerity and informal employment.

In presentations by resource persons, Justice Edwin Cameron, Constitutional Court of South Africa, said inequality results not just from economic factors but also legalized discrimination. He said law must avoid criminalizing “normal human activities,” such as the penalties applied during apartheid on black people for going about their daily lives, and the fact that 69 UN Member States still criminalize same-sex activity. He added that many governments criminalize personal drug use, and others sex work. Cameron observed that, as someone living with HIV, “I know that criminalization of same-sex behavior, sex work and drug use prevents people from accessing” the services and protections they need, and further, stigmatizes them.

Martha Chen, Harvard Kennedy School and Women in Informal Employment, said informal workers suffer greater deficits in decent work and decent living, compared with formal workers. She called for embracing informal workers, rather than stigmatizing and criminalizing them; “they’re just trying to earn an honest living.”

Máximo Torero Cullen, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), focused on finding “growth from below,” noting that people will keep falling back into poverty unless the “layers of inequality” are reduced. He highlighted the importance of income inequality in particular, and noted that cities are “not very friendly” for migrants.

On behalf of the Group of Friends of SDG 10, the Republic of Korea called for progressive fiscal policies, robust social protections to prevent people coming out of poverty from falling back into it, and a focus on lifelong education to prepare people for the future of work amid the fourth industrial revolution.

Also in the discussion, as reported in the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Matthew Martin, Development Finance International, said the majority of countries “vastly ignore” SDG 10 in their national development plans, and called on the UN to appoint an SDG 10 focal point. Nepal called for support from the international community in addressing SDG 10, particularly for vulnerable countries. Mexico supported disaggregation of data in order to identify groups affected by inequalities.

France and the Dominican Republic urged moving beyond a monetary notion of poverty to a multidimensional poverty index, and Germany said reducing inequality is more important for eradicating poverty than economic growth.

Other Member States highlighted ways to reduce inequality including: wage standards and collective rights (Finland); childcare benefits (Poland); social protection floors (Sweden); centralized wage bargaining (Norway); cash transfers to the most impoverished (Zambia); social transfers and affordable access to social services (Czech Republic); and earmarking funds for rural areas (Indonesia). NGOs called for progressive taxation to address wealth concentration.

On addressing discrimination and marginalization, lead discussant Jane Barratt, International Federation on Ageing, stressed the need for all age groups to be actively involved in SDG implementation, and called for addressing the stereotypes that marginalize ageing people. Lead discussant Nalini Singh, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, underscored the need to eliminate systemic discrimination based on age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability through measures that address income discrimination. NGOs called for policies that ensure decent wages while combating xenophobia, corruption, racism, and gender and sex-based discrimination. The LGBTI community cited injustices due to discrimination, including violence, homelessness, bullying, and low life expectancy. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [Meeting webcast]

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