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Focus on inequality beyond income and averages: global launch of the 2019 Human Development Report


On December 9th UNDP launched the 2019 Human Development Report (HDR), titled Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century in Bogota, Colombia.

In the opening remarks, UNDP officials pointed out that Colombia was an emblematic country to host the global launch of the 2019 HDR on inequality, as despite its many advances in improving its human development index, it is still a very unequal country, a country of many contrasts, in one of the most unequal regions in the world.

Achim Steiner, UNDPs Administrator mentioned that inequality is now defining conversations not only in low and middle-income countries, but also in high-income countries. He also made a point to stress the importance of going beyond averages when we assess inequality within and among countries, in particular because statistics can sometimes hide harsh realities and uncomfortable truths, look over marginalised groups and leave people behind. And precisely because of that, the 21st century

accentuates the need to better balance the global debates between the economics/statistics side and the fairness/dignity side of the dialogue. The 2019 HDR intends to do that: do justice to both sides of the debate, as they cannot run separately if we wish to address the most salient challenges of the 21st century.

Pedro Conceição (report Director and Lead author) focused on the new generation of inequalities in the 21st century and how these inequalities in human development can accumulate throughout the lifecycle of those affected. In this equation, it is no longer enough to look at income inequalities, and leaders and policy makers need to address issues around aspirations and dignity, and also social norms and gender equity. The 2019 report also highlights the needs to address climate change as a main concern when tackling inequality.

The President of Colombia, Ivan Duque, also touched upon the need to address inequalities as a main force for a sustainable development, and linked it to the current national debate as the result of the national protest happening in Colombia (and in many other parts of the world), as in great part these protests are caused by unequal societies demanding for more actions towards social justice.

During the panel discussion with several global experts and leaders, it was stated that we are at the end of a cycle. The end of the neoliberal cycle, and the belief that economic growth per se will trickle down and create opportunities for all. At a global level, we can see that people care for social justice, and that they demand both better public policies, as well as tax justice. We need to shift to an economic system that works for the many and does not leave people behind.

Lucas Chancel, Co-Director of the World Inequality Lab at the Paris School of Economics also added another issue to be looked at when addressing inequality, and that is wealth. The Lab has developed an Inequality Transparency Index , a new tool to track countries’ progress towards more transparency on income & wealth data.



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