Equality at the Centre of Sustainable Development

Alicia Bárcena
Alicia Bárcena
Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC or CEPAL)

The international community has made significant strides towards lifting people out of poverty, however, inequality still persists and large disparities remain in access to health and education services and other assets. Additionally, income inequality within and between countries has risen. There is growing consensus that economic growth is not sufficient to reduce inequality if it is not inclusive, and if it does not involve the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental. To reduce inequality, policies should be universal in principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalised populations as a condition to move towards sustainability.

Inequality and climate change

Evidence is increasing that climate change is taking the largest toll on poor and vulnerable people, from climate hazards. Climate change is a magnifier of pre-existing inequalities in countries; as a phenomenon it is essentially unequal. Governments can play a significant role in reducing the risks of climate change to vulnerable populations through transformative policies and infrastructures, addressing the root causes of inequalities and building climate change resilience. UN-DESA considers that much of the harm of disasters is not by accident, but due to governments’ failures that leave large population groups at risk (UNDESA World Economic and Social Survey 2016). In the past 20 years, 4.2 billion people have been affected by weather-related disasters, bringing about a significant loss of lives. Developing countries are the most affected by climate change impacts...

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