Addressing Inequalities: The Heart of the Post-2015 Agenda
  • March 08, 2013

As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, the United Nations, Member States and civil society have started consultations on a new development framework that will succeed the MDGs. Eleven global thematic consultations on topics identified as critical to the post-2015 framework are taking place over the next several months, each of which is co-led by two UN agencies.

Within the ongoing thematic consultations the urgency of addressing inequality head-on and the question on how a new reference framework for development can take into account the need for inclusive growth have emerged as two major, cross-cutting issues. Preliminary exchanges on the subject have shown that dealing conceptually with inequalities within the post-2015 framework may prove challenging.

In order to discuss the different dimensions of inequality and concrete options to address them through development efforts after 2015, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) has organized an event on Inequality, Inclusive Growth and the post-2015 Framework -- How can the post-2015 framework address inequalities and foster inclusive growth? The event brought together a motley array of senior representatives from UN Agencies, governments, academia, private sector and NGOs and generated a lively discussion on how the post2015 framework could tackle inequality.

“There is now a broad recognition of the powerful and corrosive effects of inequality. The post-2015 agenda needs to emphasize that there is a crucial need to invest in people especially amongst those who are most excluded.” said H.E. Jean-Francis R. Zinsou, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Benin to the United Nations and Chairperson of the Coordination Bureau for LDC Group.

“Unless we address this there is no hope for economic transformation, unequal countries are also more susceptible to economic crisis,” added Ms. Shamshad Akhtar, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development (UN DESA).

Inequalities, not only in terms of disparities between the rich and the poor, but also between men and women or between rural and urban regions should be high on the post-2015 development agenda. They could be captured by a stand-alone goal or mainstreamed across different goals, but by no means they could be ignored by the future development framework. This was the core message coming out from the UNCDF event.

Mr. Arvinn Gadgil, Norway’s State Secretary for International Development, insisted that “More equality unlocks the human potential” and added that “More equal societies are more resilient to shocks. Since we are living in an age of shocks, we have an obligation to build as equal societies as possible”.

Participants agreed that focusing only on the symptoms and manifestations of poverty or exclusion (e.g. lack of income, education or health), rather than their structural causes (e.g. lack of access to resources, lack of representation), has often led to narrow, discretionary measures aimed at addressing short-term needs. Without attention to the underlying economic, social, cultural and spatial causes of poverty and inequality, the post-2015 development agenda will not help level the playing field or achieve lasting inclusive progress.

“It was a privilege for UNCDF to convene this meeting and we were extremely pleased to gather around the same table development partners from such diverse sectors “said Marc Bichler, UNCDF Executive Secretary. “We are just at the beginning of an intense process of consultations and discussions on the contours of the development agenda for the years to come. The outcomes will be of value to our constituents and to people in all countries.”


A policy brief summarizing the key points that emerge during the discussion will be published and submitted as an input to the on-going post-2015 consultations. A video of the keynote speeches and of the conclusions will be made available as well.



UNCDF is the UN’s capital investment agency for the world’s 49 least developed countries. It creates new opportunities for poor people and their small businesses by increasing access to microfinance and investment capital. UNCDF focuses on Africa and the poorest countries of Asia, with a special commitment to countries emerging from conflict or crisis. It provides seed capital – grants and loans – and technical support to help microfinance institutions reach more poor households and small businesses, and local governments finance the capital investments – water systems, feeder roads, schools, irrigation schemes – that will improve poor peoples’ lives. UNCDF programmes help to empower women, and are designed to catalyze larger capital flows from the private sector, national governments and development partners, for maximum impact toward the Millennium Development Goals.