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Remarks by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake at Addressing Inequalities Side Event Hosted by the Government of Denmark in New York

NEW YORK, 8 July 2013 – “For reasons both principled and practical, addressing inequalities should be at the heart of the post-2015 agenda. Thanks to many of the people in this room, and especially the government of Denmark, the Copenhagen meeting in February was an important milestone in making that a reality. Indeed, last month, the High Level Panel’s report on that agenda called for a transformative shift ― to address inequalities ― to ‘leave no one behind.’

In Copenhagen, we agreed that, despite the unprecedented progress sparked by the MDGs, far too often, structural inequalities and social exclusion continue to grow. Far too many are being left behind – children with disabilities, those living in remote or conflict-torn communities, girls and women, indigenous people.

This is wrong – terribly wrong – in principle. Every child ― no matter where she or he lives ― has an equal right to a healthy, secure start in life. That is why the Copenhagen meeting recommended more strongly integrated human rights principles and standards across all post-2015 goals, including gender equality.

And such inequalities are wrong in practice. By definition, without addressing the plight of the most disadvantaged, we cannot eradicate extreme poverty. Nor can we succeed in our goals of eradicating polio; of greatly reducing under-five mortality; of increasing access to healthcare, education, nutrition, or clean water and sanitation, if we don’t concentrate on the areas in greatest need.

Our studies show that because the greater results that come with a focus on those areas outweigh the additional costs of reaching them, an emphasis on equity is more cost-effective than our current approach.

In Copenhagen, we also agreed that beyond its contribution to reaching the MDGs and post-2015 goals, a focus on equality is essential to sustainable economic growth.

It helps countries build a healthy, well-educated, innovative workforce that can power their economies forward in the future. Investing in the hardest-to-reach is necessary to lift more people out of poverty, to keep them out of poverty, to help create more demand and to empower them to save and invest in their futures.

And our discussions reminded us that, as we debate the post-2015 goals, we all must work together to explore the synergies among them ― how each goal helps us achieve other goals.

It is inevitable that some of us are most focused on economic growth and development, others on the environment or on social development and inclusion. Each group will no doubt fight for investing in its particular interests. All have good cases.

But we cannot allow these debates to force us into narrow thinking or narrow choices.

Social development, for example, should be seen as an investment in economic growth, not simply as a nice dividend of that growth. To paraphrase President Kennedy, we should ask not only what economic growth can do for social development, but also what equitable social development can do for economic growth. And the answer is: a great deal.
When we educate a girl today, for example, we help her earn tomorrow ― and increase the odds that her own children will be healthy, well-nourished and educated leaders of economic growth in the following generation.

Indeed, equity strategies in themselves spur long-term, sustainable economic growth. A 2011 IMF staff study found that, globally, a 10 per cent decrease in inequality increases the expected length of an economic growth period by 50 per cent.

Similarly, because the burden of climate change falls unequally on the poor, they have the greatest stake in its mitigation. And when we invest in health, education, protection, nutrition and sanitation, we help the most vulnerable populations become more resilient, and better able to adapt to the effects of natural disasters, humanitarian emergencies and climate change.

So, just as the proponents of social development should join in common cause with those most concerned with economic growth, they should also be joining hands with the environmentalists. And, of course, the benefits of ‘green growth’ bring – or should bring – the environmentalists and economists together.

So as we develop our framework for post-2015, we should look not only to each goal in isolation, but how each goal can help us achieve all of our goals in a virtuous upward spiral of progress ― and make that case to the global public. And, how, in giving every child a fair, equitable start in life, we give the world its best chance at a better future. Because in securing every person’s future, we help secure our own.”

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About UNICEF

UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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Peter Smerdon, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 212 303 7984, Mobile:+1 917 213 5188, psmerdon@unicef.org


 

 

 

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