Inequality Undermines Poverty Reduction – UN

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, has noted that inequalities undermine poverty reduction, economic growth and social mobility. “With high and growing inequalities, development cannot be sustained. But the right mix of social policies can curb inequality. Efforts to equalize opportunities and foster participation do make a difference. “Empowering people is at the core of the work of this Commission…empowered individuals and social groups will achieve development that is “sustainable, inclusive and equitable,” Mr Wu stated during the opening of the 2014 session of the Commission for Social Development, which will run at the UN Headquarters in New York through 21 February. He noted that too often, prosperity within countries was limited to the privileged few, as seven out of 10 people lived in countries where income inequality had increased, citing the 2013 Report on the World Social Situation. Against the backdrop of a weak global economic recovery and harsh fiscal austerity measures, continued unemployment and an aging world population, the United Nations and its partners must lead efforts to put people’s needs at the forefront of development, Mr Wu noted. Mr Wu, who is also the Secretary-General for the upcoming International Conference on Small Island Developing States, stressed that attention should be given first and foremost to the issue of inequality, which in many case, was a major cause for social turbulence worldwide. Speaking on behalf of the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Martin Sajdik, Vice-President Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez highlighted some of the events on the Council’s agenda this year. He noted that in the countdown to the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the 2014 ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review would focus on addressing on-going and emerging challenges in meeting the MDGs and in defining the sustainable development gains in future. Among other upcoming events, Mr Garcia highlighted the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF) to be held in July. The Forum, which was created to ensure that sustainable development topped the agenda of the highest levels of government and was embraced by all actors, replaced the Commission on Sustainable Development which concluded its work on 20 September. Meanwhile, Ghana has commended the United Nations, especially the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report on promoting empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all. Speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on sidelines of the on-going 52 Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD52), Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection noted that it had led to the adoption of social protection in addressing poverty in many developing countries and Ghana was no exception. Nana Oye Lithur explained that Ghana’s Social Protection floor addressed issues of under Access to Essential Health Care, the National Health Insurance Scheme which was being strengthened, enhanced and expanded. Under Minimum Income Security for Children, she said they were being done through the Capitation Grant for Basic Education in Public Basic Schools, School Uniforms and Exercise books, the School Feeding Programme, The Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty, Pilot Cash Transfer for Pregnant and lactating mothers and children under five years. The Gender Minister said these programmes were very important for Human Capital Development, and were contributing to breaking generational poverty cycle. Under the Minimum Income Security for People in Working Age, “we have the Local Enterprise and Skills Development Programme (LESDEP), the National Youth Employment programme/ the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Programme and the Labour Intensive Public Works,” she stated. Under the Minimum Income Security for Older Persons, she said Ghana had a national Social Security Scheme largely for formal sector workers and a limited number of informal sector workers, as well as the LEAP for elderly 65 years and above. A Universal Old Age pension was recommended for adoption and implementation. Nana Oye Lithur said as a way forward in harmonizing our Social protection interventions, Ghana was in the process of establishing a National Targeting System. “This offers an opportunity to effectively direct social protection resources towards the poorest members of society, thereby contributing to realizing their rights in an efficient and cost effective way. “It will help establish a national single registry database of households to be used by all Social Protection interventions in Ghana. “I wish to underscore that, the LEAP is the flagship of our Social Protection Interventions and is combining with other livelihood creation and employment interventions to empower the poor and vulnerable in our society,” she emphasized. The Commission for Social Development (CSocD) is a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations since the convening of the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen in 1995. The Commission has also been the key UN body in charge of the follow-up and implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action. As a result of the Summit, the mandate of the Commission was reviewed and its membership expanded from 32 to 46 in 1996. It meets once a year in New York, usually in February. Each year, the Commission takes up key social development themes as part of its follow-up to the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit.