Prime Minister David Cameron has been building up his development credentials of late – he’s recently been appointed a co-chair of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons leading the post-2015 negotiation process; he’s just announced a hunger summit to coincide with the UK Olympics; and earlier this week, at the G20 in Los Cabos Mexico, he launched a new agricultural initiative (AgResults), designed to help millions of the poorest farmers across Africa to use innovative technology to boost food security and nutrition.
These initiatives build upon the UK’s long track record of development leadership, which Prime Minister Cameron will have full opportunity to highlight when he starts his chairing role of the High Level Panel.
But the question of what will be the Prime Minister’s core agenda, when he picks up his chairing mantel, remains to be seen. One would expect the themes in Cameron’s celebrated ‘Golden Thread’ speech to loom large: transparency, accountability, engaging the private sector, stimulating trade and growth. Similar themes were championed by the UK Government at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness which took place last year in Busan, South Korea.
These enablers are indeed pivotal for successful development. As Save the Children highlighted at the Busan High Level Forum, efficiency savings from donors improving their aid transparency would provide sufficient resources to vaccinate over 350 million more children!
But these enablers, however important, do not get to the real root of what we’re trying to achieve with a new development framework. Questions such as whether we’re trying to alleviate poverty (be it absolute or relative poverty) or trying to stabilise environmental degradation still need to be answered? The high-level panel co-chairs can play an important role in this.
One strongly unifying and truly global challenge is that of rising inequality (between individuals and groups). A recent study looking at global trends in income inequality across more than 80 countries between 1993 and 2005 found an upward trend in inequality within countries overall. And this is not being driven purely by rapid growth in the emerging economies. Take for example the UK, between the mid-1980s and the late 2000s, household incomes in the richest 10% in the UK have grown nearly 3 times faster than incomes in the poorest 10%, placing the UK in the top 8 of 25 OECD countries for the biggest increases in inequality.
Championing reductions in inequality as a core part of the post-2015 framework has the potential to be transformative. It also has the potential to be highly inclusive: only last week the Chinese Government released a new policy framework on income inequalities and announced that this would be central to their development agenda. Similarly, rising inequalities is of huge concern in highly populous countries like India and Indonesia.
For the UK inequality is not only a relevant domestic issue, it provides a platform to discuss the important enablers mentioned in Cameron’s “Golden Thread”. According to a thematic paper on inequality, produced by a UN interagency team, improved data collection, transparency, accountability and strengthened governance will be key to achieving global improvements in within country inequalities- not only income and wealth inequalities but also horizontal inequalities (like gender discrimination) which are often rooted in societal norms.
In a world where political negotiations have become intractable (no better demonstrated that at Rio+20), an agenda focused on reducing inequalities offers a glimmer of political hope. A glimmer that could be completely transformative, for everyone in the world, wherever they live.
Written by Jessica Espey, Senior Research and Policy Adviser at Save the Children UK, email@example.com