Between 1980 and 2016, worldwide, the richest 1% benefited twice as much from growth as the poorest 50%. Inequalities are increasing within societies. They are a burden on growth and social link, lead to political instability, reduce the effectiveness of public policies and hinder development. It is estimated that, due to inequality, OECD countries lost around 5% of growth their rates between 1985 and 2005.
In September 2018, I heard the French President, Emmanuel Macron, when addressing the United Nations General Assembly, forcefully bring up the urgent need to “tackle the root causes of the social inequalities that we have been unable to resolve and for which we are paying the price”. In 2019, inequalities will be the priority of the French G7 Presidency.
Agence Française de Développement (AFD) has been fighting against poverty for over 75 years, by assisting its partners in the implementation of public policies targeting the most disadvantaged populations. But what about the impact of our actions on the reduction of inequalities? And how to make these actions more effective? These questions are central to the reflection of the international community, in particular since the adoption in 2015 of Sustainable Development Goal 10 on the fight against inequalities.
The first thing we need to do is to analyze the scale and nature of the inequalities our partners are facing, so that we can come up with the most suitable drivers to tackle them in the fields of education, health, gender, the labor market, tax reforms, territorial dynamics, etc. The Research Facility that was entrusted to us in 2017 by the European Commission will allow gaining a better understanding of inequalities in developing and emerging countries: some twenty research projects are already underway.
At the same time, we have made addressing inequalities and social link operational priorities in our strategic plan for 2018-2022. We want to be both a “100% Paris Agreement” agency to preserve environmental common goods and “100% social link” so that all our operations contribute to strengthening social cohesion. The issues of justice and social ties, between generations, between territories, between individuals and between social groups in communities are key factors for economically and socially balanced development.
AFD is the French platform for shared sustainable development. A financing platform, of course, but also a platform for research and expertise, active in the debate of ideas and dialogue between experts and citizens, in particular via iD4D. Poverty, gender, access to education, social protection, taxation, etc., the development specialists who voice their opinions on these pages address all the aspects of inequalities. And their observation is unequivocal: it is only by reducing inequalities, both worldwide and within each society, that we will be able to address the demographic, economic, technological and climate challenges which constitute the emergency of our century.
Rémy Rioux, Chief executive officer of the Agence Française de Développement.
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