Donors support inclusive institutions to promote social inclusion and tackle inequality. Social exclusion and inequality have substantial negative impacts on poverty reduction, undermining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (World Bank, 2013a; Kabeer, 2010; Jones, 2009). There is now rigorous evidence that income inequality exacerbates poverty (World Bank, 2005a: 84-87; UNDP, 2005: 64-66). Gender inequality further undermines overall development gains (Jones et al, 2010; World Bank, 2011b).
In 2005, two high-profile reports by the World Bank (2005a) and the UNDP (2005) argued ‘tacking inequality is one of the most urgent tasks of our time’ (Green, 2012: 5). More recently, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has called for inclusive development that ‘leaves no-one behind’. This means that ‘no person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status – is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities’ (United Nations, 2013: executive summary). Nevertheless, there are ongoing debates about what equality means.
Equality of process – meaning non-discrimination in access to opportunities and services (as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other treaties) – is considered essential for fair and socially just societies. There is less agreement on what equality of outcomes should look like. Whilst some consider all forms of inequality ‘unjust’ and unacceptable, there is a wide range of interpretations of what is considered equitable and what is not.
There is growing awareness that understanding institutions is central to the ‘leave no one behind’ agenda. Many development initiatives have shown disappointing results where they failed to understand and work with the underlying incentives and power relations (Andrews, 2013; Unsworth, 2010). A social inclusion lens could help address why forms of exclusion and marginalisation are persistent (World Bank, 2013a: 4-5).
Can the MDGs provide a pathway to social justice? The challenge of intersecting inequalities
This paper (Kabeer, 2010) charts progress on the MDGs and policy recommendations and interventions to tackle inequalities so that development benefits all groups in society.
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