Equitable access to essential public services is vital for human development, for making growth inclusive, and for tackling persistent inequality. Disparities in access exist between different income groups, urban versus rural areas, conflict-affected versus relatively stable regions, between men, women and girls, and between and within ethnic groups. Underlying inequalities can be exacerbated or re-produced where they manifest as uneven access to public services. For example, cross-country longitudinal research has illustrated that inequitable access to education, coupled with uneven quality of delivery, underpins long-term inequality in education outcomes. In practice, formal and informal institutions and social norms determine whether access to services is inclusive and equitable, or not.
Rolleston, C. James, Z., & Aurino, E. (2014). Exploring the effect of educational opportunity and inequality on learning outcomes in Ethiopia, Peru, India, and Vietnam (Education for All background paper 2014/ED/EFA/MRT/PI/09). UNESCO.
Access to good quality education for all requires improvements in the way access and quality are distributed between more and less advantaged children. Improving equity requires targeting interventions towards learning among the most disadvantaged groups. This is not only good for equity, but may be the most efficient way to improve overall learning levels.
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Walton, O. (2012) Evidence for the Development Impact of Inclusive Service Delivery (Helpdesk report). Birmingham: GSDRC.
Efforts to make services more inclusive mostly involve extending access to under-served or marginalised groups, or improving uptake or quality of services delivered to those groups. Evidence demonstrates that within under-served regions (e.g. rural, conflict-affected), women, certain minority ethnic or religious groups, and people with disabilities are persistently marginalised from access to services.
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Transparency International. (2010). Corruption and Gender in Service Delivery: The Unequal Impacts (TI Working Paper 02/2010). Transparency International.
Corruption in health and education provision can have disproportionate and negative consequences for women and girls. Women may be more exposed to petty corruption. Women and girls may be compelled to make informal payments for services that are supposed to free, or through the use of sex as a form of payment in return for public services. Existing inequalities and patriarchal structures may also be exploited to commit abuses.
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