Rising inequalities across the world have become a defining challenge of our time. Gross inequalities both within and among countries are putting sustainable development at risk, stirring social unrest, undermining social progress, threatening economic and political stability, and undercutting human rights. As such, they threaten all pillars of the UN System’s work, from development to human rights to peace and security.

The scope of the problem is daunting. Inequalities of wealth and income have reached historic proportions and inequalities in opportunities and outcomes relating to education, health, food security, employment, housing, health services and economic resources are having equally devastating effects. These inequalities disproportionately affect particular groups on the basis race, sex, language, religion, age, ethnicity, disability, migrant or economic status, and so on. And gender-based discrimination remains one of the most prevalent forms of discrimination across the globe.

In recognition of this, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is, in large measure, an agenda for equality. It recognizes ‘rising inequalities within and among countries’, ‘enormous disparities of opportunity, wealth and power’, and persistent ‘gender inequality’ as ‘immense challenges’ confronting the world today. So central is the imperative of combatting inequalities and discrimination that the new Agenda includes two goals explicitly focused on this issue: Goals 5 (gender equality) and 10 (inequality within and among countries). In addition, all other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) call for more equitable development and universal access to the constituent elements of development for all people. The new Agenda calls for the disaggregation of data across all goals to enable measurement of its central pledge to leave no one behind.”

States have committed to a full range of goals and targets that directly address discrimination and inequalities within and among countries, ranging from remedying gross income inequalities to promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices, and adopting policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies to progressively achieve greater equality. They also address global level inequalities by calling for improved regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in global economic and financial institutions.