Urgent changes to global system needed to tackle inequality

24 September (New York) – International aid agency ActionAid today warns that unless rising inequality is addressed, many of the targets in the Sustainable Development Goals to be agreed this week at the United Nations will not be met.

Research has revealed that the 200 richest people in the world have more money than the combined wealth of all African countries.

ActionAid’s Chief Executive, Adriano Campolina, said:

The Sustainable Development Goals are a step forward as they identify the causes of poverty, but unless we change the rules that govern the global system, the same players will keep winning. We need to build a more just future for all people and the planet where it’s no longer just money that talks and the gaps in society are narrower.

Inequality is increasing in almost every country in the world, leading to high youth unemployment, poorly paid jobs, and leaving many people without access to basic services like health and education.

Attempts by governments to address these problems by encouraging large-scale private sector investment have failed. Large-scale mining and agricultural plantations have instead kicked poor farmers off their land, often with little or no compensation. Campolina added:

We need to make sure that people living in poverty around the world benefit from these new development goals. Massive corporate investments alone will not guarantee a reduction in poverty and inequality. Governments must change the rules of the game and stop looking to the corporate sector for all the answers. We urgently need to address inequality if these new development goals are to stand a chance of succeeding in the next 15 years.

ActionAid is calling on governments to tackle inequality. They must deliver land reform, ensure decent jobs and wages particularly for women, and make sure that big companies pay their fair share of tax, and invest in public services to ensure universal access to quality healthcare, education and water. ActionAid is working in alliance with NGOs, trade unions and social movements to achieve these goals.


For interviews with ActionAid spokespeople or more information, contact Grace Cahill in New York on +1 646 247 9735 or grace.cahill@actionaid.org

Editors' notes
  1. The combined wealth of the 200 richest people in the world (US $3.18 trillion) is greater than the total wealth of Africa combined (US $2.83 trillion) Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report (2014).
  2. Records showing increasing inequality in almost every country include http://www.economist.com/node/21564414, UNU-WIDER (2014), World Income Inequality Database and the World Bank (2015) World Development Indicators.
  3. The Sustainable Development Goals are a global set of targets which aim to eradicate poverty in the next 15 years.  In difference to the Millennium Development Goals, they are a global set of goals to be achieved by both developed and developing countries. the 17 goals address a range of important issues in the fight against inequality, including ending hunger, improving women’s rights and tackling climate change.
  4. The goals are expected to be signed by world leaders at a ceremony at the United Nations on Friday, following an address by Pope Francis.
  5. ActionAid is a global movement of people working together to achieve greater human rights for all and defeat poverty. We believe people in poverty have the power within them to create change for themselves, their families and communities. ActionAid is a catalyst for that change.