Global leaders shirk responsibility to tackle global inequality crisis

Published: 30th May 2013

Oxfam response to UN post-2015 development goals report

Responding to the High Level Panel report on post-2015 global development goals, international agency Oxfam welcomed the ambition and coherence of the Panel’s report and proposed goals, and the focus on both ending extreme poverty and tackling the connected crises of climate change and sustainability. Oxfam’s Stephen Hale said: “This report is an important contribution to the post 2015 process. We hope that it will be a reference point for the forthcoming negotiation.”

However Oxfam warned that the failure to target soaring income inequality would weaken efforts to achieve equitable and sustainable development progress.

Inequality is soaring

Hale said: “The Panel has failed to recognize the growing consensus that high levels of inequality are both morally repugnant and damaging for growth and stability. Without targeted efforts to reduce inequality, social and economic progress will be undermined. Global poverty is declining, but income inequality is soaring. Billions of people are being left behind by economic growth. A plan for reducing inequality was a major omission in the original MDGs, and ignoring income inequalities now will undermine the struggle to eliminate poverty and injustice.”

The richest one per cent of the world's population has increased its income by 60% in the last 20 years. The world's 100 richest people amassed $240 billion last year - enough to make a huge contribution to ending extreme poverty more than three times over.

Hale said: “Calls for targeted action to narrow extreme inequality gaps have come from every corner of civil society, but it seems the Panel was not listening. Without a roadmap for closing extreme income inequality gaps within and between countries, the next set of global goals is almost certain to be unachievable.”

For Oxfam positive elements of the report and goals include:

  • The Panel’s recognition that the challenge of climate change underpins all others. We welcome the goal to keep global warming to below 2C, and mainstreaming emissions reduction in other areas. However, the report should also have pinpointed targets to help poor countries adapt to climate change, and included plans for action on emissions by rich countries.
  • Hunger is the defining challenge of this generation, and the report recognizes the key need to support smallholder agriculture to tackle this problem.
  • Inclusion of a goal on gender equality and women's empowerment is very welcome, and addresses a vital gap in the existing MDGs. 
  • Targets for tax and domestic resource mobilization will mobilize resources for achieving post-2015 global development goals.

Actions speak louder than words

Hale said: “The post 2015 process is taking up a great deal of bandwidth. Governments need to stay focused on their day jobs. Meeting the remaining MDG targets by 2015 is possible only if governments stick to commitments made more than a decade ago. A promise of new goals is no substitute for action now. The credibility and impact of the post-2015 process hinges on accelerating progress in the run-up to 2015.”

The Panel has failed to recognize the growing consensus that high levels of inequality are both morally repugnant and damaging for growth and stability.
Stephen Hale
Deputy Advocacy and Campaigns Director, Oxfam

Notes to editors

  • The report was drafted by a High Level Panel co-chaired by President Yudoyono of Indonesia, President Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, and delivered to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are set to expire in 2015.
  • The current eight MDGs – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education – have guided global and national development efforts since 2000. Three of the eight goals have been achieved prior to the final deadline of 2015 – on global poverty rates, slums and water - but progress has been uneven within and across countries. The global economic crisis, aid cuts, and multinational tax dodging that drains billions out of developing country economies every year have also undermined development efforts.
  • 1.4 billion people live below the $1.25 a day poverty line. According to the Brookings Institution, providing every person in the world with a minimum income of $1.25 per day— ie guaranteeing the right not to live in absolute poverty— would cost $66 billion.

Contact information

For information please contact:
Caroline Hooper-Box,, +1 202 321 2967

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Oxfam's position on Post-2015 Development Goals (pdf, 28 January 2013)

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