World leaders make historic commitment to fight inequality and exclusion at UN General Assembly

Published: 25th September 2019

Today marks an extraordinary gathering in New York of world leaders who have committed for the first time to take a stand together in the fight to promote inclusion and end extreme inequality.
An initiative led by Sweden alongside the 74th UN General Assembly, the gathering included heads of state and government from Sweden, Ethiopia, Spain, Sierra Leone, and Namibia; the Vice President of Indonesia, the Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland, and the Foreign Minister of Timor-Leste; and representatives from Uruguay and Tunisia, with the support of the Republic of Korea.

Against the unsettling backdrop around the world of rising inequality, rollbacks on women’s rights and worsening discrimination, these leaders are both demanding and demonstrating the solutions necessary to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
They come together to commit to meeting the 'challenge of inequality and exclusion in our own societies and globally', stating that ending poverty rests upon this. They together recognize that they 'can take actions to bring benefit to people in their homes, schools, jobs and communities.'
The President of Namibia, Hage Geingob, said: “Namibia is committed to ending inequality and exclusion for the sake of maintaining peace, consolidating democratic gains, and realizing shared economic prosperity. We recognize that citizens want to participate in the political process, but they also want the fruits of development to be shared widely.”
Each of these countries has introduced bold and innovative solutions to inequality and exclusion, from Indonesia’s combination of universal health coverage with targeted programs for historically disadvantaged communities and  groups and increases in the minimum wage; Sweden’s job security councils; Tunisia’s constitutional settlement and progress on gender equality; Sierra Leone’s efforts to reform for a more progressive tax system, access to justice and political cohesion and introduction of free education; Ethiopia has also dramatically increased its investment in education, and its social protection program that covers some of the poorest and most remote communities in the world, including displaced people.. The private sector and trade unions have also played a role in supporting innovation.
Inequality and exclusion affect all people —not just those living in poverty or pushed into society’s margins —by undermining growth, threatening political stability and peace, limiting life opportunities, and stalling the fight against the climate crisis.
The group of world leaders also stresses the importance of working together and on others to join them: 'We take these steps together, not as isolated countries, because it is through collective efforts as part of a multilateral system that we can make the greatest difference.'
The Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a member state-led, multi-stakeholder partnership hosted by New York University’s Center for International Cooperation (NYU-CIC) and global anti-poverty network Oxfam are supporting the countries committed to working together.
Oxfam International's Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, said: "It is so positive to see these governments uniting against inequality. Kudos to Prime Minister Löfven and these leaders for coming together in this bold common effort. It’s the kind of leadership that citizens around the world are demanding. It’s clear: governments can rise —and a brave few are rising— to tackle the spiraling gap between the richest and the rest of us. Other governments can join them. Now we hope to see a coalition of progressive world leaders grow from this gathering —we will do all we can to support it.”
Director of NYU Center for International Cooperation (CIC), Sarah Cliffe, said: “We salute the governments here today for showing that practical policies to combat inequality and exclusion are possible - and are crucial to build national unity, social cohesion, and consolidate democratic gains.”

Notes to editors

The Full Joint Statement “It’s Time to Act”.

For background on this initiative and the fight to end inequality: Grand Challenge on Inequality and Exclusion brochure

Photos and captions from leaders' gathering:

Contact information

Lauren Hartnett  |  |  +1 203-247-3920

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