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UN report calls for action to address existing inequalities

A United Nations (UN) report launched February has warned that global development gains in the last 20 years will all be in vain if governments do not seriously tackle existing inequalities that entrench distressful situations that the poorest and marginalised among us are mired in.

While data reflect a decrease of those in extreme poverty living in developing countries from 47 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent in 2010, many of those living in the 50 to 60 poorest countries will be left behind as the rest of the world gets richer. Entitled the ICPD Global review Report, it is encouraging in terms of development gains but it is also a clarion call for a collective, consistent and determined action against the persistent inequalities and discrimination that threatens to derail development. When growing inequality precludes human well-being for vast numbers of people, its ripple effect touches all facets of society.

An example is how economic resources inevitably determine political access and influence: the global review does reflect progress achieved mainly in the wealthier segments of nations. Rising inequality further threatens the ability of the world to provide for all; natural resources are a prerequisite to the creation of wealth and if the majority of these resources are in the hands of a few, this limits the resource base for poverty reduction and the extension of rights-based development to present and future generation.

Critical to the development gains reported by countries was the visionary leadership during the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo (Egypt) in 1994 that decided to place human rights and personal dignity at the heart of development, emphasized the empowerment of women and girls for the well-being of families, nations and the world, and affirmed sexual and reproductive health as a fundamental human right. The report is a frank assessment by 179 governments of their own performance in the implementation of the Programme of Action (PoA). It was produced at the request of the General Assembly by the ICPD+20 Secretariat, housed in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) headquarters.

Launched by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on February 12, the report which was informed by data from 176 countries, expert consultations, academic research, and a series of regional and thematic consultations, is the first truly global review of progresses, gaps, challenges and emerging issues in relation to the landmark Cairo conference.

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