Threats of Social Inequality

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 20 January 2014

On Martin Luther King day, an important meeting was held by the Economic and Social Council on the threats of social inequality. Illustrating the link economic inequality has with social, racial, and many other types of injustice and inequalities, the meeting began with a quote by Martin Luther King, “The inseparable twin of racial injustice is economic injustice.” The keynote speaker, Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, an economist and Professor from Columbia University, spoke on issues regarding America’s struggle with social inequality, and the model the US has passed on to much of the world. Dr. Stiglitz spoke further on topics such as: unequal opportunity, access to health, access to education, and exposure to environmental hazards. 

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OxFam Report

It is not just economic law and monetary policy that determine the gap of inequality, it is the politics and policies that often manipulate how deep the gap recedes, Dr. Stiglitz explained. The world is imbedded in a global economic trade system that not only has it’s own set of rules effecting intercontinental situations, but also effects issues within individual countries. Dr. Stiglitz emphasized this issue in an effort to promote responsibility and thoughtfulness in policy making.

One panel member, Irene Khan, a lawyer and humanitarian, spoke further on the importance of politics and policies in changing social inequality in the world. Ms. Khan commented on situations where people can be excluded from laws, like a homeless person without an address, or a woman who has no rights against sexual violence. She asked why the Millennium Development Goals have been silent on human rights and questioned the worlds allowance of justice to become privatized. In her final comments she emphasized the need for laws to be relevant and people empowered to gain equality and security.

The final panel member, Elliot Harris, the UN environment director for the New York Headquarters, supplied his strategies for how inequality can be addressed in the field of sustainable development. He explained how trade, production, and consumption weigh on the poor with their insufficient funds for labor, dependance on a degrading environment, and an almost non-existent voice in comparison to that of the wealthy. One solution Mr. Harris shared was a focus on job creation and greater income generation in areas the poor already work. In giving the poor a higher share of their own markets, income security and sustainable use of natural resources becomes possible. In closing, the conversation on how to use green growth as a means to social and economic equality in the world will continue.

Meeting Title: ECOSOC: Threats of Social Inequality

 Key Speakers: Joseph Stiglitz, Claudio Bisogniero, Michael Doyle, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Irene Khan, Elliot Harris

Written by WIT Representative: Stephanie Harris

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