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Statement by the Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures, Mr. Michel Forst, on behalf of all Special Procedures mandate holders at the High-level panel on human rights mainstreaming at the twenty-second session of the Human Rights Council

1 March 2013

Reaching Equality as a Global Goal

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We call on the international community to place human rights, equality and non-discrimination, and sustainability at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.

The priorities for the post-2015 era must champion universal and fair development in all countries, where the protection and fulfilment of all human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political and social – for all are the overarching aims. The post-2015 development framework should enable citizens to monitor the commitments of their Governments and should place accountability at the core of the new global goals.

The creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) thus far has been a driver for lifting millions of people out of poverty and reducing hunger and the number of preventable maternal and child deaths. The MDGs have harnessed the power of numbers to build consensus around critical global challenges by successfully consolidating governments’ commitments. As we approach the 2015 deadline for the realization of the MDGs, the international community must cement the gains achieved, build on the lessons learned and aim higher and be more ambitious in order to realize freedom from fear and freedom from want.

However, the MDGs remained silent regarding inequalities. We know that rising inequalities have powerful and corrosive effects; they threaten human development and suggest a trajectory that is contrary to the realization of human rights. For example, gender inequality and discrimination persists, is growing in some instances and violence against women continues to undermine efforts to achieve all the MDGs. So for all the successes of the MDGs, they did not manage to tackle inequalities, a priority outlined in the Millennium Declaration.

Our understanding of the social and economic benefits of equality has dramatically improved over the past decades. Equality is shown to have net positive impacts on a range of social and economic indicators as well as on the management and sustainable use of natural resources. As such, our ability to promote and protect human rights is influenced by rising inequalities and discrimination in all its forms.

Income inequality correlates with under- and malnutrition and with a range of health and social problems. Health problems, social decline and neglect of child welfare increase with greater inequality. In general, the MDGs have not reached the poorest of the poor, and those suffering from exclusion in various forms. Even though the water target was met prior to the 2015 deadline, the truth is that we still have 780 million people left out, the majority of whom belongs to minorities, lives in extreme poverty, in rural areas or informal settlements or is homeless. 870 million people today are hungry not because of insufficient food production, but because they suffer from insufficient social protection. We cannot and should not be satisfied with development goals that exclude millions of the most marginalized and vulnerable people.

Contrary to the prevailing view that promoting equality would reduce efficiency, and thus growth, the truth is that equality supports economic development and ensures that growth is sustainable. We will need to address inequality once and for all as it constitutes one of the most persistent challenges that prevent millions of people from living a life in dignity. We will not be able to overcome the challenges by limiting ourselves to the obvious realities. We must aim for justice for all; those without a voice do not need charity.

Inclusive, active and meaningful participation, ensuring access to justice, and guaranteeing accountability and the rule of law for all are just as critical to sustainable development as improving education or investments in infrastructure.

The post-2015 development agenda should include a stand-alone goal on equality in order to foster more inclusive forms of development. Individual targets and indicators should be set in such a way that each country’s progress towards reducing inequalities is measurable. The new goals must constitute incentives for change and this change must reach everyone. It is achievable; it is a matter of vision, political will and well-informed development policies.

A development agenda based on the equal protection and realization of all human rights for all is vital for sustainable development and the practical effectiveness of our actions for present and future generations. Let us accept our collective responsibility to create the future we want.