Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Statement by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the Summit for the Adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, High level Ministerial breakfast side-event “A Fairer Future For All: Fighting Inequalities and discrimination at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, UN Headquarters, New York, 29 September 2015
High Level Ministerial breakfast “A Fairer Future For All: Fighting Inequalities and discrimination”
29 September 2015
Ladies and gentlemen,
Inequality has consequences.
Only a few weeks ago, the world wept before the body of the little boy Aylan Al Kurdi, a Syrian refugee who laid in the waters of the Aegean as his parents fled for their lives.
The sight of this tiny body reminded all of us of our humanity – or rather our inhumanity - in the face of the unrelenting misery of the lives of so many millions of people across our world.
It is a world with generally too little care for the dignity of human life. A world that is unequal, unstable and unsustainable, where profound inequalities and pervasive discrimination persist.
Where the benefits of economic development are supposed to ‘trickle down’ – yet where, as all of you are too aware and as Oxfam has pointed out, the 85 richest individuals now own as much as the poorest 3.5 billion people put together.
And it is not only wealth that is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few, but opportunities, full potential and power. Migrants and refugees, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, children, youth, older persons, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities – all too often, these women, men and children are excluded and disempowered.
Discrimination – on the basis of gender, ethnicity, race, colour, religion, language, disability, and legal, economic or other status – continues to oppress, intimidate and render people both poor and powerless.
And discrimination damages all of society, blocking the profound economic and social benefits that accrue from the full expression of the abilities and potential of every member of the community.
Profound inequalities also affect all of us, weakening the stability and sustainability of our economies, bring more frequent economic crises and leading to chronic poverty being transmitted across generation.
Inequalities sow the seeds of bitterness and division. When opportunities and rights are denied, social cohesion is corroded, and tensions flare more quickly into violence and political crisis.
Global inequalities – often the result of inequities in our system of global governance – also limit the possibilities of people in many countries, and threaten stability and peace.
But today, we have a new opportunity to create the ‘world we want’.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development responds to the demands of people in every region, putting the human rights promises of equality and non-discrimination for all at its core.
The overriding message of the new Agenda is that to leave no one behind, push everyone forward and ensure that targets are met for all, and we will seek to reach those who are furthest behind first.
Indeed, the imperative of reducing inequalities runs throughout the Sustainable Development Goals, including the two dedicated goals on combatting discrimination and inequalities within and between countries, and the strong commitment to disaggregate data along multiple axes of discrimination.
And this is as it should be. Because inequality is not inevitable: it is not an accident of fate. It is a product of the choices we make.
The challenge now is to turn from aspiration to action. The SDGs set out clearly what needs to be done.
But commitments alone will not be enough: we also need to rigorously monitor our progress in reducing inequalities and eliminating discrimination. We need a human rights-sensitive indicator framework, and we must invest resources to expand the disaggregation of data. We can only monitor progress if we have data that is disaggregated by sex, age, race, ethnicity, income, migration status, disability and other characteristics that relate to the grounds of discrimination already prohibited in human rights law.
Only if we track progress for different population groups, in all countries, can we ensure that no-one is indeed being left behind.
Perhaps most importantly, the new agenda must also include incentives for progress and accountability for failures to deliver. Governments must be accountable to their people. We need a robust review and accountability architecture which facilitates the participation of all stakeholders - and establishes strong links to existing human rights monitoring mechanisms.
We must also hold accountable not only governments responsible but other actors, including the private sector, when their conduct falls short of the SDGs and international human rights standards. The sooner we can move towards a balanced discussion of the responsibilities of business in the 2030 Agenda, the better chance we will have to fulfil our high ambitions.
Today it is within our capacity to improve the lives of millions of our fellow human beings for current and future generations. We must begin to build a future in which discrimination, deprivation and misery no longer stalk the planet. We must confront and defeat the gross inequalities that plague our world.
And we must deliver a fairer future for all.
I thank you.