June 2016 / Anne Moulin, Policy Advisor Poverty Reduction and Social Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)
The international expert workshop organised by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in Berlin on 5-6 September 2016 brought together more than 70 scholars, policy makers and practitioners to discuss approaches and policies for reducing inequalities.
"Inequality is unjust and dysfunctional" stressed Mrs. Frances Stewart, emeritus professor at the University of Oxford, in her key note speech. There are two reasons for combating inequalities: the first is intrinsic and relates to justice, the second is instrumental, because inequalities affect wellbeing, and threaten peace and security.
When talking about inequalities, one should ask two questions: "inequalities among whom?" And "what kind of inequality?"
Stewart also links inequality with sustainability. From her point of view, sustainability is the issue of the century:
"I am shocked that we continue to talk about growth and not about sustainability".
Academic evidence shows that policy matters when it comes to more equal societies. Pre-distributive policies (employment policies, asset ownership, education, etc.) and re-distributive policies (progressive taxation, cash transfers and public expenditure) are key to limit rising inequalities. In his talk, Mr. Stephan Klaser, Professor at the University of Göttingen, clustered the policies needed to tackle inequalities:
national sectoral policies tackling asset inequalities, developing gender policies, improving returns to assets for the poor and increasing redistribution by the state.
Macroeconomic and monetary measures, i.e. trade and structural policies, are also needed. He mentioned that reducing inequalities will not be possible without
fighting corruption and establishing good governance mechanisms, not only at national, but also at global level.
Switzerland chaired a workshop on horizontal inequalities, i.e. inequalities among different groups within a society. They are a deeply political issue. To tackle horizontal inequalities, it will not only be necessary to involve marginalised groups and facilitate their participation in the decision making processes, but also to re-define the power relations between the elites and the rest of the population.
The two-day event allowed for a fruitful and dynamic exchange between the participants, paving the way to further collaboration in the effort of reducing inequalities worldwide.
Berlin Key Findings Reducing Inequalities - FINAL DRAFT BERLINV2.pdf