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International Partnerships

A three-shot vaccine against the inequality virus

Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships

The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on every aspect of our lives. It has also increased inequalities.

No one chooses where he or she is born. Who their parents are. Where they come from. But as policymakers, we can and must work to ensure that inequality at birth does not pre-destine one to a life of inequalities.

Three years ago, the European Commission and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) embarked on a quest to improve our understanding of global inequalities.

The results presented this week confirm that the interconnected approach of the Global Recovery Initiative, which seeks to link debt relief, investment and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, is correct: inequality and poverty do not exist in isolation.

They are linked to other global challenges of our time, including climate change, digitalisation, and attempts to erode democracy.

To win the fight against inequalities, we must focus on three dimensions.

First, a fair economy and especially fiscal policy.

We need institutions that work for all. If everyone pays their fair share of taxes, there are more opportunities for education, well-functioning public health systems, and stronger social protection.

The EU stands fully behind the Addis Tax Initiative to raise more domestic revenue and improve tax systems to address inequalities. Alongside raising more revenue, we must fight tax evasion, illicit financial flows and corruption to curb economic inequality.

An example: the estimated EUR 70 billion of illicit financial outflows from Africa would alone bridge half of the continent’s SDG financing gap. Can we afford not to act?

Secondly, investment in people and the planet Human development, especially quality education is one of the most powerful equalizers in society.

The pandemic has disrupted the education of hundreds of millions of children around the world. This is why I have decided to increase EU spending on education in our partner countries under my remit from 7% to 10%.

Climate change and environmental degradation increase inequalities, affecting poorer countries and communities across the world first and hardest. With the EU Green Deal, we will together with our partners around the world reconcile planet and economy and accelerates the transition towards a sustainable future that leaves no one behind.

We are now programming our actions for the next seven years with the framework of our new Global Europe NDICI instrument. This presents a huge opportunity to mainstream the fight against inequalities.

We can succeed only by working together, as Team Europe. Our team of EU, member states and financial institutions has already delivered. In the start of the pandemic, we swiftly built EUR 40 billion global COVID-19 response.

And, backed by more than EUR 2.2 billion from Team Europe, millions of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have also already been delivered through COVAX Facility to low- and middle-income countries.

Third crucial dimension for our fight against inequalities is democracy. One of the greatest inequalities is the feeling that you do not belong and your voice is not heard.

Sustainable development and equal opportunities depend on democracy: strong democratic institutions, social inclusion and participatory societies. This is why fighting inequalities also means investing in functioning states and resilient societies.

It also means empowering youth and women and ensuring their participation in the decision-making process. There will be no sustainable global recovery without them in the driving seat.

With our new Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy and a new financial instrument, we will promote democratic values, healthy institutions and thriving civil society and media.

So, the time to act is now. To succeed with one of the greatest challenges of our time, we must tackle inequalities across a wide spectrum of policies, together as Team Europe and together with our international partners. This is our path towards a world of tomorrow that is inclusive, socially just, green and resilient.

Jutta Urpilainen © EU

A new guide on addressing social and economic inequalities

To support development actors to better address in particular economic and social inequalities through the EU development cooperation, the European Commission, has published a new guide.

The guide demonstrates how European Union development cooperation can become more responsive to the challenge of reducing inequalities and is divided into three volumes

  • Volume 1 presents the theoretical background and trends to understand inequality.
  • Volume 2 presents 18 “Policy Briefs” on inequalities to guide the design of policies on different topics linked to inequalities, including: health, education, social protection, transport and mobility, energy, climate change, water and sanitation, land, urban development, territorial development, public finance, taxation, trade, growth, digitalisation, financial inclusion, labour and employment, governance and the rule of law, and gender.
  • Volume 3 presents guidelines and tools to help EU staff mainstream inequality across all operations and to assess to what extent inequality is being addressed through development cooperation.