Report on the World Social Situation

2412-0871 (online)
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The Report on the World Social Situation (RWSS) is prepared on a biennial basis by the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Over the years, the Report has served as a background document for discussion and policy analysis of socio-economic matters at the intergovernmental level, and has aimed at contributing to the identification of emerging social trends of international concern and to the analysis of relationships among major development issues which have both international and national dimensions.
Report on the World Social Situation 2016

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Report on the World Social Situation 2016

Leaving no one Behind: The Imperative of Inclusive Development You do not have access to this content

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17 Nov 2016
9789210577106 (PDF)

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In adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders committed themselves to leaving no one behind in pursuit of the eradication of extreme poverty and protection of the planet. Through concerted efforts galvanized by the MDGs, the world has made progress in reducing poverty, but social exclusion persists in both developed and developing countries. At the same time, some countries have been able to effectively promote inclusion even at low levels of income and development. This volume of the RWSS will focus on social inclusion. In particular, it will examine patterns of social exclusion and will assess whether growth and development processes have been inclusive, paying particular attention to the links between poverty and inequality trends, changes in the world of work and inclusion – or exclusion. The report will also highlight policy options to promote inclusive development through social and macroeconomic policies and institutional transformation for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

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  • Preface

    Agreed after an unprecedented global conversation, the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by Member States in September 2015 has inclusion at its core.

  • Acknowledgements

    The Report on the World Social Situation, prepared biennially, is the flagship publication on major social development issues of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) of the United Nations Secretariat.

  • Explanatory notes
  • Executive summary

    Humankind has achieved unprecedented social progress over the past several decades. Poverty has declined dramatically around the world and people are healthier, more educated and better connected than ever before. However, this progress has been uneven. Social and economic inequalities persist and, in many cases, have worsened. Virtually everywhere, some individuals and groups confront barriers that prevent them from fully participating in economic, social and political life.

  • Introduction

    In September 2015, world leaders adopted an ambitious global development agenda, envisioning a just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable would be met. The central pledge of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to ensure “that no one will be left behind”. That means, in particular, that all Sustainable Development “Goals and targets [should be] met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society”. Implicit in these commitments is a broad recognition that the extraordinary economic growth observed in some parts of the world and the widespread improvement in social indicators in the last few decades have failed to reach many people and to close the deep divides within and across countries.

  • Identifying social inclusion and exclusion

    Enshrined in the 2030 Agenda is the principle that every person should reap the benefits of prosperity and enjoy minimum standards of well-being. This is captured in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that are aimed at freeing all nations and people and all segments of society from poverty and hunger and to ensure, among other things, healthy lives and access to education, modern energy and information. Recognizing that these goals are difficult to achieve without making institutions work for those who are deepest in poverty and most vulnerable, the Agenda embraces broad targets aimed at promoting the rule of law, ensuring equal access to justice and broadly fostering inclusive and participatory decision-making.

  • Poverty, inequality and decent work: Key dimensions of exclusion

    The critical linkages among poverty, income inequality, deficits in decent work and exclusion have been well acknowledged in the international policy arena. At the World Summit for Social Development in 1995, Governments recognized that the common pursuit of social development aimed at creating social justice and building societies for all not only calls for fostering social integration, but also demands the eradication of poverty and the promotion of full employment. In adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Governments and the international community at large reaffirmed with renewed urgency that striving for an inclusive world means addressing several interdependent goals, including the eradication of poverty, the reduction of inequalities, the pursuit of inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all, among other goals. At the same time, attempts to define and quantify the inclusiveness of growth and of wider development processes by analysing trends in poverty, inequality and employment have gained space in national and international policy and academic debates.

  • Who is being left behind and from what? Patterns of social exclusion

    As is recognized in the 2030 Agenda, attributes such as age, gender, ethnicity, race, and migration and disability status continue to affect the risk of being left behind in both rich and poor countries and preclude the full participation of some groups in society. Yet the risks each of these groups faces does not result in uniform disadvantages across countries: the extent of exclusion and its outcomes depend on the economic, social, political and environmental context, including national and local institutions, norms and attitudes as well as laws and policies in place.

  • Prejudice and discrimination: Barriers to social inclusion

    The examples presented in chapter III add evidence to the fact that societies continue to make distinctions based on ethnicity, race, sex or gender and other characteristics that should have no bearing on people’s achievements or on their well-being. The unjust or prejudicial treatment of people on the basis of their identity or their ascribed characteristics is not the only driver of exclusion, but it is a particularly pervasive one. Discrimination constrains the ability of individuals to participate meaningfully in society. It affects the opportunities that people have, the choices they make and outcomes that define their overall well-being. Assessing the impact of discrimination, which plays out in law, policy and practice, and isolating its effect from that of other factors that affect participation and overall well-being is challenging, as mentioned in chapter III. The present chapter contains an overview of research on discrimination. Although the main aim is to summarize the research findings, the chapter also contains analyses of the strengths and weaknesses of the different sources of data and methodologies used to measure discrimination.

  • Policy imperatives for leaving no one behind

    In committing to the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Member States recognized that the dignity of the human person is fundamental. They are also endeavouring to reach first those that are furthest behind. The fact remains that today, some human beings are condemned to endure short or miserable lives as a result of their origin, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, economic status or because they have a disability. Overcoming the biases associated with these circumstances requires a policy approach that puts human beings at the centre of development, as agreed at the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen more than 20 years ago. What is needed is an approach that expands the opportunities to improve people’s quality of life − now and in the future − and protect their rights. An approach which considers economic growth as a means to leave no one behind, rather than an end in itself.

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