The World Social Report 2020: Inequality in a rapidly changing world comes as we confront the harsh realities of a deeply unequal global landscape. In North and South alike, mass protests have flared up, fueled by a combination of economic woes, growing inequalities and job insecurity. Income disparities and a lack of opportunities are creating a vicious cycle of inequality, frustration and discontent across generations.
The World Social Report 2020 documents deep divides within and across countries despite an era of extraordinary economic growth and widespread improvements in living standards. The report also underscores how gender, along with ethnicity, race, place of residence and socioeconomic status, continue to shape the chances people have in life.
In some parts of the world, divides based on identity are becoming more pronounced. Meanwhile, gaps in newer areas, such as access to online and mobile technologies, are emerging. Unless progress accelerates, the core promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – to leave no one behind – will remain a still distant goal by 2030.
The inequality challenge is global, and intimately connected to other pressing issues of our times: not only rapid technological change, but also the climate crisis, urbanization and migration. In many places, the growing tide of inequality could further swell under the force of these megatrends.
The World Social Report 2020 sends a clear message: the future course of these complex challenges is not irreversible. Technological change, migration, urbanization and even the climate crisis can be harnessed for a more equitable and sustainable world, or they can be left to further divide us.
Governments are key players in creating more equitable societies, protecting the most vulnerable from the negative effects of these trends and ensuring that their benefits as well as adaption costs are broadly and equitably shared. But, in our increasingly interconnected world, the decisions of other countries can constrain national policy-making.
International cooperation is more important than ever.