Global inequality threatens United Nations progress on poverty, visiting scholar to Vancouver warns

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      For Jean-Paul Moatti and thousands of aid workers, politicians, and academics around the world, 2015 marks the end of an era.

      A global exercise in cooperation called the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is coming to a close. This milestone concludes 15 years of concerted efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, expand access to education, improve child and maternal health, and combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases such as tuberculosis.

      Ahead of a May 6 visit to Vancouver [Edit: This event has been postponed. A rescheduled date has yet to be announced.], Moatti, a distinguished professor of economics with France’s Aix-Marseille University, told the Straight there have been unequivocal successes. But he quickly added that growths in inequality have complicated what gains have been made. Moatti warned this problem has grown to a point where it now threaten to disrupt emerging economies around the world.

      “There has been progress for millions of people in terms of getting out of poverty,” Moatti said on the phone from Paris. “But relative inequalities have increased in all countries. The concentration of the world’s wealth is worse than ever.”

      He noted inequality gaps have widened at both micro levels, within individual countries, and at a macro level, between nations.

      “To reduce the proportion of people living in absolute poverty—which is a little more than $1 per day—this has been accomplished,” he said. “But indeed, it is basically because a limited number of countries—especially China—have had tremendous economic progress.”

      Many countries, most notably those in Africa, have not performed so well, Moatti said. He called attention to the risks posed by leaving so many people out.

      “If we don’t find employment and some changes for these young people in African countries, we will have a growing problem of insecurity, of terrorism, and so on,” he said. “The fact that our growth is accompanied by the concentration of wealth at levels which were before not known in the history of mankind—it is a major problem.”

      Moatti, who has also worked for international organizations such as the Global Fund and the French government, emphasized that among economists, it is now all but unanimously agreed that one percent of the planet’s population controls more than 50 percent of its wealth.

      “Although we have progress in the world and technological advances,” he said, “it is quite clear that the dominant economic regime is related to increasing inequality.”

      Jean-Paul Moatti is scheduled to deliver a public lecture about the Millennium Development Goals at UBC’s Liu Institute for Global Issues at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (May 6). [Edit: This event has been postponed. A rescheduled date has yet to be announced.]

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