Inequality and the universalistic principle in the post-2015 development agenda

Research output: Book/Report/Inaugural speech/Farewell speechReportAcademic


Two risks are becoming increasingly evident in the initiatives to address inequality in current discussions on the post-2015 development agenda. One is the de-politicisation of policy debates about how to actually address inequality and the second is an obsessive focus on inequality indicators irrespective of the social and institutional processes influencing these indicators and their longer term implications in terms of social integration. For instance, targeted cash transfers to the poorest can bring about quick reductions in the Gini index by lifting the lower tail end of an income distribution even though the broader structure of inequality might be left untouched in the process, especially if cash transfers are not funded progressively. This is important because much of the social dynamics related to inequality occur above this tail end. Inequality measures can mask stratification and segregation between poorer and middle social strata, or else exclusionary processes occurring among middle social strata that can have important implications for social mobility. From this perspective, a politicisation of the policy context informing the post-2015 development agenda is urgently needed in order to allow for the integration of a holistic social policy perspective into discussions on inequality. The risk of not doing so is that the agenda can be (and is often being) subverted towards orthodox policy agendas that undermine social integration and fragment citizenship rights in many contexts. Moreover, the paper argues that shifts towards more universalistic principles in social policy are crucial to bring about more egalitarian and equitable processes of social integration and citizenship.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNew York
Commissioning bodyUnited Nations
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

SeriesAddressing Inequalities. The heart of the post-2015 development agenda and the future we want for all.


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