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Inequality, International Development and the Labour Party

As we enter a new year, the Labour Party has been asking what a world ‘for the many, not the few’ means for international development.

As we’ve said many times before, equality should be at the heart of everything we do. But all too often it’s overlooked.

So, Labour’s search asks an important question. How should UK Aid address the inequalities that hold back so many?

The startling economic gains of the past 30 years have pulled more people out of poverty than any force in history. But the poorest, most marginalised groups are being left behind.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set 2030 as the deadline for ending poverty “in all its forms everywhere”. 193 countries promised the children of 2030 that they would all have access to quality education and healthcare. That they would live in equitable, sustainable and peaceful societies – truly free to reach their potential.

But we are breaking this promise. On our current trajectory, in 2030 over 3 million children will not see their 5th birthday. More than 200 million children will be denied an education. And over 160 million will be born into extreme poverty.

International development that puts the most marginalised children first, that takes concrete action to accelerate opportunity and targets the greatest injustices is the key to eliminating the most egregious global inequalities.

Take pneumonia. No other disease kills more children – pneumonia ends more young lives than malaria, measles and HIV combined.

Dig deeper and you find pneumonia is truly a disease of poverty. Many of the lives it snatches away could have been saved, often for as little as a 30p antibiotic.

Pneumonia is preventable and is treatable. But only if we address the inequalities that lead to many children being malnourished and consequently vulnerable to this deadly disease.

We must also tackle the inequalities that make access to affordable, quality healthcare a lottery that the poorest children always lose. We can end this scandal by:

  • leading a global movement for universal health coverage
  • boosting access to cheaper vaccines
  • scaling up nutrition
  • investing UK aid in strengthening health systems in the poorest countries – but only where governments are prepared to commit their own resources too.

To meet the ambition of the SDGs, countries must be held accountable for closing the gap between rich and poor. A child from a wealthy household in Nigeria is 15 times more likely to be fully immunised than a child from a poor household. Children from the wealthiest households in countries such as Burkina Faso and Chad are twice as likely as the poorest children to be taken to a health centre if they have pneumonia symptoms.

If we are to reach a world free from poverty, and achieve the goal set out by Labour to build a world ‘for the many, not the few’, then we must put the hardest to reach first and ensure that no child is left behind.

Only by doing this can we keep our SDG promises and address the systemic inequalities that blight and end the lives of so many.


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