Growing Inequality Will Undo Gains in Global Health, Development, Report Warns

Gains in international development achieved over the last twenty years cannot be sustained unless governments take action to ensure equality, human rights, and women's health, a report from the argues.

According to the United Nations ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report, while the percentage of people living in extreme poverty in developing countries fell from 47 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2010, progress has been uneven and global inequality has increased. To sustain the development gains achieved to date, the report argues, governments must enact and enforce laws to protect the poorest and most marginalized, including rural populations, adolescent girls, and women affected by violence. Based on data from a hundred and seventy-six countries, inputs from civil society organizations, and academic research, the analysis found that in part as a result of the UN's 1994 (ICPD) — which placed human rights and individual dignity at the heart of development — maternal deaths globally have declined by nearly half; more women have access to education, work, and political participation; more children are going to school and fewer adolescent girls are having babies; and population growth has slowed.

At the same time, the report found that implementation of an inclusive approach to development has been fragmented. In the poorest communities, for example, little progress has been made with respect to issues such as women's status, maternal death, and child marriage. Similarly, adolescent girls continue to face challenges in accessing and completing secondary education. The study also found that one in three women worldwide reported experiencing physical and/or sexual abuse and that in no country do women have political or economic power equal to that of men.

"We must do our part to protect adolescent girls' right to access sexual and reproductive health services," said executive director Babatunde Osotimehin. "The report provides compelling evidence that sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental to achieving individual well-being, lower population growth, and sustained economic growth. To ensure women have a stake in their future, governments must enforce the rights of adolescent girls."

"." United Nations Press Release 02/12/2014.