Poverty, inequality and equity
Many works, both theoretical and empirical, have demonstrated the mutual influence that exists between economic growth, inequality and equity. Inequality may increase with economic growth, but it may also detract from growth; it can exist in a country regardless of whether that country is experiencing growth, and regardless of whether it suffers from poverty. Hence, understanding the nature and role of inequality will help us to understand how economic growth can reduce poverty.
The issue is important, but not easily addressed: What is a “poor” person? This question is at once trivial and difficult: poverty is defined in many ways, as witness the wide variety of poverty measures in existence. If describing an individual or collective situation as “poverty” designates a lack, then the nature of this lack needs to be determined (“lack what?”). This leads us to evaluation and, more specifically, to evaluation criteria (“lack with respect to what or to whom?”), which means in turn that consideration must be given to equity.
The fact is that any evaluation exercise is necessarily based on ethical choices, value judgements that are implicit in conceptions of public policy. Official development assistance is no exception here. Some of its goals, such as poverty reduction and combating climate change, can come into conflict. What criteria should be used to set priorities and maintain policy coherence?
Work in progress
Past seminars on this topic (seminar reports)
- “Equité et développement. Des pratiques de mise en œuvre de l'équité”, 6-7 November 2007, French Ministry for the Economy, Finance and Employment, Paris.
This forum was organised by France’s High Council for International Cooperation, in conjunction with the French Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, the Agence Française de Développement, the OECD Development Centre, the World Bank and Réseau Impact.
- “Knowledge and Public Action”, Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA) Conference, September 2005, UNESCO, Paris.
This annual international conference was held in Paris in 2005 thanks to the collaboration of AFD, UNESCO, Réseau Impact, CRDI, IRD, C3ED, CSC, Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Cambridge University, Global Equity Initiative of Harvard University.
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