Brazil v South Africa: what can the BRICS tell us about overcoming inequality?

March 21, 2013

The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. Synthesis > novelty in a big new UN report.

March 21, 2013

Kevin Watkins on inequality – required reading

March 21, 2013
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If you want an overview of the current debates on inequality, read Kevin Watkins’ magisterial Ryszard Kapuściński lecture. Kevin, who will shortly take over as the new head of the Overseas Development Institute, argues that ‘getting to zero’ on poverty means putting inequality at the heart of the development debate and the post2015 agreement (he doesn’t share my scepticism on that one). As a taster, here are two powerful graphs, showing how poverty will fall globally and in India, with predicted growth rates, in a low/high/current inequality variants. QED, really.

world inequality v poverty

India inequality v poverty


  1. Thanks indeed Duncan for bringing this to our attention.What a pleasure indeed to read his talk.
    Kevin is really a true inspiration to any campaigner.Oxfam owes him so much for what he did to lay the foundation on which we stand both from an intellectual and campaigning terms.His book on poverty called the Oxfam report is a timeless classic that every Oxfam staff must read.His far reaching identfied startegic issues has stood the test of time-From Trade to climate change.I know that Duncan, you argue much about change happening at country level.I agree and that is natural in many ways but the underlined global structures that reinforce inequality is fundemental and profound that is where Kevin scores so highly in taking and building Oxfam campaign frame work from the scratch.We owe him a lot.And I am so proud to say that I was truly previleged too to have had the opportunity to work with him in the early days of his work in Zambaia and later in Zimbabwe.I learnt so much from him in the ways to look at numbers ;the ways to make connections and stunningly the ways to make your case for Justice.
    I am so glad to hear he is leading ODI. I have nodoubt he will make his mark.Just read his Human Development report covering Climate change-I use it all the time to make my case.

  2. Strongly agree with this article I suspect action will come down to citizens, saying enough is enough and demanding change. Seems to me the ticking time bomb of youth without hope could be the catalyst for change but who knows where that might take us? As for iNGO’s, I am not sure we have fully taken on board what our role might be in dealing with this although I feel Oxfam’s brokering approach might be a positive start.

  3. Duncan,

    Thank you for posting this. I agree that Kevin sets out a compelling and well argued case for addressing equity as part of the HLP and post MDGs work.

    It is harder to see, however, where the impetus, drive and leadership for a more equitable world is going to come from in the next 24 months. Kevin appears to put a lot of faith in political leaders, key institutions and social movements driving forward equity. I wonder if other readers of your blog are as optimistic?

    A few other points that may be worth clarifying: (i) Kevin states that ‘political leaders in Africa have recognised that the the region’s growth surge is leaving the poor behind’. How much evidence is there to show this is really happening and that this ‘recognition’ being translated into practical policies? (ii) on global convergence and national divergence, I suspect that there is some convergence in some cases but overall I wonder whether we are comparing apples and pears – and that for most people on average incomes in different countries/regions of the world there is little noticeable convergence taking place.


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