Reducing Poverty and Inequality
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Reducing Poverty and Inequality

The COVID-19 emergencies have revealed but also accentuated the reality of deeply embedded poverty and inequalities, within and across nations. These topics are of central concern for many religious traditions, both for the questions of equity and justice that are involved and because of the suffering that is tied especially to extreme poverty and deprivation. The potentially disruptive effects of deep inequality and inequity are also of concern. The issues of poverty and the aspiration to address and end it are central to the UN SDGs, with specific targets at the core of the first SDG. However, each and every SDG and target is linked to aspects of the poverty and inequality challenge.

Issues both of poverty and inequality are a central concern to most interreligious networks that address global agendas, for example Jubilee USA, the International Partnership for Religions and Sustainable Development (PaRD) and the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD). In the context of the current global economic slowdown and the impact of lockdowns, aspects of both poverty and inequality have central roles on global agendas and notably those of the G20. Here, disparities in health care have particular importance because they highlight the impact of poverty but also of wide differences in access and quality within and between societies. Two of the 2021 central G20 themes—people and prosperity, but also planet—touch in multiple ways on issues of poverty and inequality and thus have special significance for the September 2014 Bologna Interfaith Forum.

The working group will address the wide-ranging issues that are involved in the challenges of fighting poverty, drawing on the rich experience of religious communities, that range from rights-based approaches to charity and philanthropy. Central concerns are to distill lessons from practical experience with policies and programs that address poverty and to make them more widely available. More broadly, by highlighting the elements of debates about practical and ethical causes of poverty that involve religious actors the goal is to identify paths towards solutions. This involves engaging both with economic policy arguments and the lived experience of communities. Similar observations apply to the issues around inequalities.

Two related issues are central to the G20 agenda for 2021 and thus to the G20 Interfaith Forum. The first is unsustainable country debt burdens and proposed actions to address them. This is a longstanding area of religious engagement, with, notably, the Catholic Church leading with a focus on the ethical and practical issues involved. Jubilee USA is a leading advocate, including within the G20 context. The second is the mobilization of financing to address needs for social protection for vulnerable groups, especially, and affected populations more broadly.

G20 Interfaith forums have addressed aspects of these issues in prior years, notably during the German, Argentinian, and Japanese events. With the World Bank projecting that some 150 million more people are being forced into poverty, these urgent concerns will be of central topics in 2021. The immediate challenges need to be considered alongside the continuing and long term challenges that different religiously inspired networks address. The challenge to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 emergencies needs to focus sharply on their impact on the poorest and most vulnerable communities. 

Working Group Areas

  1. No Poverty (SDG1)
  2. Zero Hunger (SDG2)
  3. Job Creation (SDG8)
  4. Reduced Inequalities (SDG10)

Working Group

Katherine Marshall | Advisory Council Liaison

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