Emerging Issues: Social Justice

The Arab region faces significant social justice challenges, including low labour force participation, notably among women, young people and persons with disabilities; high levels of informality and social exclusion; varying levels of poverty and inequality; and poor governance and human rights deficits. For ESCWA, social justice means “equal rights and access to resources and opportunities for all, men and women, paying particular attention to the removal of barriers that hinder the empowerment of disadvantaged groups to fulfil their potential to participate in decisions that govern their lives”.[1] It is a concept that focuses on the principles of equality, equity, participation and human rights, and is thus critical to the achievement of the SDGs.

The SDGs provide invaluable opportunities for national development policies to adapt and devise plans to meet the Goals, which also require synergy and coordination between various sectors.  The interconnected nature of the SDGs shows that it would be ineffective to address them on an individual basis - the most effective way to achieve the 2030 Agenda is to develop national plans based on the interrelatedness of the SDGs. 

In accordance with its mandate emanating from the twenty-ninth ESCWA ministerial session, held in Doha in December 2016,[2] ESCWA is preparing a major study identifying policy options to transform unequal societies in the region into more equal ones by addressing interrelated SDG goals and targets through a nexus approach.  The study focuses on Goals addressing poverty eradication (SDG 1); gender equality (SDG 5); inclusive growth and productive employment (SDG 8); the reduction of inequality (SDG 10); peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG 16); and the means of implementation (SDG 17).

This nexus study will examine the intrinsic relationships among equality, inclusion and justice. Sustainable human development cannot be achieved without equality, as all peoples, without discrimination, need to benefit from the fruits of development. In addition, without inclusion and justice, societies cannot prosper or flourish, as injustice and exclusion are often linked to instability, wars and conflicts.

ESCWA is also taking a closer look at the equality pillar of the social justice agenda in a forthcoming flagship report focusing on equality of outcome, equality of opportunity and equality of autonomy or voice in selected Arab countries. It will also examine the different dimensions and complexity of stakeholders involved in efforts to reduce inequality (figure 2). The report will be launched during the first half of 2018.  

Figure 2.  Different Dimensions of Equality

Different Dimensions of Equality: Between groups based on characteristics, geography, and countries, the equality of outcome, opportunity and autonomy have different economic, social, environmental, cultural and civil/political dimensions.

Source: ESCWA, Social Development Report 2: Equality of Outcome, Process and Autonomy in Selected states in the Arab Region, forthcoming.

[1] E/ESCWA/28/8.

[2] E/ESCWA/29/12/Report.