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Combating Poverty and Inequality Presented in Morocco

29 Mar 2011



As street protests against social and economic conditions, and political leaders, shook the Arab region, UNRISD Research Coordinator Katja Hujo travelled to Morocco to participate in the 26th session of the Committee of Experts of the Economic Commission for Africa Office for North Africa. The session was held in Rabat from 22 to 25 February 2011.

Hujo had been invited to the Committee of Experts to speak on the importance of universal social services, and to present the UNRISD flagship report, Combating Poverty and Inequality. The social mobilization and political change under way in the region illustrated in real time the policy messages delivered by Hujo in her remarks.

There is not a single path to reducing poverty and inequality, she said. Most of the countries that have lifted the majority of their population out of poverty have used heterodox measures appropriate for their particular situation. Yet there are certain common principles that characterize successful examples of sustainable and inclusive development. Public policy for poverty reduction has succeeded, said Hujo, when it encompasses economic, political and social transformation. That is, economic transformation that creates quality jobs; social transformation based on universal rights; and political transformation that guarantees civic rights and participation.

A focus on only one element—be it economic, social or political—while neglecting the other domains eventually undermines progress towards reducing poverty and inequality, and also endangers economic and social stability. Hujo suggested that this is borne out by current events in the Arab world, which are being triggered by growth models weak in creating jobs, social policies based on clientelism and patronage, and a lack of democratic principles.

Karima Bounemra Ben Soltane, director of the ECA Office for North Africa, said that although countries had made progress in terms of economic and human development over the last decade, the present situation was marked by growing social tensions. Social movements are driven by multiple causes, some of which are highly dependent on local conditions. However, she said that the present revolutions had some things in common: a growing youth population, dissatisfied with their daily lives and prospects, who are demanding their legitimate right to decent work and a say in public life; and a pressing call for greater equity and transparency.