UN Deputy Secretary-General calls for global action to address inequality

Amina J. Mohammed delivers 2019 Annual Pluralism Lecture in Lisbon

In delivering the seventh Annual Pluralism Lecture, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed addressed the links between pluralism and development, highlighting the dangers posed by growing inequalities.

“Inequality is at extraordinary levels and is growing, both within and between our countries. After a decade of decline, the number of chronically hungry people in our world recently began to rise again – despite there being abundant food for everyone.”

Ms. Mohammed was one of the architects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious set of 17 development goals adopted unanimously by members of the United Nations in 2015.  While underscoring the interconnected nature of the goals, and their intention of benefitting all members of society, she called on leaders to address “the gap between the words and the actions; between the ideal of pluralism, and the policies and strategies that will enable us to reap its benefits in our daily lives.”

“We have growing evidence that greater diversity and inclusion, particularly in relation to the inclusion of women, is correlated with higher GDP, more responsive governments, better bottom lines, greater stability, and more sustainable peace and development. But if the business case for inclusion is clear, certainly today we would say that our actions fail to reflect this.”

In introducing the UN Deputy Secretary-General, His Highness the Aga Khan foregrounded her long- standing commitment to gender equality and girls’ education; her instrumental role in post-2015 development planning as Special Adviser to former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and her passionate advocacy on the threat of climate change, including as a former Nigerian Environment Minister.

His Highness cited Portugal as an example of a country that is embracing pluralism, even as it addresses its many challenges: “As populations in many Western countries are aging, and even dwindling, Portugal is among the few that recognize that newcomers are essential to secure the country’s future.” Moderator Ricardo Costa, Director of News with Portugal’s Impresa Media Group, engaged Amina Mohammed and audience members in discussion following the Lecture, focusing on practical ways to address exclusion and inequality, and foster pluralism.

Hosted by the Global Centre for Pluralism, an Ottawa-based charitable organization founded by His Highness the Aga Khan in partnership with the Government of Canada, the Annual Pluralism Lecture provides an opportunity to learn from individuals whose work has made a practical difference in the world.

This year’s Lecture drew an audience of some 200 people to the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon, including senior members of Portuguese government and civil society, the diplomatic corps, business leaders and philanthropists, and students and professors with an interest in sustainable development. The event was livestreamed, reaching an estimated audience of 5,525.

Read the press release.

Read His Highness the Aga Khan’s opening remarks.

Read the full text of Amina J. Mohammed’s lecture here.

Amina J. Mohammed