Press Release

New UNRISD Flagship Report Evidences Systemic Nature of Extreme Social Inequality

Research institute calls for new eco-social contract with a shift in power

Berlin/Bonn, January 25, 2023 – Today’s extreme inequalities, environmental destruction, and the vulnerability of our societies to crisis are not a flaw in our global economic system, but a feature of it. Presented yesterday at the Robert Bosch Stiftung in Berlin, this was the conclusion drawn by the latest flagship report from the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) entitled “Crises of Inequality: Shifting Power for a New Eco-Social Contract”. The report calls for fundamental systemic change to the existing socio-economic system and proposes far-reaching policy measures to achieve this transformation. The Robert Bosch Stiftung is currently supporting UNRISD.
“Our world is in a state of fracture, confronted with severe crises, political divisions, and the existential threat of climate change. The flagship report shows that there is a common thread that links these crises: growing economic and social inequalities that both drive and are driven by crises,” explains Dr. Katja Hujo, UNRISD Senior Research Coordinator and the report’s lead author. “Now is the time to act, to forge a new eco-social contract grounded in human rights and the values of justice, sustainability, and solidarity.”

The report found that economic and social inequalities are both the root and the result of political inequalities, while the empirical evidence it presents leaves no doubt that inequality along all dimensions is highly detrimental for our societies and economies. “‘Leave no one behind’ is one of the central commitments of the 2030 Agenda, which is why the German Sustainable Development Strategy also includes the social dimension,” explained Sarah Ryglewski, Minister of State at the German Chancellery, commenting on the report. “We have oriented our policy around both ecological and social sustainability in order to shape the transition toward a socio-ecological market economy that offers social security and is properly equipped for the future.”

A vision for a new global system


The report outlines a contract based on broad social consensus that could rebalance state-market-society-nature relations. To achieve this, we need to restructure economies and societies, halt climate change and environmental destruction, reduce economic inequalities, and address historical injustices such as colonialism and slavery as well as their legacies today. To realize this vision, the report proposes a new development model with three key pillars: alternative economic approaches that center environmental and social justice and re-embed the economy in society; transformative social policies based on a fair fiscal compact; and reimagined multilateralism and strengthened solidarity. The report provides examples of all three pillars from around the world. 

“Low income, no assets, the lack of suitable housing, poor access to good education and care, climate-neutral mobility, or nature, as well as low levels of civic participation are just some of the negative consequences multi-layered inequalities can have. Inequalities which primarily affect socially disadvantaged groups,” says Dr. Ellen Ehmke, Senior Expert on inequality at the Robert Bosch Stiftung. “The new UNRISD report analyzes all this in depth and identifies new pathways to navigate away from crises of inequality. That’s why it is so important we discuss the levers set out in the report, including in and for Germany.”

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Julia Rommel
Robert Bosch Stiftung
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