Africa: UN Recommends Action Against Inequality, but Will States Listen?


Today is the 71st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the years that have passed since then, one of the most pressing issues facing the world is the explosion of inequality, not only between countries but within countries. Increasingly, United Nations human rights bodies are highlighting inequality when making recommendations to states - showing that this issue should be seen and acted on as a central human rights concern.

In South Africa, as a prime example, we often hear how the countries' wealth is controlled by a tiny percentage of the population. So, do human rights have anything to say about material inequality? The question is worth asking, especially in light of recent critiques. In his 2018 book, Not Enough - Human Rights in an Unequal World, historian and Yale University law professor, Samuel Moyn argued that "... the critical reason that human rights have been a powerless companion of market fundamentalism is that they have simply nothing to say about material inequality."

One of the ways to explore this critique further is by looking at what the United Nations (UN) human rights mechanisms have to say about inequality. Is inequality an issue of...

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