Global causes for inequality Making inequalities an issue challenges another, closely related convention of established development discourses, namely their ‘atomistic’ focus on developing countries. In contrast, attention to global inequalities implies an understanding of development in more holistic terms, recognizing the relevance (or macro-determination) of world society.
11 In the conventional view, the problem to be solved is located in the developing countries – in their underdevelopment or in the material poverty of their citizens. Therefore, development is equaled to a process of change within these countries. In this way of thinking, developed countries assume the role of donors and supporters of the former’s development. This definition of problems and solutions does not take into account structural causes of underdevelopment, which, in the view of many, would be those ‘adjusting screws’ that promise the greatest effect targeting the reproduction of global inequalities. This would surely imply a fundamental re-interpretation of development premises. The atomistic view has been convenient for developed countries, since a structural change on the global level would imply that change is not limited to developing countries alone but includes the developed countries also. In preparation of the SDGs, the High-Level-Report of Eminent Persons overtly challenged development atomism by acknowledging that it was “unrealistic to think we can help another one billion people to lift themselves out of poverty by growing their national economies without making structural changes in the world economy”.43Targets 10.5 to 10.6 of the SDGs take up these concerns, as they point to global dimensions of responsibility, to “improve regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen implementation of such regulations”; “ensure enhanced voice of developing countries in international economic and financial institutions”. Global inequality seems to be interpreted here as a kind of macro-determining principle, which reaches from the global level to the level of individuals within countries. The political impetus of establishing links between globally observable income inequalities, global structures (i.e. global financial markets and institutions) and individual-level well-being holds member states of global institutions responsible for creating and guaranteeing less inequality in the world. Similarly, Goals 16 and 17 re-emphasize this structural dimension of global inequality, addressing some of the above-mentioned adjusting screws. Targets of Goal 16 point to institutional factors to decrease systematic inequalities – e.g. “ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels” (16.7) and “broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance” (16.8). Goal 17 refers to some of the main goods that are distributed unevenly within world society because of institutional structures, including “finance”, “technology” and “trade”.