Inequality has been on the rise for years. No longer defined strictly in economic terms, the division between ‘haves' and 'have-nots’ encompasses everything from access to healthcare and education to somewhat more intangible notions of freedom from want and freedom from fear. Yet regardless of its form, every disparity is characterized by a self-reinforcing process of estrangement. People on the one side become increasingly apathetic and blind to the needs of those less fortunate, while among the latter the feeling of injustice begets resentment, anger, despair, and even hatred. If not recognized and properly addressed, this vicious cycle of increasing inequality and estrangement will sooner or later result in violent confrontation.
Aware of the threats inequality in its many forms could pose for peace and stability if left unaddressed, we have decided to dedicate the MUNSC Salient 2016 conference to exploring the causes, symptoms and possible solutions for inequalities that define societies of the 21st century. In trying to better understand the dynamics, mechanisms and processes that underlie inequality, we have identified three conceptual focal points that will guide us in our exploration: Solidarity/Extremism/Development.
Solidarity can be understood as a prerequisite for re-establishing societies capable of earnest dialogue, mutual understanding and compassion. Only by recognizing and standing up for other people’s dignity can we hope for a peaceful future.
Extremism results from anger and neglect, with young people especially vulnerable to its ideologies. Disdain for the society we live in, and which many feel has abandoned them, tends to translate into violent frustration. As such, extremisms of all types and colors represent a culmination of inequality and alienation.
Development is often considered as be-all and end-all undertaking when it comes to practical solutions for reducing inequality and establishing sustainable peace. Yet what concepts and values inform our understanding of development and how should these be tailored to accommodate the many dimensions of inequality in the 21st century?