Recommendations: Addressing inequality through EU development cooperation | Plan International Skip to main content

Recommendations: Addressing inequality through EU development cooperation


Inequality should be addressed in its broadest sense: it does not only concern income inequality but may touch on every part of a person’s life. Today, we are witnessing billions of people facing deplorable inequalities of opportunities, choices, resources, security, freedom and power, with women and girls being particularly affected. Girls and women face social, economic and political marginalisation and, owing to harmful social and gendered norms, they are also confronted with violence and discrimination.

Plan International acknowledges and appreciates that EU development cooperation is contributing to fighting gender inequality, even if not always framed as such – for example through support to public education, projects to tackle discrimination, an emphasis on women’s rights, women’s access to land, etc. The European Consensus on Development (hereafter, the Consensus) represents an important step forward, in its acknowledgement that inequality is a root cause of poverty, conflict, fragility, forced displacement and migration (paras 64 & 71). It also pays considerable attention to gender inequality. However, a lot remains to be done to implement the Consensus in a consistent manner. In addition, the EU adopted a revised Gender Action Plan (2016-2020), which touches on many of the key concerns girls and women face. However, as the EU’s own recent evaluation of its implementation of the GAP II shows, the EU is not always meeting its own targets, while a large proportion of EU development cooperation fails entirely to address inequality.

Executive Summary

Executive summary

There is ample evidence that inequalities not only undermine efforts to realise human rights, address poverty and to achieve sustainable progress at a national level, but also increase social tensions and can lead to political instability. One of the main inequalities which must be addressed is gender inequality, which affects half the world’s population. On current rates of progress, it will take 100 years to close the gaps between men and women and boys and girls.

Inequalities are interlinked. Some of these linkages are well-known and considerably written about, such as those between education, health and livelihoods. However, one particular form - namely inequality in the distribution of wealth - fuels many others. Economic inequality particularly translates into reduced access to resources, but also – and often overlooked – to reduced access to decision-making processes for people living in poverty. Much more needs to be done to address the capture of power (economic, social, and political) by wealthy elites. For this reason the EU should support open governance and democratisation processes and strengthen civic participation and local civil society organisations, with a focus on ensuring that girls and women can participate in decision-making which concerns them, at all levels.

  • Our recommendations: Addressing inequality through EU development cooperation