Growing inequality gaps amid pandemic unacceptable: US V-P Harris

Ms Kamala Harris said "no single nation" could be relied upon to deal with these challenges alone. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - The world must work together to narrow inequality gaps on issues, including poverty, health and gender inclusion, that have only grown during the Covid-19 pandemic, United States Vice-President Kamala Harris said on Thursday (Nov 11).

Speaking a week after the US Congress passed President Joe Biden's $1.2 trillion (S$1.6 trillion) infrastructure investment package, she said "no single nation" could be relied upon to deal with these challenges alone.

She told French President Emmanuel Macron and other leaders at the Paris Peace Forum that inequality gaps had narrowed and widened during human history but throughout this pandemic, "the gaps have undoubtedly become larger".

"Globally, extreme poverty is on the rise - as is extreme wealth," she said, adding that "progress on gender equality is under threat" as is a child's right to an education.

"By virtually every measure, the gaps have grown. We face a dramatic rise in inequality and we must meet this moment."

She added: "Why is it that 1 per cent of the world now owns 45 per cent of the world's wealth? Why is it that one in four people in our world lack access to clean drinking water at home?"

Ms Harris, who is on a major multi-day visit to France aimed at easing tensions with Washington's oldest ally, said: "We cannot be aware of these gaps and simply resign ourselves to them."

She added: "We must agree that these growing gaps are unacceptable and we must agree to work together to address them...

"The fact remains no single nation can take on inequality alone. A challenge this sizeable and seismic demands our world work together in solidarity."

Mr Macron echoed her concerns in his remarks to the conference, issuing a stark warning about the importance of demography, which was showing sharply different trends in the north and south of the globe.

"We cannot sustainably have a north that is getting more and more old in good health, and a south that makes more and more children with so few perspectives," he said.

"This will only create tension unless we put demography - and the inequalities that it creates - at the heart of our policies of development and investment."

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