Tackling inequalities in public service coverage to “build forward better” for the rural poor – Policy brief by the HLCP Inequalities Task Team

Globally, four out of five people living in extreme poverty – i.e., below $ 1.90 a day – reside in rural areas, and 84 per cent of people experiencing multidimensional poverty also live in rural areas. The rural poor are among the populations at risk of being particularly negatively impacted by the concurrent health, social, economic, humanitarian and human rights crises caused by COVID-19. 

In the context of building forward better, an increased focus on rural poverty and rural inequalities can serve to shift attention to the upstream causes of many of the global development challenges experienced today. Disinvestment in and neglect of rural development and the rural poor contributes to environmental degradation, global food insecurity, adverse public health consequences, mistrust in public authorities and social unrest, and mass out-migration (e.g. the rural poor become the urban poor), to name a few of the impacts. An increased focus on tackling rural poverty and reducing inequalities in rural areas across all sectoral domains does not detract from efforts towards equitable urban development; rather, only by addressing poverty in both rural and urban areas, as well as improving rural-urban linkages and the role of intermediary cities, can the pathway to holistic national and global sustainable development be built. 

Contributing to the above, this policy brief specifically focuses on tackling rural inequalities in public service coverage. Led by WHO, FAO and IFAD, the production of this policy brief benefitted from inputs from 12 additional UN agencies (ILO, IOM, ITU, OHCHR, UNDCO, UNDESA, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UN-Habitat, UN Peacekeeping Support Office, UN Women) that are members of the HLCP Inequalities Task Team (ITT). 


About the HLCP Inequalities Task Team

As part of the implementation and operationalization of the shared United Nations system framework for action on equality and non-discrimination, and in follow up to the conclusions of HLCP’s 38th session, the HLCP Inequalities Task Team (ITT) was established to strengthen the United Nations system’s leadership, coordination and impact on reducing inequalities.


  • COVID-19 Response
  • Human Rights
  • Inequalities
  • Sustainable Development
  • High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP)
  • Publications


  • HLCP ITT Policy Brief Rural Inequalities 2021.pdf

    PDF | 3.5 MB

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