WIDER Annual Lecture 5
Horizontal Inequality

A Neglected Dimension of Development

In this lecture Frances Stewart expands on some of the central themes of her studies for WIDER. She documents the ways in which political power, social demarcations and economic differences combine to produce horizontal inequalities between population subgroups within countries, and the impact of these horizontal inequalities on social cohesion. The case studies leave one in no doubt that inequitable treatment of groups¾either real or perceived¾can be a major source of social instability and hence a major obstacle to improvements in wellbeing. Yet, as she emphasizes in the title of the lecture, these phenomena are routinely neglected in the design of development policies, which tend to focus on outcomes for individuals rather than groups. The evidence indicates that historical patterns of privilege can be redressed, particularly if the privileged groups are a minority. In other circumstances, however, the interplay of political and economic forces may exacerbate the underlying problems. In strongly divided countries, Professor Stewart suggests that donor countries and international organizations must ensure that their policies take account of horizontal inequity, recognizing that this stance may conflict with narrowly defined efficiency objectives. Readers will find it difficult to argue against this persuasive and important conclusion.The 5th WIDER Annual Lecture was given by Professor Frances Stewart in Helsinki on 14th December 2001, under the title ‘Horizontal Inequality: A Neglected Dimension of Development’.