On November 26, 2007, the General Assembly stablished that World Social Justice Day will be celebrated on February 20 of each year (A/RES/62/10). The theme for the year 2020 of this international day is "Close the gap of inequalities to achieve social justice.".


Social Justice is a fundamental pillar for the fulfillment of the principles of the United Nations, international peace and security, and respect for human rights. When we defend these principles, we fight for the promotion of a peaceful and prosperous society with sustainable development, respect for the environment,  the rights of men and women, children, migrants, and refugees, as well as with the elimination of the burdens people face due to gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion , culture or disability.

The international social context reflects the need to adopt a social dimension of globalization and development, with a distribution of more equitable results of progress for all. Social justice is a compass for the promotion of peace, security and human rights in all nations and regions of the world. Mechanisms such as social protection and international justice are essential for governments to respect their international obligations.
 

Background

Although there is no certainty around the first use of the term "social justice", the concept of the need for fair and equitable relations between individuals and society is a very old idea. Plato associated Justice with social harmony and pointed out that it is a starting point. Aristotle believed that each should be given his due; that is, in proportion to their contribution to society, their needs, and their personal merits. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the "Social Contract" was used by the philosophers of enlightenment to evoke the idea of ​​protecting the rights of citizens in a broader social framework. The 20th century American philosopher, John Rawls, went further, proposing that social justice cannot be achieved if justice and liberty for one person can be overridden by the “greater good of others”.

Between 6 and 12 March 1995, several diplomats and secretaries of state met in Copenhagen to adopt the Declaration on Social Development and Program of Action of the World Summit on Social Development. Referring to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, nations recognized that “the conviction that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security in our nations and among them. So, social development and social justice cannot be achieved if there is no peace and security or if all human rights and fundamental freedoms are not respected.” [1].


Source: UN Photo/Milton Grant

At the 24th special session of the United Nations General Assembly in June-July 2000, entitled  "World Summit for Social Development and beyond: achieving social development for all in a globalizing world", nations reaffirmed their international obligations, the Declaration of Copenhagen of 1995 and the principles of the United Nations, as well as the need for States to double their efforts in order to guarantee  development in adequation with social justice.
 
Increase of inequalities between people

In 2005, the United Nations warned that the social situation in the world would generate a growing problem for the achievement of development goals[2]. "Let no one be left behind" is a commitment adopted in the 2030 Agenda and objective 10, which look to reduce inequality in people.


Source: UN

On the one hand, institutions that perpetuate injustice drive the growth of inequality and, on the other, global economic, social, and environmental forces can shape inequality trends. While inequality has different effects on people and regions, it is true that some elements such as climate change directly affect people's livelihoods[3].
Inequality has increased since 1990 in most developed countries and in some middle-income countries, however, increased inequality is not a universal trend[4]. While Latin America and the Caribbean continue to be the most unequal region in the world, there has been a reduction in inequalities in 17 of the 19 countries in the region in the last years.

According to the World Inequality database, the income of the 1% of the richest people in Colombia, Brazil and the United States, who control 20% of economic income in the period of 1990-2017, increased while 40% of the population’s poorest, received 25% less income. In addition, almost all regions of the world are far from achieving equality among economic incomes in their societies.

Inequalities are also related to one’s social group. For example, indigenous peoples who, despite representing only 4% of the world's population, constitute 10% of the world's poor[5]. Likewise, ethnic minorities continue to suffer manifest disadvantages even in countries where special efforts are made to promote their inclusion; members of groups that have suffered prejudices and discrimination in the past begin with less assets and lower levels of social capital than members of other groups[6].

Source: World Inequality database

These disparities -particularly in terms of health, education and other dimensions of human development- make it even more difficult to break the cycle of poverty, which cause disadvantages passed down from generations to generations, and increasingly in countries that are more unequal[7].

Global warming also contributes to inequalities worldwide. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global average temperature has increased by one degree since the pre-industrial period. The effects of rising temperatures in the world generate direct impacts on livelihoods, health and resources around the world, however, the effects are not uniform in the population.