In a much-awaited report released at the end of last year, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon set out his vision for after the millennium development goals expire this year. At its heart, and in its title, is the word “dignity”.
It is not uncommon for “dignity” to be rolled out in the opening salvo of UN documents, but it is a concept seldom contemplated in depth. In this report, it is used as a title to gather the goals aimed at tackling poverty and inequality under one more manageable theme – those at the bottom of the economic ladder lack dignity, and it is the job of the rest of the world to help give it to them.
But that is actually a very limited interpretation of a word that, if understood properly, could mean fundamental changes to our ways of working, and the overall story we are trying to tell. The thing about dignity, and the reason it is a transformational concept, is that it knows no social, economic, gender or ethnic barriers.