Harris urges world leaders in Paris to address inequality
Vice President Harris on Thursday implored world leaders gathered in Paris to see the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to examine how to address global inequality.
Harris spoke at the Paris Peace Forum, an annual gathering of political and private sector leaders, where she focused her remarks on the need for collaboration to erase gender inequality, wealth inequality and food inequality.
She noted the pandemic has exacerbated many of those issues, with school closures threatening access to education for children and highlighting disparities in internet access, and economic troubles hampering progress to close the gaps between men and women in the workforce.
“We are nearly two years into a global pandemic … but the pandemic has also presented us with an opportunity,” Harris said in prepared remarks. “An opportunity because many in our world who perhaps did not see now clearly see the gaps, and the call for leaders to bridge the gaps is rightfully growing more urgent and more insistent.”
“These growing gaps are unacceptable, and we must agree to work together to bridge them,” Harris added. “And here I want to be clear: This is not about charity. This is about our duty and what we owe to each other as human beings. This is also a strategic imperative.”
Harris argued the world was too interconnected for nations to avoid collaborating on 21st century problems, noting how the pandemic could quickly spread across borders and how one country’s emissions can damage the environment around the globe.
She urged world leaders to prioritize equality and argued the Biden administration had done so during its first 10 months in office.
Harris suggested the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that recently passed Congress would address inequality through investments in roads, bridges and public transit and by replacing lead pipes in communities across the country. And she argued the White House’s framework for a $1.75 trillion reconciliation package would further the fight against inequality with investments in climate programs, family care and child care.
“Together, these bills are designed to lift people out of poverty,” Harris said.
Harris contended the reconciliation bill was “poised to pass soon.” But it’s unclear whether there is enough support in the Senate for that to happen, particularly as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has cautioned against moving too quickly with such a large package.
Addressing inequality has been a key theme of Harris’s international appearances when she has traveled to Vietnam, Guatemala and Mexico. Her stop at the Paris Peace Forum, which was founded in 2018 as a call for multilateralism to tackle global conflicts and problems, was part of a multiday stay in Paris. She previously met with French President Emmanuel Macron, where the two brushed off questions about any lingering tensions related to a submarine deal the U.S. brokered with the United Kingdom and Australia.
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