The BBC says the latest report on the world’s social situation argues that while living standards have improved in some places, poverty remains entrenched.
The report warns that focusing only on economic growth is an ineffective way of achieving development.
It says globalisation is benefitting wealthy nations while poorer countries continue to suffer economic hardships.
The UN report, drawn up by the UN’s Economic and Social Affairs Department, found that the gap between rich and poor is now wider than it was a decade ago, and called for immediate action.
The report focuses on worldwide inequality in income and wealth, along with other areas such as health and education.
It says that although China and India have seen considerable income growth, there is still a wide income gap.
It highlights the growing gap by revealing that it is virtually impossible for the 2.8 billion people living on less than US$2 a day to ever match the consumption levels of the rich.
The UN secretary general said the report showed the development agenda could not be advanced without addressing inequality, such as the gap between skilled and unskilled workers and between the formal and informal sectors.
The report recommends expanding opportunities for productive employment, bringing marginalised groups into society and working to distribute the benefits of what it called the increasingly open world economy.
The report was released as the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) warned that hunger in Ethiopia is now endangering more than three million people.
The WFP says repeated droughts and crop failure are creating a situation similar to critical levels reached 20 years ago when over a million people died of famine.
The WFP urged food donors not to forget the east African nation as a food crisis in Niger currently dominates headlines.
A WFP official in Ethiopia, Georgia Shaver, said “on any given day, anywhere in the county, you can find chronic malnourished children.”