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Perspectives on Global Development 2012

Social Cohesion in a Shifting World

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“Shifting wealth” – a process that started in the 1990s and took off in the 2000s – has led to a completely new geography of growth driven by the economic rise of large developing countries, in particular China and India. The resulting re-configuration of the global economy will shape the political, economic and social agendas of international development as those of the converging and poor countries for the years to come.

This report analyses the impact of “Shifting wealth” on social cohesion, largely focusing on high-growth converging countries. A “cohesive” society works towards the well-being of all its members, creates a sense of belonging and fights against the marginalization within and between different groups of societies. The question this report asks is how does the structural transformation in converging economies affect their “social fabric”, their sense of belonging or put generally their ability to peacefully manage collective action problems.

Recent events in well performing countries in the Arab world but also beyond such as in Thailand, China and India seem to suggest that economic growth, rising fiscal resources and improvements in education are not sufficient  to create cohesion; governments need to address social deficits and actively promote social cohesion if long-term development is to be sustainable.   

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Social Cohesion and Policies for Enhancing Civic Participation

OECD Development Centre

Governments in many parts of the world are currently confronted by some major governance challenges. They need, as a matter of priority, to defuse social tensions which arise from phenomena such as rising food prices, increases (real or perceived) in inequality, and political exclusion. To complicate matters further, and partly because of new technologies (particularly the Internet), states no longer exercise the same degree of control over their territories as they once did and increasingly have to take into account a myriad of external influences. In such a context, giving space to dissenting voices is fundamental to the creation of a sustainable, socially cohesive society. The harnessing of civic participation and political feedback mechanisms is essential if growth processes are not to be derailed. This is particularly true in the context of shifting wealth, where faster economic growth and more social dislocation require innovative responses. Promoting civic participation and decentralisation could prove to be a powerful tool for improving service delivery as well as something to be valued in its own right. Similarly, women are important agents of change, and facilitating their full participation in democratic life is an important policy objective.

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