Perspectives on Global Development 2021

From Protest to Progress?

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Since its first edition in 2010, the OECD Development Centre's Perspectives on Global Development report has tracked development trends and policy priorities in developing countries. This new report examines the phenomenon of discontent. Between the global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, discontent surged around the world. It was especially evident in middle-income countries and was often most acute amongst the middle classes that have emerged in developing countries over recent decades. The report explores the economic, political and sociological drivers of discontent and argues that building back better from the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries will require approaches that simultaneously improve citizens' well-being, promote productive transformation and strengthen social cohesion. The report concludes by examining the international dimension of discontent and demonstrates how weaknesses and imbalances in the present multilateral system are eroding humankind's capacity for collective action in the face of global threats, notably the climate crisis. The rise in discontent has exposed failings in prevailing economic, social and political models at all levels: addressing discontent means fixing these systems, and doing so in an inclusive and sustainable manner.



Between the global financial crisis of 2008-09 and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, protests and political instability surged around the world. The pandemic cleared the streets but only for a moment; civil unrest is expected to worsen in its aftermath. People’s trust in public institutions is collapsing; so too is their trust in each other. Political systems in many places are failing to meet people’s demands for change. New technologies are creating new divides within society. A vicious circle is emerging, whereby social fragmentation is impeding the collective action needed – at the local, national and global level – to address the factors behind this discontent. Given the scale of the challenges of the 21st century, this inability to co-operate poses an existential threat to humankind.


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