Since 2010, the OECD Development Centre’s Perspectives on Global Development (PGD) series has investigated trends in developing countries and their place in the global economy. The series started by examining the increasing weight of developing countries in the world economy, a phenomenon it referred to as “shifting wealth”. In 2008, the share of non-OECD countries in world gross domestic product surpassed that of OECD member countries and many developing countries were on course to converge with advanced economies.

Each subsequent edition of the PGD examined the effect of this trend on development, focusing on different policy concerns, from social cohesion (2012) and industrial policy (2013) to productivity and the middle-income trap (2014) and international migration (2017). The 2019 edition examined the evolution of development paradigms and investigated how developing countries can design development strategies that respond to the challenges of the 21st century.

The 2021 edition examines the global surge in discontent in countries between the global financial crisis and the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020. Although this phenomenon was evident in countries at all income levels, the report focuses principally on developing countries to understand where and why discontent has risen. It demonstrates that beneath the headlines of the Shifting Wealth story –developing countries’ sustained economic growth, their success in reducing poverty and the emergence of middle classes across the Global South – lurk frustrations, vulnerabilities and inequalities that have taken a toll on people’s life satisfaction and weakened social cohesion. These are set to worsen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report comprises five chapters. The first discusses how near-unbroken economic growth in countries at all income levels between 1990 and 2018 coincided with rising within-country inequalities and uneven improvements in living standards. It explains how global economic activity was closely linked to environmental devastation and imposed pressure on large portions of the labour force. The second chapter examines the evidence of discontent in different regions with reference to high-level political indicators and analyses citizens’ grievances about the state of the economy, the quality of public services and opportunities to interact with the government. The third chapter argues that discontent emerges from the interaction of these grievances with weakening social cohesion and adverse political trends.

The fourth and fifth chapters examine how to alleviate discontent. Chapter 4 identifies mechanisms by which national governments can simultaneously strengthen social cohesion and promote development. Chapter 5 explores the global dimensions of discontent and explains how the multilateral system needs to evolve in response.

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