Over the last decades, progress has created unprecedented wealth and opportunities. By all available measures, the world never had it so good. And yet resentment is growing everywhere, for the benefits have not been equally shared. In the most advanced countries, struggling middle classes are growing disenchanted as the rich get richer and trust in institutions wanes. In poorer countries, the situation is different: first, there are blind spots in this global prosperity, places caught in fragility and conflict, where human suffering and poverty remain pervasive. Second, in places where the most spectacular progress in poverty reduction and human development has been achieved, persistent inequalities have been brewing dire social tensions.

Our historical, collective thinking on the development process over the past 50 to 70 years is therefore at odds with the recent development experience of many countries. We continue to think of economic development and human development as two separate things, whereas they need to be seen as one sole process. At the same time, the world has deeply changed, and much of this is due to the rise of emerging economies. The People’s Republic of China, but also Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and the Russian Federation, for instance, are increasingly taking a larger stake at the world’s table and engaging in the development processes of others. Since 2010, the Perspectives on Global Development has been monitoring how development is being shaped by these changes we are experiencing.

The transformation in global economic geography is not something that happened overnight, however. It has been a long gradual process, which makes its impact on development less discernible.

Things have indeed changed – but not everything. Mainstream thinking on development put on a shiny new pair of glasses sometime after the Second World War, and while it wipes them clean once in a while, those same glasses remain on today.

Yet, we need new glasses. More specifically, the time has come to reconsider development strategies. The OECD has indeed begun rethinking strategies, for instance, through its New Approaches to Economic Challenges (NAEC) and Better Life Initiative (BLI) work streams, but we need more. We need to fully acknowledge the plurality of individual development pathways and that the multidimensional process of development requires a new vision for global co-operation.

Mario Pezzini

Director, OECD Development Centre

Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary-General on Development

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