World Economic and Social Survey 2017:
Reflecting on 70 years of development policy analysis

WESS 2017 cover

The World Economic and Social Survey 2017 reviews the 70-year history of a flagship publication that is also the oldest continuing report of its kind and in the process derives lessons from the past that are relevant to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Since 1947, the Survey, by systematically analysing the evolution of the global economy and its implications for development, has been helping the Economic and Social Council fulfil its mandate under the Charter of the United Nations, which is “to promote the solution of international economic problems, higher standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic and social progress and development”.

Over the course of seven decades, Survey analyses have been underpinned by an understanding of development as structural transformation driven by national policy decisions and influenced by the global development environment. It is through this lens that the Survey views multiple phases of development thinking and practice which extend all the way from the post-Second World War period—during what is often called the Golden Age of Capitalism—to the years following in the wake of the global financial crisis. While keeping in mind the significant changes that have occurred in the global development landscape over the past seven decades, the Survey shows that many parallels can be drawn between the challenges currently facing the international community and those that confronted the world in the past.

This edition of the Survey highlights the importance for achieving sustainable development of a stable global economy supported by coordinated global actions, well-functioning international trade and monetary systems, respect for national policy space, international solidarity and development planning.


About the World Economic and Social Survey

In 1947, a mandate by the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit annual reports on current world economic conditions and trends to the Economic and Social Council. The following reports were produced as a result of this mandate: Economic Report: Salient Features of the World Economic Situation from 1945 to 1947World Economic Report (1948-1954); World Economic Survey (1955-1993); and World Economic and Social Survey (1994-1998). In 1999, the report was split into two. The World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) serves as the United Nations’ definitive report on the state of the world economy. The World Economic and Social Survey focuses on specific medium- to long-term development challenges. Since 2005, the Survey has devoted itself entirely to specific themes of topical interest related to development. It provides objective analyses of pressing long-term social and economic development issues and discusses the positive and negative impact of corresponding policy prescriptions.

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