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Chapter I: What have we learned in seventy years of development policy analysis?

World Economic and Social Survey 2017 Chapter I 

Key messages

World Economic and Social Survey 2017 reviews the seventy-year history of a flagship publication, the oldest continuing report of its kind. A clear message from the development policy analysis carried out over seventy years is that periods of sluggish growth in the global economy pose a significant challenge to development. Anaemic growth in the current context may compromise the implementation of a transformative agenda for sustainable development. The experience of previous economic downturns attests to the urgency of expediting global policy coordination in order to accelerate economic growth, trade and financial flows for development. The objective of the present review is to draw those lessons from the past that are relevant to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Six messages are of particular importance.

  • The Survey has long recognized that facilitation of global economic integration requires coordinated global actions. However, the intensification of such integration has clearly outpaced the development of effective mechanisms for global economic governance. The outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008 was only one of the many events that illustrated the grave consequences of ineffective international policy coordination.
  • Stability in the international monetary and trade systems underpins development. In that respect, the Survey has consistently highlighted risks associated with volatile commodity prices and warned against protectionism. Regarding the international monetary system, the Survey has advocated for a shift away from a single-currency system and called for effective financial regulation and supervision.
  • Development, as defined by the Survey at its inception, is both multidimensional and context-specific and driven by the structural transformation of countries towards economic diversification, stable growth and improved living standards. The Survey was also an early proponent of balanced growth across the agriculture and industrial sectors as well as engagement in sustainable management of natural resources.
  • Development planning and State capacity are crucial to achieving sustainable development, which requires proper coordination across various policy areas and diverse actors in bringing about structural and institutional changes.
  • To accelerate development, countries need adequate policy space. During times of crisis and major adjustment, flexibility that gives countries space for adopting nationally appropriate policies is of great importance in facilitating economic recovery and development. The Survey has argued for a fair sharing of the adjustment burden among deficit and surplus countries during periods of economic turbulence.
  • International solidarity has played an important role in supporting national development efforts. Implementation of the Marshall Plan and application of flexibility in enforcing international commitments during the post-Second World War period constitute best examples. Moving forward, it is critical to build the political will and to strengthen the governance mechanism for mobilizing international support for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Chapter 1