The Development Agenda as a Global Social Contract; or, We Are All in This Development Boat Together

August 29, 2012

Nancy Birdsall delivered this speech on December 8, 2008, to the Dutch Scientific Council in The Hague.

From the speech:

We are in the midst of an extraordinary moment. On the one hand, in my country, there are enormously high expectations of a more pragmatic, active government calling on Americans’ shared interest in a better world beyond as well as within our borders. On the other hand, we are all absorbing the grim new reality of a financial crisis born in America now escalating into a global economic disaster, threatening the well‐being of people everywhere and, sadly, undoing the recent gains against the terrible poverty so many people suffer in emerging‐market and low‐income economies.

I believe those of us in the development community need to seize this moment—and to make of the current crisis an opportunity for a major change in the way we think about the development agenda. Today I want to suggest that we reframe the conventionally defined development agenda as, in large part, the construction by an activist international community of a global social contract. A 21st-century global social contract should be designed to maximize the benefits of global economic interdependence (or to use the popular term “globalization”) while minimizing the risks and costs not only for the world’s poor but for the world’s indispensable middle class—both the large middle class in the rich world’s mature democratic economies and the incipient middle class in emerging markets and a few low‐income countries.

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