By Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre & Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary General on Development and Alexander Pick, Head of Unit, New Development Policies and Institutions, OECD Development Centre
The COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity for humanity to chart a new course and for societies to build forward better. The pandemic has shown that there is a need for change. However, as the new edition of Perspectives on Global Development warns, relying on the same voices, the same institutions and the same mind-sets that prevailed prior to this crisis to answer these questions is unlikely to produce an equitable, inclusive and sustainable recovery. A surge in discontent prior to the pandemic demonstrated that these approaches were failing billions of people around the world, as well as generations not yet born.
Our report, From Protest to Progress?, argues that a long-lasting recovery from COVID-19 cannot be achieved without addressing this discontent, which it defines as collective feelings of frustrated expectations, injustice, vulnerability and powerlessness. A sharp increase in protests during the period between the global financial crisis of 2008-09 and the COVID-19 pandemic shown in Figure 1 attests to a global rise in discontent. However, not all forms of discontent are so obvious: the report also finds evidence of growing discontent amid marked declines in voter turnout, trust in government and support for democracy. And if these variables seem biased towards democratic countries, it’s worth noting that protests rose in authoritarian states too. Taken together, we see that discontent was neither marginal nor fleeting; indeed, it is likely to worsen as countries emerge from the pandemic.