Global Development Institute Blog

Rory Horner begins our series looking at some of the big trends in development to look out for in 2017.

2016 was, by many accounts, a strange year. Contemporaneously with the often discussed “rising powers”, 2016 saw the growth and resonance of “declinism” in what could (at least relatively-speaking) be called “falling powers”. Take for example, the political success of campaigns summarised in mottos to “Make America Great Again” in the US or “Take Back Control” in the UK.

According to Pew Research, a majority of people in the so-called “developed world” believe their children will have worse lives than they have, despite having substantially better lives by most indicators than the vast majority of people in “developing countries”.

After two centuries of a growing gap, inequalities between what were once called “rich” and “poor” countries have begun to slowly decline in the 21st century – what has been termed a “great convergence”. At the same time, inequalities have increased within many countries – with the (absolute) poor in developing economies and (relative poor) in developed economies increasingly left behind.

2016 witnessed what Mark Blyth has referred to as a new era of neo-nationalism. The loss of national control in the Global North has been amplified, as have the extent of foreign influences being seen as negative. At the same time, the amount of control that can/will be taken back and the likely changes that will result have been inflated too.

The question for 2017 is not whether inequality will be on the table. The World Bank is “Taking on Inequality”. Neo-nationalists are invoking foreign sources of domestic inequalities.  It is how inequalities will be played out.

Will China and migrants be presented as the source of domestic economic and social challenges? Will states in the Global North cite domestic challenges and retreat away from addressing and improving international responsibilities and commitments favourable to the global development? Will domestic sources of inequalities, such as the declining tax take from the rich, be overlooked?

The “trading-off” of domestic and international inequalities is one to watch in 2017.


Read more of Rory Horner’s work on trade, globalisation and political economy.

Note: This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.