Globalisation has always been a process of far-reaching and often unexpected change, as well as geographical shifts in power, and this is reflected in the rise and fall of great cities. What lessons can we draw for the future?

©AFP/Eric Piermont

World trade is changing, and so too must the way policymakers approach it, says Pascal Lamy. We asked him to explain. 

The economic ills of the crisis have rightly prompted public reevaluation of government spending habits and revenue collection on both sides of the Atlantic. While congressional super committees and EU delegations hash out plans to foot massive debt bills, a combination of civil society groups, the Occupy movement, and simple common sense have brought long-deserved attention to certain tax loopholes and corporate practices that cost governments billions of dollars. 

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Human capital spending is needed to reshape China’s growth engine. The action can start at an early age. 

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Young, skilled, well-educated, well-travelled and yet jobless: these are the characteristics of the so-called “lost generation”. The challenges young people in Europe face today are many, and vary from region to region and from person to person. Many are facing high levels of unemployment; some need to fight for their basic freedoms; others for their right to build up representative youth structures, or face different types of discrimination. There are plenty of indignados out there! 

Global competition and the global financial crisis have put additional pressures on education programmes around the world. Radically new approaches to learning are now needed.

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Life skills and a passion for learning are the key to the global knowledge economy. Thriving in this environment demands several qualities. 

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Wherever I go, in every country, women are demanding that their voices are heard. From the Arab states, where women continue to stand up for freedom and democracy, to all regions of the globe, the calls for equal rights, opportunity and participation are spreading and have brought significant change over the years. 

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Are women in Arab countries on the verge of achieving real, lasting, change and empowerment? The answer depends on whether they can keep up momentum for change and influence government policies. 

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Brazil has experienced a considerable shift over the last decade as a result of its economic growth. Social inequality has decreased and income distribution has become more evenly distributed. These tangible changes are reflected in the increased confidence of the Brazilian population. Demand is higher and priorities have changed, leading to a change in both the government and the private sector as well. 

Globalisation and the emergence of interlinked yet diverse civil society groups pose a serious challenge to established governance frameworks. Change appears to be the only option. 

©REUTERS/Andrew Winning

A crisis may focus minds, but it often takes more than that to believe that change is possible. Citizens worldwide have made just that leap of faith. In OECD member countries, a grassroots movement has manifested itself in the overnight occupation of public space and the exercise of direct democracy on the model of what happened in city squares across Spain just over a year ago. After those demonstrations reached Wall Street, Occupy went global and I have been fortunate enough to be involved with the movement as it developed in London.

The middle class has long been the backbone of prosperity and economic stability in developed countries. But the crisis is exert increasing pressure on this pillar of society. Does the middle class need saving?

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The search for measures of progress that might replace GDP is a timely and necessary one, but only a single metric will do the trick. 

©REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Was a major lapse of consumer protection at the heart of the subprime crisis? For consumer advocate Ira Rheingold, only better financial regulation and consumer protection will prevent future meltdowns. 

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When it comes to fixing the economy, could the collective efforts of business and other interested parties be a better solution than passing new laws?

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Financial market overhang rather than excessive fiscal spending threatens confidence today. And there are sounds investments which can make society healthier.

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For many years Brazil was the world’s largest biofuel producer, until it was overtaken by the US in 2006. Brazil’s biofuel production reached 28.5 billion litres in 2010, which according to International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates is 27% of world biofuel production, most of which is ethanol, only a small portion (2.4 billion litres) of that being biodiesel. For 2011, however, IEA estimates show a drop of more than 4 billion litres in Brazilian biofuel production compared with the previous year. But there is good reason to believe that this drop will prove temporary. 

©REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Anyone wishing to gauge Brazil’s status as one of the world’s most lucrative emerging markets should look at the growth of its financial sector. 

Economic growth over the past decades has led to improved quality of life, increased prosperity and longer, healthier lives in nearly all countries. Resource constraints are making us realise that to continue to enjoy these benefits we will have to change course towards more sustainable or greener growth. 

©Philippe Laurenson/Reuters

While the world focuses on the ongoing economic crisis, the challenge of climate change grows increasingly desperate. A number of lessons still have to be learned. 

Han Seung-soo ©OECD

The continuity of our societies and the sustainability of our planet will necessarily depend on how we, as a collective, can devise the solutions to the paramount and multifaceted difficulties that have arisen from the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution. In fact, if we are to successfully transform these challenges into opportunities, what we need is nothing short of another revolution. And in today’s revolution the bayonets, unquestionably, need to be green. 

©Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

What can we do in the years to come to ensure food security? In the opinion of Action contre la Faim, a number of avenues could help promote secure access to food for everyone. 

In a relatively short time, microfinance has become a major tool of international development. But too many potential entrepreneurs still have little or no access to financing. Innovation and government policy have a central role to play in correcting this imbalance. 

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Hunger affects about 1 billion people around the world, and as the economic crisis continues, the push for growth can actually make matters worse.

Charles Fadel ©OECD

As technology progresses, so do labour market needs. For economies today, maintaining competitiveness means that skills must adapt and keep pace. 

Half the world’s workforce, 1.5 billion working women and men, are in vulnerable employment. The global economic crisis has swelled the ranks of those whose jobs do not provide enough to meet basic needs, the “working poor”, by more than 100 million people, mainly women.

M. van der Hoeven ©OECD

Energy markets in 2012, like the broader economic picture, are marked by significant uncertainty. From a policy perspective, global macroeconomic concerns in 2011 diverted attention away from energy policy and could do the same this year. That could have worrying impacts on policy progress, especially as recent months have ushered in record carbon dioxide emissions, worsening energy efficiency and sustained high oil prices. 

Marie Gad

In many African countries, where unemployment rates can run as high as 30%, there is strong potential for entrepreneurship and employment. Development must focus on bringing down the barriers to progress. 

©Mark Armstrong

In October 2011, a high-level panel headed by the former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, delivered a ground-breaking report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, arguing that everyone around the globe should receive a living income, guaranteed through transfers in cash or in kind, such as pensions for the elderly and persons with disabilities, child benefits, income support benefits and/or employment guarantees, and services for the unemployed and working poor. Martin Hirsch, a member of that panel, explains why this proposal for a more socially responsible globalisation can work. 

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