Women in developing countries are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than men ©Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

Women are consumers, business owners, farmers, employees and entrepreneurs. They are dependent on market systems and need access to finance to manage their livelihoods.

Nowhere in the world do women have as many opportunities as men, whether those opportunities are economic, social or political. If we’re going to make our commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) count, we have to start here.

©Parth Sanyal/Reuters

UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which was adopted in 2000, recognised, for the first time, the vital contribution of women to conflict prevention and resolution. 

If you are scanning today’s uncertain global economy for stories of encouragement, then look no further than Malaysia. For just as the famous Petronas Towers shine above its capital, Kuala Lumpur, this diverse, federal Southeast Asian country of over 31 million people stands out for its resilient and robust economic performance. Can the country keep up this promising performance and achieve its ambitious goals?

After years of strong performance, Latin America’s economies are facing a dimmer outlook. The region’s GDP growth will be negative for the second consecutive year in 2016, shrinking by between 0.9% and 1% in 2016, a contraction which has not been seen since the early 1980s. This slowdown has stalled the reduction of inequalities and the expansion of the middle class, with 25 to 30 million vulnerable Latin Americans at risk of falling back into poverty in the near future. 

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The African Union has made harmonising economic statistics across Africa a key objective of Agenda 2063, which is its 50-year pan-African economic development strategy. Better data is also relevant to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, of which goal 17 aims to improve domestic tax revenues and collection to strengthen resources. 

While many thatch roofs were replaced by more modern slate roofs as part of the 1970s New Village Movement (Saemaul Undong), some better specimens were preserved, such as in Yangdong village, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. ©Robert Harding/Alamy Stock Photo

Cities are in fashion nowadays among policy-makers as countries everywhere look to urban areas as hubs for innovation and growth. But what about the countryside? Economic development led by continuous rural-to-urban migration and rising living standards and opportunities in the urban milieu, not to mention industrialisation, contributes to widening disparities between rural and urban areas. Korea’s development experience shows that socially-inclusive and sustainable growth requires developing rural areas as an integral part of successful economic development. Indeed, Korea’s rapid rise from a mainly agricultural and food-aid recipient nation to one of the fastest-growing, developed OECD economies was made possible by a structural transformation that involved urban and rural areas alike.

© Joe Penney / Reuters

We don’t know the name, or the place and exact date of birth, of the baby who changed world history. My guess is that she was born somewhere in Africa in 2007. Not that she cared as she lay there all wrinkled and raging at the disagreeable turn her life had just taken, but it was thanks to her that for the first time ever, the world had more urban dwellers than country folk.

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Africa’s urban population growth rate was the world’s fastest at 4% between 1960 and 2010, and it is clear that urbanisation across its 54 countries will continue to pose policy challenge in the years ahead. But unlike in many other regions of the world, people quitting the countryside to settle in cities will not be the main driver of that growth.

Africa is the least urbanised continent in the world but an urban transition is very much underway. This is particularly visible in West Africa where the number of urban agglomerations increased from 152 in 1950 to almost 2,000 in 2010. Between 2000 and 2010 alone, the urban population grew by over 40 million people, making towns and cities home to 41% of the region’s total population.

©Charlotte Moreau

With the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has set itself ambitious targets for the next 15 years. But ambition will also be essential if we are to collect and process the data needed for monitoring the goals. Thanks to more than half a century of experience, the OECD is well-placed to support this global project.

This year London’s population overtook its historical high of 8.6 million reached at the outset of the Second World War, bucking the trend of many European and North American cities, which have experienced only slight, or even negative, growth. Compared to other global cities, London is inching forward, with only nine new residents per hour, compared to double that number in São Paulo and over 70 in Delhi, Kinshasa and Dhaka. Nonetheless, London will accommodate a million more people by 2030.

African nations are exploring how best to harness the potential of cities as agents of change to achieve progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The current African Economic Outlook (AEO), jointly produced by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme, warns that policy makers and donors too often are blind to the territorial realities of the economies they are trying to help develop. Economies are seen as sectors rather than places. And thus sectoral lenses tend to limit policy action to a few specific tools, regardless of the complexity of problems that demand a place-based, multi-sectoral and participatory approach.

Sea change for the Moroccan port of Tangier ©Alamy

Tangier in 2000 was a sleepy coastal city in the north of Morocco. Fifteen years later, Tangier’s population has exploded three-fold into a vibrant metropolitan area of 1.5 million inhabitants. The city’s free-zones have attracted new industries, such as automobile producers. A new business district called Tangier City Center and new satellite cities arise around Tangier’s old town, providing local inhabitants with modern infrastructure and amenities that have been sorely lacking. A new high-speed train is being built to connect people with the state-of-the-art Ibn Batouta International Airport.

2015 has been a challenging year for Africa. Average growth of African economies weakened in 2015 to 3.6%, down from an average annual 5% enjoyed since 2000.

On 25 September 2015, the 193 countries of the United Nation’s General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This comprehensive set of goals aims to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all” as part of a new development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by 2030, and by including education, health, poverty, climate change and the gender divide on the list of 17 goals, the SDGs place in stark light some of the seemingly intractable challenges facing the world.

©Sodexo

Not so long ago, “globalisation” was a favourite paradigm in international business. It was a trend that began in the late 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s, when corporate takeovers were the order of the day and multinational companies fixated on maximising short-term profits and boosting share prices. One approach was “global sourcing”, also called outsourcing or offshoring. The strategy typically involved moving the company’s operations to wherever labour was cheapest. First the production work went abroad, and then companies were offloading all but their most essential core activities.

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The Paris Agreement on climate change signals the end of business as usual for energy industries. For the first time in history more than 150 developed and developing countries have promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But how binding are these agreements? And do they provide impetus for local action in Africa?

Creeping protectionism is alive and well. Last year’s monitoring report on trade for the G20 reminded us that of the nearly 1,500 trade-restrictive measures imposed by G20 countries since 2008, fewer than 400 have been removed. The stock of these barriers continues to grow, despite a pledge by the G20 to reduce protectionism. Not surprisingly, given this context, a recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) report concludes that the risks to the international trading system and to trade flows more generally “are tilted to the downside.”

In Hungary, young people want to have bigger families, but concerns over issues like housing and striking a work-life balance appear to be obstacles. In response, the government has introduced a range of family-friendly policies–a vital step in helping families fulfil their dreams and in meeting the challenge of a rapidly ageing population.

Productivity growth has slowed since the crisis and inequality of income and opportunity has been getting worse. Could they be impacting each other?

©Photosensitive/Reuters

The UN Sustainable Development Goals could be a real game changer for gender issues, with wins in fraught areas such as reproductive rights. But there will be challenges, and opposing voices, to contend with in the years ahead.

©AFP/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/NURPHOTO

The UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris in November-December is the final crucial step in a year which has set forth several global milestones towards shaping a better common future. Tackling climate change is a determining factor in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in New York in September 2015 in particular; an agreement in Paris would not only bolster all the efforts that led to the historic SDGs, but lift the hopes of everyone on the planet, especially the most vulnerable. 

©REUTERS/Joe Penney

There are many countries emerging from conflict. Why care about Mali?

Malala Yousafzai at the UN summit ©Jemal Countess/Getty Images North America/AFP

The adoption of the post-2015 Agenda for Development at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York 25-27 September will be an important driver of the OECD’s work for the next decade and beyond. 

Geothermal plant in Indonesia, which holds considerable geothermal energy potential thanks to its hundreds of active and extinct volcanoes ©Reuters/Beawiharta Beawiharta

Climate change is the pre-eminent challenge of our time. We need financing to mitigate and adapt to its impacts.  

World leaders have just endorsed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) comprising some 169 targets. To have a chance of reaching them, we must also meet another goal: improving our data. 

Charlotte Moreau/OECD Observer

“To eradicate poverty we need to direct more development assistance and concessional loans to the poorest nations and mobilise much more private finances for development.” Official development assistance (ODA) reached an all-time high of $135.2 billion in 2014. Even so, not all developing countries rely on ODA to the same extent, and to some of them it may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to other international financial flows. However, for the least developed countries, such assistance represents over 70% of available external finance and more than one-third of their total public revenue and expenditure. This highlights the importance of the target set by the United Nations in 1970: for donors to allocate 0.7% of their gross national income as ODA.

“Like eating soup with a knife”: Peter O Toole (right) portrays TE Lawrence, with Omar Sharif, in the 1962 film, “Lawrence of Arabia” ©Kobal/The Picture Desk/AFP

Insurgency is a cause of underdevelopment in large areas of West Africa, holding back the task of achieving social and economic progress. 

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