Plenary 1: Middle Classes as Development Actors in a Polycentric World

Tuesday, 24 June 2014, 08.45am

Since the beginning of the new millennium, the global landscape has undergone rapid changes. Some of the largest developing countries have emerged the ‘rising stars’ of world economy with their dynamic economic development translating into achievement of some of the most important Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Europe on the other hand, continues to be mired in the euro crisis and widening gap between relatively financially stable northern core and its economically stagnating southern periphery signaling a shift in balance of power globally. One of the outstanding aspects of the rising middle income countries is the development of a middle class of several hundred million Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and others who are aspiring to life-styles comparable to those of affluent consumers in more developed countries.

This ‘new’ middle class in the Global South tend to be less wealthy compared to the European middle class consumers for example, but as a group, they have considerable purchasing power. Their aspirations extend towards determining a stronger political role in the government of their countries.

This plenary will look at the role of the global middle classes as development actors in a world with multiple poles of power; How the values and practices of the global middle classes is likely to influence future perspectives on development e.g. towards a more equitable and just world; the alliances the global middle classes in emerging economies and existing high-income economies and their representative governments forge towards management of global public goods and solving conflicts peacefully.