WASHINGTON, March 14 (By Sasha Horne for RIA Novosti) - Developing nations, which have lagged behind the rest of the world for decades, are now “driving global economic growth and societal change for the first time in centuries,” and “transforming the global power balance,” according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
“Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast,” the UN’s 2013 Human Development Report said.
The report described the pace of growth among developing nations as, “unprecedented in human history, with hundreds of millions of people being lifted out of poverty…and billions more poised to join a new global middle class.”
“…the proportion of people living in extreme income poverty worldwide plunged from 43 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 2008, including more than 500 million people lifted from poverty in China alone,” the report stated.
By 2020, the report projects the combined economic output of the three leading developing countries—Brazil, China and India—will surpass the aggregate production of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“These are new power centers with new sources of technology and ideas,” Bill Orme, spokesman for the UNDP’s Human Development Report told RIA Novosti.
And as this shift occurs and developing countries emerge as peers to their already developed counterparts, the changes are projected to produce impacts that will be felt globally.
“If you compare what’s going on now with the Industrial Revolution, what happened then were big historic developments of productivity in Europe and North America which transformed the world,” Orme said.
The key difference now, experts said, is the pace of the progress.
“During the Industrial Revolution, it took 30 to 40 years for development in the United States to occur,” Orme said.
Researchers attribute the rapid growth to a change in dynamics, as citizens in the developing world demand to be heard using tools like the Internet to stay connected and share ideas through new channels of communications, the report explained.
“The computer age and access to technology has been the single biggest drive of change the world has ever seen,” Orme said.
According to the report, technological advancements including mobile phones and access to the Internet are responsible for billions of people entering the global middle class, giving citizens unprecedented access to new resources, opportunities, and institutions.
Developing nations still face major problems including poverty and civil unrest, but the report also found many of these nations have become leaders on the global stage.
“China has already overtaken Japan as the world’s second biggest economy….India is reshaping its future with new entrepreneurial creativity,” the report said, adding that Brazil has lifted its living standards and created antipoverty programs that have been emulated across the world.
But it is the social and cultural shifts in smaller developing nations including Bangladesh, Chile, Ghana, Mexico, and Argentina that have resulted in what authors of the report describe as the single most import factor to creating a successful economy in developing nations: the education of girls and women.
But the report also warned that failure to act on climate change “has the potential to halt or even reverse human development progress. The number of people in extreme poverty could increase by up to 3 billion by 2050 unless environmental disasters are averted.”
The UN also released its Human Development Index (HDI) on Thursday, which ranked 187 nations and territories according to health, income and education. Norway was ranked first, Australia second, and the United States third. The Russian Federation was ranked 55th.
The war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo and drought-stricken Niger were ranked at the bottom of the index, but the UN said both countries “despite their continuing development challenges, are among the countries that have made the greatest strides.”