Skip to main content

Model for a new city in China. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/BloombergTomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

The world is changing. There has been a dramatic shift in economic power, and the global South is now a prime driver of growth, innovation and entrepreneurship. That is a persuasive reason to give the South more of a voice in global governance.

Consider that in seven years, the combined economic output of Brazil, China and India (much of the South is strictly speaking in the Northern Hemisphere) will surpass that of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S put together. Developing countries hold more than three-quarters of the assets in sovereign wealth funds worldwide.

The rapid advance of the BRICS is, of course, an old story, but smaller countries such as Chile, Turkey, Mexico and Thailand have also made enormous improvements by investing in education, health and infrastructure.

These changes are charted in the 2013 Human Development Report, released on Thursday in Mexico City by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Helen Clark, the United Nations Development Programme administrator. "The South is developing at a pace unprecedented in human history with hundreds of millions of people being lifted out of poverty in developing nations and billions more poised to join a new global middle class," says the report, titled The Rise of the South.

Since 2000, all countries have made strides on the human development index, which measures education, life expectancy and standard of living. No country is worse off. And, more than 40 developing economies have made greater gains than had been predicted – made possible, at least in part, by investing in girls and educating women.

The authors are right to call on global institutions to better reflect this profound reshaping of the world. While the G20 is a step in the right direction, other bodies, including the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, must become more representative, accountable and transparent. China, the second largest economy in the world, has only a 3.3-per-cent share in the World Bank, less than that of France.

Some innovative programs in the South can be replicated in underdeveloped parts of the North. For example, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg travelled to Toluca, Mexico, to study that region's conditional cash-transfer program, which provides incentives for families to keep their children in school.

The transformation of the South should be an impetus for global institutions to enact reforms that reflect a change in the world order – changes that are long overdue.