The opening years of the twenty-first century have been characterized by rapid and dramatic changes in the global distribution of wealth, power and voice. Large countries from the South such as China, India and Brazil are increasingly prominent on the world stage, as are a diverse group of smaller countries including Turkey, Mexico and South Africa. The increasing dynamism of the South is affecting global ideas, institutions and systems ranging from international migration and financial flows to global governance organizations to social movements and development paradigms. Actors from the South are raising questions about fairness and representation in global and national governance systems and the types of policies that are most constructive in generating positive development outcomes.
Despite the recognition of global changes driven by the rise of the South, key concepts and categories are under-theorized and some important aspects of this phenomenon remain at the periphery of discussions. Much of the attention has focused on the macroeconomic growth of the BRICs, but questions remain as to who is being lifted by the South’s rising tide and how this growth is improving welfare across and within different countries of the developing world. There is little consensus over how to define the South and how to theorize the diverse development paths of the emerging economies. The long-term sustainability of recent economic patterns and the potential for greater equity are also in question. Additionally, the growth of voice from the South in both international governance institutions and in the form of increasing social movements deserve greater attention in terms of how actors from the South might transform national, regional and global governance institutions. This conference, which features a discussion of the 2013 Human Development Report, aims to clarify key aspects of the contemporary global economic and political reality: the emerging actors and institutions, the concepts needed to guide future research and decision making, and the new dynamics in the global economy.