WIDER Annual Lecture 17
The Foundation for Sustainable Peace
President Ahtisaari reminds us that social capital is a vital and too often neglected precondition for sustainable prosperity. Highlighting the good that economic growth has done in India and China, he joins Professor Amartya Sen in arguing that the significant question is not only how we achieve economic growth, but rather what the government does with the public revenue that economic growth generates. What do we do with development when we have it? Progress in economic growth, the President stresses, does not always correspond to progress in democratic and social reform. If resources are not transparently managed, then there is only a small chance that a good education, healthcare, and equal opportunities will benefit the population at large. This is not only a challenge for developing countries. Eurostat estimates that in 2011, 24 per cent of the EU population risked poverty or social exclusion. The cost of all this comes in lost opportunities, and fragile states. The loss is social capital and trust and, President Ahtisaari argues clearly, without trust a society cannot thrive.