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The development landscape in Asia is changing. As more countries reach middle-income levels, new challenges emerge while old ones evolve, all of which demands increasingly innovative perspectives.

These changes are taking place largely in cities – the arena in which citizen influence is the strongest. Many middle-income cities house expanding populations and often generate more than 50 per cent of the national income. Increasingly, secondary cities are vital elements in economic development strategies and as platforms for social and political innovations.

In 2012 an Asia Development Dialogue (ADD) platform was started as a collaboration between Oxfam GB, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (Singapore), with support from the Rockefeller Foundation. The ADD aimed to promote multidisciplinary analysis and debate on issues surrounding social and economic development in Asia.

This paper represents an exploration of questions that the ADD discussions brought to the surface. It both highlights emerging issues and provides different perspectives on persistent ones.

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