Research Interests

The field of International Development is diverse and multidisciplinary. In order to expand the perspective of our community, we formed this page which includes central debates from the field. 

You are welcome to find the news, publications and debates from the world of international development that suit your interest.  

On Conflict and Development


1. Conflict and Development (Routledge, second edition, 2016)

Roger MacGinty and Andrew Williams

Over the past decade, a new awareness of the relationship between conflicts and development has grown.  This book explores the complex links between violent conflict (usually civil wars) and development, under-development and uneven development.  Specifically, it examines the role of poverty, state, market, civil society, globalization, humanitarian aid, refuges, gender and health within conflict. The book also investigates specific development issues emerging during conflict management and post conflict reconstruction. By drawing on contemporary theoretical debates and examining current policies and events, it considers how peace making, peace building, and post-war reconstruction are usually more sustainable and successful if politicians, policy makers, entrepreneurs and those working for international NGOs seriously consider local opinion and capacity. The text is illuminated throughout with case studies drawn from Africa, the Balkans, Asia and the Middle East.

2. Between Development and Destruction: An Enquiry into the Causes of Conflict in Post-Colonial States (Palgrave 2016)

Edited by  Kumar Rupesinghe, Paul Sciarone, Luc van de Goor

The ongoing disengagement of East and West from Cold-War politics has resulted in an unstable international political situation characterized by regional conflicts. Most analyses now concentrate on the consequences for Europe and the former communist Central and East European states. In this edited volume, however, the contributors provide major theoretical analyses of the causes of conflict in developing countries. Four main factors are distinguished: the processes of state-formation and nation-building; the rise or return of ethnicity and nationalism; socio-economic factors; and the armaments-conflict nexus. The volume also provides in-depth regional analyses, as well as policy perspectives on the issue of conflict and development.

3. Introduction: Eight Myths of Conflict and Development in the Middle East

Jan Selby and Mariz Tadros

The authors of this issue of the International Development Studies Bulletin aim to identify eight myths of conflict and development related to the Middle East region. Some of these myths, which cut across academia, foreign policy and development interventions, are specific to the Middle East; others are "global" myths that regional developments contradict. The myths are: 1) that there is a unilinear model of development; 2) that low development and violent conflict are natural bedfellows; 3) that there is an alternative rentier path of development; 4) that fragile statehood is the main institutional cause of violence; 5) that environmental scarcities are an increasingly important contributor to conflict; 6) that countries need to pass a number of milestones on a democratization pathway; 7) that more humanitarian aid will contain the Syrian refugee crisis; and 8) that, following the Arab Spring, people's agency has been defeated.

4. Arts as a Vehicle for Community Building and Post-disaster Development.

E. Huss, R. Kaufman, A. Avgar, and E. Shuker

Use of the arts in international aid is common in an ad hoc form, but it has not been systematically theorized or evaluated. The arts have the potential to be a culturally contextualised and sustainable intervention for adults and children in the aftermath of war or disaster. On the micro level, the arts are a method to enable the retrieval and reprocessing of traumatic memories that are often encoded in images rather than in words. On a macro level, they can help to reconstruct a group narrative of a disaster as well as mobilise people back into control of their lives. This paper researches a long-term project using arts in Sri Lanka following the civil war and tsunami. A central finding is the need to understand arts within their cultural context, and their usefulness in strengthening the voices and problem-solving capacities of the victims of the disaster.

5. The Legacies of Armed Conflict on Lasting Peace and Development in Latin America

Annika Rettberg

This article in the UN Chronicle discusses how it has been widely documented that the relationship between armed conflict and development is circular. On the one hand, conflicts have been more frequent in less developed countries. On the other hand, in the course of conflict, conditions favorable to development tend to deteriorate, causing new conflicts to emerge and old ones to linger. Even when armed conflicts end, by military or negotiated means, the legacies of violent confrontation remain. These legacies include the atrophy of crucial social institutions, weak democratic regimes, corrupt practices in the distribution of natural resources, the ongoing circulation of weapons and the transformation or proliferation of crime. In sum, conflicts have lasting negative impacts on society. Latin America is particularly well suited for the exploration of armed conflict and development, and the challenges this poses for lasting peace. Once marked by several lasting armed conflicts in countries such as Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru, the region was recently on the brink of witnessing the oldest and last of the armed conflicts in the hemisphere.


Water as a Development Issue

Future water availability for global food production: The potential of green water for increasing resilience to global change

Johan Rokstrom, et. al

While past strategies for agricultural water management have focused on irrigation (use of "blue" water or water that has been sourced from surface or groundwater resources), this paper demonstrates the dominance of "green" water in food production (that water from precipitation that is stored in the root zone of the soil and evaporated, transpired or incorporated by plants). A global, yet spatially disaggregated, green-blue analysis of water availability and requirement, indicates that many countries currently assessed as severely water short are able to produce enough food for their populations if green water is considered and is managed well. For 2050, the scenario indicates that 59% of the world population will face blue water shortage, and 36% will face green and blue water shortage. Even under climate change, good options to build water resilience exist without further expansion of cropland, particularly through management of local green water resources that reduces risks for dry spells and agricultural droughts.

 From IWRM back to integrated water resources management

Mark Giordano and Tushaar Shah

Integrated water resources management provides a set of ideas to help us manage water more holistically. However, these ideas have been formalized over time in what has now become, in capitals, Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), with specific prescriptive principles whose implementation is often supported by donor funding and international advocacy. IWRM has now become an end in itself, in some cases undermining functioning water management systems, in others setting back needed water reform agendas, and in yet others becoming a tool to mask other agendas. Critically, the current monopoly of IWRM in global water management discourse is shutting out alternative thinking on pragmatic solutions to existing water problems. This paper explains these issues and uses examples of transboundary water governance in general, groundwater management in India and rural–urban water transfer in China to show that there are (sometimes antithetical) alternatives to IWRM which are being successfully used to solve major water problems. The main message is that we should simply get on with pragmatic politics and solutions to the world's many individual water challenges.

Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage to Prevent Diarrheal Disease in Developing Countries

Thomas Clasen

Household water treatment and safe storage (HWTS), such as boiling, filtering, or chlorinating water at home, have been shown to be effective in improving the microbiological quality of drinking water. However, estimates of their protective effect against diarrhea, a major killer, have varied widely. While results may be exaggerated because of reporting bias, this heterogeneity is consistent with other environmental interventions that are implemented with varying levels of coverage and uptake in settings where the source of exposure represents one of many transmission pathways. Evidence suggests that the effectiveness of HWTS can be optimized by ensuring that the method is microbiologically effective; (2) making it accessible to an exposed population; and (3) securing their consistent and long-term use.

Take a fluid approach to build fresh water resilience
Fred Boltz

This Devex essay, part of the #waterwindow series describes how humans have built up and often inhabit areas where flooding is a regular occurrence. We continue to farm in regions prone to drought, and, at great effort and expense, attempt to divert water to places it is not meant to go, or away from areas to which it naturally flows. These artificial solutions create vulnerabilities that are being rapidly exposed as water supplies grow more scarce. Humanitarian aid is essential to lessen the impact of and support recovery from such events. Yet this approach will only get so far: a slow return to normal, followed by exposure to bigger and more frequently recurring events A 21st century approach to water and to development is one that builds resilience. This means that we look for ways in which people at risk could actually thrive under recurrent water challenges — to anticipate, mitigate and rise above floods. A "Water Window Challenge," backed by a $10 million commitment from the Z Zurich Foundation. It delivers results for both communities and a business partner by awarding up to $1 million in grants for teams offering innovative solutions to issues affecting flood prone communities.

The Flood Resilience chair group

UNESCO-IHE: Institute for Water Education

The Flood Resilience chair group (FRG) is a multi-disciplinary research group with an established national and international reputation in (urban) flood resilience. Rooted in Dutch and European funded research projects and with strong ties to Delft University of Technology, FRG has recently extended its focus into a global perspective, including the developing countries mainly in Asia.
FRG is involved in a number of national and international research projects. In the majority of these studies learning (education and capacity building) and research are developed together with local, regional, and national actors. This is an important feature of FRG as it aims to actively participate in the design and implementation of integrated (drought and) flood risk management strategies while conducting research.

New Trends in Global Health and Development

 Climate Change and Health

World Health Organization

Global climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health including clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond. The WHO is reporting new research on this topic, and The WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific Health has released a report on how efforts to address climate change must be mainstreamed, and action must be coordinated across national boundaries and in all sectors. This report synthesizes information and approaches on climate change and health. It also examines efforts by various experts and stakeholders, with an in-depth look at experiences in seven Member States that reflect the diversity of the Region. Finally, it offers recommendations for policy-makers.


Diabetes: A Global Health and Development Challenge

International Diabetes Federation 

Countries still grappling with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria now face a double burden of disease. Major social and economic change has brought an escalating diabetes epidemic to low- and middle-income countries (LMCs). Diabetes kills and disables, impoverishes families, imposes a huge economic burden on governments and business, and overwhelms health systems. But this global shift in the burden of diabetes has not been reflected in the policy priorities of donor countries and organisations. Diabetes and the related non-communicable diseases (cancer, cardiovascular disease and chronic respiratory disease) remain underfunded development issues. This policy briefing addresses common myths about diabetes in the developing world, and its impact on economic sustainability and human development.


Zika Virus: How Poverty and Politics will Determine its Social Costs

International Policy Digest

Joshua Kruskal

The author argues that the WHO January 2016 announcement that the Zika virus could infect up to four million people in the Americas has been over-dramatized. Zika, while certainly a cause for serious concern, does not merit the panic that is seemingly being encouraged via the explosion of media coverage that began in late 2015. Panic, while undoubtedly an important factor in encouraging strong state reactions to the outbreak, is likely to lead to political responses to Zika in the short term – visible measures such as airport screenings, quarantines, and awareness campaigns – rather than a more rational and sustainable approach to confronting the root causes of the epidemic.The same poor communities that are likely to be impacted the most severely by Zika are also among the least well-equipped to confront the disease. Zika is a "disease of poverty" endemic in poor regions where a lack of public health infrastructure allows illnesses to spread without significant resistance. In sum, poverty will be a critical factor in determining where the virus will hit the hardest.


Out of the Shadows: Making Mental Health a Global Priority

World Health Organization

Mental health issues impose an enormous disease burden on societies across the world. Depression alone affects 350 million people globally and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Despite its enormous social burden, mental disorders continue to be driven into the shadows by stigma, prejudice and fear. The issue is becoming ever more urgent in light of the forced migration and sustained conflict we are seeing in many countries of the world.

A two-day series of events in April, co-hosted by the World Bank and the World Health Organization aimed to move mental health from the margins to the mainstream of the global development agenda. The events to engage finance ministers, multilateral and bilateral organizations, the business community, technology innovators, and civil society will emphasize the urgent investments needed in mental health services, and the expected returns in terms of health, social and economic benefits.  


We Now live in a World in which More People are Obese than Underweight, Major Global Analysis Reveals 

Science News Daily summary of Majid Ezzati et al. in The Lancet

In the past 40 years, there has been a startling increase in the number of obese people worldwide -- rising from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014, according to the most comprehensive analysis of trends in body mass index to date. The age-corrected proportion of obese men has more than tripled (3.2% to 10.8%), and the proportion of obese women has more than doubled (6.4% to 14.9%) since 1975. At the same time, the proportion of underweight people fell more modestly--by around a third in both men (13.8% to 8.8%) and women (14.6% to 9.7%).Although low and middle-income countries are impacted by this trend, it is important to note that excessively low body weight remains a serious public health issue in the world's poorest regions, and the authors warn that global trends in rising obesity should not overshadow the continuing underweight problem in the poorest countries. 

On Sports and Development

A platform for practitioners to introduce themselves to the vision and mission of sport in development. The organization states they envision the platform as a space for all those with an interest or commitment to using sport as a tool to advocate for sport's role in development, and to make it credible and more effective, creating, "a hub for sharing knowledge, building good practice, facilitating coordination and fostering partnerships between and within different stakeholders in Sport & Development."

UN Office for Sport for Development and Peace: UN system in Action

The Office provides history, contemporary initiatives, and sport as it relates to the SDGs. It states: "Sport and play are human rights that must be respected and enforced worldwide; sport has been increasingly recognized and used as a low-cost and high-impact tool in humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts, not only by the UN system but also by NGOs, development agencies, sports federations, armed forces and the media. Sport can no longer be considered a luxury within any society but is rather an important investment in the present and future, particularly in developing countries."

Governance in sport-for-development: Problems and possibilities of (not) learning from international development

By Iain Lindsey

The lack of attention towards issues of governance in both global sport-for-development (SfD) policy and academic literature is placed in stark relief in this article.The author addresses issues in sport-for-development by drawing on international development literature, interview data from representatives of international agencies, domestic governments and in-country non-governmental organizations involved with sport-for-development in Ghana and Tanzania. He argues that commonality of narrow, project-based approaches in sport-for-development contributes to excessive donor influence, fragmentation, competition and limits both impact and sustainability.

Sport for Development and Peace in Action: Building Facts for Funding
By Andrew Webb and André Richelieu

This article explores how claims that sport contributes to development or peace are transformed into facts. It demonstrates the subtle art of SDP fact building for funding purposes. Specifically, through an integrative literature review, two case studies, a mix of fact-building actors composed of experts, literature, and allies, the expose and analyze problems in SDP. Furthermore, a conceptual model that synthesizes the relationship between the mix of fact-building actors and  predisposed funding agencies is also proposed.

Positive Youth Development Programming with Marginalized Populations
By Tanya Forneris, Corliss Bean and Tanya Hallsall

Participation in sport and physical activity-based positive youth development (PYD) programs can foster a number of positive outcomes in youth. Such benefits, however, may be particularly important for youth from marginalized populations as they are often at greater risk of experiencing negative outcomes. The authors provide brief overview of research and programming related to three different marginalized populations: 1) Female youth from families living on low incomes in Canada; 2) Aboriginal youth in Canada and 3) Youth from Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC). In addition to the overview of research and programming with these three populations, the authors also provide an in-depth case example of a life skills program in which they have been involved in developing, implementing, or evaluating with these three marginalized populations, and a an outline of future directions for sport and physical activity programs with marginalized youth.


On Trends in Gender, Development, and Human Rights

Dr. Nancy Strichman Blog on the Times of Israel newspaper site

Past Achievements and Future Directions of Women’s and Feminist Organizations in Israel

By Dr. Nancy Strichman for the National Council of Jewish Women

Today, there are more than a hundred organizations active in Israel that are devoted exclusively to advancing women’s status or promoting gender equality. These organizations touch on issues as diverse as: economic empowerment, fair and equal political representation, sexual harassment, gender wage gaps, peace efforts, religious freedom, healthy sexuality, preventing gender-based violence and women’s expression in the arts and culture.

The research aims to present a snapshot of the agendas, priorities and concerns expressed by the field. It primarily seeks to shed light and build on the vital conversations that are taking place among activists, organizational representatives, funders, journalists, and public officials regarding the current and future efforts in Israel to promote the status of women and advance gender equality.

Rights in Transition: Making Legal Recognition of Transgender People a Global Priority

By Neela Ghoshal and Kyle Knight, Human Rights Watch

An overview of the current state of human rights among transgender people across the globe including disproportionate murder rates, arrests, and other forms of violence, abuse and discrimination. The report also provides highlight of transgender communities receiving legal recognition, and how this recognition serves as a gateway for right to privacy, the right to freedom of expression, the right to be free from arbitrary arrest, and rights related to employment, education, health, security, access to justice, and the ability to move freely.

Refugee Men as Perpetrators, Allies, or Troublemakers?: Emerging Discourses on Men and Masculinities in Humanitarian Aid

By Elizabeth Olivius

Including men and boys in order to successfully promote gender equality has been increasingly emphasized in international policymaking and governance. This article examines emerging discourses on men, masculinities and gender equality in the field of humanitarian aid to refugees. Refugee men are represented as perpetrators of violence and discrimination; as powerful gatekeepers and potential allies; and as emasculated troublemakers. These ways of conceptualizing men and masculinity are problematic in ways which significantly limit their potential for the transformation of unequal gender relations: gendered power relations are obscured; refugee men's masculinity is pathologized as “primitive”; and attempts to take the needs of men into account are often turned into an argument against the empowerment of refugee women.

Child Marriage is a Violation of Human Rights, but is all too Common


Marriage before the age of 18 is considered violation of human rights, yet among women aged 20 to 24 worldwide, one in four were child brides.  Many factors interact to place a girl at risk of marriage, including poverty, the perception that marriage will provide ‘protection’, family honour, social norms, customary or religious laws that condone the practice, an inadequate legislative framework and the state of a country's civil registration system. Child marriage often compromises a girl’s development by resulting in early pregnancy and social isolation, interrupting her schooling, limiting her opportunities for career and vocational advancement and placing her at increased risk of domestic violence. This report provides an overview of trends in child marriage.

Gender Violence as Global Phenomenon: Refugees, Genital Surgeries, and Neocolonial Projects of the United States

By Sarah L. Mckinnon

Focusing on U.S. legal, political, and media discourse about female circumcision in particular, and gender violence more broadly, this essay examines what U.S. imaginaries about global gender violence enable as warrants for neocolonial consolidations of U.S. power in the 21st century through international projects and programs. It questions what the recognition of gender violence as a global phenomenon does for U.S. neocolonial projects of defense, development, and diplomacy. It is the flexibility of gender violence as a rhetoric make it potent in the service of U.S. neocolonial practices and projects around the world?

Human Trafficking Is More Than Sex Trafficking and Prostitution: Implications Implications for Social Work

Maria Beatriz Alvarez and Edward J. Alessi

This article critically examines the current discourse on human trafficking because the sole focus on women and children diverts attention from the study of trafficking within the context of globalization and the exploitation of labor. It analyzes the term "human trafficking," particularly how it became linked to antiprostitution campaigns, and suggests guidelines for a framework that is grounded in social work values.

Map: Explore the Gender Labour Gap around the World

International Labour Organization: Women at Work, Trends 2016

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 23 and 24 specifically identify and explain the issue of the right to work and employment as human rights and include fair payment, hours, and conditions. Despite significant progress over the past century, women have not achieved gender equality in the workplace. In many parts of the world, women are still trapped in low-skilled work and work longer unpaid hours and without pensions. This interactive maps illustrates how working women are faring around the world. 

"Voluntourism" and the dangers of exotifying international aid

1. ‘Looks good on your CV’: The sociology of voluntourism recruitment in higher education
By Coleen McGloin

Under the banner of 'making a difference' students are solicited to travel to developing countries to aid poor communities, to enjoy the sights and tastes of the distant and exotic ‘other’, the ‘experience’ touted as a useful addition to the curriculum vitae (CV). This article addresses the discursive terrain of voluntourism by providing an analysis of the ways in which students are invited to participate in such cultural practices while recruiters give little or no information about the lived realities of people in poor nations.

2. Western do-gooders need to resist the allure of 'exotic problems'
By Courtney E. Martin

This article argues that problems far from home in the global south seem easier to solve, but that embracing complexity is preferable to the phenomenon of  'reductive seduction' or falling in love with quick fixes that are not always malicious, but often reckless. Controversially, it suggests that longer-term prospect of staying home and facing systemic complexity head on is sometimes more honorable. Or, go if one must go, "stay long enough, listen hard enough so that 'other people' become real people"  and that  they may no longer seem so easy to “save.”

 3. The voluntourist's dilemma

By Jacob Kushner

Unsatisfying as it may be, this article suggests we ought to acknowledge the truth that amateurs often don’t have much to offer the developing world. Perhaps we ought to abandon the assumption that we, simply by being privileged enough to travel the world, are somehow qualified to help ease the world’s ills. The author has come to believe that the first step toward "making the world a better place" is to simply experience that place. Unless one is willing to devote your career to studying international affairs and public policy, researching the mistakes that foreign charities have made while acting upon good intentions, and identifying approaches to development that have data and hard evidence behind them volunteering abroad may not for you.

 4. Sustainability in voluntourism organisations: A study of implementations and effects

By Evelina Andersen and Ida Ryberg

This research paper, with a case study on the Philipenes, suggests that  voluntourism is indeed a more sustainable form of tourism, and that vountourism leads to increased local access to education and work. However,  to determine if organisations are able to optimise their sustainability, they need to address economic, environmental, and social aspects of a local problem.

 5. ‘Don't make my people beggars’: a developing world house of cards

By Bethina Loiseau,

The authors describes a faith-based volunteer on non-skilled youth in an un-named, medium-sized Latin American country. They argue that the economic impacts arising from the phenomenon of short-term international volunteering often vary; while volunteers introduce a new revenue that may support local job creation, they may also inadvertently disrupt the local workforce with their contributions, and thereby drive up unemployment. In addition, there may be a shift of economic focus towards attracting and supporting volunteers, rather than developing meaningful capacity in needed developmental areas. The article also considers the impacts of intended evangelism, unintended cultural colonialism, and education over service. 

On Sustainable Cities in the Developing World

The World Bank Sustainable Cities
World Bank Blog Series


This new platform is designed for urban development professionals to exchange ideas, and address two foundational questions: What makes a sustainable city? How do we measure a city's sustainability? This space also serves as a portal to sustainable city news and articles professionals are currently reading.

Global Report on Urban Health: Equitable, Healthier Cities for Sustainable Development
World Health Organization: UN-Habitat for a Better Urban Future

This 2016 WHO report, centering on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) moves beyond global demographic trends (specifically the projection that half of the anticipated world’s population that will live in cities in 2050), to link urban sustainability with health, economic productivity, social stability and inclusion, climate change and healthy environments, built environment and governance. 

Poverty, Urbanization, and Environmental Degradation: Urban Streams in the Developing World
by Krista A. Capps, Catherine N. Bentsen and Alonso Ramírez

Basic infrastructure to support water supply and wastewater treatment is frequently lacking in lower-income countries, impacting both human health and for ecosystem structure and function.  The authors discuss  relationships between urban watersheds and marginalized human populations in lower-income countries, arguing that that sustainable management of urban watersheds and the provisioning of drinking water and sanitation services require integration of innovative technology and financing schemes into ecosystem-based management.

Sustainable Urban Transport in the Developing World: Beyond Megacities
Dorina Pojani and Dominic Stead

Megacities receive a disproportionate amount of attention over other sizes of cities over smaller and medium-sized cities in conversations bout urban sustainability. In principle, smaller cities allows for flexibility in terms of urban expansion, adoption of “green” travel modes, and environmental protection. At the same time, smaller and medium-sized cities often have fewer resources to implement new transport measures and can be more vulnerable to fluctuations in the world economy.


Cities and Development: 2nd Edition
by Sean Fox Tom Goodfellow

This 2016 Routledge revised and expanded second edition surveys: the historical origins of world urbanization; the role cities play in the process of economic development; the nature of urban poverty and the challenge of promoting sustainable livelihoods; the complexities of managing urban land, housing, infrastructure and urban services; and the spectres of endemic crime, conflict and violence in urban areas. This updated volume also contains two entirely new chapters: one that examines the links between urbanization and environmental change, and a second that focuses on urban governance and politics. 

The History of Development

Writing the History of Development Part 1:  (The First Wave)

By Joseph Morgan Hodge

Reviews the key contributions over the past twenty years to post-development studies, with reflections on how, despite the projection that development as a project would not survive its critics, "the central tenets of the development discourse continue to persist and permeate the minds of policy makers and analysts, seemingly impervious to criticism and meaningful reform."  

Beyond Colonialism, Development and Globalization

Edited by Dominique Caouette and Dip Kapoor

Contributors suggest that development "from below," ought to be taken seriously, as they analyze theories of development from the perspective of the subaltern populations often considered beneficiaries of development. Through case studies, it explores the ways in which the Global South not only rejects Western notions of development and modernization, but offer their own, viable alternatives, particularly through social movements.

Geopolitics and Development

By Marcus Power 

Offers a critical assessment of how geopolitics and development have interacted over time, particularly during key historical junctures such as the Cold War, the end of empire, and the War on Terror. It also considers what the rise of emerging global leaders such as China, Brazil and India means for established practices of development co-operation, if not the development paradigm as a whole.

The Problem with Saving the World: The UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals aim to save the world without transforming it

By Jason Hickel

Critics accuse the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of being vague, aspirational, and trying to cover too much ground; they prefer the old, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which focused on reducing absolute poverty. Defenders of the SDGs, however, explain that the goals have emerged from an authentically inclusive process, involving developing countries, unlike the MDGs, which were top-down. Hickel outlines the debate and argues that the SDGs are profoundly contradictory, to the point of being self-defeating

The Future of Aid: Will International NGOs survive?

By Deborah Doane 

Climate change and digital campaigns are among the challenges that will force NGOs to reinvent themselves, as their legitimacy is in question by governments, southern partners, donors, and even their own staff.  Social innovation is rising up around INGOs, making them appear outdated and static, and social enterprises are replacing the service delivery space where INGOs once led, confronted by a fresh wave of philanthro-capitalists seeking out “beyond charity” solutions to poverty.  

On Economic Development

Enterprising Africa: What role can financial inclusion play in driving employment-led growth

by Josephine Osikena and Deniz Ugur
A January 2016 Foreign Policy Institute report on how improving  access and distribution of financial services influences job creation across Africa, with a foreword by  Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Dr Carlos Lopes


Is Decentralization good for development?: Perspectives from academics and policy makers                           

by Jean-Paul Faguet and Caroline Pöschl                                                                                       A new book from Oxford University Press that explains how decentralization can be designed to drive development forward, improve public sector performance and strengthen economies in ways that enhance citizen well-being. Included detailed studies from 12 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.


China's Looming Human Capital Crisis: Upper secondary educational attainment rates and the middle Income Trap               

by Niny Khor, Lihua Pang, Chengfang Liu, Fang Chang, Di Mo, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
A 2016 working paper from Stanford Center for International Development  discusses how if Chines students fail to acquire upper secondary schooling, not only will they have a hard time finding high-wage employment in the future, but the development of the economies in which they work may also stagnate. Is China is ready, in terms of the education of its labor force, to progress from middle- income to high-income country status?


5 things to know about Latin America's Economy    

by Keith Breen                                                                                                                                  A new World Economic Forum report on how Latin America is facing its first region-wide downturn since 2009. While individual nations in the region are faring differently, all Latin American countries are facing a challenging economic climate, as economic growth is near zero, equality gains have stalled, and the political landscape is changing. 

Power Africa Launches Roadmap to 60 Million Connections and 30,000 MW by 2030

USAID Press Office                                                                                                                    Lack of electricity puts a break on Africa's economic growth and development and USAID argues that Power Africa  and the 2016 Power Africa Summit is breaking the logjam on energy infrastructure and keeping capital flowing to worthy projects. This Roadmap lays out a path to achieving President Obama's vision of bringing electricity to 60 million African homes and businesses. The Power Africa Tracking Tool, a mobile app provides previously unavailable data to increase transparency and offers insight into the actual deals on the ground.



Ethics in Development

People smugglers help transport migrants across international borders without authorization, and in return for compensation. Many object to to this practice, viewing it as unethical, or even evil. The author offers defense of people smuggling, arguing that it that assists refugees in escaping threats to their rights, and can therefore be morally justified. He rebuts the objections that people smugglers exploit migrants, have defective motivations, and wrongly violate the law, concluding that people smuggling is sometimes a permissible way of helping refugees to evade unjust immigration restrictions and compelling states to bear their fair share of the global refugee population. 

2. The Ethics of International Service Learning as a Pedagogical Development Practice: a Canadian Study
Debra D. Chapman, Third World Quarterly, January 2016

International service learning, a form of service learning where students travel to developing countries to provide community services of varying types, has come to be common practice at universities throughout the Global North. This paper reports and discusses a case study focused on the ethical questions arising from current practice at one Canadian university. The study follows the path students take from their home university to their final placement. In the context of the political economy of North–South relations in a period of neoliberalism, the analysis considers the ethics of power differentials, reciprocity, accountability, student preparedness and qualifications in relation to host communities. The article concludes with a critique of post-secondary institutional involvement with and promotion of international service learning.

3. Applied Ethics and Allocation of Foreign Aid: Disparity in Pretensions and Practice
Jónína Einarsdóttir and Geir Gunnlaugsson, Development Policy Review, April 2016 
The authors explore the applied ethics of development aid and humanitarian assistance, and juxtapose these with claimed objectives and factors that influence the choice of recipients. Despite some diversity among donors, ethical considerations appear not to be a prominent factor for allocation of aid. Although recipients’ need is not entirely ignored, donors’ self-interest and herd behaviour, as well as recipients’ merits and voting in the United Nations, play crucial roles in allocation decisions. Likely to be shunned are complex emergencies and fragile states, the overlapping settings for action of development and humanitarian aid. The authors suggest that donors should take to heart and put into practice that allocation of aid is an ethical endeavour that should rest on proper needs assessment, established objectives and adopted agreements.

4. Building Ethical Global Health Care Systems
Abraar Karan, MD, AMA Journal of Ethics. Special issue on Ethics in Global Health  July 2016

The lack of a robust health care workforce is both a symptom and a propagator of health inequities. Disparities in global health care reveal the most blatant violations of the rights to live, succeed, and be happy—because to do any of those things, one needs to have access to health care.Two of the biggest questions confronting the global health community are these: Who should be leading the charge to build or rebuild health care systems in resource-poor countries? Given the diversity of populations and plurality of needs, what’s the “right” way—in terms of policy and infrastructure design, for example—for a system to meet unmet health needs? One major point of contention is top-down versus bottom-up models of developing health systems’ capacities to respond to health needs. Does successful health systems strengthening come from national policies and wide-reaching programs that are implemented through intergovernmental collaboration? Or does it depend on the input of the very people it is meant to help by addressing—organically and incrementally—smaller, communal problems through a patchwork of different but interconnected projects? 


5. IDEA (The International Development Ethics Association)
Founded in 1984, IDEA is an international, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary group of philosophers, development and environmental theorists, and practitioners. IDEA has three primary goals: 1) To apply ethical reflection to development goals and strategies and to relations between the “North” and “South;” 2) To effect ethically sound development policies, institutions, and practices. 3) To promote solidarity, mutual support, and interchange among those development theorists and practitioners throughout the world who are seeking to implement ethically better development paradigms and strategies. IDEA offers membership, holds international conferences, and maintains an active website.