Friday, 11 January 2013

A year of growth: How the Globalisation team developed in 2012

By Spencer Henson

We may be half way through January, but as the first blog post of 2013, I wanted to reflect on the accomplishments of the Globalisation Team, at IDS in 2012. When you are leader of a team it is all too easy to get caught up in day-to-day management issues and income targets and miss the great work of your colleagues that is making a very real contribution to international development.

I have focused on the ‘big’ ideas and fast moving issues where I feel the team has been at the forefront of ongoing debates. I also see these areas of work as being of prominence in the coming year:
  • In 2012, Oxfam launched its latest campaign GROW. It asks how we can grow more food more fairly and more sustainably in the face of growing global demand as world population continues to expand and incomes rise in the emerging economies. This is not a new question, but it is one that requires immediate attention and varied responses, guided by rigorous analysis. Dirk Willenbockel contributed to this with his vital paper on Extreme Weather Events and Crop Price Spikes in a Changing Climate.
  • At the forefront of development discourse is the growth of the BRICS and other rising powers and the implications for international development. For example, China, India and Brazil are increasingly important providers of development assistance to a number of low and middle-income countries, challenging the role of the traditional donors. There are also debates about the transferability of the development ‘models’ of the rising powers to other developing countries, for example in sub-Saharan Africa. Leading this discussion is the Rising Powers in International Development Programme, convened by the Globalisation Team’s Lizbeth Navas-Aleman and Alex Shankland in the Participation, Power and Social Change Team, and building on the long-standing work of team members in this area, for example Jing Gu on China and Lizbeth on Brazil.
  • Also grappling with a major global challenge is Hubert Schmitz.  He presented a lauded Members Seminar at IDS in December on Accelerating the Green TransformationWhat is the green transformation? Well, similarly to the ‘great transformation’ it is a restructuring of the global economy, however, this transformation, argues Hubert, is non-negotiable, and needs to be undertaken proactively and in a way that respects planetary boundaries. The scale of this challenge is clear, as is the need for thoughtful analysis, such as that being provided by Hubert.
  • An increasingly dominant issue in international development is the role of non-state actors. This is both welcome and overdue; arguably, inordinate emphasis has been placed on the role of government for far too long. The focus of work in the Globalisation Team, and especially by Noshua Watson, has been on the role of business and private foundations. For example, Noshua’s policy brief on Private Foundations, Business and Development a Post-2015 Framework highlights the need to consider private foundations and business in development discourse especially as we move to the post-MDG era and questions to align the different motivations and values of these actors with development objectives. The leadership of the Globalisation Team in the recent establishment of the IDS Business and Development Centre (BDC) should ensure that we continue to play an active role in these debates.
  • Over the last year, a number of team members have been working in the area of nutrition, and have plans for significant up-scaling of this work in 2013. Stephen Spratt’s work with Action Against Hunger explores the potential role for innovative finance to support nutrition programmes in developing countries.  John Humphrey and I have continued our work with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) on integrating agriculture and nutrition. A major focus of this work has been on identifying opportunities for business investment directed at making nutritious foods accessible to the poor.
  • There have long been claims that trade can play a key role as a catalyst of processes of economic development. Whilst much of the focus has been on aiding developing countries to gain access to potentially lucrative markets in the North, increasingly attention has turned to so-called South-South trade. Analysis by the Globalisation team has highlighted the challenges in promoting trade between developing countries. Notable in the last year, Xavier Cirera completed research with Trademark East Africa on how to make regional integration in the East Africa Community (EAC) work, exploring the distinct challenges faced by countries in the region.
In drawing attention to the accomplishment of your colleagues there is always the fear that you will miss something, however, I think the above will give you a good sense of our future, and our vision for change. If 2012 is anything to go by, there is much to look forward to in the coming year.