This post originally appeared here on the Global Development Institute blog.


Global Development Institute academics, Khalid Nadvi and Rory Horner discuss the growing body of research which points to the ‘Rise of the South’ and the growth of South–South trade. Rory and Khalid consider the implications of the shifting dynamics of global trade and the greater prominence of Southern actors for the conceptualization of global value chains and global production networks.

Khalid Nadi and Rory Horner recently guest edited a special issue of Global Networks which looked at ‘global production networks and the new contours of development in the global south’.



This article originally appeared here on The Conversation.

Trump has promised to put ‘America first’ to make it great again. Susan Melkisethian/flickrCC BY-NC-ND

By Rory Horner, Dan Haberly, Seth Schindler and Yuko Aoyama

The world is currently witnessing a new backlash against economic globalisation. Supporters of the UK’s exit from the European Union seek to “take back control” from Brussels, while Donald Trump’s economic ethno-nationalism has promised to put “America first”.

Trump arrives at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos after his administration claimed that US support for China joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001 was a mistake and having just announced large tariffs on imported solar panels. It is remarkable that the backlash that he represents emerged from the right of the political spectrum, in countries long recognised as the chief architects and beneficiaries of economic globalisation.

At the turn of the millennium, the primary opposition to globalisation was concerned with its impacts in the Global South. Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank, wrote in his 2006 book Making Globalization Work that “the rules of the game have been largely set by the advanced industrial countries”, who unsurprisingly “shaped globalisation to further their own interests.” Their political influence was represented through dominant roles in organisations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and WTO, and the corporate dominance of their multinationals.

In the 1990s the anti-globalisation movement opposed neoliberal economic integration from a range of perspectives, with a particular emphasis on the Global South. The movement was populated by activists, non-governmental organisations and groups with a variety of concerns: peace, climate change, conservation, indigenous rights, fair trade, debt relief, organised labour, sweatshops, and the AIDS pandemic.

Protests in Seattle against the WTO in 1999. By Steve Kaiser from Seattle via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

The big switch

Economic globalisation in the 21st century has evolved in ways that neither its extreme proponents nor its most vocal critics predicted. A big switch has occurred, and today’s backlash against globalisation emerged from concerns about its impacts in the Global North.

In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, UK prime minister Theresa May offered a sceptical assessment at the 2017 World Economic Forum at Davos, arguing that “talk of greater globalisation can make people fearful. For many, it means their jobs being outsourced and wages undercut. It means having to sit back as they watch their communities change around them.” The US, under Trump, subsequently began renegotiating NAFTAand withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The polling company YouGov, in a 2016 survey of people across 19 countries, found that France, the US and the UK were the places where the fewest people believe that “globalisation has been a force for good”. In contrast, the survey found the most enthusiasm for globalisation in East and Southeast Asia, where over 70% in all countries believed it has been a force for good. The highest approval, 91%, was in Vietnam.

Most notably, China took a very different stance on globalisation than the US and the UK at the 2017 Davos gathering. China’s president, Xi Jinping, said that his country will assume the leadership of 21st century globalisation. Defending the current economic order, Xi said that China was committed to make globalisation work for everyone, which was its responsibility as “leaders of our times”.

At Davos in 2018, Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, has already warned against de-globalisation:

It feels like the opposite of globalisation is happening. The negative impact of this kind of mindset and wrong priorities cannot be considered less dangerous than climate change or terrorism.

What drove the switch?

Significant proportions of the US and other countries in the Global North have experienced limited, if any, income gains in the most recent era of globalisation. Leading global inequality expert Branko Milanovic has explored changes in real incomes between 1988 and 2008 to show who particularly lost out on relative gains in income. He found two groups lost most: the global upper middle class – those between the 75th and 90th percentiles on the global income distribution, of whom 86% were from advanced economies – and the poorest 5% of the world population.

A different picture emerges in the Global South. People living in Asia accounted for the vast majority of those who experienced relative income gains from 1988 to 2008. In comparison with the 1990s, the Global South now earns a much larger share of world GDP, has more middle-income countries, more middle-class people, less dependency on foreign aid, considerably greater life expectancy, and lower child and maternal mortality.


Emerging evidence indicates that increased global trade has played a role in economic stagnation or decline for people in the north, especially in the US. MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues suggest that the “China shock” has had major redistributive effects in the US, leading to declines in manufacturing employment.

Economists had previously argued that the “losers” from trade could be compensated by transfers of wealth. Autor and his colleagues found that while there have been increases in welfare payments to regions of the US hardest hit by the trade shock, they fall far short of compensating for the income loss.

Not just globalisation

Not all of the stagnation and decline experienced in the Global North can be attributed to economic globalisation. Technological change is a big factor and national policy choices around taxation and social welfare have also played key roles in shaping inequality patterns within countries. In such a context, “globalisation” has been deployed as a scapegoat by some governments, invoking external blame for economic problems made at home.

The current backlash is not just about economic globalisation. It has involved ethno-nationalist and anti-immigrant components, for example among supporters of Trump and Brexit.

Read more: The G20 summit shows a world divided in its attitudes toward globalisation

Neither does less of a backlash in the Global South necessarily mean support for neoliberal globalisation – and the optimism in countries such as Vietnam may paradoxically be a result of an earlier rejection of it. China, in particular, has not followed the same approach to economic globalisation as that which was encouraged by the US and organisations such as the IMF and World Bank in the late 20th century.

Mexicans protest against a free trade agreement, ahead of NAFTA renegotiation talks in Mexico City in August 2017. Jose Mendez/EPA

Meanwhile, many of the world’s poorest in the Global South have seen very little improvement in quality of life in recent years, yet are much more marginal and less well positioned to express their frustrations than the “losers” in countries such as the US and UK. They must not be forgotten.

A key lesson from the late 20th century is to be wary of wholesale attacks on, and sweeping defences of, 21st century economic globalisation. In light of the difficulties of establishing solidarity between “losers” in different parts of the world, the challenge of our times is for an alter-globalisation movement which addresses all of them

This blog post originally appeared here on the Global Development Institute blog.

By Rory Horner and David Hulme, Global Development Institute 

The study and practice of international development has generally referred to the differences between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries. Growing inequality between developed and developing states during the 19th and 20th centuries presented a clear task; to address the challenges faced by a relatively synonymous poor people living in poor countries.

But for the last 30 years inequality between countries have been steadily reducing, yet our development challenges remain greater than ever. Our analysis of the new geographies of 21st century development (recently published in Development and Change ), highlights the need for a shift away from the idea of ‘international’ development, recognising a new form of ‘global’ development.   

Growing Importance of Income Inequalities between Countries in 19th and 20th Centuries

In 2016 the World Bank declared that it will no longer distinguishbetween developed and developing countries in its annual World Development Indicators. This follows on from the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed in 2015, being formulated for all, not just ‘developing’, countries. Moreover, the Paris Agreement on climate change (finalised in December 2015) requires commitments involving all countries.

Should the Global South still be seen as the key, or even only locus of development challenges, or do debates on development (alongside associated research and practice) need to give greater attention to inequalities within the Global North?

Our new paper systematically explores the changing composition of global inequalities across economic, human and environmental indicators. As prominently highlighted recently in recent research on global inequality, by Francois Bourguignon, Branko Milanovic, and in The World Bank’s 2016 Taking on Inequality Report), income inequality across all individuals in the world has fallen over the last couple of decades – the first such decline since the industrial revolution two centuries ago.

A variety of other indicators also indicate considerable progress on economic indicators. The total numbers and also the share of the world population living in extreme poverty have fallen dramatically. The total share of population in the Global South who have a daily consumption level of less than $1.90 has fallen from 49.2% in 1990 to 13.4% in 2013, with a corresponding increase in those with greater than $5 per day in consumption.

The share of the world’s countries officially designated (by the World Bank) as being low-income has fallen by more than half since 2000. The number of countries who are highly dependent on aid has fallen significantly. In the early 1990s almost half of all low & middle-income countries (L&MICs) received more than 9% of their GNI from Overseas Development Assistance, which had dropped to less than 30 countries in 2015. Global middle classes are increasingly referred to, while developing countries’ share of people listed on the Forbes World Billionaires List has increased from 16.7% in 2001 to 37.1% in 2016.

Looking beyond economic indicators, the gap in average basic health indicators, including life expectancy and mortality rates between countries is reducing. At 69.6 years, average life expectancy in low and middle-income countries in 2014, is just over 10 years less than today’s high-income countries (HICs) and a year greater than those countries average in 1960. The overall under-5 mortality rate per 1000 live births in L&MICs has fallen to one-quarter of its 1960 level, and has now reached the level the current HICs were at then. The classic binary association of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer with developed countries has broken down.

Global primary school enrolment is approaching universal coverage, while the average person in a developing country now receives more years of schooling than the average person in a developed country did in 1960. Although higher carbon emissions have been associated with the Global North, 2005 was the first year where total carbon emissions from L&MICs countries exceeded those from HICs.

Yet claims of global convergence are misplaced in a world where development inequalities are still profound. Substantial gaps continue to exist between many people and countries in Global North and South – with considerable “citizenship premiums” for those living in the North. Educational attainment rates considerably lag educational enrolment. Carbon emissions per capita continue to show big differences, as do consumption rather than production-based emissions. Absolute income gaps between the richest and poorest deciles of the world’s population have grown. Moreover, inequalities within many countries have been growing.

Some reductions in between-country inequalities are overshadowed by vast, and often growing, inequalities between people who are near-neighbours, living in the same localities, nations, and regions. Across wealth, income and consumption and evident in both North and South, rising inequalities within countries have been highlighted in, for example, the 2016 World Social Science Report, with both the World Bank’s Taking on Inequality and the International Monetary Fund warning of the consequences. In relation to income, inequality expert Francois Bourguignon has suggested that we could “be witnessing a partial substitution of inequality within countries for the inequality between countries”. Moreover, global wealth inequalities appear higher than income inequalities and are focused within (rather than between) country differences. Populations living precariously have been increasingly identified in the Global North and South.

While it is difficult to tell whether within-country differences in health have increased, those differences remain. The gaps within many OECD countries in educational attainment are greater than those between OECD and non-OECD countries. In relation to the environment, Lucas Chancel and Thomas Piketty have attempted to estimate global carbon inequalities and have suggested that within and between country inequalities are equal.

What about the future? Thomas Piketty has notably stated that “all signs are that this phase of divergence in per capita output is over and that we have embarked on a period of convergence” between rich and poor countries. Even if within-country inequalities stay the same, the relative share of global inequalities may increase. Such a trend is of significance given that people often weight within-country inequalities with particular importance.

The blurring of the boundaries between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries in the 21st century and the massive inequalities which nonetheless remain, both between and within countries, are powerful reasons to question an emphasis on developing countries seeking to become like developed countries. Moreover, such trends render questionable macro-continental generalisations about development as manifest in terms such as developed/developing worlds, pointing to the need to explore differentiation within closer spatial proximity.

The new geographies of development outlined prompt the need to shift from international development to global development. Development which is global in scope requires attention to two key types of challenges:

  1. collective challenges of global public goods, such as climate, global health, finance
  2. shared challenges that countries in both North and South face, including inequality and relative poverty, cities, socio-spatial inequalities, precarious work.

Clearly, however, not all challenges are equal. As such, the Global South still arguably warrants a key, although not exclusive, focus. Issues such as climate change are also severe development challenges with particular relevance for high-income populations.

Table 2. From International Development to Global Development

ISSUE International Development – ‘Divergence, big time’ Global Development – ‘Converging divergence’
Geographic focus Place-specific: synonymous ‘poor countries’, ‘poor people’ and Global South Universal: Sustainable development issues wherever they exist – Interconnected (e.g. global public goods) and shared (in both North and South) challenges
Spatial Nomenclature First-Second-Third Worlds; Developed/Developing; Global North–South Global convergence, national and sub-national divergence (enclaves, peripherality, connectivity/exclusion)
Prominent Meaning of Development Modernisation and growth: Southern countries becoming like the Global North SDG agenda: Transformation, true “global development”; sustainability; social justice
Big ‘D’ Development Morality and Actors Charity and development aid by Northern states, NGOs Development cooperation by traditional and new donors; multiple domestic and international sources of public and private development finance

Source: Authors’ construction

Planet Earth approaching 2020 is a very different place even when compared with the turn of the Millennium. With a very different socio-spatial manifestation of development prevailing, the task now – for scholars, policymakers, activists, and citizens – is to understand and work towards addressing 21st century global development challenges.

This ‘global development’ still requires much more teasing out. A  workshop we held last summer made a preliminary attempt at unpacking some debates around global development and we’re planning a small conference for summer 2018 which will explore the possibilities of global development across a number of key research themes.

This blog post originally appeared here on the Global Development Institute blog.

Rory Horner, Lecturer in Globalisation and Political Economy and Hallsworth Research Fellow, Global Development Institute

What role can and does the state play in economic development under globalisation?

This is arguably one of the fundamental debates in development studies. When discussing the role of the state in development, it is difficult to avoid mentioning East Asia. South Korea and Taiwan, in particular, achieved spectacular economic transformation over the second half of the 20th century. From the late 1980s onwards, a substantial body of literature and debate has emerged focused on the “developmental state” – at that time challenging both the market-led framings of development and dependency theory critiques. Lessons continue to be sought for the possibilities, or not, of developmental states elsewhere.

Yet the role of the developmental state has declined under economic globalisation, according to Prof. Henry Yeung of National University of Singapore, who recently gave a lecture on “Rethinking East Asia in the New Global Economy” as part of a lecture series celebrating 125 years of geography at Manchester. 25 years on from arriving off the plane at Manchester Airport to begin his PhD in geography, Henry was back to speak about a subject which he has recently explored in depth in his latest book “Strategic Coupling”.

The developmental states are famous for having nurtured their domestic firms to take prominent positions in the global economy. With democratisation and liberalisation, however, their roles have now changed. Domestic firms – such as Samsung – no longer have the same dependent relationship on their parents – the state, Henry argued.

Henry’s lecture was followed by a Masterclass where he and Professor Weidong Liu, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, discussed some of their recent work with a group of PhD students from GDI, Geography and Planning. While the discussion of Henry’s work continued the theme of the decline of the developmental state, Weidong’s work highlighted a very active state initiative that is attracting considerable attention – China’s Belt and Road Initiative ( In particular, Weidong highlighted how the Chinese state is seeking to lead a more “inclusive globalisation”.

Key points of debate in the discussion with both Henry and Weidong included the role of labour in East Asian economic transformation, whether China can be considered a developmental state and if China’s “inclusive globalisation” will be “win-win”!

Arguably the key lesson is the need to pay attention to both the state and global production networks in shaping the prospects for economic development today.

This blog post originally appeared here on the Global Development Institute blog.

Dr Rory Horner and Prof Khalid Nadvi, Global Development Institute 

In a new, open access article published in Global Networks, we argue that Southern actors and Southern end markets have more prominent roles in global trade, requiring greater attention to the existence of multiple different value chains (VCs) serving different end markets – including domestic, regional and global. A growing portion of the global South’s trade is now beyond that of the global North, as a pattern of what we call “polycentric trade” has emerged.

Global value chains, and related global production networks, analysis has made valuable insights into the linkages that transform raw materials into final products and services, illustrating how value is created, and also differentially captured. A common, and arguably in our view a dominant, perspective amongst GVC and GPN scholars and policymakers has been an implicit focus on global trade involving North-South flows, stretching from initial stages of production in the global South to end markets in the global North. Indeed, many countries in the global South have been engaged in trade flows dominated by countries in the global North.

Now, however, whether it be the prominence of the global South in manufacturing exports, its growing share of consumption or the fact that the dominant trade direction is now South-South rather than South-North, considerable change is afoot. We draw on both “old” trade data (from Unctad) and new trade-in-value-added data (TIVA) to assess how the geographies of global trade are changing.

Trade amongst developing economies, known as South-South trade, has grown in relative importance as a share of world trade (see diagram below). It more than doubled from 11.4% in 1995 to 25.3% by 2015. Such South-South trade is dominated by intra-regional trade, especially within Asia. Yet, apart from a slight decline in intra-regional trade in the Americas, across all three major continents in the developing world, more exports are going to all other developing country regions and more imports are coming from such regions. Conversely, the European, North American and Japanese trade shares have fallen across all 3 major developing country blocks.

South-South and North-North shares of global trade, 1995-2015

Source: Authors’ analysis based on UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2016.

Developing economies are increasingly exporting to the large, developing economies, often termed the Rising Powers. Such growth is substantial, with developing economies share of the foreign value-added having increased from 38.9% to 52.5% between 1995 and 2011 in China; from 45.1% to 60.2% in India; and 31.8% to 47.2% in Brazil.

The case of Africa’s trade provides one especially illustrative example. 52.6% of the continent’s exports were to Europe in 1995, yet this share had declined to 37.3% by 2015. In contrast, the share of Africa’s trade with developing economies almost doubled in that period – from 25.6% in 1995 to 49.8% by 2015. The increase has been particularly driven by growing share of exports to China (from 1.2% to 10.6% over that time), but also intra-Africa exports (from 12.4% to 17.7%).

The value added generated in Rising Power economies which is exported also increasingly meets demand within other developing economies (see diagram below). For example, the share of China’s value-added in exports which goes to other developing economies has increased from 34.3% in 1995 to 41.2% by 2011. Similarly, for India, the share has increased from 36.1% to 48.1% and for Brazil from 42.9% to 57.0% over the same period.

China, India and Brazil – Share of value added in foreign final demand in developing countries

Source: Authors’ construction based on OECD TiVA database (December 2016 version).

Part of the expansion of South-South trade can be attributed to the expansion of GVCs, which have involved a growth of trade in primary commodities and of intermediate goods. For example, the high-profile case of the manufacture of Apple products involves considerable intermediates trade amongst developing economies within East Asia. Yet, significant amounts of final demand increasingly lie outside the developed economies. China substantially accentuates this trend, but even without China this shift is apparent.

Value chains are not always global. Under a pattern of more polycentric trade, firms in developing economies are participating in a variety of different value chains oriented towards different end markets. Producers in many industries, and increasingly policymakers, are placing particular emphasis on the (supra-national) regional and also domestic markets. For example, Kenyan farmers producing fresh fruit and vegetables are increasingly supplying regional value chains within East Africa as well as European supermarkets.

The upgrading strategies of farmers and firms in developing economies now involve negotiating the dynamics of multiple, overlapping VCs coordinated by different firms and oriented towards a variety of end markets. Rather than seeing the export market as composed of a single or even dominant GVC structure, producers increasingly weigh up a variety of different export market opportunities which may have different standards requirements and consumption preferences.

North-South vs. Polycentric trade

Having explored this new geography of trade, our analysis thus suggests that rather than emphasizing North-South oriented value chains/production networks, contemporary trade involves overlapping, multiple production networks oriented towards different end markets – domestic, regional and global – across both global North and South. “Value chains” and “production networks” do not necessarily automatically go together with “global”!

The article forms part of a special issue on the theme “Global production networks and new contours of development in the global South”, which collectively move beyond the South-North orientation of much value chains and production networks research. Look out for all the papers in Global Networks.

This post originally appeared here on the Global Development Institute blog.


The composition of global inequality is changing. Between-country inequalities, although vast, are mostly falling, while the relative share of within-country inequalities within global inequalities is increasing – what David Hulme and I have recently synthesised as patterns of ‘converging divergence’. New geographies of development are emerging across economic, human and environmental aspects, challenging an assumed divide of a rich, developed North and a poor, developing South. Moreover, it is questionable how much of international development, or its study, would fit with an association of development aid from the Global North to “the poor” in the Global South, driven by a moral geography of charity. While David and I, following others such as Charles Gore, have suggested we may be moving towards an era of global development, we have few elaborations yet as to what that would involve.

Uma Kothari, David Hulme and I recently hosted a small group of leading (mostly UK-based) development researchers to discuss and debate ‘global development’, attempting to understand and explore what it is and its implications. As highlighted below, a lot of questions were raised, with productive scepticism as well as excitement as part of an emerging and intriguing debate as to what global development may involve.

The great development repositioning: beyond North-South?

Rich North Poor South

Many development actors, who have an identity framed in relation to the North-South divide, are having to reposition themselves. The aid dependence of many countries has declined significantly, with greater national potential for redistribution, as Andy Sumner highlighted. Moreover, the World Bank is no longer the only major provider of development finance, leading Ravi Kanbur to ask “What is the World Bank good for?” He has suggested the answer is to focus on global public goods. Many international NGOs from the North, whose identities are based on working in the Global South, have also faced a challenge of repositioning themselves, as David Lewis noted. Organisations such as Oxfam and Save the Children have attempted to increase their work on domestic inequalities within the North, although its unclear how successful they’ve been in that regard or whether international NGOs more broadly are continuing to move in that direction. David Hulme and Eleni Sifaki, based on some preliminary analysis of UK political party manifestos from the 1997 to 2017 general elections in the UK, find some move beyond ‘traditional’ development aid and free trade toward a more multi-dimensional understanding of global development based on addressing global inequalities and promoting social justice.

As educators and researchers of development, we also face such challenges in relation to our teaching and research on this changing world. Teaching and research on the third sector, for example, has often embodied a distinction between the international and domestic context – which David Lewis has argued should be overcome given the potential for useful comparative lessons to be generated across both. In the Global North, the teaching of development studies almost always has a predominant focus on the Global South, raising questions for whether development studies should be more global in scope. Moreover, the production of academic research is often not very global in the sense that although empirics can be drawn from different parts of the world, what counts as ‘knowledge’ is often still produced in the West. [Note: we acknowledge that (due to small size and budget) this workshop was not ‘global’ in scope of where our participants live and spend most of their time, which is largely the Global North] Similarly, old challenges may remain, including data to meaningfully interpret our world, as Dan Brockington argued. Yet, is development studies, as David Hulme suggested in seeking to synthesise some of our discussions, moving towards a focus on “multi-scalar, multi-dimensional, post-binary social progress”, where addressing inequality is central?


So what is ‘global development’?

Thinking about development as ‘global’ in scope is initially attractive for a number of reasons. Many ‘development’ challenges are faced in the Global North, including inequality, social exclusion and carbon emissions, which can be overlooked when development is considered just in relation to the Global South (such as with the MDGs). Excluded low-income groups in both North and South can face some real similarities of disadvantage, as Diana Mitlin noted from her experience working with Shack/Slum Dwellers International, and a global development approach offers potential to learn from such comparative experiences. The environmental aspect of sustainable development is clearly one where there is considerable ‘underdevelopment’ in relation to the Global North, which is arguably of urgent concern. Moreover, the North-South boundary is blurring considerably, as part of shifting geographies of wealth, income, poverty, and inequality across economic, human, and environmental indicators. Thinking about development in relation to the whole world may be more fitting to the shifting pattern of global inequalities, including the growing relative importance of within-country inequalities in much of both the Global North and South.In light of the problems and challenges of international development, along with shifting geographies, ‘global development’ has been advocated as an emerging paradigm, and potentially a more progressive framing than international development. Yet the term can be used in different ways. We can make a distinction between global development as scope, meaning geographic extent of development (ie of the whole world, as opposed to just the Global South) or as scale, referring to development actors who operate at, and form policies, across the whole world (as opposed to at a national or local scale, for example).

A growing theme throughout the workshop, however, was that global development is not necessarily progressive. North-South inequalities are still vast. Could the framing of development as a challenge in relation to the whole world lead to a dilution of attention to the biggest inequalities in the world – which are still mostly adversely experienced by people within the Global South? Could framing development as global in scope lead to an abdication of responsibility? Various actors could retreat inwards under the justification “we’re all developing now, so we have to look after ourselves”. Does talk of the global conceal inequalities and power relations? Rural India is clearly not the same as London. Uma Kothari argued that any shift from international to global is irrelevant unless perceptions shift regarding the inferiority of other people. Postcolonialism has always challenged international development as an imperialist project, pointing to the significant continuities from colonial times.

We can’t assume global development is necessarily progressive and must be wary of Eurocentrism in a universal guise and seek to create space for new forms of global solidarity to emerge. Moreover, thinking of development in relation to the whole world also raises the prospect of going beyond zero-sum assumptions about the relationships between national and global inequality, and exploring processes through which both can be addressed, as Dani Rodrik has recently explored.

‘Global development’ can also be framed as ‘scale’ and various discussions thus emerged over whether such an emphasis overlooks national and local development. We live in a world where, in spite of globalisation, ‘nation-states’ remain significant. Indeed, attempts at sustainable development on the ground require drawing on already existing geographical imaginaries and existing global, national, local processes, which have a rather sticky influence as Sarah Radcliffe noted. Debapriya Bhattacharya argued that the national scale of policy implementation and the challenge of policy coherence are crucial for SDG implementation. Charles Gore suggested that while sustainable development was originally a normative concept which was global in scope, it is largely now framed as a national challenge which should be pursued in all countries – as manifest in the SDGs.

Associating ‘global development’ with policy and actors at the global scale, however, can lead to perceptions of elitism, and of missing the boat in an era where the national continues to remain prominent. The vital role of actors and processes at various spatial scales – which include, but are not limited to – the global were repeatedly pointed to.


Cause for global development optimism?

Although global development may not be automatically progressive, rethinking the North-South framing of development in relation to the contemporary 21st century context is an intriguing prospect. This does not necessarily mean abandoning the North-South distinction. In case you hadn’t noticed from this blogpost, we talked about beyond North-South, but ended up mentioning the terms ‘North’ and ‘South’ as much, if not more, than at any other workshop! We also talked about “Norths” of the “South” and “Souths” of the “South”. Binaries are often inescapable, yet can sometimes serve to provide/illustrate productive tensions. Yet, it does involve clearly moving beyond a focus on ‘development’ as only a challenge for the Global South.

The issue of universal basic income (UBI) could be a fascinating lens through which to consider global development (as scope), as Sam Hickey highlighted. Across both Global North and South, similarities can be found with the ‘expulsion’ of growing numbers of people, adverse incorporation and a rise of the precariat. Yet while ideas associated with UBI are gathering increasing attention across different geographic contexts, it remains to be seen how much they will take hold and whether they will play out very differently in the North and the South.

A sense emerges that the world is changing, but how exactly and what this means, warrants continued attention. Indeed, Uma Kothari raised an intriguing point, that we may see as much need to rethink development – a term which retains a centripetal tendency despite the ambivalence, if not outright discomfort, of many in its orbit towards it – as to the ‘international’ or ‘global’ part. We may not have provided any singular perspective on or approach to global development, but a number of insightful contributions were made, which are likely to continue to be returned to as this debate unfolds. While productive scepticism surfaced, there was also considerable optimism about a shift towards global development that is more attuned to the shifting pattern of global inequality.

Clearly there’s plenty more to explore and we look forward to continuing this discussion. We are in the early stages of planning a larger conference on this theme in 2018. Look out for more details as they appear.

National security, anxiety, cyborgism, danger, ethics, innovation, the public-private divide, crises, avoidability, the politics of neglect – who knew pharmaceuticals could relate to so many different aspects of life?

From pharmaceuticalisation to moulecularisation to genericisation to securitisation to neoliberalisation, who knew there were so many “-isations” related to pharmaceuticals?

From human rights lawyers, international relations specialists in intellectual property to social theorists, science and technology studies experts, anthropologists, to geographers, who knew people from so many disciplines were working on pharmaceuticals?

From pandemic disease as a Foucauldian crisis of circulation, to the Polanyian backlash against market dynamics in pharmaceuticals, pharmaceuticals can and are being looked at through many lenses.

Last month I was lucky to be invited to participate in a workshop on “Pharmaceuticals in Global Health” organised by Stefan Elbe, Anne Roemer-Mahler and Chris Long of the University of Sussex’s Centre for Global Health Policy. The event marked the culmination of their European Research Council project on “Pharmaceuticals and Security”.

Rather than gather people with the same disciplinary background, approach or geographic area of interest, the workshop gathered people who broadly study the same thing – pharmaceuticals. It was amazing to see a variety of perspectives on what is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as a “compound manufactured for use as a medicinal drug”.

The pharmaceuticals landscape is one which includes actors ranging from the G7 to the World Health Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland, to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the United States to small-scale manufacturing units in Gujarat, India.

Rightly or wrongly pharmaceuticals has come to play a key role in global health policy.

Pharmaceuticals is clearly central to a whole variety of pressing societal challenges and is multi-dimensional.

All participants were asked a question for a video on whether the future of global health is pharmaceutical:


Participants seemed to agree that pharmaceuticals will continue to play some role in global health. Pharmaceuticals is a fascinating lens not just on health issues, but on wider societal issues too. Pharmaceuticals, and the pharmaceutical industry, can’t easily be lumped into one singular logic either, for they are extremely heterogeneous.

The pharmaceutical context I research, involving the supply of Indian pharmaceuticals to, and local manufacture of medicines in sub-Saharan Africa, is quite distinct from that in North America or Europe. Rather than issues of security centring around bio-terrorism, a key challenge is one of perennial insecurity of lack of secure access to affordable, effective pharmaceuticals.

As someone who thinks pharmaceuticals are particularly important for development, and not just for economic reasons, this was a fascinating opportunity to participate in a truly multi-disciplinary conversation. Rather than being confined by disciplinary boundaries, we were able to discuss and debate multiple different angles on the life of this curious industry.