Annual conference: Background to the conference

Background to the Conference

DSA Annual Conference 2014

Saturday 1st November 2014

Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

2014 is a very important year for development studies. Global discussions on a post-2015 development agenda are taking place within a context in which the global economic recovery remains fragile; global challenges associated with environmental sustainability and climate change are increasingly evident and urgent; there is increasing global economic differentiation along with increasing global interdependence, with mass poverty at the bottom related to massive inequality in the division of benefits and risks along global value chains; and armed conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine as well as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa are reinforcing a common sense of a world risk society. At the same time, there is a lack of confidence in mainstream international and national development practices. Business as usual is widely regarded as unacceptable. But consensus around workable alternatives remains elusive, and priority goals remain contested with old North-South divisions being reconfigured in disagreements over how best to address new global issues.

In our open call for papers for the annual DSA conference, we encouraged DSA Colleagues and Panel Convenors not simply to address the on-going process of creating a post-2015 development agenda but also to bring forward new ideas and research which may:

  • Analyze the changing global context of development - including the nature of global recovery, continuing differentiation of the South, new forms of international interdependence and patterns of vulnerability, new actors and development partnerships and blocked international multilateralism - and address its implications for international development cooperation and national development policy;
  • Link development thinking and practice with wider debates on economic crisis, climate change, sustainability transitions, inequality, human rights, social movements, democratization, security, technological change and new forms of governance;
  • Reflect on the significance, content and possible implications of the post-2015 global development agenda, including: assessing the process of formulating post-2015 goals; lessons from MDG implementation; global governance of poverty and inequality; and the nature of sustainable development goals.

We also underlined that that two themes, raised at the DSA Heads of Centres Meeting in January 2014 were ripe for further exploration within the context of the Conference, namely:

  • Defining Development Studies and the role of Higher Education for a post 2015 world
  • Strengthening NGO - Academic relationships

With the plenary panellists now identified, papers accepted, panels designed and the conference structured, it is clear that we have all the ingredients for an exciting conference. We have received an imaginative and diverse response from an international academic and practitioner community which captures the state of play in international development on a wide range of topics. There are over 90 paper presenters, and they are coming from all over the world (see map).

Highlights of Workstreams  

A number of the panels directly address the current state of play in the process of building a post-2015 global development agenda around new Sustainable Development Goals. These include:

  • Assessment of how developmental the new proposed SDGs are
  • Discussion of the extent to which the global debate on SDGs has been internalized in Japan and Korea
  • Presentation of the research and advocacy of Save the Children in the post-2015 process
  • Assessment of how rising powers have engaged in the post-2015 process as part of the approach to global governance
  • The role of media and discursive representations in the post-2015 process

Other panels focus on specific issues within the post-2015 agenda, including:

  • Pro-poor business and inclusive development
  • Governance and state effectiveness
  • The way in which the 2015 can deliver better for children

Poverty is of course central to the post-2015 agenda and there are panels which present new evidence and new practices, focussing on:

  • Poverty and anti-poverty policy in south Asia
  • The effectiveness of new social initiatives in Latin America
  • Policies towards poverty and inequality in the BRICS.

Other panels present new research and thinking on topics which are relevant to the post-2015 agenda, though these panels are not expressly directed towards it.  These topics include:

  • Gender relations, including questions of participation and the gendered nature of international migration
  • Industrialization and policy, including work on innovation, value-chains and industrial associations
  • Middle classes in rising powers
  • Desertification, livelihoods security and sustainable land/water use and management
  • Culture, indigenous knowledge and grassroots local development
  • Rights-based approaches to development
  • The relevance of William Morris' late nineteenth century vision of utopia, resilience and liberatarian socialism for twenty-first century development practice
  • Changing representations of Africa

There are two panels which look at emerging NGO practices, one examining the ways in which Northern international NGOs are adapting to, and also helping to shape, the new global context, and one looking at best practices in the work of Southern NGOs.

Finally, there are some panels which are very important for the infrastructure of development studies, examining respectively:

  • NGO-academic collaboration, including bases for successful collaboration and also practitioners priorities for international development research post-2015
  • New directions in development research
  • New directions for development studies

The papers in the conference provide a snapshot of new thinking, new methodologies and new evidence in development studies in 2014. A significant feature of the conference is the presentation of findings from major funded research projects. These include:

  • Latest research of the Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre Programme, including the ways in which governance might be treated as a post-2015 goal and ways of ensuring new oil revenues are now squandered in Africa
  • Latest research of the DSA/EADI Study Group on Multidimensional Poverty and Poverty Dynamics on understanding child and youth poverty and implications for moving beyond "business as usual"
  • Latest findings of the Young Lives cohort study of 12000 children living in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam, which will be related to the post-2015 agenda by Gordon Alexander, former Director of UNICEF's Office of Research
  • Findings of an ESRC/DFID funded project on the politics of tackling poverty and inequality in the BRICS
  • Findings of two multi-country projects supported by the Carnegie Corporation (Foundation) of New York on best practices of national NGOs in developing countries
  • Findings of a mapping of research within the ESRC-DFID Joint Scheme funding innovative research on development
  • Findings of ID100, an initiative of the Sheffield Institute for International Development involving consultation with practitioners to identify key questions for international development research in the post-2015 era

 


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