Welcome to Development Studies Association
The Development Studies Association is the UK's learned society and professional body for academic teaching and research, policy and practice in the field of international development.
While the annual conference is a principal focus for the association, the DSA is active throughout the year through its many Study Groups. All those involved in development whether as teachers, researchers, consultants or practitioners, are welcome to join both the Study Groups and the DSA itself.
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Thought for the Month
An impassioned discussion with my children over dinner this weekend about the issue of climate change and national responsibilities brought home to me that this is clearly the topic of the times, and one that the young are engaging with more easily than their parents. The change is apparent, whether it is the appearance of Greta Thunberg amongst the list of influencers in Time magazine or the increasing popularity of veganism or a decline in so-called fast-fashion.
Governments across the world are lagging. The UK government has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. But, the Government’s ex-Chief Scientist has suggested that this is slow progress in the context of an increase in the number of ‘scary’ extreme weather events in recent years. In the USA, young plaintiffs in the case of Juliana v. United States are taking the US Government to court on the grounds that it has failed to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change putting their constitutional right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness at risk. Of course, it isn’t just governments but also institutions like the DSA which, with the best of intentions, have yet to reconcile the conflicting needs of air travel to places we study (and to conferences!) against the need to be climate-responsible.
It is clear that tinkering at the edges of policy will not be sufficient. From the point of view of both sustainability and equity, we need to reduce our environmental footprint but the urge to pass the burden on (to other nations or future generations) has been hard to resist. In 1992, Malaysian President Mahathir Mohammed said at the Rio Summit that ‘it is what the rich do that counts...it is imperative for the rich to change their lifestyles’ and ‘denying them [poor countries] their own resources will impoverish them and retard their own development’. This view, which is widely held in the developing world, has been thrown into relief again this year following the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Of course, the rich-poor nation distinction that he was drawing is probably less clear today, following globalisation and decades of growth from the BRICs and other developing countries which has also created a rich, international elite that is over-consuming. Ultimately, a reduction in consumption is essential if we are to achieve development, while also reducing our environmental footprint. Governments (across the world) which would have us believe otherwise are burying their heads in the sand.
The young people who today are engaging so much more actively with realities of climate change are our policy makers of the future, and it’s encouraging to see increasing opportunities for students to focus on these issues through their academic study. At my institution, the University of Reading, doctoral students on the Leverhulme Climate Justice Programme are considering many such issues including how the costs of action are to be divided across nations, individuals and generations. They are studying the competing principles that might guide our distribution of the costs of adapting to climate change; the mechanics, dynamics, positions, roles, and influence of two different negotiating blocs of countries; the extent to which states are the bearers of responsibility for climate harms which individual actions may have wrought; and the intergenerational asymmetry between the causes and effects of climate change. Perhaps it will be this generation who finally turn words into action.
Best wishes to you all,
DSA Honorary Secretary
Professor of Economics, University of Reading