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Introducing global development
Introducing global development

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1 Global issues

Before considering ideas of development, pause for a moment to think about the nature of issues. Issues are topics of importance within specific contexts and the subject of discussion and disagreement. In recent times, climate change, the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), the war in Ukraine (2022) are examples of global issues. They have directly and indirectly impacted people all over the world. They feature prominently in national and international media, and provoke strong reactions, arguments, and debate amongst people in many countries.

A common thread in such issues is that they are highly complex. They involve interconnected and interdependent social, economic, political, and cultural processes that operate at local, national, regional, and international levels. COVID-19 spread across the world due to the highly mobile nature of modern life and its impacts were felt on social, health and economic systems in practically every country and continent. Developing vaccines for the virus required timely and effective actions by governments and citizens, technological adaptation and innovation, and collaboration between scientific, technological and health professionals around the world. However, successful technological innovation is only one strand of the story. Questions of justice arise when developed countries and regional bodies such as the United States (US), the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) have the capacity to reach advance agreements with pharmaceutical companies for supplies of vaccines (Papaioannou, 2022). The result is that economically less-powerful countries in Africa, Latin America and South Asia are disadvantaged. These latter countries have less capacity to absorb the health and economic shocks from the pandemic. Here you can see the connection to issues of poverty and exclusion. Overall, the prioritising of vaccine supplies to high-income countries seems to be self-defeating as COVID-19 does not respect national boundaries, and mutated variants emerge to replace the original ones.

Contemplating such issues raises questions regarding accountability and responsibility. Consider the oceans on planet Earth today, the oceans are filled with human-generated plastics, coral reefs are disappearing, fish stocks are being depleted and water temperatures are rising. The oceans are critical to the health of ecosystems globally and to climate stability. But who should take the lead in changing matters? Who should intervene? Who should pay the costs? Who should answer for any wrongs done? There are no easy, if any, answers to such questions. However, we can seek to better understand and to respond to such issues by using a range of key social science concepts and by looking at them from a global perspective. This course provides an introduction to doing this, starting with a consideration of the nature of development.