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Introducing global development
Introducing global development

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6 The global nature of development

In the previous sections, you read of international development and how it frames development in terms of North-South, developed-developing countries. The problem with such a way of thinking about development is that it consistently leads to a view that developing countries need the intervention of developed countries in order to progress and to address the issues that they face. It not only perpetuates existing power imbalances in the way that global institutions have been set up and operate, but it also undermines the capacity of developing countries to determine their own development pathways.

Interventions often do not produce what is claimed to be the desired result. In the 1980s and 1990s, the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) of the World Bank and the IMF provided loans to developing countries experiencing an economic crisis. The loan conditions required political and economic reforms supposedly aimed at addressing the root cause of the problem and providing for long-term development and growth. However, they had very mixed results and it was the poorest in society who suffered most from the austerity measures imposed (Stewart, 1995).

In going from the twentieth to the twenty-first century, there is increasing acknowledgement that the development agenda needs to recognise the universal nature of some of the important global development issues of our times, such as environmental sustainability, migration, poverty and economic security. By seeing development issues as primarily affecting ‘developing’, rather than all, countries, an international development framework is very limiting. Such a perspective overlooks many of the interdependencies between the social, economic, political, and environmental fortunes of all countries around the world. It is increasingly argued that a global development approach is better suited to the analysis of the universal and interdependent nature of complex development issues.

Activity 4: Why global development?

Timing: Allow 35 minutes

Listen to this audio or read the transcript in which Ben Lampert interviews Dr. Rory Horner from the University of Manchester about his work arguing for the need to think in terms of Global Development.

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Video 2: Rory Horner and Ben Lampert discuss the notion of global development
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What arguments does Rory make for thinking in terms of global development?


In the twenty-first century, there is a much wider range and diversity of actors involved in development than in the previous century. The divide between the global North and global South is losing relevance. Underdevelopment and inequality exist in all countries. Important current issues such as migration, climate change and poverty are not contained, and cannot be addressed, within the borders of any particular country or continent. Economies are closely interconnected and addressing the challenge of sustainable development is one that all countries face. Global power dynamics are changing with the (re)emergence of rising powers such as China and India. These countries now play increasingly important roles in leading, influencing, and funding development.