Living in a complex world: can planetary health offer a way forward?

Join us for a thought-provoking lecture titled “Living in a Complex World – Can Planetary Health Offer a Way Forward?” Drawing insights from the UNDP Human Development Report on uncertainty and complexity, we’ll explore how planetary health’s multi- and transdisciplinary approaches address the Anthropocene’s challenges. Discover how systems shifts, the Great Transition, and behavioral change can guide us toward a sustainable future. Don’t miss this opportunity to delve into the solutions that could shape our world for the better.

Hosted by the UNDP Country Office in Azerbaijan.

The Kapuscinski Development Lectures is an initiative funded by the European Commission.

When: 27th June 2024 at 16:00 AZT / 14:00 CET

Where: Rast Room, Four Seasons Hotel Baku, 1 Neftchilar, Baku

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event at the Baku, Azerbaijan – register here
  • joining the event online on Zoom – register here
  • following livestreaming from the event at
  • asking your questions to Jemilah Mahmood via X using #KAPTalks hashtag

Role of the youth for a sustainable and resilient future

Today, there are 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24 years, accounting for 16 per cent of the global population.  

The SDGs are halfway through, but due to various unexpected events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation progress is not very positive. One of the most urgent issues is climate change-related goals. 

These challenges we face today require us to think beyond national borders and dividing lines and instead focus on what unites us, including how we reflect it in our education systems. 

The role of the youth is critical, as they are the future generation. We need to increase efforts and investment to ensure the quality of education programs for the youth. 

At the same time, we urge the next generation to be more active, take initiative and raise its voice for climate change and a sustainable and resilient future. 

Join #KAPTalks with Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, to discuss the impact youth can have and how to we can make space for them. 

The lecture is hosted by the University of Central Lancashire

When: 25th October 2023 at 15:00 BST / 16:00 CET 

Where:  Harrington Building Lecture Theatre (HALT), University of Central Lancashire, PR1 2HE 

You can join the lecture by:

Will the private sector be the driver of green transition?

Green transition used to be contested but is now a mainstream concern and economic incentives, public policies, technologies, and societal norms and values are shifting. With its production capabilities, technologies and investment capital, the private sector is indispensable in any large-scale economic transformation, and multinational companies especially so.

Historically, the industrial market economy and private corporations have not been net positive contributors to planetary sustainability. In their global pursuit of efficiencies and arbitrage advantages, multinational companies have traditionally been widely perceived as culprits in the sustainability agenda, effecting inequalities, environmental degradation, and supply and specialization vulnerabilities, while progressive momentum has been ascribed to governments, NGOs, youth, and social movements.

However, MNC activities, mandates and strategies have progressively widened over recent decades, where CSR, codes of conduct, public-private partnerships and corporate political activity have woven MNC activities and concerns deeper into the broader societal fabric. Are we observing a turning point in the institutional drivers of sustainability transition where economic markets and private enterprises shift from mainly manifesting constraints and negative externalities to potentially becoming a self-reinforcing driver of reformation of the global economic architecture? Are private companies and economic markets becoming major progressive drivers of green transition, and if so how and with which consequences? Is the harnessing of the private sector and economic markets a precondition for successful sustainability transition?

The lecture is hosted by the Copenhagen Business School. 

When: 12th October 2023 at 13:30 CET / 11:30 GMT 

Where:  Copenhagen Business School

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event 
  • joining the event online on Zoom – register here
  • following livestreaming from the event at
  • asking your questions to Jeffrey Sachs via Twitter using #KAPTalks hashtag

Human security and the war in Ukraine

A new world order is in place where perpetual violence has become the norm. So-called new wars, or “forever wars”, are not tied to contests over national territory. But the war in Ukraine has reignited debates about wars in the 21st century and their consequences on human security and international order.

Join #KAPTalks with Professor Mary Kaldor, of the London School of Economics, to address current geopolitical events in the region, based on her research on conflicts and security.

Hosted by National School of Political Studies and Administration, Bucharest, Romania.

The event will be opened by Ms Mara Roman, Deputy Head of Representation of European Commission in Romania.

When: 2nd October 2023 at 12:00 EEST / 11:00 CET 

Where:  National School of Political Studies and Administration, Bucharest, Bdul. Expozitiei, Nr. 30A, Amphitheatre 2

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event 
  • joining the event online on Zoom – register here
  • following livestreaming from the event at
  • asking your questions to Mary Kaldor via Twitter using #KAPTalks hashtag

Accelerating action on sustainable goals

Halfway through the 15-year Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda, the goals seem more out of reach than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly set back progress, and ongoing armed conflict and insecurity around the world remain a significant obstacle. Further, there is a great need for SDG financing, particularly in Africa. At the same time, there are successful examples of progress in achieving the SDGs, strengthening cooperation, and building resilience to climate change and other future shocks.  

Join #KAPTalks lecturer Dr. Donald Kaberuka, Rwandan economist and former President of the African Development Bank (ADB), to make sense of these developments.  He’llshare experiences as President of the ADB and COVID-19 Envoy for the African Union, as well as his own thoughts on what is needed to accelerate achievement in the second half of the SDG period. 

The lecture is part of the International Conference on Sustainable Development, hosted by Columbia University. 

When: 20th September 2023 at 15:00 EST / 21:00 CET 

Where: Alfred Lerner Hall, Columbia University, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

You can join the lecture by:

From polycrisis towards inclusive and sustainable development 

Under the best of international circumstances, the policy challenges posed by cascading crises would be daunting. But we are far from the “best”. 

In a world already fractured by a health pandemic and trade tensions, the war in Ukraine has deepened divisions; trust and solidarity between governments – key pillars of a stable international order – appear to be in short supply. At the same time, the institutions of global economic governance–tasked since 1945 with mitigating global shocks, delivering international public goods and providing a global financial safety net–have been hampered by insufficient resources and policy tools and options that are “rigid and old fashioned”. 

Effective global governance in support of shared goals cannot be limited to formal talk of a „rules-based international order”. 

Achieving these goals requires a set of common principles and effective mechanisms that can help mobilise resources and coordinate policies in countries with very different government and private sector capacities. The agenda for that discussion arises from unresolved international development dilemmas (in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and recent UN development reports) in a fractured world, and in the context of the many crises and challenges currently facing the international community. 

Join #KAPTalks lecturer Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of the Globalisation and Development Strategies Division in United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), to make sense of these developments.  What deeper changes in the governance of the international economy will be needed if more inclusive and sustainable outcomes are to be realized?

The lecture is organised with the support of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Ljubljana.

When: 28th February 2023 at 16:00 CET / 15:00 GMT 

Where: University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Kardeljeva ploščad 5 & online 

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event – register here
  • coming to the online event on Zoom – register here
  • following livestreaming from the event at
  • asking your questions to Richard Kozul – Wright via Zoom or Twitter using #KAPTalks hashtag

Globalisation after COVID:  Business as Usual, or Not?

As the world comes out of the Covid-19 pandemic, what are the major forces that will shape globalization? 

Will the more prominent role of the state undermine the level playing field? Will global value chains be reshuffled? How will policies to combat climate change affect cross-border flows of goods and investment? Does digitalisation matter for international trade and within country inequality?   

Hosted by the University of Gothenburg / School of Business, Economics and Law

Engines in new extractives

17th December 2021: „Planetary scale Systems: From the internet packet to the algorithmic factory”

23rd February 2022: „Planetary scale systems: Anatomy and geology of media technologies”

23rd March 2022: „Planetary scale systems: Engines of new extractivism” 

Empowered by the digital extractivism tools of the information age, everything becomes a potential frontier for expansion and extraction. From the depth of DNA code in every single cell of the human organism to vast frontiers of human emotions, behavior and social relations, to nature as a whole—everything becomes the territory for the new extractivism. At this moment in the 21st century, we see a new form of extractivism that is well underway: one that reaches into the furthest corners of the biosphere and the deepest layers of human cognitive and affective being. Traditional colonial practices of control over critical assets, trade routes, natural resources and exploitation of human labor are still deeply embedded in the contemporary supply chains, logistics and assembly lines of digital content, products and infrastructure. Those relations define future development and distribution of wealth and power on a planetary scale.

The series of lectures is hosted by the University of Belgrade / Faculty of Political Sciences.

Economic and political development: the importance of institutions

The Kapuscinski Development Lecture was opened by dr. Anna Wróbel from the Department of Regional and Global Studies (Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, University of Warsaw) who welcomed the distinguished guest, Professor Francis Fukuyama.

Next, Professor Daniel Przastek, Dean of the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, University of Warsaw, welcomed the guest, and expressed hope to be able to welcome Professor Fukuyama for a real life event at the University of Warsaw in the future.

Then the floor went to Martin Seychel, Deputy Director-General, EC International Cooperation and Development, who delivered opening remarks on behalf of the European Commission.

Final speaker at the introductory part of the lecture was Ivan Zverzhanovski, UNDP Regional Partnerships Advisor to welcome Professor Fukuyama on behalf of the UNDP.

Professor Fukuyama started his lecture on “Economic and Political Development: The Importance of Institutions” by pointing out that in the study of development economics, there was a period when the role of institutions was largely omitted, and it was only since the 1980s, that development economists have begun to recognize the importance of institutions. According to Professor Fukuyama it was inter alia because of the work of economists like Douglass C. North.

Yet initially inclusion of institutions into the study of development was limited, and narrowed the focus mostly to contract enforcement and property rights. Speaking of this Professor Fukuyama indicated that it is not certain whether western-style property rights were applicable globally. He stressed that there were many other institutions outside of property rights that were needed to achieve development, transparency, democratic accountability and modern state capacities. Yet it was only by the early 2000s that the institutional agenda in development studies broadened to include “good governance and anti-corruption,” but policy responses to achieve the latter have yielded disappointing results. Following Professor Fukuyama, believe in the power of markets and the disparaging of the state is destructive for development and democracy. This is why the ideas of good governance and anticorruption are that important. This is also why many development institutions today are pushing for a broader governance agenda to extend the basic state-building process and initiate more pervasive anticorruption measures. Even though various successful anti-corruption measures have been put in place, we do not know if aggregate corruption has changed. It might have moved from one sector to another, from one level of hierarchy to another. But getting rid of corruption is difficult – those in power know what they are doing. One needs to have enough power to bring about this political change, because it’s so entrenched. Professor Fukuyama expressed regret that even in countries where serious reforms were undertaken, some years afterwards, one by one these have been reversed. At this point, he indicated once again how important institutions are for development, but institutions are not efficient by themselves to bring about good results. It is because political power and money following it have been able to manipulate the institutions. It is possible to use the COVID-19 pandemic to illustrate some of the points brought about in the lecture, and it is not democracy that is the most important factor here. Other important features that increase efficiency of institutions include: 1) state capacity (inclusive health services during pandemic), 2) citizens’ trust in government, and 3) bad leadership indicating those who saw the pandemic not as a threat to general health but a threat to their personal political interests. Professor Fukuyama concluded his speech by yet again emphasizing the importance of strong institutions, and the importance to have rules, and impersonal, expert-led institutions.

Next, dr. Karina Jędrzejowska from the Department of Regional and Global Studies (Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, University of Warsaw) opened the discussion, and forwarded to Professor Fukuyama selected questions asked by the audience. The first group of questions asked related to the current state and threats to democracy. Responding to that Professor Fukuyama stated that we are living in a difficult time for global democracy. But a silver lining to the current pandemic is that it is exposing bad governance. It is revealing structural inequalities and showing what reforms are needed to make institutions effective. Next questions addressed the prospects for transatlantic cooperation, and future of economic and security multilateralism. According to the speaker, in order to have strong multilateralism, a strong hegemonic power is needed. When responding to the question on the condition of the concept of developmental state, Professor Fukuyama expressed the opinion that the idea has not lost it relevance, and the lessons drawn from implementation of this development model in East Asia still matter for development worldwide. Next, there were questions about impact of cultural diversity on development. Responding to that, Professor Fukuyama said that it is possible to govern diversity successfully, but ethnic and racial diversity can make democracy more difficult. Liberal democracy exists to accommodate and govern diversity, but – unfortunately – “human beings do not need race & ethnicity to hate each other”. In the final remarks Professor Fukuyama expressed his worries regarding the concept of transhumanism, and made some recommendations to the students of international relations at the University of Warsaw. Students were reminded of the importance of studying economics in order to get a better understanding of the surrounding world.

Next, dr. Jędrzejowska thanked Professor Fukuyama for the lecture and debate. Next, she thanked the UNDP, European Commission, and the authorities of the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, University of Warsaw, for making the event possible, as well as thanked the participants for their attendance and questions. Then the event was closed.

Economic recovery in the post-pandemic world

How will the world economy look like after the pandemic? Will governments take initiative to reshape their economies to better serve human needs? Is this a turning point for restructuring globalization for the public good? These were some of the questions addressed by Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz in his Kapuscinski Development Lecture on „The Post-Pandemic World: Restructuring Globalization for the Global Public Good”.

Joseph Stiglitz started his lecture by recognizing that countries around the world responded differently to Covid-19 pandemic. According to him, the US, Brazil and India failed in their respective responses to the crisis, whereas Denmark and New Zealand did a better job in controlling both the pandemic and its economic aftermath. So what accounts for the successes and failures of different countries in coping with the Covid-19 pandemic? Are there any generalizations, Stiglitz asked, that we can draw from this encounter? According to Stiglitz, countries that recognize the importance of science and the institutions; and those that demonstrate deep respect for their citizens have done better. As he discusses in his recent book, Power, People and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent , countries which respect science, social organization, credibility and the institutions for the verification of truth have succeeded to raise the standard of living for their societies in the last 250 years. Not surprisingly, these countries managed to cope with the pandemic better than others.

Stiglitz argued that 6 months after the outbreak of the pandemic, it became clearer that the US was particularly vulnerable to this crisis due to the existing inequalities such as the lack of access to health care and good nutrition. “This is not an equal opportunity virus,” Stiglitz continued, “it goes after those who are most vulnerable. It has exposed and exacerbated inequalities in our society.” Now, there is a global consensus that we don’t want to bounce back to where we were in January 2020.

Speaking on the impact of Covid-19 on globalization, Stiglitz argued that the pandemic made us all suddenly all that “viruses do not carry passports, they can go anywhere in the world.” However, the economic system we have created is not resilient to global supply chains with a clear example being the US inability to produce masks, protective gear for health care workers or ventilators at the height of the pandemic. Stiglitz conclusion was that there is a need to create more resilient supply chains going forward. The lecture was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Anya Schiffrin.

Photo: Daniel Baud and the Sydney Opera House

The narrow corridor: states, societies and the fate of liberty

As part of the Kapuscinski Development Lecture Series, Daron Acemoğlu, Institute Professor at MIT, gave a talk on “The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies and the Fate of Liberty” – also the title of his recently-published book – on December 20, 2019 at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. 

Over 500 people attended the live-streamed event. It opened with welcome messages by Fikret Adaman, Professor of Economics at Boğaziçi University; İpek Cem Taha, Director of Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul; and Ivan Zverzhanovski, Head of Partnerships at the UNDP Istanbul Regional Hub.

Daron Acemoğlu then took the stage. He opened by saying that he would not give a summary of the book he co-authored with James Robinson, but would talk about some of its main themes, and what he and James Robinson wanted to achieve by writing about them.

He then showed an image of an environmental protest, something that would have been unthinkable in small-scale societies and early despotic states of years past. He stated that this kind of protest is the essence of liberty today: individuals can make their own choices without getting permission to do so.

To illustrate this, he showed a graph that simplifies economic and political history into two variables: 1) the power of society and 2) the power of the state. When the power of the state is greater than that of society, we have despotic states. When the state is weak, a complex set of norms and traditions regulate conflict and do not allow for a strongman to gain power.

In between, there is a “narrow corridor” where both the state and society become stronger together. It is here where the environmental protest that he spoke about earlier, thrives. It thrives because both the state and society have greater capacities, e.g. the state can take action against climate change, and society can foster change through its civil society efforts, elections, etc. In addition, the relationship between the state and society has changed over time such that individuals have gained a deep trust in institutions, and thus in the state.

Being a democracy does not mean that the state is in the “narrow corridor;” however, there is a positive affinity between the two. Democracies have more economic growth than non-democracies; after countries transition to democracies, their GDP per capita increases by 20% over the following 20-25 years. Infant mortality also drops as states invest more in education and health.

How do we make the “corridor” work? We look to Europe as an example. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, two things coincided: 1) there was a blueprint for centralized administrative institutions from the Western Roman Empire, and 2) there was a tradition of “assembly politics” in Germanic tribes, allowing for society to participate in politics.

Social norms can hinder liberty. In India, the constitution prohibits the caste system, but it de facto still exists because of a cage of norms. States need to break the cage in order to democratize.

There are multiple ways of getting into the corridor. If a state is despotic, then society must get stronger. If a state is disorganized, then the state’s capacity must increase and laws must be obeyed. Leadership does matter, and that person must immediately start building trust in institutions. The state must simultaneously be strengthened while also be more open to criticism. States need to cherish the trust to stay in the “corridor.”

Daron Acemoğlu then spoke briefly about Turkey. Turkey has had several opportunities to enter the “corridor,” but has not taken them. Society’s power over politicians has to increase, and this has not happened in Turkey. Even though Turkey has had growth over the past 20 years, it has not been high-quality growth. One indication of this is that total factor productivity has been negative or zero over this time period. Turkey also exports low-tech products, whereas it should be aiming for medium-tech or high-tech exports. This creates inequality in society, which is at levels similar to those in Latin America.

In summary, entering the “corridor” not easy, while exiting it is. It is not a gift from leaders, but something that society demands. If society works at it, and the right conditions are present, then society together with better laws can help the state enter the “corridor.”

European Union statecraft for sustainable development

Jeffrey D. Sachs, University Professor at Columbia University and Director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, focused on the role of the European Union in the process of achieving the SDGs both in a European and global context at this Kapuscinski lecture.

He argued that sustainable development requires a new kind of statecraft, and the new European Commission has the opportunity to put the EU in the global lead of this effort: “Unless we have a strong Europe and a Europe that understands that when American leadership has collapsed, it is necessary for European leaders to step forward, we won’t be making it”, he told an audience at the Hertie School.

According to the annual Sustainable Development Report, which estimates each country’s capacity to achieve the SDGs, the globally top-ranked countries are European. “Without question, the quality of life in Europe is the highest quality of life on the planet. It’s also the part of the world that comes closest to achieving the ethos of sustainable development”. Sachs argued that sustainable development at its core means economic prosperity, social inclusion, environmental sustainability and the rule of law. Despite Europe’s practice of importing goods from polluting countries, Sachs acknowledged its intent to comply with the standards of environmental sustainability, but nonetheless called for further SDG alignment among EU member states.

The new EU Commission has the opportunity to become a global leader of the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement. This comes with the question of how Europe can lead other countries to achieve the SDGs and how Europe affects other countries through global supply chains and other spill-overs. Sachs’ recommendations for the new European Commission under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen included introducing EU-wide strategies to target the “seventeen-dimensional problem” of achieving the SDGs. He emphasized the need for technology-driven transformations for decarbonized means of transportation in air, sea and on land and energy systems. “Europe has a big job to do because where is the goal? The goal is zero by 2050!” This technology puzzle could only be solved by significant investments in research and development, leading to a climate-neutral and circular economy. Sachs highlighted the inherent need for a new investment agenda to cope with the lack of innovation in some regions. Therefore, the EU needs a budget increase with more resources spent on directed research and development, increasing innovation and thereby the quality of life.

The issues need to be addressed at every level of government, from local to global and require constructive problem-solving. The complexity and timeframe of the issues Sachs outlined require intensive analysis and research, as well as a multidimensional approach that includes both the public and private sectors. Furthermore, Sachs suggested that a Eurostat framework for SDG measurements and indicators should be introduced as a means to monitor the implementation of policies by governments and the alignment of businesses with the SDGs.

He recommended a shift in the European Union’s diplomacy agenda, and challenged Europe to take the lead in the multilateral environment and climate change agreements: “Europe’s leadership is vital to make the world system work”. With respect to Europe’s position as the largest donor in the world, Sachs argues that it needs to scale up its strategy and focus on attaining the geopolitical heft that comes from raising resources for development. Furthermore, he suggested partnerships with key bilateral forums: “Europe’s bilateral relations with other regions will come to be the defining diplomacy”. The European Union should partner with the African Union to endow every African child with the opportunity for secondary education. He urged Europe to commit to a sustainable Eurasian economy and to further cooperate with MERCOSUR.

In his concluding remarks, Sachs urged Europe to “build a rule-based, multilateral system under the UN Charter with the common aim of sustainable development”, by engaging in strong partnerships and the promotion of the principle of having zero emissions by 2050.

#KAPTalks interviews: sustainability of development results

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s works addressed leading development issues of the 1970s, 1980s, and (arguably to a lesser extent) the 1990s.  Have the world’s development challenges changed since then?  What was the biggest challenge then and what is it now?

Kapuściński witnessed the end of the colonial world and the development challenges of his time were mainly linked to the painful process of state building. Today’s biggest challenges are global, ie not specifically limited to the developing world – climate change, asymmetrical conflict, trade barriers, irregular migration. Therefore, the Sustainable Development Goals have been adopted as a global agenda for all.

Some people dismiss sustainable development as an aspirational vision, others an unattainable fantasy, and still others absolutely necessary to our future. In this age where few seem interested in working for the collective good of all, what’s your argument to convince others that it is necessary to change the way we develop?

The development policy was born some 70 years ago and has come of age. Yet, the world community is still struggling to meet some of the objectives set back then – eg the 0,7% GNI ODA ratio formulated in 1968 by the Pearson Commission. Development policy today is rightly looking beyond the task of dealing with post colonial legacies and focuses on common global goods like access to water, limiting effects of climate change and dealing with migratory pressures. Discussion on the definition of ODA should continue at OECD DAC as further updates seems necessary.

What is the biggest challenge/hindrance to successful development?

What area of development or Global Goal do you think sustainable development hinges on? Which one is at the core of all the others?

Despite white spread perception, the main hindrance to successful development of not access to funding. The main obstacle remains sustainability of the results achieved – or still to be achieved – which hinges on much more than money – international burden sharing in dealing with global challenges, ownership by partner countries, maintaining peace and stability.

What’s the most striking thing you have personally witnessed in relation to development? i.e. a challenge, opportunity or just personal observation about a human story.

Firstly, it is the appearance of new players – private donors with global outreach, middle income countries turning into donors, South-South cooperation. Secondly, it is really striking how important the security/development nexus has become and how military and civilian institutions have developed into both providers and recipients of aid.


Inequality, exclusion and democracy

Mr. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom opened his speech with an open question on how inequality could be tackled by good governance.

Inequality can be changed and poverty is a problem with a solution as Ryszard Kapuscinski’s life shows it, according to Blair. The key driver of tackling poverty is the quality of governance: the capacity to govern well, effectively, build institutions capable of making the best and sustainable decisions. However the quality of government cannot be imported, needs to be built locally.

Blair recalled examples of countries with same population, same opportunities, natural resources, but with different development success: Columbia and Venezuela, Poland and Ukraine, Ruanda and Burundi, North and South Korea. Government is tough and usually there is a vast gulf between great idea and effective implementation. Therefore providing support in building institutions is vital in reducing inequality. All African countries the Blair Institute works in share similar challenges – poor infrastructure (lack of electricity), inefficient small agriculture sector, education systems with poor quality, basic healthcare, corruption, inability to attract investments. And they add a new challenge with access to technology which can create a digital divide. According to Tony Blair the answer is the good governance. He stressed that there are solutions in tackling these problems, but the international community is slow in implementing these lessons. Aid assistance falls short because the focus of key decision-makers is missing.

Blair again called for greater recognition of importance of governance in development. He was convinced that a change can happen and politics can deliver, giving the examples of implementing the Millennium Development Goals and significant progress globally.

“Poverty is a problem with a solution. Inequality can be eliminated and the way to do that is through good governance,” he said, adding that “real change happens when nations are strong enough to stand on their feet and take destiny into their own hands.”

The lecture was followed by a discussion with Luis-Felipe López Calva, Regional Director of UNDP for Latin America and the Caribbean, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, Santiago Levy, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and Jos Verbeek, World Bank Manager and Special Representative to the UN and WTO.

When measured in terms of income differences, inequalities have been decreasing slightly, even though the perception around the world is that they are in fact rising, said Luis-Felipe López Calva.

However, inequality has multiple dimensions beyond income and there is a genuine concern among the international development community that certain groups in many countries have more bargaining power, resulting in a “deterioration of democracy and fragmentation of the social contract”, he specified.

Oxfam now has a “Commitment to Reduce Inequality” Index that measures progressive taxation, progressive social spending and labor rights, said Winnie Byanyima. She also pointed out that 26 billionaires own as much as the bottom half of humanity and exert disproportionate influence over decisions.

#KAPTalks interviews: multilateralism helping effective solutions

Kapuscinski challenged us in his writings to see the world as it is, and at the same time to see it in fundamentally different ways to convention. Sustainable development likewise challenges us to understand not only where we want to get to, the first sixteen ‘goals’, but through the seventeenth and the broader 2030 Agenda to shape pathways to success based on a fundamental reappraisal of both where we are and how ambitious action can be effective in today’s world.

More of the same, in a nutshell, will not get the job done. This is not just because we made bad decisions in the past, but because the world around us is changing, demanding new approaches to old as well as new problems and opportunities. The fall in global poverty and inter-country inequality over recent decades, for example, largely resulted from China’s rise, a driver that will not repeat itself any time soon. Automation will reshape labor markets and the basis of international competitive advantage in years to come in ways that require different development models as export-led growth becomes less likely for many developing countries. Climate change is now upon us, and means a world of growing numbers and impact of shocks, with livelihood, security and political implications.

Actually, we are overwhelmed by solutions as much as by oft-repeated problems. Perhaps for the first time in human history, we have the science, the technology, the finance, and the know-how to deliver on sustainable development. Our greatest challenge is in how best to organise the delivery of well understood and quite affordable solutions. Our failure to organise is widespread, from weakened multilateralism, to corporate disfunction, to inadequate civil society organisations, and to short-term financial markets. The state formations, civil forms of action and the market institutions we have inherited are proving inadequate to harness the potential of our inventiveness and make it widely available. Digitalisation provides the prospects of a frictionless world of networked opportunities, certainly, But without institutions that can form and oversee equitable rules, this technological surge is more likely to drive further instability and injustice. Our vision of society’s underpinned by human rights and individual choice is threatened by the deterioration of our belief in election-based democracies, the equalising effects of information, and our capacity to sustain empathy at scale in the face of disruption and uncertainty.


Our capacity to organise is inter-twinned into our evolutionary process. It is more than anything what makes us able to actualise our imagination in becoming what we are, a technological species. As a civilisational building block, we exist as long as we can organise in ways that are commensurate with new challenges and opportunities. Reforming the UN is but one tip of this imperative. We need likewise to reinvent the purpose and logic of business and the state, and their respective interfaces with each other and the underlying, organic dynamics of self-organisation.


#KAPTalks interviews: Kapuscinski’s concern about voices of people

When Ryszard Kapuscinski was addressing development issues, the world was clearly divided into blocs: the First World of advanced capitalist countries; the Second World of communist and socialist states; and the Third World of impoverished nations. There was little connection between these worlds and even less understanding or desire to be informed of others’ conditions. Kapuscinski’s great contribution was to bring these divides into focus and to help people in one bloc understand what was happening in other blocs, especially in the Third World. Today, such distinctions are irrelevant. Thanks to social media there is a torrent of information about everyone’s lives, sometimes accurate, but sometimes distorted. With globalization, people are also more concerned with, and aware of, what is happening in other countries. There is a greater continuum among countries along the development scale. Countries can no longer be easily classified into simple categories—both China and India have space programs as well as pockets of abject poverty. Should they be called underdeveloped? In many instances, the challenges of development today are as much about the distribution of income and differences in living standards of people within countries rather than between countries.

Many of the issues that Kapuscinski wrote about remain relevant today. His stories of revolutions, coups and wars have today morphed into stories of “fragile states,” but the basic concept is the same. States without governments that enjoy the support of their own populations provide staging posts for outbreaks of violence and extremism and cannot be expected to develop. The nature of violence may have shifted from wars and revolutions to non-state actors and criminal elements, but the problem remains.

Kapuscinski was intimately concerned with people and people’s voices. He would find the idea of working for the collective good rather strange. But this does not mean that sustainable development is merely aspirational. It means that we need to find ways to connect global problems and issues more closely with people’s own lives and livelihoods. For example, it is no accident that China is emerging as one of the world leaders in low-carbon technologies. This is largely because China’s cities have become so polluted that citizens cry out for better solutions. The hugely positive impact on the rest of the world is a convenient by-product. What remains unclear, however, is whether these win-win incentives will be sufficient to achieve the pace and scale of the needed global change. So far, there are still plenty of win-win solutions available. We’ve not yet tested the frontier where real trade-offs might become necessary.

These connections between global issues and national issues must be made by leaders at the State and community level. Kapuscinski wrote extensively about leaders and their personal idiosyncracies. These could easily become the most important obstacles to development. Then, as now, the foibles of leaders were revealed. In The Emperor, he was characteristically forthright: “the King of Kings preferred bad ministers. And the King of Kings preferred them because he liked to appear in a favorable light by contrast.” Such idiosyncracies, and the personal patronage that leaders use to retain power, remain central obstacles for development, creating the conditions for widespread corruption, bribery and flattery, as well as the dimming of individual enterprise towards betterment of family and community. All of which we refer to today as “bad governance” but that was described by Kapuscinski as the lack of institutions and reliance on personalities in all political systems.

Yet despite these failings, there has been astonishing progress since the time when Kapuscinski was writing. In his long career, he never witnessed the transformation of societies in the same way as modern development practitioners have. Take the case of Lao PDR, one of the poorest countries in the world in the mid-1980’s. When I first went in 1988, Laos had a GDP per capita of only $308 according to the IMF. Small boys would turn their heads to look at my car, such was the rarity. They “fished” for bats to be made into soup in the capital city of Vientiane. Shortly thereafter, Laos started a program of reforms and development of its considerable hydropower and minerals sector. Today, in the span of one generation, Laos has achieved a GDP per capita of $2,700. Even adjusting for inflation, it is four and one-half times richer than thirty years ago. Development progress has been halting and uneven, with many of the problems of governance so richly detailed by Kapuscinski, but progress in material conditions of the people has been real: life expectancy has risen from 54 years to 67 years (1990 to 2015); expected years of schooling has risen from 6.7 years to 10.8; over one third of the population now has at least some secondary education; and so on. While still a poor country, Lao PDR offers opportunities for a new generation that were unthinkable for the last. It is being transformed.



#KAPTalks interviews: Planetary labour market

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s works addressed leading development issues of the 1970s, 1980s, and (arguably to a lesser extent) the 1990s. Have the world’s development challenges changed since then? What was the biggest challenge then and what is it now?

In this age where few seem interested in working for the collective good of all, what’s your argument to convince others that it is necessary to change the way we develop?

To me it is a question about justice. There is a global lottery that some of us win and some of us lose. The fact that some of us are born in countries that have high living standards and get to benefit from that is not because we worked harder or because we’re smarter than anyone else. It is simply luck. People born into contexts with low life expectancies or high rates of disease simply have bad luck.

As human beings, we can, and we should do better. We need to broaden our sphere of empathy to encompass our increasingly connected planet. It is much harder to plead ignorance about the breadth of human suffering than it used to be. But if we now are able to know as much about people on the other side of the world as we are about people in the cities that we live in, then sitting on our hands shouldn’t be an option.

This isn’t an argument for a blind faith in 'development’. But rather an argument in favour of sharing wealth and resources. If we acknowledge that luck, due to the geographic lottery, plays a massive role in how long we live, whether our children survive childbirth, our odds of surviving disease, and our chance of finding a rewarding and decent profession, then it isn’t good enough to be satisfied with the current scale of global inequalities. Because of the luck that those of us in the Global North were born with, we have a responsibility to develop and support structures and systems that facilitate global sharing.

What is the biggest challenge/hindrance to successful development?

What area of development or Global Goal do you think sustainable development hinges on? Which one is at the core of all the others?

What’s the most striking thing you have personally witnessed in relation to development? i.e. a challenge, opportunity or just personal observation about a human story.

With over half of the world’s population now connected to the internet, one of the most striking things I see happening today is the creation of what I’ve referred to as a ’planetary labour market’. Millions of workers from around the world are escaping some of the constraints of their local labour markets and competing for the same jobs. This has enormous implications for workers in parts of the world where jobs are scarce. However, the sheer scale of what is happening brings with it concerns about a massive global over-supply of labour power, and a consequent race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions.


#KAPTalks interviews: leave no one behind

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s works addressed leading development issues of the 1970s, 1980s, and (arguably to a lesser extent) the 1990s.  Have the world’s development challenges changed since then?  What was the biggest challenge then and what is it now?

In the period of the 1970s and 80s, development was largely seen in terms of modernisation and economic growth. Key challenges turned on enabling countries to establish stable, growing economies through an appropriate balance between industrialisation and agriculture and rural development. Concerns with poverty reduction and social development challenges such as health, education and gender were growing in significance, but often marginalised. And as the neo-liberal era of the 1980s set in, the state-led development agendas of the 1970s gave way to the promotion of free markets. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, dealing with the fallout of structural adjustment and related programs through a renewed emphasis on human development came to be seen as a critical challenge, with states and civil society organisations frequently assuming responsibility.

The last few decades have witnessed major progress in these aspects of economic and social development in many parts of the world. Yet they also reveal a series of paradoxes and contradictions. First, growth has accelerated in many countries but has been accompanied by growing inequalities of many kinds. Global income growth has been very unevenly shared, concentrated in rising middle classes in India and China and in a booming global elite, but with the poorest percentiles locked out, and a declining shared of growth amongst the middle classes in the developed world. Old industrialised countries, emerging middle income ones, and poorer countries are almost all experiencing rising economic inequalities. These intersect – nationally, and in terms of people’s lived experiences – with other kinds of inequaity – social and gender, cultural, political, and in terms of place and knowledge. Inequalities matter fundamentally because they are unfair and unjust, but they also affect other development proprities. Inequality can hamper economic growth, and certainly reduces the impact of that growth on poverty reduction. Health and nutrition are worse in countries with higher income inequality. Inequalities are threatening our democracies, and contributing to rises in conflict – and more.

Second, dominant development paths are proving deeply unsustainable in environmental terms, with climate change, biodiversity loss, land and water degradation and pollution threatening our ability to thrive on a pressurised planet. What were relatively marginal development issues in the 1970s and 80s have moved centre-stage, with growing attention going hand in hand with growing evidence of trends in human-induced climate and environmental change, and its devastating impacts on lives, livelihoods and societies across the world. Development has, by necessity, become sustainable development, and a central challenge is to find and unlock pathways which can ensure human thriving while avoiding further threats to our biophysical life support systems.

Third, the burden of insecurity, and its counterpart, lack of inclusion, affects historic numbers of people across the world on a daily basis. Both nation states and the international community have invested intensively in military security, yet conflict and violence affect many people’s lives. Many face complex, protracted emergencies in which political insecurity intersects with disease epidemics and natural disasters. We have a growing migrant crisis as unprecedented numbers of people leave their countries to escape war, repressive regimes, political alienation or economic hardship. While political participation is given more attention, there is growing distrust in political institutions. Technological innovations offer once unimagined opportunities, yet are also exposing people to new threats, exclusions and invasions of privacy.

In this context, development needs to move from a narrow focus on economic growth and poverty, to navigating complex challenges in ways that reduce inequalities and build more sustainable, inclusive and secure futures for people and societies. (i) Reducing inequalities, (ii) Accelerating sustainability and (iii) Building inclusive and secure societies can be seen as the major defining challenges of our time. Yet there are no single motorways or roadmaps to progress in this new era of development. Multiple and flexible pathways of change and transformation that adapt and respond to diverse contexts, needs and priorities will be required, supported by new ways of thinking, acting and collaborating.

Some people dismiss sustainable development as an aspirational vision, others an unattainable fantasy, and still others absolutely necessary to our future. In this age where few seem interested in working for the collective good of all, what’s your argument to convince others that it is necessary to change the way we develop?

Climate change, biodiversity loss, the degradation of land, vegetation and water resources, pollution whether of the air we breathe or of rivers and oceans increasingly choked with chemicals and plastic – these problems are inextricably linked and affect people across the world. They are the consequences of dominant development pathways which have brought prosperity to some, but at deep cost to non-human nature and people’s safety, health and livelihoods locally and globally. Indeed, there is growing evidence that current development paths risk irreversible damage to the earth’s biophysical life support systems, with further shocks and stresses in store that will affect us all, undo development progress and block it for future generations. There is therefore an urgent need to seek new development pathways that are both sustainable, and equitable. These will require transformative, not just incremental change, recognising that business as usual is not an option, and fundamental shifts are needed in some of the key structures, institutions, systems and norms that shape our societies and economies, along with the transformational politics to deliver these. While this is a major challenge, it is not unattainable. Transformations to sustainability are already happening in some places and around some issues, led both by top-down international and government action and policies, and crucially by grassroots action by citizens in rural and urban settings. Building the political momentum to intensify and grow these initiatives, and to challenge the ‘lock-ins’ that block pathways to sustainability, are key tasks ahead.

What is the biggest challenge/hindrance to successful development?

What area of development or Global Goal do you think sustainable development hinges on? Which one is at the core of all the others?

The Global Goals lay out an ambitious and important agenda for both people and planet, to which all countries have committed. This is a vital and positive step in meeting the challenges of sustainable development. All 17 goals are important, and it is in their combination that progress by 2030 and beyond can be expected. There are also important synergies and tensions between the goals which need to be acknowledged and addressed. For instance meeting the goal for food production could compromise the water goal if agricultural strategies do not take into account surface and groundwater needs; on the other hand opportunitie exist for multiple wins in addressing food, energy and water together. Addressing climate change goals and targets could compromise goals around poverty, tackling inequality and gneder equality if technological and market schemes dispossess local people of rights and livelihoods; on the other hand appropriate policies and strategies could address all these goals together, for instance by building on grassroots initiatives with women’s leadership, or building in appropriate safeguards. Because of these interactions, it is not appropriate to define any particular goal as the most important for sustainable development. People do not live their lives in separate silo-like goals, and nor should responsive, transformative development.

Alongside the significance of the SDGs themselves are their cross-cutting principles and approaches. The imperative to ‘leave no one behind’ is a vital step in forging a development agenda that is genuinely inclusive, and which tackles extreme forms of marginalisation – whether related to poverty, ethnicity, disability, peace, gender or intersections of these. The SDGs are also universal, applying to all countries and people. This is a is a major step in dismantling the problematic divides between so-called North and South, developed and developing country, which have pervaded so much aid and development discourse and practice. Instead, we can now look properly to development as positive change for everyone, everywhere. We can fully acknowledge and address the global-local interconnections between people and places around challenges such as climate, finance, food, and pandemics. And we can forge a development agenda that is about mutual and multi-way learning and co-operation in all directions.

What’s the most striking thing you have personally witnessed in relation to development? i.e. a challenge, opportunity or just personal observation about a human story.

I’ve witnessed and experienced many striking things in relation to development, but a story from recent times illustrates some of the themes I have addressed above: the importance of interconnected challenges in a complex world, and the importance of combining different forms of knowledge and practice – grassroots as well a sglobal, social as well as technical – to address them.

The spectre of a deadly disease emerging in a remote place, spreading rapidly to become a global pandemic is the stuff of nightmares. This ‘global outbreak narrative’ fuels popular media, and now a new wave of global ‘pandemic preparedness policy’. Ebola has become paradigmatic, topping the World Health Organisation’s latest priority disease list. This isn’t just because Ebola is a particularly dramatic haemorraghic fever transmitted through body fluids and killing more than half those infected, but also because in 2014-2015 the global outbreak narrative came true. The Ebola epidemic that began in the village of Meliandou in the Guinea-Sierra Leone-Liberia border region in December 2013 spread fast through the towns and trade routes of this highly-peopled, mobile region, and cases – and fear of them – reached neighbouring countries, Europe, the US and the world. By January 2016 when all countries were finally declared Ebola-free, the death toll was just over 11,000, with 17,000 survivors struggling with the medical and social fallout. It was a devastating crisis – but it could have been much worse. The story of grassroots and social knowledge is critical to this.

Why was this? The problem was that by August 2014, when the World Health Organization belatedly declared the epidemic to be a so-called „public health emergency of international concern”, it was already out of control, with scientists predicting not thousands but millions of deaths. The early international response by humanitarian agencies had foundered, largely for socio-cultural reasons. Many villagers suspected that both the virus, and alleged attempts to control it, were plots to repress their livelihoods and practices, or even kill them. Villagers stoned response agencies’ vehicles and dug trenches across their bush roads to keep them out. People hid and cared for their patients in their remote farm camps rather than bring them to Ebola Treatment Units, and sometimes ‘stole back’ patients treated there. Funerals were quickly identified as a key moment for transmission, when bodies are at their most infectious, and local practices involve touching and visits by kin – yet people resented and resisted the external teams sent in to conduct so-called safe burials. And as the response scaled up, so did local anxieties about it.

Really worried about what was unfolding, a group of anthropologists in Sierra Leone and the UK who had worked for decades in the region on various development-related issues wondered what we could do. We set up an Ebola Response Anthropology Platform, and established links with networks of concerned anthropologists that also emerged in West Africa, Europe and the US. Together. We mobilised social science knowledge in real-time to re-shape the public health and humanitarian response, away from the top-down approach that was clashing so badly with local values and fuelling resistance that magnified the crisis, and towards a more respectful, community-engaged approach that appreciated and built on people’s own social and cultural logics, practices and innovations.

Take funerals: our work showed the need to see them as part of a longer period of caring for the extremely sick by kin; and their social and cultural significance, ensuring people become ancestors, social faults are addressed, and matters of inheritance settled. At one point there was a stand-off in a Kissi village where a pregnant woman had died of Ebola; villagers insisted that the fetus be removed before burial, to avoid the social fault of ‘maa’, in which regenerative cycles of generations are mixed, with devastating consequences for land, crops and people. The burial team refused because of the infection risk. Mediation by an anthropologist and a local healer helped broker a creative alternative; a sacrifice that would appease the relevant spirits without the fetus being removed. As in examples like this, communities were willing to adapt their practices to balance social and infection risk; but agencies needed to appreciate their social significance to support this balancing. Such understanding fed directly into new guidelines for ‘safe and dignified burials’ with community involvement.

Or take local anxieties about the response: far from being the ignorance based ‘rumours’ that agencies initially assumed, our work showed their logics embedded in the region’s experience of development and inequalities. The idea that foreign agencies might be trying to depopulate an area to take land – or that Ebola is being spread by white miners – are all too feasible given people’s lived experiences of land and resource grabs and disposession. One of the most devastating incidents in the epidemic, when villagers in the Guinea forest village of Womeh out of fear attacked and killed a 6 person Ebola sensitisation team, happened less than 10 km from Mt. Simandou, the planned site of the largest integrated iron-ore mine and infrastructure project ever developed in Africa by Rio Tinto Group, BSG Resources and the Aluminium Corporation of China (Chinalco). Ebola also became embroiled in longstanding ethnic and political tensions. For instance in Guinea, the epidemic’s epicentres in the forest and coastal regions are also heartlands of ethnic groups opposed to the Malinke-led party in power. A politicised response by government was easily interpreted as genocide. By explaining these tensions, we were able to support agencies to tailor their messages and teams – for instance by working through ethnically trusted or neutral officials.

Our Platform directly shaped humanitarian and development strategies. It supported the UK government’s strategy in Sierra Leone, becoming a first-time social science sub-committee of the UK Government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), directly advising the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientist. Impacts included the decision to develop Community Care Centres for initial triage and isolation of cases, as a more acceptable and accessible alternative to the large Ebola Treatment Units which people so feared. We also directly informed the social mobilisation efforts of the Sierra Leone government and NGO-led Social Mobilisation Action Consortium, highlighting how community learning and behaviour change was turning the epidemic round, and how to build on this in ‘Community Lead Action on Ebola’ efforts which eventually reached 67% of communities in Sierra Leone.

International agencies have recognised this. Margaret Chan of WHO said in 2015 ‘we have learned the lessons of community and culture’, and WHO’s re-vamped Health Emergencies Programme has a major emphasis on community engagement, as does UNICEF’s new Health Emergency Preparedness Initiative (HEPI). The importance of social science knowledge has been recognised – at the invitation of UNICEF and USAID we’re now running a broader social science in humanitarian action platform, and agencies are calling for the development of social science protocols to be ready for quick use in further outbreaks, of all priority diseases.

Outbreaks and potential pandemics will recur in our current and future development era – although when and where we cannot be certain. These are part of the protracted crises that affect so many. What I think we can be sure of is that alongside medical technologies and epidemiology, social knowledge – and the ability to mobilise it in real time – will be critical parts of the world’s ability to be ready and respond, and crucial to addressing humanitarian and development issues.



#KAPTalks interviews: bold leadership needed

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s works addressed leading development issues of the 1970s, 1980s, and (arguably to a lesser extent) the 1990s.  Have the world’s development challenges changed since then?  What was the biggest challenge then and what is it now?

I disagreed with Kapuściński, when he claimed: “We know everything about the global problem of poverty. What we can’t figure out is how to reduce it in practical terms. [The moment we try] there appear obstacles that cannot be surmounted, and interests one cannot go against

In fact, when I founded the UN Millennium Campaign in 2002, I insisted: we are the first generation that can put an end to extreme poverty: we know what to do, we have the resources, and we have the commitments of the world’s governments to do what it takes. But it requires political will: and lack of that was a challenge at the time – and even more, today. Political will only materializes when politicians feel they can win elections by doing the right thing: it is up to us, citizens and civil society to make these issues vote-getters.

And indeed, the Millennium Development Goals were broadly achieved, as (according to the UN SG in 2003) “There has been …most importantly mobilization far beyond governments by Civil Society, among parliamentarians, faith-based communities and local authorities.” Alas, in the present climate of growing xenophobia and nationalism, it became much harder to mobilize citizens in favor of international responsibility and solidarity and get the message to politicians.

Some people dismiss sustainable development as an aspirational vision, others an unattainable fantasy, and still others absolutely necessary to our future. In this age where few seem interested in working for the collective good of all, what’s your argument to convince others that it is necessary to change the way we develop?

Everybody wants a better life for their children and grandchildren. Obviously already much of the quality of life as we enjoyed it, clean air and waters, beautiful fauna and flora, is being lost. We are failing the imperative to pass on this planet to the next generation in as good shape as we inherited it from our parents. And to care about the planet implies caring about people, as poverty is the greatest polluter. This is what sustainable development is about…

 What is the biggest challenge/hindrance to successful development?

The real problem is that government leaders come to international meetings, make beautiful speeches and sign up for ambitious promises; and then take back the plane from New York or Paris home, to business as usual, instead of meeting with their Cabinet members to discuss what their signature implies, per sector, for all the different portfolio’s Ministers hold – from health to finance and trade, and regularly monitor implementation of the actions agreed.

And they can get away with this, as they are not being held to account by their own citizens and Parliaments, the only ones that can do so, as the UN cannot send the police to a country that fails to live up to its promises. There is no point in producing global norms and goals unless they are translated in concrete political action at country level.

And it is not only lofty UN Declarations that gather dust without being implemented. Treaties might suffer this fate: the 2007 Lisbon Treaty requires all EU’s policies to be consistent with its external policies, including fostering sustainable development whose primary aim is the eradication of poverty and helping the environment. But until this day the EU’s common agricultural policies continue to pollute the environment and hurt poor producers in developing countries.

What area of development or Global Goal do you think sustainable development hinges on? Which one is at the core of all the others?

 Goal 1 – Poverty – is in my view – the overarching goal. I see all other goals as instruments and/or issues to be tackled in order to achieve this first goal. And given the relationship between poverty and the health of our planet, reaching the first goal is also paramount for environmental sustainability.

What’s the most striking thing you have personally witnessed in relation to development? i.e. a challenge, opportunity or just personal observation about a human story. 

On more than one occasion I met poor African women, empowered by a little extra income, thanks to access to minimal resources or assets, proudly telling me that now they could afford to send their daughters to school and how that would ensure she would have a much better life that they had. These encounters never failed to move me deeply; and to make me realize that this is at the heart of what the development is all about.

#KAPTalks interviews: Global Goals need more work

When Ryszard Kapuscinski was putting pen to paper, the biggest global challenge was human poverty, including high mortality among children and mothers, widespread malnutrition and persistent illiteracy. Since then, respectable progress has been made. Perhaps the most striking statistic is that some 18,600 fewer cases of infant and child deaths occurred each day in 2015 compared with 1990; notwithstanding the significant rise in the world population over that period. But progress was not observed across the board. Deforestation, overfishing and pollution has continued unabated, jeopardising the planet’s biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions have soured. The picture can be summarized by the one-liner Progress for people, regress for the planet.

Whilst human poverty still requires hard work, it no longer constitutes the prime global challenge. The most pressing one now is twofold: sustainable and equitable development. The world is not facing two separate challenges—environmental and societal, with fragmentation and polarisation of all sorts—but one complex inter-connected challenge in which inequality occupies a central role. Evidence shows, for instance, that people in more equitable countries are more environmentally friendly across the board: they consume less water for personal use, produce less waste and emit less CO2.

Girl in a jacket

Although the SDGs represent a better framework to respond to this dual challenge than did the MDGs, they are too muddle-headed to be effective. The goals regarding climate change and inequality rank in thirteenth and tenth position respectively—suggesting they do not really constitute top priorities. Moreover, their relevant targets are flawed. The stated target for inequality aims to ‘progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average’. The metric for inequality is faulty because it fails to capture the entire distribution and ignores the top 10%. Inequality is not only due to the poverty of the poor but also to the wealth of the wealthy. It is perfectly possible for a country to meet the above-mentioned target and yet witness an increase in inequality. If faster income growth for the bottom 40% is based on transfers from the next 50% whilst the top 10% of the distribution are left unaffected, then the country will indeed see a rise in inequality. A hollowing out of the middle class is being observed in many a country.

The significance of high inequality cannot to be underestimated, because it influences the way people feel, think and act. We do not only crave for status and constantly compare ourselves with others, we also mimic the behaviour of others, especially those at the top, to whom we look up in awe whilst feeling contempt for those lower on the social ladder. We inadvertently internalise the values, the opinions and even the interpretation of events of those whom we admire. This can have deleterious effects on our moral sentiments, giving rise to more incivility. People voluntarily abstain from acts that are individually beneficial but socially harmful as long as others do so too. But once wealth is perceived as an entitlement to selfish behaviour, it will quickly cascade down the social ladder and good behaviour quickly evaporates. Psychology professor Paul Piff conducted experiments that show that respondents who were made to feel rich were ‘more likely to break the law while driving, to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies, and to cheat to win a prize’. Other studies reveal that individual tendencies of self-absorption, bragging and self-aggrandisement are most prevalent in more unequal countries. In short, high inequality harms more than just the economy; it affects all aspects of development.

Considerable work remains to realise the potential of the SDGs. The good news is that several of their flaws can be fixed. First, each and every country must cut the long list of SDG targets to a manageable level by prioritising them to fit the reality on the ground. Second, the fuzziness of many SDG targets must be swapped for conceptually clarity, because wooly targets cannot be verifiably monitored. Third, numerical outcomes must be tailored to reflect local realities. It is unreasonable to expect that all countries will progress at the same rate. Global targets are always collective in nature, and must never be imposed on each country individually. Selection and adaptation are urgent steps, given that the SDGs have gotten little traction so far. One thing I have learnt is that development is always context-specific, driven by local priorities, local actors and local institutions. There can be no universal agenda with one-size-fit-all targets for all countries. International and regional organisations are yet to take effective steps to encourage and support member states in selecting and adapting the SDGs to their specific situation.

Finally, more fitting indicators must be selected to monitor progress. Regarding income inequality, the Palma ratio—income share of the top 10% divided by that of the bottom 40%—is a better metric because it covers more of the distribution than just the bottom 40%. In addition, all vital statistics and other relevant indicators for human development must be equity-adjusted, by attaching more weight to the lower quintiles than to the higher ones. Given the increased availability of better and more disaggregated data, it is now possible to adjust key national indicators to reflect inequalities within a country, following a straightforward methodology for producing equity-adjusted statistics. By embedding inequality into national statistics, countries will occupy a different place in international rankings, depending on how unequal they are. This is likely to generate a much-needed focus on inequality across the board, which is overdue because high inequality constitutes a major hindrance to achieving sustainable development. 

Jan Vandemoortele, PhD., co-architect of the MDGs, served with UNDP and UNICEF in various countries and at headquarters.

#KAPTalks interviews: democractic empowerment of majorities

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s works addressed leading development issues of the 1970s, 1980s, and (arguably to a lesser extent) the 1990s.  Have the world’s development challenges changed since then?  What was the biggest challenge then and what is it now?

There have been significant changes in the leading approaches to development: in the agents and agencies taking charge of it, in the theories and values guiding them, in the goals they prioritize, and in the academic analysis and journalistic commentary accompanying development work. Still, the real challenges are akin to what they were half a century ago. Billions of human beings still are at risk of undernourishment, malnutrition, communicable diseases or death from neonatal or maternal conditions. Billions still lack clean water, sanitation, shelter, electricity, basic health care or elementary education. Back in Kapuscinski’s day, the world was rich and productive enough to avoid these massive deprivations but instead chose to spend its riches on an incredibly expensive arms race, an incredibly destructive war in South East Asia and an extravagant but exciting space program. Today, with global average income some 130% higher in real terms and after spectacular advances in science and technology, humanity is even much more capable of avoiding such deprivations. But this will not happen so long as a small global elite runs this planet, capturing 46% of global wealth for its 36 million millionaires while confining humanity’s poorer half to less than 1%.

While inequality remains the key foe of development, there has been a significant shift from inequality’s international to its intra-national component. While the logarithmic distance between the poorest and richest countries has remained about the same, international Gini inequality has declined as some very large developing countries have been rapidly catching up to the global average.

For the world’s poor, this decline in international inequality has been nullified by significant increases in intra-national inequality – not merely in India and China, but pretty much everywhere in the world (least so in Latin America, where intra-national inequality was at nosebleed levels even in the 1960s). So the poorer half of the world’s population is still left behind economically, still socially and politically marginalized if not excluded. But the countries in which most of them live now command much more influence on the international stage. While the high-income countries peaked at 85% of the world economy in 1992 and have since declined to 64%, China’s share bottomed at 1.7% in 1981 and has since increased to 16%. Where developing countries had little or no influence on the design of the global economy 50 years ago, they have substantial influence today, especially where they engage in South-South collaboration (as in BRICS or IBSA). Today’s problem is that, all too often, this influence is exerted in behalf of small Southern elites rather than for the benefit of the majority – and also that the world’s poor find themselves increasingly disempowered, excluded and ignored by the politicians of their own countries.

Some people dismiss sustainable development as an aspirational vision, others an unattainable fantasy, and still others see it as absolutely necessary to our future. In this age where few seem interested in working for the collective good of all, what’s your argument to convince others that it is necessary to change the way we develop?

The expression “sustainable development” brings together two different projects: to avert climate change and to eradicate poverty. These two projects are superficially at odds as is often pointed out by saying: “just imagine what the world would be like if those who are now poor attained the affluent lifestyles common in Germany, Japan or Maryland! Our planet would be ruined even faster.” This appearance is often exploited and entrenched by those who, for whatever reasons, oppose either project. They are quick to exclaim either that we should not vigorously fight climate change because doing so would impose intolerable burdens on the poor or that we should not vigorously fight poverty because doing so would accelerate environmental disaster.

I have two main arguments against such claims of tension.

First, severe poverty can be eradicated through economic growth or through a reduction in economic inequality (or through some combination of the two). Adopting the former method, we might seek a quadrupling of the gross world product, hoping that doing so would “lift all boats,” thus quadrupling the income of the world’s poor as well. Such an anti-poverty strategy would court ecological disaster. But then the horrendous magnitude of accumulated inequality makes it possible for us to adopt the latter method instead: to make enormous progress against poverty even without any further global economic growth. We could, for example, quadruple the income of humanity’s poorer half (from 4.5% to 18% of gross world product) by shrinking the income share of the richest quarter by merely one sixth (from 85% to 71%). To be sure, the fourfold income increase in humanity’s poorer half would have adverse ecological effects. But these would be largely or wholly offset by the ecological benefits of reduced income in the richest quarter (fewer private planes and yachts, reduced air travel, smaller cars, less waste of consumption goods, etc.).

Second, as longitudinal and cross-country studies spectacularly confirm, poverty eradication has a massive negative effect on total fertility rates (average children per woman), especially when it comes with improved educational and employment opportunities for women and girls. Some poor populations in Africa – Niger, Angola, Mali – still have TFRs over 6, while the EU’s TFR is 1.58 and TFRs in more than 100 mostly affluent countries have fallen below 2.00 (implying that their populations will decline). Humanity’s future population size is one crucially important factor in humanity’s future ecological footprint. The UN Population Division currently forecasts that humankind will number between 9.6 and 13.2 billion in the year 2100 (90% probability), with pretty much all of the increase occurring in the less developed regions (mostly in Africa). With a serious anti-poverty offensive, TFRs among the currently poorest populations would fall much faster than predicted and humanity could peak at 9 billion in 2050 and return to the current 7.5 billion by century’s end. By reducing the size of the year-2100 population by one third (relative to the current median projection of 11.2 billion) and the size of later populations by even more, a serious effort against poverty could bring dramatic relief in the struggle to avert climate change, resource depletion and other ecological hazards.

The arguments I have sketched will convince those who are interested in working for the collective good of all. The rest are, I fear, hard to convince, especially if they are affluent. Rich people are above all mobile and can use golden passport programs to relocate away from areas that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change or poverty (into the US Northwest, perhaps, or into safe parts of Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Russia or South Africa). And they will rationally prefer doing so over giving up even just one sixth of their income for the sake of eradicating poverty and preserving our beautiful planet. Once they will have pulled out their investments – or even have gone short – they will care nothing about the fate of Venice, Mumbai, Rio, Cape Town, Christchurch, Miami or Bangladesh.

What area of development or Global Goal do you think sustainable development hinges on? Which one is at the core of all the others? 

The fundamental problem of sustainable development is the problem of political empowerment or, to put it negatively, the problem of regulatory capture. Political power in this world has been seized by a small international elite of super-rich financiers, tycoons and politicians who, abetted by armies of well-trained accountants, lawyers and lobbyists, capture an ever-increasing share of the social product. Their fortunes and machinations are shrouded in secrecy as over a hundred secrecy jurisdictions compete to keep their assets hidden under layers of anonymous accounts, shell companies and fake trusts. Such people dominate politics in most developing countries and thereby control the basic resources on which we all depend: food, fossil fuels, metals and other minerals. They dominate politics in the United States, where the practice of bribing elected politicians through future employment or contributions to their campaigns and political action committees (PACs) is protected by the Supreme Court. And through their exorbitant influence on national governments, they also dominate international rulemaking through treaties and conventions as well as through the associated international organizations and agencies (WTO, IMF, OECD, etc.) in charge of interpreting, refining and applying international rules.

These rich and powerful people are, for the most part, not evil, nor even ill-disposed toward the poor. But they do have a special affection for their own fortunes and therefore use their disproportional political power toward defending and increasing their own outsized shares of the social product. They do so by evading their tax obligations (even in civilized and public-spirited Scandinavia, the richest 0.01% of the population – with wealth above USD 40 million – evade about 30% of their taxes on average). They do so by deploying their financial and political power to reduce or eliminate taxes on the rich and social safety and social mobility programs for the rest of the population. And they do so by organizing and supporting elaborate propaganda efforts designed to show that things are getting better and better for ordinary people (the Gates-Pinker-Roser team) and that those in power care deeply about preserving our planet and “leaving no one behind” (the Millennium/Sustainable Development Goals exercises and the Paris Agreement).

This is not to say that the global elite acts in close coordination, as part of some grand conspiracy created and sustained at Davos or Bilderberg meetings. Political, finance and business leaders often compete, clash, even destroy one another as they seek to enhance their own power at one another’s expense. Still, the net effect of their exertions favors their shared interests over those of the vast majority of the human population who are feeling increasingly confused, helpless and demoralized, often blaming unloved minorities or themselves for their economic, social and political marginalization. Though disunited, the elites together maintain a public culture and institutional arrangements that systematically impede human development and keep billions in at a level of severe poverty that has long ago become wholly avoidable.

The democratic empowerment of these majorities is the fundamental problem of development. And a formidable problem it is! Over the last forty years, the elites have greatly increased their economic advantage over the rest, keeping billions in conditions of severe poverty where they must focus their energies on the survival of their families rather than on fighting for political reform. This increasing gap is magnified by huge advantages in education and especially in technology – such as surveillance, big data, disinformation, artificial intelligence, all of which are overwhelmingly used by and for the elites. Democratic movements exist (witness the Bernie Sanders campaign) and still have a genuine chance to win here and there. But without some important democratic victories in the near future, we will slide farther into a world of extreme inequality in which the lives of the vast majority will be blighted by poverty, marginalization and increasingly severe environmental burdens. We don’t have much time.

Taking peace-building to the world

Mr. José Ramos-Horta delivered a keynote speech at the Hertie School of Governance as part of the Kapuscinski Development Lecture Series, 2019 on “Taking Peace-building to the World: Our Responsibilities and Failures”. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 “for his work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor”. For over two decades, he served as an international spokesperson, extensively lobbying governments and creating networks of supporters for the cause of his people. He was successful in advocating dialogue and presented a peace plan to Indonesia (through extensive humanitarian cooperation). His passion to liberate his homeland through peace, laid the foundations for Indonesian withdrawal and peace objectives being accomplished in 2001.

In his lecture he spoke about, [how] “we are living in very dangerous times. Right here in the heart of Europe forces of good and of intolerance are on a collision course. Across the English Channel there are forces bent on wrecking a magnificent social, political and security architecture built over many decades pushing Europe towards the abyss of chaos and irrelevance. In the course of over 40 years, starting as an innocent and romantic believer in the promises and possibilities of the United Nations, I have seen the best – when the UN lived up to the expectations of the people it deployed to protect – but also I witnessed or heard heart wrenching stories of shocking betrayals on other front lines. I have engaged with UN personnel in my own country and in remote outposts where dedicated field staff absorb the indifference of headquarters, whose envoys descend to evaluate the mission, yet things stayed the same. The UN can do better. We are all the UN and we can and must do better.”

National reconciliation through healing the wounds of the divided community of Timor-Leste, Ramos-Horta noted, has been the greatest success. He spoke about the failures of the national governments to resolve conflicts and crises around the world. He pointed to the failures of the international community at the UN to address conflicts, such as in South Sudan, Congo, Central African Republic, and Syria. Countries should feel empowered, he argued, to reach out to the international community for help in times of conflict or war. Yet, he made a clear distinction that “we cannot blame everybody else,” referring to national governments to use the Secretary-General as the scapegoat for national gridlock. He argued that if they had failed in Timor-Leste to end the war that he would not have the audacity to blame the United Nations, but rather signed out that others can help but the responsibility falls on the leaders of the country to pave the road toward peace and resolution.

Furthermore, he discussed that the prevention of conflict begins at home. He asked, “who are the best actors to prevent conflicts?” as well as “what are the best prescriptions to prevent conflicts in society?” His answer to this was that policies must be set in place that are inclusive and embrace everyone from both minority and majority groups in society. Policies that do not discriminate against anyone, such as language, religion or ethnic are the foundation for conflict prevention. Cultural diversity must be seen as an asset and not a threat to society, as he believes that the disregard and discrimination resulting from a lack of diversity as the major root of conflict and crises. Ramos-Horta strongly advocated that prevention begins with tolerance and this is the first and primary responsibility of the leaders of countries around the world.

Following his lecture he was joined by Inge Kaul, Adjunct at the Hertie School and the first director of the Human Development Report office of UNDP, for discussion with the audience. During the discussion they touched on topics such as activities of the UN and peace operations on the ground as well as lessons from Timor-Leste that Mr. Ramos-Horta gave during his lecture. Ramos-Horta agreed that the UN remained indispensable for the success of Timo-Leste’s struggle for independence.

Governance, Capture and Corruption: Solutions for a Changed World

Daniel Kaufmann addressed the questions of “What is governance?, Can it be measured?, Power of data, of facts, Does governance matter?, What is corruption its link to governance? and vulnerable sectors?” in his lecture.

He argued that governance is as the set of traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised—specifically covers the process by which those in authority are selected and replaced, the capacity of government to formulate and implement policies, the respect of citizens and state for institutions that govern interactions among them. He explained the Worldwide Governance Indicators that include data on six dimensions of governance covering

well over 200 countries from 1996 until the present, Synthesis of hundreds of underlying indicators taken from about 30 different data sources, aggregate and individual indicators available at, about largest publicly-available governance database in the world, result of longstanding research project, featuring the “Governance Matters” series. Individual sources for constructing the WGI includes Cross-Country Surveys of Firms: Global Competitiveness Survey, World Competitiveness Yearbook, BEEPS; Cross-Country Surveys of Individuals: Gallup World Poll, Global Corruption Barometer, Latinobarometro, Afrobarometer; Expert Assessments from Commercial Risk Rating Agencies: Global Insight, Political Risk Services, BERI, Economist Intelligence Unit, Merchant International Group, IJET Travel Consultancy, Asia Risk Consultancy; Expert Assessments from NGOs, Think Tanks: Reporters Without Borders, Heritage Foundation, Freedom House, Bertelsmann Foundation, Amnesty International, IREX, Global Integrity, Binghamton University, International Budget Project and Expert Assessments from Governments, Multilaterals: World Bank CPIA, EBRD, AFDB, ADB, State Department, OECD, IFAD. He gave country examples from Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Ukraine, Russia, South Afrika, Turkey and UK.

Governance and Anti-Corruption in Natural Resources are important for tackling the development challenge of the decade. Kauffman argued that the resource curse persists for about one billion people living in poverty in the midst of abundance but good natural resource governance is possible. Yet most resource-intensive countries face a major ‘government deficit’. In those countries, the poor is not benefiting from their resource riches.

Countries with good or satisfactory voice and accountability perform better in value realization and revenue management. Voice and accountability is most strongly associated with performance in value realization and revenue management components. Civic space is linked to potential for good value realization and sound revenue management.

He ended his lecture with recommendations from the Resource Governance Index:

Strengthen the implementation of laws and regulations in extractives—particularly in areas related to the environment, local communities and subnational revenue sharing.

Shed light on the true beneficial owners of companies, the commercial interests of officials and their associates, the deals governments make, and the detailed project-level payments companies make to governments.

Strengthen the regulation and disclosure of oil sales. Establish independent governing boards; make appointments according to well-defined, meritocratic processes; and emphasize technical expertise rather than political patronage.

Open civic space where citizens and journalists lack freedoms to speak up and hold their governments to account. Strengthen rule of law, regulatory quality and corruption control so that laws specific to the extractives sector will have impact in practice.

Strengthen the global framework for natural resource governance, including how multinational companies behave. Global initiatives should help countries to institutionalize extractives governance reforms within country systems and make companies more accountable.

Assess the quality of resource governance and use data to improve institutions, policies and practices. Develop institutional systems providing regular and timely gathering, analysis and dissemination of key data in resource-rich countries. Public information about the resource sector is released in line with the Open Data Charter standards.

#KAPTalks interviews: ‘Think Locally, Act Globally’: A New Framework for European Development Cooperation

Can development cooperation be defended at a time of economic austerity in Europe? The moral imperative remains strong, but contemporary events also illustrate the role of development cooperation in managing global risks and opening opportunities for prosperity and sustainability at home. The 27 Member States of the European Union can act independently or seek leverage through a variety of multilateral organisations, like the UN, the World Bank – or the institutions of the EU itself. What is the comparative advantage of the EU in development cooperation? What must change for us to achieve even greater impact?

The question of development indeed consists of three major dilemmas: How do we reform the development politics and re-frame the development itself? How do we mediate the response at the European level? And lastly, how can we make the case far more influential in countries which share sceptical view on the issues of development. These questions might seem essentially basic, though they provide pivotal opportunities for development policy if solved.

What can we learn from Ryszard Kapuscinski? Simple idea, “Think Locally, Act Globally”. It seems a bit different statement that we are used to, but it carries a strong message. There is no reason why the basic principles of our daily life cannot be implemented into a global perspective. Now, The European Commission is already one year in. How is it doing?

That is an important but specific question, since Andris Piebalgs has circumscribed responsibilities within the domain of development policy. Thus, there are separate Commissioners for trade, climate change, neighbourhood policy and even humanitarian action; as well, of course, as a Commission Vice-President and Council High Representative for external affairs. All have an interest in developing countries.

It is not difficult to imagine a worst-case scenario, in which the new External Action Service would have captured control of development policy and funding, and would be using it to pursue security and foreign policy objectives. The development Commissioner would be left managing implementation of others’ decisions, aided by a time-expired European consensus on development policy and a poorly structured and poorly functioning bureaucracy. Good news. The worst case has been avoided. In fact, there are positive stories to report at the end of the first year.

First, the worst predations of the foreign policy establishment have been dodged. Although the post-Lisbon External Action Service formally has the lead on aid programming, the Development Commissioner has joint authority. In practice, he also has under his control the development expertise on development issues, an area in which the EAS looks to be weak. This is as good an outcome as could have been expected, a victory for common sense, but also the result of good political management.

Second, Andis Piebalgs has begun to put his stamp on EU and EC development policy. The title of the Green Paper he published at the end of 2010, ‘ EU development policy in support of inclusive growth and sustainable development – increasing the impact of EU development policy’, summarises the main themes, and hints at others: growth, the private sector, energy, a focus on results, accountability.

Third, the Commissioner has established a good political foundation for further work. The key themes of the Green Paper resonate with other ministers around the EU Member States, all concerned with demonstrating the impact of aid at a time of fiscal stringency. The growth and private sector themes also resonate with many, including the new Government in the UK.

Fourth, there has been an important decision to restructure the bureaucracy, merging DG Development, which previously dealt with policy, and Europe Aid, which led on implementation. The creation a new ‘DevCo’, under the leadership of Fokion Fotiadis, offers the opportunity of better strategic leadership on policy, and more effective administration.

Fifth, there have been some significant moments on the ground, for example in negotiating a coherent EU response to the Haiti earthquake. The EU offered a coherent position at the MDG Summit in New York in September 2010. There have also been summits with Africa and Asia.

Sixth, the EU’s development programme has been ranked highly in recent comparative evaluations, for example by the Centre for Global Development in Washington. They score development agencies with respect to 30 criteria related to: maximizing efficiency; fostering institutions; reducing burdens; and transparency and learning. The EC scores above the mean on all four of these aggregate measures. That is a far cry from the situation of a few years ago, and far also from the jaundiced public view of EC performance.

Should the record have been even better? Obviously, the development community, this author among them, has expectations which can never be satisfied. The gravity of poverty in the world demands no less. The Commissioner has been in office a whole year, yet poverty still persists!

Realistically, there are certainly some items of unfinished business.

First, the agenda is overloaded with policy papers and consultations. Second, and paradoxically, the policy agenda is incomplete. Third, and again paradoxically, given the range of policy initiatives, the Commission is remarkably poorly staffed in the policy area compared to its peer group among the large international donors. The EC, remember, not the EU as a whole, but the European Commission, disburses more in official development assistance than the World Bank, and about as much as the whole of the United Nations. Its weight and influence in global policy debates falls far behind either the Bank or the UN – even allowing for the innovation of an annual European Development Report. Some argue that the EC should leave the thinking to others, but surely a 10 billion euro aid programme needs to apply to itself the principle of being learning and thinking organisation, even before bringing into the mix other areas like trade.

Fourth, the EC ‘talks the talk’ on cooperation with other regions, but is very unevenly vigorous in ‘walking the walk’. Africa takes pride of place, though doubts remain about whether Europe is as effective a partner, or as preferred a partner, as China. In other regions, Europe needs to accelerate the transition from an aid relationship to a true strategic partnership on global and regional issues. The Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) offers unfulfilled potential in this respect.

Finally, the Commission still struggles with the core question of whether Europe is a forum for cooperation between Member States, with energy focused on setting standards and managing coordination on the ground – or a forum for consolidation, with a greater share of aid passing through the Commission. It is yet another paradox that senior policy-makers use the language of coordination, and express their preference for this way of working, while simultaneously funding the largest channel in the world for oda.

Here lies the challenge – and the opportunity.

I have argued elsewhere that the Commission should stop playing poker with development policy and reveal its hand. Another way of saying this is that the Commission should stop trying to cover all topics equally, but state its priorities, including those to do with growth, the private sector and energy. Commissioner Piebalgs might be surprised by the extent of support. In any case, it would be good to speed up.

Next, tackle head-on the apparent contradiction between cooperativist thinking and consolidationist behaviour. This may be a high-risk strategy, but is essential to help frame the debate now starting about the Financial Perspectives 2014-2020. At present 20% of EU development spending goes through Brussels. Is this about right? Too large? Too small? How do grants relate to loans, for example through the European Investment Bank? And what can be learned from the experience of creating shock facilities, like V-Flex and the food facility?

Three items on the to-do list for 2011. That doesn’t sound impossible. Ministers of the EU-27 should support this level of ambition and engage in making change happen.

With some EU economies in crisis and others facing unprecedented fiscal retrenchment, the auguries are not favourable for new, large-scale financial contributions. Further, there is little appetite in certain quarters for EU engagement in multilateral initiatives, with some writing of a ‘zero-sum world’ and others of ‘Europe’s Decline and Fall’.

Nevertheless, few leaders would deny that development represents an existential threat to humankind. And all would recognise that tackling the challenge is a matter of politics not technical analysis. That is why leaders themselves need to engage. Development is too important to be left to environment ministers, or even to foreign ministers.

Netflix for Agriculture? Digital Technology for Development

The rapid spread of mobile phones in developing countries, coupled with recent advances in our ability to analyze big data through tools such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, has generated considerable excitement about the potential of ICT for development. How does the reality of ICT use for development stack up to this excitement? And, which institutional arrangements best promote the use of ICT for development? Michael Kremer begins to answer these questions by examining the case of mobile-phone enabled agricultural extension for smallholder farmers.

Recent changes in technology have made it possible to disseminate personalized agricultural information to smallholder farmers via their mobile-phones. In this lecture, Kremer explores the rapidly accumulating evidence on the impact of mobile-phone based agricultural extension. There appear to be at least some settings where farmers change their behavior and increase their yields in response to advice delivered via their mobile phones. Preliminary evidence suggests this may be highly-cost effective. However, due to market failures and asymmetric information private markets will typically undersupply this public good.

Governments tend to fail as well due to design flaws that make their solutions difficult for farmers to understand. Kremer discusses potential hybrid solutions that incorporate elements of both private and public provision and argues that zero (or negative) pricing for such services is likely optimal. Finally, the lecture ends with a speculative vision of a “Netflix for Agriculture” in which farmers would provide information, knowing that this would allow the system to make better recommendations for them, and this would in turn improve the performance of the system in offering recommendations to other farmers.

Human security in the age of geopolitics, terrorism and new wars

We are living through a period of transition, which is characterized by competing conceptions of power and competing ways of doing security. In contrast to the Cold War and indeed the whole period of modernity, the combination of new wars and the war on terror in places like Syria, DRC, or Yemen is undermining many of the norms and laws of war associated with traditional geo-politics – bombing schools and hospitals, long distance assassination, the use of poison as a weapon or beheadings and sexual slavery – and producing large-scale forced displacement.

Against this background, the Kapuscinski Development Lecture with Professor Mary Kaldor argued that the European Union potentially represents a new form of political authority – a model of global governance in contrast to traditional states like the US, Russia or China. This is illustrated by its security culture as represented by the European Union Global Strategy on foreign and security policy. The Global Strategy aspires to a form of Liberal Peace that is based on human security rather than national security. The evolution of the EU, she argued, depends to a considerable extent on whether the EU adopts a closed-in traditional inside-outside bordered approach to security or alternatively whether it pursues a global human rights-based approach and is able to respond effectively to its crisis-ridden neighborhood. To this end, the promotion of sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions will be of vital importance.

Kaldor, daughter of famous economist Nicholas Kaldor, described the 1990ies – following the collapse of communism – as a period of hope and optimism, while the world currently passes through a turbulent period of fear and pessimism with phenomena like refugees drowning in the Mediterranean sea, the deliberate bombing of hospitals and schools, killing people with lorries or air planes, using hideous weapons, that are prohibited by international law or the reintroduction of sexual slavery. For the European Union it is particular important to crucial to analyse thoroughly the powers contributing to this kind of “new wars” and to develop a strategy to deal with it. At the same time, the rising of xenophobia, racism and right-winged populism in in the United States, Russia, China, and India as well as in European countries can be observed.

To find out what could be done to reverse the described situation Kaldor introduced the concept of „security culture“ as a way of doing security, a combination of narratives, tools, practices and infrastructure, which embed certain styles of doing security. During cold war, there was only one way of doing security nationally, shaped by geopolitics, with a sharp distinction between external and internal security. Kaldor attested competing security cultures at present time that blur the difference between inside and outside security.

Kaldor developed her concept due to a „security gap“, she had recognized. Starting with the question: why do millions of people live in conditions of insecurity and the military security forces don’t address the problems they face but often make them worse? she became influenced by the term of „strategic culture“ of strategic studies literature from the 1950ies to explain why countries do security differently. She outlined four types of security culture: 1. Geopolitics, with the objective of national security. 2. New wars, meaning contemporary wars can be understood as a culture rather than a political contest. 3. Liberal peace, associated with intergovernmental institutions, emerged as an alternative to geopolitics. The goal of 'liberal peace’ is stability that provides peace between states. 4. War on terror, representing an evolution of geopolitics to something new. In contrast to geopolitics, the war on terror is a war of manhunt, involving special forces as well as drones.

Finally, Kaldor argues, that the security concept, the European Union will develop, will be profoundly shaped by the kind of institution the EU will become in the future. In her view, the EU could evolve into a new type of institution, she calls a ‚model of global governance’. Since the EU is not a state, it could restrain the worst aspects of statehood (war and oppression) and could instead address global challenges like climate change, inequality and financial speculation.

In the following broader discussion on what could constitute the EU foreign security policy panellist Ulrich Brand, Professor of political science, international politics and political ecology at the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna and an expert on Latin America, first commented Kaldor’s lecture in three aspects. The concept of human security is an excellent critique for a too narrow understanding of security. Besides its focus on individuals, every day practices and vulnerability it is very important to underline that it is against a pure market driven agenda, as the state should play a key role. It criticizes the current re-militarisation of politics. Brand raised the question to Mary Kaldor what the vision of a peaceful world could be. Second, he asked why she downplays the root causes of insecurity. Obviously, there are universal tendencies, for instance racism, patriarchy, capitalist market economy or the destruction of the environment, which all go hand in hand with an enormous violence. It is not sufficient to acknowledge these violent practices, it calls for a thorough analysis. The liberal peace in the Global North has a precondition elsewhere, in the Global South and is a cause of insecurity and violence. In his final comment Brand then argues, that Kaldor’s outline of the EU as a global leader for these global governance issues is too positive. The EU should be understood as an imperial power in competition with other imperial powers, in securing free trade, resource imperialism, and not only a model of global governance. To him, the EU is a power driven, class structured, agenda driven and elitist project. What we would need, is a selective disintegration to create space for initiatives to enable human security.

Agenda 2030: Two Years In

This lecture formed part of the 6th Annual International Conference on Sustainable Development took place in Alfred Lerner Hall on September 26th and 27th, 2018, with additional side events on the 26th and 28th. The Crown Prince explored the history of human advancement, and the effects, both positive and negative, it has had on humans and the environment. He called on participants to remember that humans are part of nature and that we need to weigh our choices carefully, because “taking care of the environment is taking care of ourselves.” H.R.H. reinvigorated commitment to the SDGs, stating that he is “not tired of talking about them,” and left the audience inspired and hopeful by presenting some solutions to clean up the oceans such as plastic harvesting in the Pacific garbage patch. In the Q&A that followed with Professor Sachs, H.R.H. explained his deep personal connection to the ocean, where he spent a great deal of his childhood and is now working to build the same memories with his own children. The Crown Prince took time to remind us of how far we have come and that achieving sustainable development is sooner than we think.

Achieving the SDGs: Lessons from the Social Progress Index

Mr. Michael Green began his lecture with an emphasis on the importance of the work of Ryszard Kapuściński, the ways in which it inspired him, and the reasons why the continuation of the legacy of Ryszard Kapuściński through the Kapuscinski lectures is so important for development. Mr. Green built up to the main part of his lecture, by giving us a short history lesson on how GDP came to be, and how we shaped our societies around this measure. He argued, that even the creator of GDP issued a warning concerning his index of measurement. Simon Kuznets told the world that GDP is incomplete and limited when it comes to measuring the welfare of nations. Mr. Green developed this point, by saying, that GDP is a measurement of purely economic aspects of development, which are blind to problems that humanity faces, such as ecological catastrophes, wars and dissatisfaction with life quality. Furthermore, GDP not only is blind to those problems, but it benefits from them in certain cases. To back up this view of his, Mr. Green pointed us to the financial crisis of 2008 which was caused in his opinion, exactly by the ways in which GDP failed to measure the actual condition of our societies.

At this point Mr. Green introduced the Social Progress Index. A measure which is completely separated from economic indicators and looks only on social and environmental ones. By doing so, Mr. Green argued, the Social Progress Index, shows an independent view over the way in which our societies develop. A measure that is a compliment to GDP, and shows us in a very clear manner, the relationship between economic growth and social progress. At this point Mr. Green presented some details concerning the Index, like the fact that it measures only outcomes and not inputs, the fact that it is relevant to all countries in the world and the fact that the Index is designed to be used in a practical way, to actively reshape our world. Mr. Green explained that his index has a three-dimensional structure in which it measures the basic human needs, the foundations of wellbeing and the opportunity.

Mr. Green continued his lecture by showing how the Social Progress Index compares with GDP, by showing different countries around the world on a graph, to show the relation between his index and GDP. Denmark was the top scoring country on Social Progress Index and the Central African Republic was at the bottom of the charts. What Mr. Green proceeded to explain was how SPI interacts with GDP. There are both countries with high GDP and low Social Progress and countries with low GDP and high Social Progress. To further demonstrate the correlation, Mr. Green provided the example of Costa Rica, which is a country that is the best in the world when it comes to making its GDP into Social Progress. This is due to smart investment of the money that the government of the country has, and due to understanding of the needs of the population. Mr. Green continued by mentioning Bulgaria and the fact that Bulgaria is having a very high level of Social Progress relative to its GDP. Mr. Green explained that often people in Bulgaria are used to comparing themselves to other countries from the EU, and to stay behind them, but when compared to countries around the world with similar wealth Bulgaria excels.

At this point, Mr. Green turned the attention to the UN goals for sustainable development, and the way in which the Social Progress Index can help with achieving them. Mr. Green argued, that the correlation between the SDG’S and what the Social Progress Index measures is very strong. The same social and environmental indicators that lay in the foundation of the SDG’s, are what the SPI tries to measure in a society. Therefore, Mr. Green thinks that one of the best ways to measure how far the world has gone when it comes to the SDG’s is, through the Social Progress Index.

Mr. Green concluded his lecture by saying that the world needs to learn from countries like Costa Rica and increase its productivity if it wants to achieve these ambitious global goals.

Youth in movement

Across the globe a growing number of young women and men, both educated and non-educated, find themselves unemployed or underemployed, and have to improvise livelihoods outside of dominant economic frameworks.

Alcinda Honwana discusses waithood – a liminal space in which young people are neither dependent children nor fully autonomous adults.

Young people in waithood are living in the periphery of major socio-economic processes, sometimes migration and often no longer trusting the ability of their leaders to deliver on their needs and expectations.

Democracy, Truth and the Perils of Information Age

In today’s world, new digital tools and the global reach of social media platforms have brought along a transformation of lifestyles: we order goods and services by a few clicks in an app, we rely on GPS to take us home, we prefer online sources to newspapers, and we rely on instant messages and social media to keep up with the lives of relatives, colleagues and friends. This requires us to be constantly available online, ready to receive and make sense of endless flows of information. We have come to lead our entire lives online and this has made us vulnerable.

While the perils of information age have been known for a long time, recent debates have focused on the viability of democracy in an age where everyone can easily create and disseminate information on a mass scale. The problem of “post-truth” is aggravated by the borderless world of the internet and the global reach of social media platforms. Democratic societies have limited tools to counter the threats posed by disinformation, lies and propaganda. How to control the spread of disinformation without restricting democratic principles? How to distinguish between trustworthy and non-trustworthy sources of information? How to ensure that people, the supreme sovereign, base their political decisions on information that bears at least some semblance to reality?

Global challenges, global solutions

On January 1, 2016, the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into force. Over the next fifteen years, with these new goals that are universally applicable, countries will mobilize efforts to end poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change.

These goals spell out the challenges we need to meet to ensure the sustainability of our planet, and to ensure prosperity and equity for all. To solve the global challenges of today we need to think of the world as one system.

Jan Eliasson, former deputy secretary general for the United Nations and former Foreign Minister of Sweden, discusses how the development goals are mutually reinforcing, interdependent and universally applicable. Furthermore, he argues that progress in reaching the goal on peace, justice and strong institutions underpins realizing all 17 goals.

Resilience in the Anthropocene

The rise of resilience is intimately connected to the perceived failings of traditional, liberal or modernist forms of politics, which assumed that governance could be centrally directed on the basis of ‘command-and-control’ understandings.

Confidence in this framework has gradually eroded, with an appreciation that the world is much more globalised, interconnected and relationally entangled than ‘top-down’ forms of governance assume.

David Chandler, a leading international academic and commentator in the field of international theory and governance, talks about the new paradigm of governing through mapping, sensing and hacking.

1) The resilience mode of mapping shifts the focus from the ideas and understanding of governing agencies to the importance of the object of governance itself.

2) Sensing as a mode of governing resilience shifts the emphasis of thinking from causality to correlation.

3) Hacking as a process of ‘becoming with’ seeks to achieve resilience through enabling the creativity of contingent relations rather than merely seeking to resist or limit external effects.

Moroccan-EU connection. Migration

Morocco has always experienced all types of migration: immigration and emigration, voluntary and forced migration as well as legal and illegal migration. Nowadays, more than 10 percent of Moroccans live abroad. As the vast majority of them reside in European countries and as the Morocco-Spain migration route is slowly becoming one of the main routes used for illegal migration to Europe, the need for cooperation between Morocco and its European counterparts is more urgent than ever before.

All the while, Morocco serves as a transit and immigration country for migrants coming from various parts of the world, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa and Syria. In 2013 the Moroccan government adopted a new migration policy, which focused on legalizing the status of illegal migrants living in the country and reviewed migration law in order to make it more human and protective for migrants.

All these topics are explored in this guest lecture of prof. Khadija Elmadmad.

Finance for the people

The finance sector of Western economies is the product of a ‘bottom-up’ process, in which institutions evolved to serve the local needs of households for payments, savings, and the mutual sharing of risks. These institutions were adapted over time to meet the developing needs of merchants and business.

But that was a long time ago. America and Western Europe today have a finance sector excessive size; a sector that has lost touch with the real economy, and which trades with itself, talks to itself, and judges itself by its own criteria. The outcomes have proved catastrophically unstable. What lessons for developing countries can be learned?

Agenda 2030: One Year In

The lecture formed the keynote part of the 5th International Conference on Sustainable Development „The World in 2050: Looking Ahead for Sustainable Developmentorganised by the Columbia University, Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Master’s in Development Practice.

The lecture was delivered by President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who was introduced by Stefano Manservisi, Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO). The lecture was organised during the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting.

Peace Education: Change Starts Here

Dawn Engle, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the The PeaceJam Foundation, shares her experience with encouraging young people from all over the world to work for their local communities.

Dawn Engle – a tireless peace campaigner – has created a network of 13 Nobel Peace Prize winners who now pass their spirit, skills, and wisdom to create young leaders committed to positive change in themselves, their communities, and the world. More than 1.2 million young people from 40 countries have participated in the PeaceJam Program to date. 

Speaking at the University of Warsaw, Dawn tells the story of starting the „One Billion Acts of Peace” Campaign – an international global citizens’ movement designed to tackle the most important problems facing our planet. Her efforts inspired young leaders across the globe to perform 15 million (so far and still counting) “simple acts of peace” that include: improving access to clean water, tackling poverty, promoting women and children rights to name just a few.

The lecture focuses on presenting inspiring methods of youth education and creating sustainable, lasting global change through educational activities.