Tag Archives development

How was life in Gaza before October 7th?

The war between Israel and Palestine has saturated the media with many views on the resulting effects. What about the state of things in Gaza prior to this violent conflict? In this blog, Irene Van Staveren — a professor of pluralist development economics at the International Institute of Social Studies — tickles our imagination to consider the complexities of social problems evident in Gaza prior to October 7, 2023 when the war broke out.

Image Source: Natalia Cieslik/World Bank, 2010.

Imagine you were a 13-year-old girl growing up in the Gaza Strip under ‘normal’ circumstances until a few weeks ago. Statistically, you would have made up over 40% of the total population along with all the other children up to the age of 14. You had three siblings. The likelihood of living below the poverty line was 53%. Just last year, hundreds of buildings were hit by rockets, including the power plant. Over the past years, you had experienced various bombings in and around Gaza City. As a result, like all the other children in your neighbo, you had an 87% chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder according to the latest Human Development Report (p.89). There haven’t been any elections in 16 years, and your parents feel powerless.

You often didn’t have enough to eat because your parents had a high risk of unemployment (40% for men, 64% for women). One of your uncles had a fairly well-paying job outside of Gaza, which put him in the one percent who managed that. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to keep much of his salary as an UNCTAD report (p. 6) suggests that 30% of the earnings for such work go into the pockets of labour brokers. Your grandfather had a small olive grove and could sell some olive oil to foreign markets. However, he was increasingly stopped when trying to reach his grove. According to the same UNCTAD report (p.8), olive production had dropped by 60%.

So, you most likely shared a small living space with many people. This was quite challenging when you had to do your homework, especially because there was only electricity available half of the time. Often, there was no light in the evenings. Learning was a struggle, and the destruction of several schools led to the surviving children being divided among the remaining schools, making your class overcrowded.

The only escape from this situation might have been marriage. According to the Palestinian Authority’s statistical bureau, one in five girls gets married before their 18th birthday. You knew some of these girls – they dropped out of school early and became mothers at a young age. Finding a job was out of the question for them. Not that you would have had it much better. More than half of the youth in Gaza can’t find a job.

In the past, there used to be international aid to rely on. However, over the past ten years, it has plummeted from 18% of Gaza’s income to 2%, according to the World Bank (figure 2). Fortunately, most schools and many hospitals are run by the UN and aid organizations. But they face significant shortages of medicine and parts for medical equipment like X-ray machines. The WHO calculated that almost 70% of permit requests for importing these medical goods are denied. When your grandmother needed surgery at a hospital outside of Gaza, her doctor’s request wasn’t processed on time, putting her at a high risk of passing away. Thankfully, she survived. But you didn’t. Fourty percent of the victims of the current bombings in Gaza are children.

This column appeared in the Dutch newspaper Trouw, on 31 October 2023.

Image Credit: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

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About the author:

Irene van Staveren is a professor of pluralist development economics at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Professor van Staveren’s theoretical interest is in feminist economics, social economics, institutional economics and post-Keynesian economics. Her key research interest is at the meso level of the economy with topics such as social cohesion, social exclusion, inequality and discrimination, as well as ethics and values in the economy and in economics.

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Development between Extraction and Compassion

Extraction was central to the colonization of half of the world in the twentieth century, having played a key role in enriching already wealthy countries. But while colonization seems to belong to the past, the extractivist mindset based on the notion of extraction continues to pervade all aspects of our lives. In this blog article, a condensed and partial version of the inaugural lecture given by incumbent ISS Rector Ruard Ganzevoort on 12 October 2023, Ganzevoort discusses how extractivism shapes our lived realities and proposes a radically alternative approach to extractivism rooted in compassion.

In recent years, a new ‘Space Race’ has emerged, but instead of states trying to send rockets to space, this new one is centred on resource extraction. Corporations and start-ups are now seeking to extract resources from neighbouring planets and even asteroids — and programmes are being launched that bring them closer to doing so.

I confess that I am overwhelmed by the technological skills that make such endeavours possible. It is amazing that we can send humans to the moon and even actively envision journeys to other planets. And yet… There is something fundamentally unsettling about this story. What is deeply disturbing about this story is the unencumbered thinking about extraction — treating territories as terra nullius, no one’s land, just because the state or the population is not recognized by us, implementing laws alien to that land, and defending mostly the interests of the colonizers. And especially worrisome are the treaties that colonizing countries conclude in order to divide the territories between them without acknowledging the intrinsic rights of people indigenous to those territories.

Of course, one might object that these territories in space are uninhabited and that there are therefore no humans, animals, or other life forms whose rights might be compromised by our explorations and extractions. But first of all, that was also the argument in the past when the indigenous populations were not recognized as people with rights. It still happens in contemporary land grabbing at the expense of indigenous ethnic minority groups, pastoralists, and peasants who need the land the most. It is still the argument when we discuss the intrinsic rights of nature. And secondly, it is completely beside the point I want to make. That point is that such endeavours are emblematic for the extractivist agenda and attitude that has been so dominant and now is so contested in the development discourse. It is linked to the agenda of neoliberalism.


On the origins of extractivism

The concept of extractivism has migrated from its original location in the context of mining and producing raw materials and natural resources, usually shipped out of producing countries without much processing in the country of origin. In colonial times, this was of course the dominant model for North-South international trade. Countries like the Netherlands, England, and Spain would conquer or claim territories on other continents with the main purpose to extract valuable natural resources and produce whatever they could not grow in Europe.

Today, countries don’t officially call these activities colonialism anymore, but the underlying model has not changed. In many places, economic development is defined in terms of trading possibilities and trading is often focused on those resources and products that can be sold to strong economies like Europe and the USA, and increasingly also China. Even when we buy fair trade and organically produced coffee and cocoa (things we want and cannot produce ourselves), even when we improve local economies by stimulating the local processing of these resources, we are still working within the extraction-based economy in which the rest of the world serves the needs of the economic and political centers of power.

But extraction is not yet extractivism[1]. Extractivism refers to a philosophical perspective that questions the broader discourse of the mindset and cultural frameworks of extraction. It is a mindset that is pertinent to our thinking about development, about politics, about economy, and much more. It is a cultural framework underlying a significant part of at least European cultures and that is central to many geopolitical dynamics.

This extractivist approach is found everywhere and it may be helpful to explore some of these fields and reflect on the nature and consequences of extractivism. Beyond the first dimension of extraction — Planet Earth and other territories — we can reflect on extraction in the dimensions of finance, time, data, relationships, religion, and knowledge. Some of these dimensions operate primarily on the systemic or institutional level; other dimensions play out mostly on the individual level, which shows that it is indeed a dominant perspective across our personal, social, and organizational existence. I don’t try to be comprehensive in any way, and I will certainly generalize far too much, but I only aim to show how widespread and taken for granted this perspective is. Below, I briefly show the extractivist approach at work in our daily lives.



The more complex financial systems are, the further they move away from intrinsic value and the more they are part of an extractive system. Extractivism in a financial sense is visible in the accumulation of wealth on the one hand and debt on the other. In fact, following credit theories of money we can claim that money is identical to debt, only seen from the opposite perspective. Development is often financed by loans that create a new dependency and reinforce the dominant economies of the Global North while at the same time creating a market for the North to sell our superfluous or even defected products, thus extracting even more from the Global South under the guise of development. By providing money, we are therefore creating more debts and in fact, global debt (as a share of global GDP) has tripled since the mid-70s.



It is well understood by now that there is no such thing as free data.[2] While Big Tech wants us to believe they are creating new possibilities for us to connect and communicate and to access unlimited data and information, the reality is the other way around. By using Facebook, Netflix, Tiktok, and whatever we have on our smartphones, we are allowing these companies to gather data about us and our societies. We are not watching Netflix; Netflix is watching us. The surveillance society that has become possible through data technology is not only a threat for individual privacy. By extracting data, it creates power for the state and for commercial organizations that was formerly unheard of.



Extractivism is not only present in the actions and structures of institutional powers. It is also part of our own cultural attitude. At least in the West, I must add, because I don’t want to generalize too much across cultural differences, although cultural globalization is visible everywhere and Western culture remains dominant in many parts of the world and is propagated through commercial activities and especially popular culture. One dimension in which this plays out is how we relate to time. Expressions like “wasted my time” and “you have to get the most out of it” or “YOLO, You only live once” reveal this extractivist mentality.

The idea that time is a commodity of limited supply also leads to a perversion of how we look at ageing, again especially in Western cultures. The older people get, the less productive time they have left and therefore the less value they represent. In contrast, we can also see cultures where old age represents not a lack of future time but a richness of experiences.[3]



The commodification of time is paralleled in a commodification of relationships. The most dramatic version perhaps is found in forced marriage, sexual or domestic abuse, and marriage murders. But it is much broader. Modernization and industrialization have led to differentiation in tasks and activities and therefore also in relationships. Colleagues, friends, family members, neighbors, caregivers, trade partners… Many or all of these relational categories could coincide in pre-industrial times but are now commonly organized through different and separate relational spheres. And although there is in many cases still a good degree of mutuality and intrinsic value, there is also at least the risk of commodification where relationships are evaluated for their utility in satisfying specific needs.



And then religion, which I mention specifically because my chair here at ISS is in Lived Religion and Development. Religion can easily become part of the extractivist mindset for example when it takes on magical characteristics. Especially in critical circumstances, people may turn to religion trying to avoid imminent danger. In contexts of poverty, there is a strong temptation to follow prosperity preachers who claim that their approach to religion will bring health, material wealth, and much more. Religious leaders may of course act with sincerity, integrity, and humility, but they may also capitalize on their charisma and extract power, honor, and money from the community they are leading.[4]

I may note here one interesting parallel between missionaries and humanitarian aid organizations. Both are not only engaged with a society in need, usually far from their homeland and constituency. They also both typically share stories about their work in the field, highlighting the dire predicament in which they find the people they want to reach, the beneficial effects of their intervention, and the impact of the financial support of their donors. Everybody wins. The receivers of care or mission are supposed to benefit, the donors can feel good, and the missionaries or aid workers remain in business. Good intentions notwithstanding, both missionary and humanitarian work can easily turn out to be extractive sectors, and in fact, examples of white saviourism. The challenge is to explore alternative spaces of local agency.



Finally, and added here specifically because it regards us as an academic institution, is the role of extractivism in the generation and distribution of knowledge. The contemporary movement of open access and open science is at least trying to correct the perverse system in which public money and the individual drive of researchers have been exploited by commercial organizations.

But there is more. Even an academic institution like ISS that proudly carries the banner of social justice and invests in what we call Recognition and Rewards can in fact perpetuate a competitive rat race for especially younger scholars, whose energy and ambition are being used to further the academic reputation of the institute. Are we really building a nurturing and secure environment in which people can grow under fertile circumstances, or are we just as extractive as we reproach other institutions to be?

And even more seriously. Do we truly embrace different epistemologies and forms of indigenous knowledge, also when they come from other, previously colonized parts of the world? Or do we hold on to our Eurocentric model of knowledge generation and transmission, in which students from the global south are part of our business model, leading to the continuation of North-South knowledge-power dynamics and a potential brain drain from the south? I am not doubting anyone’s intentions, but we also need to reflect on our own role in development studies.


Compassion as radical alternative to extractivism

Maybe you are not convinced by every single example that I mentioned, but I hope that you can follow me when I suggest that extractivism is central to the Western mindset and potentially also influences other cultural contexts. It is at least, I would say, very much present in development discourse and practices. Can we reconceive development in non-extractive ways? We can learn from the debates about decoloniality and degrowth or post-growth. But if extractivism is an underlying cultural mindset that plays out across many domains of how we interact with the world around us, then we also need an alternative fundamental mindset that leads to different ways of relating to the world.

This alternative mindset may go by many different names. One concept that I personally find very appealing is compassion. Compassion is not a soft-hearted emotional response; it is a virtue that is developed over time through a long series of warm and painful experiences, hard and daily choices, honest reflection and introspection, and especially concrete actions. It is also a virtue that is central to many global and indigenous worldviews and religious traditions and therefore can be seen as a core element of human wisdom accumulated over many centuries, as religious studies scholar Karen Armstrong (2010) has outlined.

The concept of compassion combines three interrelated aspects that are relevant for our considerations today. First, it takes its starting point in recognizing that everything is connected. Second, the concept of compassion implies being willing to be affected by ‘the other’, be it fellow humans, animals, future generations, or anything else. “Willingness to be affected”. And then the third aspect of compassion is turning that awareness and willingness to be affected into action.

But this action can no longer be the paternalistic expert-driven top-down form of helping that dominated older paradigms of development and care. It must be based in the awareness of interconnectedness and accountability and therefore breathe the values of mutuality, equality, and justice. To quote the famous words of Aboriginal scholar-activist Lilla Watson: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

[1] Riofrancos (2020) offers an even more precise differentiation between extractivism as the policies and ideologies involved in extraction processes and extractivismo as the, especially Latin American, discourse critically reflecting on this.

[2] See Ganzevoort (2020) for further reflections on data and humankind.

[3] Nicely captured in the recent PhD thesis of Constance Dupuis (2023).

[4] See Sanders (2000) for an insightful analysis of charisma in early Christianity and in contemporary cases.

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Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author:

Prof.dr. (Ruard) RR Ganzevoort is the rector of the International Institute of Social Studies in Den Haag (part of Erasmus University Rotterdam) as well as professor of Lived Religion and Development.

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Common Challenges for All?

Traditionally, Development Studies has been centred around a demarcation between the global North (Europe and North America) and the global South (Asia, Africa, and Latin America). In recent years, there has been growing clamour to throw out this North-South framework – held as outdated – in favour of a new ‘global’ outlook. It sounds harmless enough, but in our recent open access article published in Development and Change, we map out our concerns.

President Joe Biden speaks with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari after a meeting on the Build Back Better World initiative, Tuesday, November 2, 2021, during the COP26 U.N. Climate Change Conference at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz).

In the article, we focus on two highly cited ‘pandemic papers’ published by scholars from two of the most influential and well-resourced Development Studies institutes globally in one of the discipline’s leading journals, World Development (see here and here). We take these ‘pandemic papers’ as part of a broader trend towards a new ‘global development’ paradigm that pre-dated the pandemic, but which has gained significant ground since, warranting critical appraisal. The argument underlying the trend is that due to recent and growing North-South convergence, and the troubled colonial past of Development Studies, a global approach is needed to consider development processes and challenges that cover all countries, including those in the global North.

Aligning themselves with post-development scholarship, the papers offer a valuable critique of the Truman version of development, which envisions the global North as developing the South through aid projects. We also agree with the view outlined in the papers that Development Studies should be grounded in more equitable sharing of knowledge and resources.

Reductive accounts of historical origins and current realities of development

Yet in making their call to adopt a universalist, global development framework, the ‘pandemic papers’ obfuscate existing relations of colonial, imperial and structural subordination, and overlook the Southern origins of and justifications for the North-South framework they seek to overturn. Rather than the origin story of development as Truman’s inaugural address in 1949, in which he highlighted his programme for intervention in countries in the global South, Southern-based visions of development have their own origin stories, often associated with a similarly significant event. The 5th Pan African Congress of 1945 and the Bandung Conference of 1955 – eventually leading to the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961 – provide two such examples.

By failing to acknowledge or engage with these intellectual inheritances and reducing development to the Truman version of Northern aid, the authors erase Southern visions and imaginings of development from sight. For example (but not only), the Southern originating centre-periphery framework which elucidates how Western imperialism creates and sustains a system of dependency and unequal exchange.

If heeded, we argue the call to move towards a ‘global development’ framework risks concealing how development aspirations in the South continue to be disrupted and stifled, and development processes shaped, by the neo-colonial and imperial ambitions and actions of the North, while undermining the ability of future development scholars to engage with and interpret these processes or examine alternative development paths forged.

The danger of ‘universalising’ Development Studies

To illustrate the dangers of universalising approaches to Development Studies in more detail, we draw on three examples from the ‘pandemic papers’ regarding their treatment of global production, financial integration, and social reproduction. In the case of production, a global framework is presented in which all countries confront the same issues in a similar order of magnitude, with little differentiation between them in terms of location within and across global value chains. This runs contrary to a body of global value chain scholarship, which highlights how highly uneven effects across the North‒South divide function to sustain and reproduce inequities and inequalities in global trade and development. Yet these effects are obscured by the global development framework illustrated in the articles, and as such, appear to be analytically disconnected. Similarly, the existing financial architecture and the imperatives of social reproduction underpin the perpetuation of hierarchies, which, if anything, were amplified during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Related to this, the outlined analytical agenda and toolset underpinning the ‘global development’ framework are likely to result in a significant distancing and decoupling from cutting-edge and development-relevant scholarship on capitalist development and global political economy. These are strands of literature that traditionally have contributed much to Development Studies by way of theoretical and empirical contributions. Under its current guise, global development might become increasingly incompatible with, and incapable of dialoguing with and benefiting from, these other strands.

(Re)centring the global South in Development Studies

Through their universalist framings, the two articles mirror the claims of Western governments to ‘global’ solutions, which relegate the continued reproduction of North‒South structural inequalities and inequities to the margins. By affecting a posture of ‘false sameness’ and inscribing a uniform experience of deprivation, the ‘pandemic papers’ contribute to an erasure of centuries of violence on the majority world of predominantly Black and Brown people, and their historic and current positioning in the matrix of global power and subordination. Although both papers call on Development Studies scholars to refocus their attention on the global North, it is difficult to see how re-centring the study of North America and Europe can reverse tensions, and how Europeans studying Europe becomes a route to decolonizing Development Studies.

Rather than de-centring the global North‒South framework, the analytically more useful way forward, in our view, is for Development Studies to seek to (re)centre the global South and use global South lenses to understand the global political economy. The process of (re)centring the global South does not mean setting the remit of Development Studies as being exclusively about the study of contexts considered to be a part of the global South. It rather entails recognizing that global South experiences, theories and lenses are necessary to understand capitalist development globally, foregrounding historical and contemporary hierarchies. Structural imbalances that function to reproduce the North‒South divide, and their historical origins, must remain in the foreground.

While the world no longer consists, for the most part, of explicit colonies and colonial powers, multiple aspects of the global economy reproduce similar geographies of power, influence and subordination. It is thus vital to rethink and recognize capitalist development as historically constituted and politically implicated. Rather than seeking to wish away these histories and divides, Development Studies can strive to show that what goes on in the global South is not only important and distinct from specific contexts of the global North, but that it is a vital viewpoint for understanding the structure and dynamics of the world economy and the majority world.

This blog was first published by Debating Development Research.

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About the authors:

Jörg Wiegratz is Lecturer in Political Economy of Global Development at the University of Leeds, UK, Senior Research Associate at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa, and Research Associate at the Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, United States International University-Africa, Kenya. He specializes in neoliberalism, fraud, commercialization and economic pressure, with a focus on Uganda and Kenya. He is a member of the Editorial Working Group for the Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE).

Pritish Behuria is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Manchester’s Global Development Institute, UK. He primarily researches the politics of economic transformation in East Africa. He has previously worked at the London School of Economics and Political Science and SOAS, University of London, UK.

Christina Laskaridis is Lecturer in Economics at the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK, and Associate Fellow and Lecturer at Saïd Business School and St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, UK. She works on the political economy of sovereign debt, international organizations and monetary and debt debates. Her work examines the nature of economic expertise from a historical perspective. She is the 2022 recipient of the Joseph Dorfman Best Dissertation Prize by the History of Economics Society.

Lebohang Liepollo Pheko is an activist scholar who is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Trade Collective, Johannesburg, South Africa. She has taught at the University of South Africa, University of Johannesburg, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute for Technology and Linköping University. Her key scholarly interests are international trade, international development, decolonial feminism, feminist economics and globalization. Her work uses an intersectional approach to explore race, gender and class oppressions, and is rooted in social movement struggles.

Ben Radley is a Lecturer in International Development for the Department of Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath, UK.  His research centres on the interplay between so-called green transitions and processes of economic transformation in Central Africa, with a focus on labour dynamics and the role played by Northern corporations. He is a member of the Editorial Working Group for ROAPE, and an affiliated member of the Centre of Mining Research at the Catholic University of Bukavu, DRC.

Sara Stevano is a development and feminist political economist. She is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at SOAS University of London, UK, having held teaching and research positions at the University of the West of England, Bristol, and King’s College London, UK. Her areas of study are the political economy of work, food and nutrition, inequalities and social reproduction. Her work focuses on Africa, with primary research experience in Mozambique and Ghana.

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Home (in the world)

Home is where the heart is, the old adage goes. But home is also a space and a feeling of belonging created through our connections with each other, whether it’s by means of sharing daily experiences, values, hopes and dreams, a place on Earth, or all of these. In this post, Ruard Ganzevoort, who recently joined the ISS as its new rector, shares his thoughts on feeling at home at the ISS and why this feeling arises.

If I would try to describe my experience of joining the ISS community as its new rector, the first thing that comes to mind is how much I feel at home. That is not only caused by the warm welcome I received. It has to do with something much more fundamental. It has to do with where we can locate ourselves at the intersections of the personal, the local, and the global. Feeling at home to me means finding a place where we can be rooted as well as a place from where we move into the outside world. Let me explain.

From my early childhood until today, I have moved quite often. I lived in around 20 houses in 12 cities in two countries. I traveled and worked (even if briefly) in a dozen more countries, most regularly in Indonesia where my partner is from. In the recent past, I co-owned a small boutique hotel in a building that doubled as our private home, with only one sliding door between the lobby and our living room. Home, I can say, has always been a fluid and momentous concept to me — more a specific quality of life than a fixed location. I can feel completely at home in a new place or alienated in a place very familiar to me.

So where do I experience that sense of ‘being home’? And why at ISS? First, it has to do with the personal alignment of values, of what really matters to you. I feel truly at home when my fundamental personal values are shared with the people around me. That doesn’t mean we agree about everything. Far from it. But it does mean that there is a shared understanding of what is really important. It means that what I care about is not dismissed by the people around me.


Connected through our values

At the ISS, I sense this value alignment in the focus on social justice and global equity. There is a shared understanding that what matters to us is the search for pathways to a better world and that our academic endeavours are geared toward aim. And as a corollary of that social justice perspective, we are aware that diversity of positions, perspectives, and personalities should be acknowledged and appreciated. That is why I feel at home and that is what I want to nurture as rector of the ISS.


Connected in the here and now

The second aspect of being at home is allowing oneself to get rooted in a local community. This is not necessarily a permanent community, not one that will always remain the same. It means that we embrace the community as it exists here and now — a community that inhabits a space and is located in a certain environment. For me, the community of ISS feels like home insofar as we are willing to engage with one another, to be there with one another, to be willing to be part of each other’s life in the here and now. And, surely, part of that local community is in fact virtual, but there is a strong here-and-now dimension to a community. One of the striking features of ISS is this experience of a local community of learners, living and working together in that iconic building of ours, located in the specific context of The Hague, with all its unique qualities and possibilities.


Connected to the rest of the world

The third aspect of being at home is being aware that we are connected globally and part of a larger world. To be at home here and now implies that there is also a there and then. Sometimes this is played out antagonistically in an us–them scheme. Much more fruitful, however, is to see home as our base from where we engage with the world. Knowing where we are at home makes it possible to reach out and move to other places without getting lost. One of the beautiful characteristics of ISS is that this is precisely what is happening. Students, staff, and alumni are at home at ISS and travel into the world. And they are at home somewhere else in the world and travel to ISS.

That is why I immediately feel at home at ISS. As rector, I hope to contribute to profound conversations about our values-driven scholarship, to a caring and meaningful social community, and to an ever more intensive focus on the world outside. Let’s do this together!

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author:

Prof.dr. (Ruard) RR Ganzevoort is the rector of the International Institute of Social Studies in Den Haag (part of Erasmus University Rotterdam) as well as professor of Lived Religion and Development.

Are you looking for more content about Global Development and Social Justice? Subscribe to Bliss, the official blog of the International Institute of Social Studies, and stay updated about interesting topics our researchers are working on.

Migration Series | How does a place become (less) hostile? Looking at everyday encounters between migrants and non-migrants as acts and processes of bordering

What happens if people on the move encounter others who by means of their everyday actions and interactions can render environments hostile or who actively try to prevent this? What are the effects of these encounters on the places migrants inhabit and traverse? This article introduces a blog series that highlights a diversity of encounters between migrants and non-migrants[1] to put the reader in the shoes of those who are migrating, crossing borders and/or settling in. Through the series, we aim to show how both migrants and non-migrants navigate terrain that becomes hostile through modern manifestations and practices of nation-state borders amidst so-called ‘migration crises’.

Photo Credit: Ain't no Border by Calais Migrant Solidarity

Everyday encounters between migrants and non-migrants in host communities can contribute to or challenge the exclusion and marginalization of people on the move in places they come to inhabit, for instance when both groups simultaneously attempt to access limited social services. Such encounters not only have productive power in terms of reinforcing or resisting the exclusionary mechanisms of migration management – they also expose the different mechanisms that can turn places into hostile terrain through (a lack of) policies, existing marginalizations, and xenophobia.

Moreover, studying these everyday encounters provides insight into experiences of both migrants and non-migrants, how they diverge or may be similar, and what implications their shared experiences may have for taking action on behalf of and/or together with people on the move. A group of recently graduated ISS MA students we supervised looked at such (dis)similar experiences and will share their insights in a series of forthcoming blog articles. In this article, we focus on everyday encounters and bordering to reflect on key links between imaginaries of human mobility, the role of host communities and local implications of migrant presence.


How human mobility is imagined affects how migrants are received and places are reconfigured

The productive power of human mobility and attempts to curtail, manage, or stop people from migrating have been at the center of critical migration and border studies that think and write against a supposed or desired “national order of things”[2]. Such national order imaginaries emphasize the prominence of rootedness or staying put and the fixed nature of state borders, and approach migration and migrants as a problem. Acknowledging both the centrality of (cross-border) human mobility for our societies and the inequalities surrounding it, this blog series comprises several reflections by former ISS MA students who have researched multiple forms of mobility and encounters between migrants and other actors, including acts of support and instances of anxiety. In turn, such encounters can make the terrain more, or less, hostile for both residents and those passing through.

They conducted research in various places that are located differently in the ‘geo-bodies’[3] of respective states and emerge as ‘zones of contact’[4] for both local communities and people on the move. While border towns are rather obvious sites for such encounters, involving actors such as INGOs (Aristizábal-Saldarriaga) or mobile border communities (Miranda van Iersel), these field reflections also look at encounters in small rural towns that may be out of sight from a migration management perspective but are situated along key roads for caminantes (González Ronquillo), or in a relatively renowned tourist city that hosts different types of newcomers – including migrants with irregular legal status (Gamboa Bastarrachea). But why do we think these different places and actors should be looked at together? How are they related?


Capturing a diversity of border sites, actors, and processes

As part of our ongoing project titled Revisiting the Migration-Development Nexus from a Cross-Border Perspective[5], we are interested in looking closely at encounters that have productive power in terms of reinforcing or resisting the exclusionary mechanisms of migration management. We do so by building on critical scholarship that acknowledges acts and processes of bordering beyond state borders (through concepts such as urban borderscapes[6] or border internalization[7]). This requires us to acknowledge actors beyond those identified as migrants or refugees, as the experiences of migrants and non-migrants are intimately connected[8]. This way, we seek to contribute to the de-migranticization of migration research[9], by questioning a priori categorization of people on the move and nationalist research interests and by reorienting the unit of analysis away from the migrant population to (parts of) the overall population affected.

Previous research we conducted in Greece, Turkey, and Central America shows that everyday encounters in spaces with a bordering function, i.e. spaces that prevent or challenge migrants’ entry and presence physically, legally and/or socially, are instrumental to understanding, on the one hand, how migrant trajectories[10] and translocal livelihoods[11] become illegalized by changing dynamics of border control, and on the other hand, how the geographical location of places where migrants are hosted[12] and the historical and geographical entanglements of neighboring states and communities[13] shape migrant trajectories, translocal livelihoods, and life at the border.

Following this perspective, we suggest turning our gaze to these divisive and connecting aspects of bordering in places beyond territorial nation-state borders. In this series of blog articles, the research of our students illustrates the value of such an approach as they shed light on how particular actors can be instrumental for people on the move as they navigate a diversity of hostile terrains.

These actors are local collectives that are outright supportive of migrants’ rights, as manifested in the CSOs fulfilling the sheltering role that the municipality has formally committed to but is unable to implement in Granada (Spain). They are former migrants taking on the role of hosts for people on the move whereas their own situation remains precarious and their journey unfinished (Ecuador). They can also be the staff of INGOs who need to balance the needs of those on the move with the needs of a local population suffering from chronic disregard by the state (Colombia). Finally, they can be a historically marginalized, mobile indigenous population whose position may shift from solidarity with migrants to suspicion and collaboration with the state as their own mobility and livelihoods are hampered by new migrations and the subsequent militarization of the border (Chile).


Acknowledging all those who dwell in a border site

These insights show that while places with very limited resources are fertile grounds for hostilities, exclusion, or indifference towards migrants with irregular legal status, attempts to pass through or stay in these places are experienced quite differently in the presence of people and organizations willing to support newcomers or those on the move. Paying attention to these local encounters and interactions, particularly in spaces with a bordering function, allows us to capture the similarities and convergences between the experiences of migrants and non-migrants. It also invites us to appreciate and learn from these interconnected experiences and take this into account in any further action pertaining to human mobility, be it academia, in policy making processes, or through societal engagement.

[1] We chose these terms for readability though we are aware that this dichotomy does not do justice to the complexity we try to represent here.

[2] Malkki, Liisa. 1992. “National Geographic: The Rooting of Peoples and the Territorialization of National Identity among Scholars and Refugees.” Cultural Anthropology 7 (1) Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference:  24-44.

[3] Winichakul Thongchai. 1997. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation. Honolulu: Hawaii University Press.

[4] Pratt, Mary Louise (1991). Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession, 33-40. Retrieved October 29, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25595469.

[5] This project is supported by the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (RIF-5/ 18202010.041, year 2020 grant) and runs from January 2021-December 2023. It involves research by both authors, in the Eastern Mediterranean and Central America.

[6] Fauser, Margit. (2019) The Emergence of Urban Border Spaces in Europe, Journal of Borderlands Studies, 34:4, 605-622. doi: 10.1080/08865655.2017.1402195.

[7] Menjívar, Cecilia. (2014). Immigration law beyond borders: Externalizing and internalizing border controls in an era of securitization. Annual Review of Law and Social Science10, 353-369. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110413-030842.

[8] Çağlar, Ayşe & Glick Schiller, Nina (2018) Migrants and City-Making. Dispossession, Displacement, and Urban Regeneration. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

[9] Dahinden, Janine. 2016. A plea for the ‘de-migranticization’ of research on migration and integration, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39:13, 2207-2225. doi: 10.1080/01419870.2015.1124129.

[10] Winters, Nanneke. (2023b). Making a Living While on the Move: Migrant Trajectories, Hierarchized Mobilities and Local Labour Landscapes in Central America, in Ilse van Liempt, Joris Schapendonk and Amalia Campos-Delgado (eds), Research Handbook on Irregular Migration. Cheltenham: Elgar, pp. 250–260; Winters, Nanneke. (2021). Following, Othering, Taking Over. Research Participants Redefining the Field through Mobile Communication Technology, Social Analysis, 65:1, 133-142. doi: 10.3167/sa.2020.650109.

[11] Winters, Nanneke. (2023a). Everyday Politics of Mobility: Translocal Livelihoods and Illegalisation in the Global South. Journal of Latin American Studies, 55(1), 77-101. doi: 10.1017/S0022216X23000020.

[12] Ikizoglu Erensu, Aslı, & Kaşlı, Zeynep. (2016). A Tale of Two Cities: Multiple Practices of Bordering and Degrees of ‘Transit’ in and through Turkey, Journal of Refugee Studies29(4), 528–548. doi:10.1093/jrs/few037.

[13] Kaşlı, Zeynep. (2023). Migration control entangled with local histories: The case of Greek–Turkish regime of bordering, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space41(1), 14–32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/02637758221140121.

Read the blogs on the migration series:

How does a place become (less) hostile? Looking at everyday encounters between migrants and non-migrants as acts and processes of bordering.

From caminantes to community builders: how migrants in Ecuador support each other in their journeys.

From branding to bottom-up ‘sheltering’: How CSOs are helping to address migration governance gaps in the shelter city of Granada

“Us Aymara have no borders”: Differentiated mobilities in the Chilean borderlands

Precarity along the Colombia–Panama border: How providing healthcare services to transit migrants can foster new logics of inclusion and exclusion

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the authors:

Zeynep Kaşlı is Assistant Professor in Migration and Development at ISS, affiliated with the Governance, Law and Social Justice Research Group. Her research interests include mobility, citizenship, borders, transnationalism, power and sovereignty with regional expertise in Turkey, Middle East and Europe.



Nanneke Winters is an assistant professor in Migration and Development at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research interests include im/mobility, migrant trajectories, and translocal livelihoods in Central America and beyond.

Are you looking for more content about Global Development and Social Justice? Subscribe to Bliss, the official blog of the International Institute of Social Studies, and stay updated about interesting topics our researchers are working on.

The dangerously optimistic global climate finance agenda: why blended financing and domestic resource mobilization won’t help close the climate finance gap

The global climate finance agenda in its current form is insufficient for tackling climate change and fostering a green transition across the globe. Calls to close the massive climate finance gap that prevents developing countries from accessing much-needed funds often rely on the expectation that domestic resource mobilization and blended finance can help close the gap. In this article, we demonstrate why this expectation seems wildly optimistic and argue that instead of relying on insecure trends, global policy makers should take action by developing policies that grant a bigger role for public money and innovative monetary solutions.

Source: Asian Development Bank is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Source: Asian Development Bank is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Many emerging economies are having a tough time – they are still struggling to recover from the pandemic and simultaneously suffer from unprecedented debt levels and cost-of-living crises. What’s more, the climate crisis is manifesting itself more than ever, and international financial promises to enable a just energy transition across the globe continue to be broken. Meanwhile, the costs of climate mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage are soaring, which makes it even less likely that these countries will get the climate funding needed to respond adequately to the crisis. As a result, the climate financing gap is widening.

In a response to these developments, the COP26 and COP27 presidencies some months before last year’s November COP27 summit launched an Independent High-Level Expert Group equipped with the task of “scaling up investment and finance to deliver on climate ambition and development goals”. This distinguished group of experts launched their report in November, calling for a “rapid and sustained investment push […] to drive a strong and sustainable recovery out of current and recent crises […] and to deliver on shared development and climate goals.”

The investment push that’s needed relies on domestic resource mobilization and blended finance that together with other financial levers form part of the so-called Grand Match financing strategy. This strategy was proposed by Amar Bhattacharya, Meagan Dooley, Homi Kharas, Charlotte Taylor and Nicholas Stern in a bid to foster a big investment push for emerging markets and developing economies. However, both the total amounts assumed for blended finance (USD 395 billion) and domestic resource mobilization (USD 653 billion) are unlikely to materialize and are unlikely to close the climate finance gap, as we will show.


Blended financing and domestic resource mobilization failing to deliver

As early as 2016, the rising popularity of blended finance as a way to close the global climate finance gap could be observed; in April that year, British weekly newspaper The Economist ran an article called “Trending: blending” that examined “[t]he fad for mixing public, charitable and private money”. In the past few years, the concept of blended finance has gained further traction; key global financial institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, and the G20 have pointed to blended finance as a solution to close the global climate investment gap. For example, during its last spring meeting, the IMF emphasized that its members should “recognize the importance of stepping up climate finance from all sources, including by mobilizing private investment”. Similarly, domestic resource mobilization (DRM), whereby governments channel their own resources towards public goods and services, such as by raising taxes or by improving auditing processes, is viewed as an important climate financing tool.

However, blended finance has not delivered on its promise. Back then, The Economist observed that “few data exist on the scale and success of blended finance”. Now, with more data available, it’s becoming clear that private investments made in low- and middle-income countries through blended finance actually have decreased from USD 150 billion to 100 billion, and between 2019 and 2021, only USD 14 billion was pledged  to poor countries through private channels. Similarly, the mobilization of domestic resources has not held up to its promises — its potential has been overestimated.

These tools are therefore unlikely to sufficiently help close the finance gap that has arisen. And with the current grim global economic outlook, an increasing number of low-income countries are already in debt distress and are increasingly impacted by the loss and damage of climate change itself, thus decreasing their ability to use these tools even more.

In fact, the reliance on these financing mechanisms is dangerously optimistic, as this prevents us from considering the additional sources of finance that are needed to provide climate investments at the scale and time needed. Here’s why:


1.    There is a huge climate finance gap, especially in low-income countries, and it’s becoming bigger, not smaller.

By 2025, if no measures to increase climate funds are taken, the amount of money needed by emerging economies (excluding China) to address the effects of climate change – generally referred to as the climate finance gap – would amount to USD 1 trillion (as estimated in 2022). Lower-income regions such as South Asia and Africa have the largest investment needs (7-14 times and 5-12 times more investment, respectively), but these are not being met. While most of the money needed to close the gap is supposed to be sourced through domestic resource mobilization (USD 653 billion) and private investment, supported by public funding through blended finance (USD 395 billion), in reality, this is not happening.

And the finance gap might be even bigger than we think. For example, in a recent report Oxfam estimates that the annual shortfall for necessary investments in health, education, social protection and tackling climate change in low- and middle-income countries could be as high as USD 3.9 trillion.


  1. Advanced economies are not keeping their promises

Meanwhile, public finance is not contributing sufficiently. In 2009, high-income countries pledged to help fund the energy transition in developing countries by promising to commit USD 100 billion annually. But in 2020, only USD 83 billion had been pledged. What’s worse, to get to this figure, existing development assistance (ODA) money was relabelled as climate finance for developing countries. And only one-third of the funds that have been committed are in the form of grants, which means that debts continue to accumulate due to loans.


  1. Blended finance should be helping funnel private funds to low-income countries, but it’s still mostly public money

 Blended finance[1] has gained the status of a silver bullet. The assumption underlying the belief in the effectiveness of this tool is that public capital investments would lever private investments according to a certain ratio of the ‘blend’. If done properly, investing by blending different financial sources indeed could result in a multiplied number of private investments that could be used to finance climate action.

However, the amount of private money available to match each public dollar is overestimated  – in reality, much less private money is invested, while public funds continue to form the largest share of the total amount. In one report, the IMF for instance expects the ratio of private to public money to be 9:1. In 2020 however, private finance constituted only around 50% of global climate finance, with the rest being public finance. And in low-income regions where climate investments need to increase most strongly, even a public-private ratio of 1:1 is often not tenable. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, around 90% of climate finance comes from public sources.


  1. Mobilizing domestic resources requires challenging reforms

The IMF anticipated that emerging economies could raise as much as USD 236 billion in additional taxes by 2025 through domestic resource mobilization. To do this, they would have to implement relevant tax and administrative reforms to tackle their sometimes very low tax rates and high levels of tax exemptions.[2] However, implementing and enforcing these kinds of reforms is challenging. Emerging economies are renowned for administrative capacity constraints that prevent them from addressing tax evasion and keeping avoidance under control. Studies on the projected development of tax-to-GDP ratios in emerging economies show that their tax revenues are expected to only slightly, but not significantly, increase.

Moreover, some international support initiatives have already been in place, such as the Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB) assistance programmes between 2012 and 2020. This has helped raise the tax revenues of these countries by a mere USD 537 million – a figure far below the necessary additional USD 417 billion in domestic resource mobilization estimated in the IHLEG’s report.


  1. Countries are holding on to their money – tightly

Lastly, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent spike in inflation levels, a global monetary tightening cycle has begun. This has resulted in capital outflows by the private sector from emerging economies, which is bound to substantially hinder these countries’ economic growth. It has already been shown that the simultaneous monetary and fiscal tightening policies across the globe impact developing countries and emerging economies disproportionately.

This makes efforts to close the climate finance gap seem even more unrealistic, especially given the high value of the dollar and the outstanding dollar-denominated debt in the Global South. Of the low-income countries eligible for special IMF support, as of 2023, nine are currently in debt distress, while 27 are at a high risk, 26 countries at a moderate risk, and seven countries at low risk of debt distress.


More realism needed if we want to close the gap

The global climate finance gap (excluding China) currently amounts to a stunning 1 trillion until 2025 under the business-as-usual scenario. Promises of the past have not been lived up to while the climate crisis and green energy transition are becoming more urgent every day. Global policy makers seem to rely on domestic resource mobilization and blended finance to close the gap.

However, as this blog post has shown, the empirical success of blended finance remains very limited, while the challenges to boost domestic resource mobilization remain huge. Time is, however, very limited. Instead of relying on insecure trends, global policy makers should act by developing policies that grant a bigger role for public money and innovative monetary solutions.


Abdel-Kader, K. & De Mooij, R. (2020). Tax Policy and Inclusive Growth. IMF Working Paper. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2020/12/04/Tax-Policy-and-Inclusive-Growth-49902

ADB (2022). African Economic Outlook 2022. African Development Bank Group. https://www.afdb.org/en/knowledge/publications/african-economic-outlook

Attridge, S. (2022). The potentials and limitations of blended finance. In D. Schoenmaker & U. Volz (Eds.), Scaling Up Sustainable Finance and Investment in the Global South. CEPR Press. https://cepr.org/system/files/publication-files/175477- scaling_up_sustainable_finance_and_investment_in_the_global_south.pdf

Benedek, D., Gemayel, E., Senhadji, A., Tieman, A. (2021). A Post-Pandemic Assessment of the Sustainable Development Goals. IMF Staff Discussion Note. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/Staff-Discussion-Notes/Issues/2021/04/27/A-Post-Pandemic-Assessment-of-the-Sustainable-Development-Goals-460076

Bhattacharya, A., Dooley, M., & Kharas, H. (2022). Financing a Big Investment Push in Emerging Markets and Developing Countries for Sustainable, Resilient and Inclusive Recovery and Growth. London: Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and Washington, DC: Brookings Institution. https://www.lse.ac.uk/granthaminstitute/publication/financing-a-big-investment-push-in-emerging-markets-and-developing-economies/

Fenocchietto, R. & Pessino, C. (2013). Understanding Countries’ Tax Effort. IMF Working Paper. https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2013/wp13244.pdf

Gallagher, K. P., & Kozul-Wright, R. (2021). The case for a new Bretton-Woods. John Wiley & Sons.

Global Infrastructure Facility. (2023). Global Infrastructure Facility. https://www.globalinfrafacility.org/

G20 (2019). G20 Osaka Leaders’ Declaration. G20. https://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/economy/g20_summit/osaka19/en/documents/final_g20_osaka_leaders_declaration.html

Hill, S., Jinjarak, Y., Park, D. (2022). How do Tax Revenues Respond to GDP Growth? Evidence from Developing Asia, 1998–2020. Asian Development Bank. https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/institutional-document/782851/ado2022bp-tax-revenues-gdp-growth.pdf

IFC (2023). Blended Concessional Finance. International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group. https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/topics_ext_content/ifc_external_corporate_site/bf

IMF (2023a). Chair’s Statement of Forty-Seventh Meeting of the IMFC. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2023/04/14/pr23120-chairs-statement-forty-seventh-meeting-of-the-imfc

IMF (2023b). Nigeria’s Tax Revenue Mobilization: Lessons from Successful Revenue Reform Episodes. IMF Country Report No. 23/94. https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/selected-issues-papers/Issues/2023/03/07/Nigerias-Tax-Revenue-Mobilization-Lessons-from-Successful-Revenue-Reform-Episodes-Nigeria-530628

IMF (2023c). List of LIC DSAs for PRGT-Eligible Countries As of February 28, 2023 https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/dsa/dsalist.pdfhttps://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/dsa/dsalist.pdf

IMF (2022). Mobilizing Private Climate Financing in Emerging Market and Developing Economies. IMF Staff Climate Notes.

Neil McCulloch (2019). What Nigerians really think about tax. International Centre for Tax and Development – ICTD. https://www.ictd.ac/blog/what-nigerians-really-think-about-tax/

OECD (2018). OECD DAC Blended Finance Principles for Unlocking Commercial Finance for the Sustainable Development Goals. OECD. https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/development-finance-topics/OECD-Blended-Finance-Principles.pdf

OECD/UNDP (2020). Tax Inspectors Without Borders Annual Report 2020. OECD/UNDP. http://www.tiwb.org/resources/reports-case-studies/tax-inspectors-without-borders-annual-report-2020.pdf

OECD (2022). Statement by the OECD Secretary-General on climate finance trends to 2020. OECD. https://www.oecd.org/environment/statement-by-the-oecd-secretary-general-on-climate-finance-trends-to-2020.htm#:~:text=29%2F07%2F2022%20%2D%20Climate,increase%20from%202018%20to%202019.

Oxfam (2020). Climate Finance Shadow Report 2020. Assessing progress towards the $100 billion commitment. Oxfam. https://www.oxfam.org/en/research/climate-finance-shadow-report-2020

Oxfam (2023). False Economy: Financial wizardry won’t pay the bill for a fair and sustainable future. Oxfam. https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/oxfam-warns-rich-country-financial-wizardry-puts-their-own-interests-ahead-worlds

Songwe, V., Stern, N., & Bhattacharya, A. (2022). Finance for climate action: Scaling up investment for climate and development. London: Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science. https://www.lse.ac.uk/granthaminstitute/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/IHLEG-Finance-for-Climate-Action.pdf

Tett, G. (2022). The flood of green finance must be diverted from the west. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/95c28b9e-7844-4ab7-8401-42d1cca133a8

The Economist (2016). Trending: blending. The Economist. https://www-economist-com.proxy.library.uu.nl/finance-and-economics/2016/04/23/trending-blendingg

UNCTAD (2022). Trade and Development Report 2022. Development prospects in a fractured world. UNCTAD. https://unctad.org/tdr2022

World Bank (2023). Global Economic Prospects. The World Bank Group. https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/server/api/core/bitstreams/254aba87-dfeb-5b5c-b00a-727d04ade275/content

[1] According to the OECD, blended finance is “‘the strategic use of development finance for the mobilization of additional finance towards sustainable development in developing countries’, with ‘additional finance’ referring primarily to commercial finance’” (OECD 2018).

[2] In this context, the IHLEG recommends an incremental tax effort of at least 2.7% of EMDEs’ GDP, equal to USD 650 billion, so an additional USD 417 billion by 2025 on top of IMF projections (Bhattacharya et al., 2022).

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the authors:


Sara Murawski is a policy advisor and researcher in the field of international trade and investment, finance and European integration. She has worked in the world of journalism, think tanks, NGOs, the Dutch and European Parliament as well as with many activist groups. At Sustainable Finance Lab, Sara is project leader on the project “Changing ‘Fiscal Rules’ and reforming the EU fiscal framework” that tries to shift the debate in the Netherlands from frugal to forward looking. The continuous dialogue with experts, policy officials and local actors in developing her thoughts, output and activities is crucial for her.



Rens van Tilburg is director of the Sustainable Finance Lab at Utrecht University. Rens has experience working in the European and Dutch parliament and as an advisor on innovation policies for the Dutch government.  With the academic think tank the Sustainable Finance Lab Rens has worked extensively on banking, asset management, supervision, public finance and monetary policies. Focusing on financial stability issues and the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss. 




Anna Ghilardi is a research intern at Sustainable Finance Lab. She attained her bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Economics at Utrecht University, where she wrote her thesis about the impact of previous monetary policy on European house price growth before and during the Covid-19 pandemic. She is now completing a double degree master’s programme in European Governance, a two-year curriculum attended both at University College Dublin, Ireland and Utrecht University. Therefore, she is currently writing her master’s thesis at Sustainable Finance Lab on Poland and Bulgaria’s capacity to single-handedly fund their climate finance gap in view of the European Union’s climate neutrality ambitions.

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Development Studies cannot become an apology for the status quo

Development Studies must always be critical, or it becomes just an apology for the status quo, for exploitation, for the reproduction of inequality within and between nations, and for the destruction of the conditions of life on Earth.

We live in times of converging crises, across the economy, democracy, health, the environment and more, with sprawling implications for ways of living around the globe. These crises and their mutual relationships offer the opportunity for new understandings of the problems of development and possible ways forward, which will inevitably be contested. These debates can be examined historically, focusing on the implications for our discipline.

An overview can start from the period before the Washington Consensus. Politically, it was marked by a strong anti-communism, with the Soviet model offering a plausible alternative to developing countries going through a rapid process of decolonisation and intense left activity. Economically, the dominant notion of development in the West was related to the idea of modernisation as the pathway to an ideal-type advanced capitalism, illustrated by the USA. In turn, economic policy referred to state intervention to provide the economic infrastructure for industrialisation, including public ownership of key industries, substantial aid distributed according to Western policy imperatives and commercial interests, and support for authoritarian regimes aligned with the West. Although the pre-Washington Consensus would now appear extraordinarily progressive, it was heavily contested by scholarship, with Latin American structuralism and dependency theory figuring prominently, and highlighting the inequitable economic structures, social relations and processes that systematically disadvantaged countries in the Global South.

The Washington Consensus emerged in the late 1970s as a dramatic right-wing reaction against the perceived economic and political weaknesses of the previous Keynesian-developmentalist consensus. The Washington Consensus included three main elements. First, the hegemony of mainstream economics within development theory. Second, the hegemony of the World Bank and the IMF setting the agenda for the study of development and the implementation of development policy and, third, ideologically, the attachment of the Washington Consensus to neoliberalism, including the commitment to a notion of ‘free markets’ standing inconsistently between Hayek and Friedman, but unified in claiming that governments were the source of both inefficiency and corruption. While the Washington Consensus claimed to be leaving as much as possible to the market, what it really did was to rebuild the state to intervene on a discretionary basis to promote a globalising and financialised capitalism.

The Washington Consensus was followed, in the 1990s, by the post-Washington Consensus, which was more sensitive to the non-economic domain, and rationalised the ongoing transitions to political democracy in the Global South through appeals to institution-building and the imperative of good governance to limit corruption. Presumably, these goals would be better achieved in a democracy, leading to the conclusion that democracy was good for growth. The promotion of democracy in the South was supported by a development industry parasitic on the poor countries which, suddenly, found reasons to support the World Bank and the IMF, instead of criticising them from financially parched margins.


Financialisation and the degradation of state capacity

Retrospectively, it appears that, from a mainstream perspective, the Washington institutions had stumbled upon the best of all possible worlds: the neoliberal reforms transferred the power to allocate resources to a globalised financial market, while political democracy legitimised the neoliberal state. At the same time, the neoliberal reforms degraded state capacity; multiparty legislatures weakened the Executive; and a supposedly independent judiciary ensured that the neoliberal reforms, an independent central bank, inflation targeting regimes and the conditionalities imposed in return for aid were locked in – all in the name of “democracy” and the “rule of law”.

This arrangement was criticised heavily within Development Studies. The first criticism came through the notion of the developmental state, that was shown to have violated Washington’s prescriptions across the board, for example, through protectionism, directed finance, price and wage controls, and so on. The second criticism focused on the notion of adjustment with a human face, and the impact of the neoliberal reforms on the poor. The third criticism came through the notion of post-development, which highlighted the value and agency of the subaltern.

The field of development has now been transformed again, by the ongoing slowdown in the advanced economies, with global repercussions: even former star performers have been affected, especially since their own transitions to neoliberalism. In parallel, we notice the degradation of neoliberal democracies. They were already circumscribed by an institutional apparatus to insulate economic policy from any form of “interference” by the majority, which dramatically reduced the policy space available to nominally democratic states. The consequence in practice was that those who lost out the most under neoliberalism also tended to be ignored by its institutions.

With the destruction of the left in the previous period, these tensions opened spaces for anti-systemic forces polarised by what may be called ‘spectacular’ authoritarian leaders. These are supposedly ‘strong’ people, that cultivate a politics of resentment, appeal to common sense, claim to be able to ‘get things done’ by force of will, and promise to confront the outsiders who undermine ‘our’ nation and harm ‘our’ people. But, when they reach power, those spectacular leaders always impose policies intensifying neoliberalism, under the veil of nationalism and a more or less explicit racism, and they are often shadowed by the rise of neo-fascist movements. This was the situation until early 2020, and the pandemic only intensified those tensions. Economies imploded, and authoritarian neoliberal systems became catastrophically perverse, often imposing health policies that killed millions and entrenched Covid-19 so it will never be eliminated.


Authoritarianism and Environmental Collapse call for a Transformation of Development Studies

Contemporary economic and political systems are being slowly but relentlessly overwhelmed by the environmental crisis. This crisis relates, fundamentally, to the contradiction between the limitless search for profits and the limited capacity of the Earth to sustain a climate compatible with the continuation of life as we know it. In turn, the search for solutions is limited by tensions between the accumulated emissions by leading Western economies and the rising emissions in developing countries claiming the right to development today, and by the structure of the global economy, in which several countries are invested in the production of fossil fuels even though this is unsustainable, but they refuse to exit. These tensions have been intensified by financialisation, that tends to raise emissions and block mitigation because financialisation feeds procyclical behaviours that reinforce existing economic structures, increase volatility, and concentrate income, wealth and power. This is incompatible with climate adaptation, strategic industrial policy, or redistribution.

Development Studies must always be critical, or it becomes just an apology for the status quo, for exploitation, for the reproduction of inequality within and between nations, and for the destruction of the conditions of life on Earth. Today, Development Studies faces a neoliberal modality of capitalism whose prosperity relies on speculation, despoliation, extraction and fraud, and which may be sliding into permanent economic underperformance, new forms of fascism and environmental collapse. It is urgent to advance a transformative agenda from within Development Studies. These crises ought to be confronted together for reasons of practicality and legitimacy, through a democratic economic strategy, including political democracy, focusing on the restoration of a collective sphere of citizenship, the expansion of rights, the distribution of income, wealth and power (focusing on the decommodification and definancialisation of social reproduction, starting with universal public services), and a green transition in the economy.

The difficulty is that those alternatives must be underpinned by new social movements and new structures of representation, from political parties to trade unions to community associations, corresponding to the current mode of existence of a society that has been extensively decomposed domestically, imperfectly integrated globally, that has distinct cultures but is connected through internet-based tools. There is nothing more important for Development Studies, today, than to support these critiques of neoliberalism, and support the new movements to reshape our mode of existence.

This blog was first published by EADI.

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author:

Alfredo Saad-Filho is Professor of Political Economy and International Development at the Department of International Development, King’s College London.

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From corporate greed to sustainable business practices: how slow and steady wins the race

So often we think that ethics and business do not blend, and too often we are proven right. But what if this is not always the case? What if there were a way for profit to be generated and for companies to grow, with the only compromise being the time taken to do so? In this article, Niyati Pingali argues that companies do not have to forgo their profit objective – adopting a more-is-more mindset that entails engaging in a slow process of forging and consolidating ethical and sustainable business practices can drive immediate change in the sector, an intervention that can sit well alongside larger degrowth agendas.

Hamstrung by corporate interest

About halfway through the 2015 movie The Big Short about the 2008 financial crisis instigated by a crash on Wall Street, investor Mark Baum and his band of cynical, dogmatic investors take a trip to Moody’s, the reputed financial ratings agency, to ask them why they were actively assigning AA and AAA ratings to housing mortgage bonds (these being two of the highest ratings a bond can receive, representing a bond comprising sound mortgages that are assigned to people with good credit scores and a history of repaying debts) when the bonds should have been rated lower. One Moody’s employee replied in a straightforward manner: if she and her colleagues didn’t rate these bonds AA at least, banks would go down the road to S&P or any other established ratings agency to get themselves rated “appropriately”.  This confession stuns Baum and his colleagues: the system is rigged, and those who could be fixing it are themselves hamstrung by corporate interest.

Which is why it was fascinating to me to learn that in 2019, Vigeo Eiris, an established independent environmental, social and governance (ESG) research and consultancy services company, was bought over by Moody’s and rebranded. Eiris was originally founded in 1983 and dedicated itself to equipping businesses to help manage risks and increase their social impact. It came up with a global ratings system that ranks companies based on their efforts, involvement and long-term practices in good governance and sustainable business (Vigeo Eiris, 2019).[1]

Immediately upon reading about the acquisition, alarm bells started ringing in my head. However noble the goal of a ratings agency to start accounting for the value of a stock or company based on its commitment to protecting the environment and society, if a company like Moody’s has found itself behaving unethically on the ground not even 20 years ago, what’s to say that an ‘independent’ research agency under the Moody’s umbrella would be given the autonomy to act ethically and by extension have the authority to publish unimpaired, unbiased, verifiable facts even if they disparage their ‘mother’?

While no empirical evidence (beyond anecdotal) exists to prove that this will be the case, it’s clear that potential censorship, should Moody’s not uphold its end of the bargain, would lead to fallout, resignation and, as experience indicates, the start of a slippery slope from ‘ethical’ to ‘convenient’.


Sidelining ethics in the name of profit

Sadly, this is not the first time a company has lost its ethical backbone. Think for example of the   of Timnit Gebru, the Ethiopian-American AI researcher working in the ethical AI research team of Google who parted ways with the company because of ‘irreconcilable differences’. While now universally acknowledged to be a consequence of machine learning based primarily on easily accessed data (usually from the internet, which in and of itself is a biased source), the issue Gebru and her colleagues tried to make Google see (and by extension help amend in its products) was that its existing AI-powered products were foundationally flawed and required a series of very different datasets and priorities to redress the balance. She and a number of colleagues were eventually driven out of Google for their criticism.

In doing this, Google has shown that, like many other companies, it is focused on building harmony (and, obviously, its bottom line). To anyone following what’s going on around the world, this is hardly breaking news. Indeed, my own experience in corporate social responsibility (CSR) for a multi-national corporation proved the degree to which my efforts at protecting and promoting the company’s good potential and community-relevant ties were deprioritized.

While indeed the revelation made here that companies (particularly larger ones) prioritize profit over society is not a new one, it is important to consider the impact the concept of ethical business can have. In this, I do not refer to social enterprises (although they are highly beneficial), or even the established Creating Shared Value (CSV)  business strategy that companies like Friesland Campina have successfully adopted. Instead, I am talking about a more-is-more mindset: electing to grow slowly but consciously – keeping profit at the fore but being more selective and long-term about the partners one chooses to work with.


More is more: how partnering mindfully can pay off

The good news is there are companies who are doing this. Take Jeevanti, a now non-operational for-profit healthcare company in western India whose aim to build world-class healthcare facilities in small Indian towns. Their business approach was to lease existing hospitals and nursing homes, and work with local medical professionals, staff and support services such as catering and cleaning services within said towns, and source locally manufactured medical technology, thus creating locally rooted value chains with the hospital at the centre. Ironically, the business closed due to the high demands and questionable practices on the ground by a member of the (systemically corrupt) Indian medical fraternity involved in the project, not because the vision or business function itself proved unviable.

Or consider abillion, an upcoming social media platform catering to vegans and sustainable consumption. When I asked the founder about the issues around discrimination in AI, and the effect that automatised feedback could have on the system, he said it was about feeding their system the right kinds of information – echoing Gebru’s crusade to include a wider variety of data into the existing data universe. In this case it is about training the system to recognise vegan versus non-vegan content and believing in the users of the platform to be ethical in their buying, selling, and sharing practices. It sounds idealistic and I was initially sceptical, but his argument about the majority of people wanting to actively protect the integrity of the platform convinced me.

Both companies grew (one continues to grow!) despite this ‘counterintuitive’ business logic. These examples make it clear that the socio-economic impact of slow, steady, community-AND-profit-centric growth cannot be underestimated.


Putting mind over money

At ISS we often talk about the concept of degrowth. This topic is hotly debated in class and over drinks, its merits and flaws laid out and sliced up a thousand different ways until, inevitably, we come to the (in)conclusion: in today’s day and age, an inaccessibly inordinate number of things in our socio-politico-economic psychology will need to shift to make happen even a tenth of what degrowth asks for. In essence, in today’s day and age, degrowth is an impossibility, available only to those privileged enough to know the concept, or to afford surviving in it.

Which leads us to what is left that perhaps can actually be done to get out of this quagmire and what it will take for companies like Google and Moody’s to dig us out. It’s a simple matter of putting mind over money, taking the long route and, like the turtle, winning the race based on resilience, stability, and keen determination.

[1] Moody’s, on the other hand, was established in 1900 by John Moody with “a vision to widen access to information and establish a global language of credit” (Moody’s, 2022). They have achieved this and more by incorporating research and risk assessment services into their consultancy repertoire, becoming one of the leading risk assessment and ratings services in the financial world. Their website states upfront their commitment to “bring transparency, expertise and trust to bond transactions”, all key buzzwords that customers, and importantly, the average street consumer, genuinely seek.

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author:

Niyati Pingali is currently completing her MA in Development Studies, focusing on governance and development policy. As a former corporate employee, she knows the cost and the benefits of capitalism and plans to dedicate her life to changing the narrative to ensure both people and the economy benefit equally: a feat that sounds impossible but she knows can happen.

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The role of National Governments in delivering humanitarian-development-peace nexus approaches: a reflection on current challenges and the way forward

The concept of humanitarian, development, peace (HDP) — referred to also as the triple nexus — gained momentum during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, and more recently with the wide adoption of the recommendations on the HDP nexus issues by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) in 2019.

The HDP nexus pushes for strengthening the links between humanitarian, development, and peace actors and actions in contexts of protracted settings, where all three forms of assistance overlap within the same communities. The focus on strengthening these links, however, is not new. For example, the discourse on ‘linking relief, rehabilitation, and development’ (LRRD) from the 1980s, also attempted to better align humanitarian and development activities. It was, however,  critiqued because it saw aid as a linear process and lacked incentives for co-ordination, and focused primarily on the process of humanitarian agencies finishing their work, and development agencies taking over at some point. The triple nexus approach, on the contrary, pushes agencies and actors to improve co-ordination, collaboration, and coherence in order to increase aid effectiveness.

In this blog, I will explore the questions around engagement of national governments with triple nexus approaches. Specifically, I will look at (1) the importance of engaging with the national government; (2) existing challenges to this engagement; and (3) overcoming the challenges in engaging with the national government in relation to triple nexus approaches.

Wide acknowledgement for the need to engage with national governments

The overarching objective of the triple nexus approach is the prioritisation of better coordination and coherence between different actors and interventions in order to ‘end need’ and ‘leave no one behind’, thereby making the role of national governments a crucial element of this approach.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Results Group 4 in 2020 stated that “[National] Governments bear the primary responsibility to respond to disasters, protect their own populations, including displaced persons, abide by the refugee conventions, respect international humanitarian principles and law, and should drive the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] in their country.”[1] Additionally, the OECD-DAC Recommendation 2 advocates for the “appropriate resourcing to empower leadership for cost-effective coordination across the humanitarian, development, and peace architecture, by supporting local and national authorities, including legitimate non-state authorities wherever possible, and appropriate and in accordance with international law. Still further, the IASC Results Working Group 4 in May 2020, in regard to the triple nexus, states that actions must be “in consultation with government and leaders in all three pillars both within and outside the UN system.”

Therefore, while on one hand, national governments are critical for moving from emergency relief to long-term peace and stability, on the other, national governments can pose a threat to this progress when they are party to the conflict. This then becomes a difficult, and often a political dilemma, to determine how, and to what extent, should national governments be involved in planning aid strategies and interventions.

Challenges in involving national governments

One of the major concerns with engaging national governments in triple nexus approaches is that they will manipulate the strategies and interventions to their advantage — primarily by using the resources for their own gain — and fail to prioritise the interests of the majority of citizens. According to Berebi and Thelen (2011), aid, when given directly to affected population(s), rather than through unstable and potentially corrupt governments, can prove more effective. This is especially true for contexts dominated by conflict, where aid absorption is far less likely than in contexts that are safer and more secure.

This, however, raises an important dilemma— should a triple nexus approach sidestep government to focus on the need for more and better co-ordination in other areas? Purposely disengaging with the government in the spirit of more effective aid in the short and long-term, however, signals a lack of confidence in the national government, and thus, may cause more harm than good.

For example, according to a United Nations report from 2021 focused on South Sudan, since 2018, there has been more than an estimated $73 million, which has gone missing or  been syphoned off by various government officials and bodies. In fact, from the recent interviews, which I conducted in November 2021, there is evidence that there has been an increase in tensions between both international and national non-governmental organisations in South Sudan and the national government. This is reportedly because more and more international donors are side-stepping from working with and depending on the government, for ensuring distribution of funds to specific project interventions. Whenever possible, the funds, instead, go directly to the national NGOs and project implementers. In cases where the national and regional governments are involved, the money meant to reach the intended beneficiary is not only often delayed but is also deficient in the intended amount. This issue becomes even more complex when related to implementing a multi-component initiative, that may require several different government ministries to work together efficiently and effectively.

Moving forward

While this is only one issue of aid in the context of fragile and protracted settings when engaging with national governments, it is nonetheless, a very important one. For the triple nexus approach, I would argue that the national government, like all entities, is made up of different people with varying interests. Therefore, when engaging across actors and actions, a process of discernment, by international actors, should be a priori, in finding those individuals in government who are invested in meaningful change — focused on meeting the needs of the community and the country in a way that builds long-term peace and stability.

A triple nexus approach, therefore, must assess different levels of engagement, that balance information sharing with proactive engagement within government bodies to determine the best way of engagement. Those using a triple nexus approach, must recognise that in pulling together humanitarian, peace, and development actors and actions, it may mean that they are encouraging and promoting inter-governmental collaboration, co-ordination, and coherence, that might be weak or non-existent.

On a positive note, however, encouraging working relationships between different ministries can also become a conduit for them to see the benefits of more co-ordinated responses that are focused on immediate relief, as well as ensuring the long-term peace and development of the country. In essence, the triple nexus approach can provide an opportunity for supporting positive inter- and intra-government working relationships.

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author

Summer Brown is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Her research focuses on how Humanitarian and Peacebuilding interventions work together from the perspective of National non-governmental organisations in South Sudan. She takes on consulting work focused primarily on the HDP nexus and conflict sensitivity respectively. Some of her clients include the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Mott MacDonald’s Girls Education in South Sudan programme, International Alert, Islamic Relief, Christian Aid and Caritas Switzerland.

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What the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 crisis teach us about our global interconnectedness and its implications for inequality

Due to the war in Ukraine not only the country’s inhabitants have come under fire, but also the granary of much of the world. If the war is not stopped, grain prices will rise. This will have severe effects on many countries and vulnerable countries in Africa are likely to bear the brunt. The war, like the corona pandemic, illustrates how closely we are interconnected as nations on a global scale. What effects do such crises have on existing inequality? In this blog, a number of researchers of global development and social justice share their thoughts.

On 17 March, the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at Erasmus University launched the book ‘COVID-19 and International Development’ (Springer, 2021). During the recent book launch in Amsterdam, ISS researchers have shed light on the unseen faces of the corona pandemic in low-income countries. We spoke with some of the authors of the book about the impact of COVID-19 on the Global South, and their expectations for the future.

What are the main socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Global South? 

Rolph van der Hoeven and Rob Vos: ‘Developing countries have suffered severe economic fallouts due to the pandemic. Between 100 and 160 million more people in low-income countries have fallen into poverty and hunger. The recovery has been bumpy and developing countries have had little fiscal and monetary capacity to respond. Many countries now face severe debt distress. Some progress has been made towards realizing two of four reforms we proposed in the book: international tax coordination and issuance of new SDRs. However, these still need to be tailored to serve the interests of the Global South. Worldwide, we are unprepared for future pandemics and major global crises. Just look at last year’s events: many of the world’s poor also had to cope with a surge in food prices. The current Russian invasion of Ukraine will further increase food prices, while the capacity of the government to protect the vulnerable has eroded. We should expect poverty and hunger to rise even further.’

Natascha Wagner: ‘We still have very little fact-based evidence on the indirect health consequences in the Global South where health information systems are weak. We have observed severe disruptions in the provision of routine health care services, preventive care, and treatment schemes. Foregone health care potentially results in more severe complications, co-infections and uncurable conditions, in particular among the poorest. The combination of ad hoc lockdowns without a social assistance system that just as rapidly reaches the poorest has severely affected the already sluggish progress towards the SDGs.’

Farhad Mukhtarov: ‘The pandemic has made it clear that the global water crisis is not so much about scarcity or affordability of water. These can be resolved in most cases by temporarily augmenting supply and providing subsidies. Rather, it is about societal inequality, racial and class-based patterns of violence and exploitation. Many things are needed: fairer wealth re-distribution, more equal practices of taxation, greater investment in the public sector, as well as greater social provision of marginalized groups. They are all necessary to treat various ailments of contemporary global societies.’

Matthias Rieger: ‘The global nature of the pandemic and insufficient data often render it hard to precisely quantify “impacts”. During the pandemic I noticed confused public and policy discourse around the world on “impacts” without proper counterfactual thinking. I think the pandemic has highlighted the need to use natural experiment approaches in global health research and to routinely collect reliable health data.’

Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor: ‘We are getting more and more confident that our optimism about the quick recovery from the COVID-19 trade shock was justified. Although the omicron is more contagious, it has less health consequences and the impact of the pandemic is weaning off – also amongst the non-vaccinated’.


Have you become more (or less) optimistic about the COVID-19 -related impacts since your chapter was written?

Peter A.G. van Bergeijk: Globalization encountered another setback with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The revival of a Cold War setting is on the verge. This will tend to reduce the world’s openness by another 1.5% points (indication of the increase in the share number): Mr. Putin may have effectively killed the era of globalization.’


Binyam Afewerk Demena: NEW The major (COVID-19) implication is that the feasibility of export-oriented growth strategies decreases. In addition, the workings of international organizations will be further frustrated. That is bad news for developing countries. The Global South still has to deal with many challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, due to weak health systems, low socio-economic conditions, extreme poverty rates, and limited access to sanitation to contain impacts.’

Agni Kalfagianni: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has put further strain on poor health care systems and has reduced even more access to food for the most vulnerable. Not much has changed really to give reason for either optimism or pessimism in that respect. The lack of solidarity towards vaccine access from the Global North to the Global South exacerbated existing problems. Regarding future pandemics; we may react more quickly, given the experience that we gained. But until major changes in the health care systems and global cooperation take place, we will fail again.’

Are we now better prepared to protect vulnerable individuals and communities from future pandemics? 

Zemzem Shigute: ‘The corona virus has proven to be a conundrum that even the most economically powerful nations were not able to control. The virus itself does not discriminate between rich and poor people or nations. However, marginalized groups, including migrants, continue to bear its plight. They face intersecting layers of struggle based on various factors including gender, marital status, education, language, employment, and duration of stay in the country.’

Syed Mansoob Murshed: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic’s initial impact on inequality was negative. However, there are signs that the world’s inequality tolerance may be diminishing. Secondly, the labour supply surge – engendered when China and the former Eastern bloc embraced capitalism – is now also ending. That may be good news for workers and the poor in developing countries but has to be counterbalanced with the bad news about trade disruptions and rising energy prices.’

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

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