Tag Archives european union

Addressing the deadly impacts of heatwaves in Europe – The European Union Must Do More

This year in June and July (and into this month of August), a global heatwave led to an increase in deaths and disasters. Several European countries were largely impacted, including the Netherlands, France, Portugal, and Spain. In this blog, we (Shellan Saling and Sylvia I. Bergh) review the European Union’s (EU) policy response to heatwaves, and argue for a more active role for the EU in coordinating national efforts to develop heat-health action plans (HHAPs).  

The death tolls of past and future heatwaves

The current heatwave is not the first one. In 2003, an extreme heatwave killed over 70,000 people across Europe. Certain population groups – such as the elderly, people with disabilities, youth, ethnic and racial minorities, and those experiencing homelessness – are especially vulnerable. These groups, as well as pregnant women, young children, and people with chronic conditions such as cardio-vascular diseases, are at higher risk of suffering from reduced physiological and behavioral capacity for thermoregulation, for example due to a limited capacity to sweat. Socio-economically disadvantaged people also have limited access to information sources where health warnings are shared and awareness is raised about how to protect oneself from the heat. More recently, the 2019 summer heatwaves affected Europe, more specifically France, Belgium, and the Netherlands with over 2500 deaths.

Unfortunately, future prospects are bleak. Researchers at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission predict that assuming present vulnerability and no additional adaptation, annual fatalities from extreme heat in 2100 could rise from 2,750 deaths now to 30,000 at 1.5°Celsius global warming, 52,000 at 2°C, and 96,000 at 3°C. The highest number of fatalities are expected to occur in France, Italy, and Spain. Given these dramatic figures, effective policy response from the European Union is urgent.


The EU’s policy response

The origins of the EU’s policy response can be traced back to the aftermath of the 2003 heatwaves, whose death toll sent shockwaves throughout Europe and prompted immediate action to develop national heat-health action plans (HHAPs). At the EU level, and the European Commission and European Environmental Agency (EEA) in particular, HHAPs fall under the health domain. Hence, the EU has worked closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on HHAPs beginning with the EuroHeat project, which identified eight core elements of HHAPs in 2008. They include an agreement on a lead body, accurate and timely alert systems, a heat-related health information plan, a reduction in indoor heat exposure, particular care for vulnerable population groups, preparedness of the health and social care system, long-term urban planning, and real-time surveillance and evaluation.

However, apart from issuing guidance, the EU has lacked a major role in mitigating the impacts of heatwaves. The question remains about why it does not play a more active role in mitigating the effects of heatwaves and in formulating heat-health policy.

We tried to answer this question as part of a wider study on HHAPs in France and The Netherlands, conducted as part of the first author’s Research Paper in the context of her International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) MA degree. The study was carried out in collaboration with an applied research project led by the second author. The findings are based on desk reviews and interviews with experts and policymakers.


Obstacles to a more effective EU response

We found that heatwaves and climate change in general fall under several different policy arenas including climate mitigation, adaptation, social policy, and health. This fragmentation limits the EU’s actions on heatwaves. In addition, categorising HHAPs as falling in the health domain makes it challenging for the EU to act because of their existing laws and regulations. According to the mandates specified in the Maastricht Treaty (European Union Treaty) and its Article 129(4), the European Union is allowed to spend money on European Union level health projects, but is not allowed to harmonise public health measures in member states.  The Amsterdam Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty (article 152(7)) provided further updates making it clear that health policy is the responsibility of EU member states.

Recent progress on climate change policy has been made within the European Union with the EU Green Deal. A key component, Regulation 2018/1999 of the European Parliament (known as the European Climate Law issued in 2021) established the framework for achieving climate neutrality. However, this regulation does not specifically discuss or call for national HHAPs.

Hence, there is currently no institution within the EU responsible for monitoring the heat-health action plans or heat health policy of member states more generally because under the EU’s limited mandate, it cannot enforce the HHAPs in the member states. Also, it is not in the EEA’s mandate to provide a framework for policy action in this area, and they cannot lobby or influence the EU member states much.


Sharing knowledge and funding research is good but not enough

Therefore, the main role the EU continues to have is to create and share knowledge with and between the member states. The EuroHEAT project mentioned earlier was co-funded by the European Commission (EC) Directorate-General for Health and Consumers. It quantified the health effects of heat in European cities and identified options for improving health systems’ preparedness for and response to the effects of heatwaves. By coordinating with the WHO European Region, the project led to the first framework for HHAPs. In addition, through the European Environmental Agency (EEA), in 2012 the EU has set up knowledge and research databases available on the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT), which contain a host of data on climate and health (among other topics), including case studies on the impact of heatwaves on vulnerable populations and policy measures taken. In early 2021, the EU climate law led to the establishment of the European Climate and Health Observatory. It is managed jointly by the European Commission and the EEA as part of Climate-ADAPT. However, the Observatory has yet to increase its staffing to be fully operational.

Two other recent research and policy development projects funded by the EU were HEAT-SHIELD (a Horizon 2020 research project addressing the negative impact of increased workplace heat stress on the health and productivity of five strategic European industries) and the SCORCH (the Supportive Risk Awareness and Communication to Reduce impact of Cross-Border Heatwaves) project, which have generated useful academic and policy outputs.

However, besides investing in research and policy development, we believe that going forward, the EU should take a more active role in coordinating national efforts to develop HHAPs. For example, in our interviews, we found that there is a lack of communication between the national policymakers who work on heatwaves across the EU, and a desire for more exchanges on best practices. This could be addressed by funding targeted projects under relevant EU programs such as Interreg Europe. We also believe that it would be desirable for the EU to have a stronger role in monitoring the quality of the various HHAPs (using the elements in the WHO framework) and ensuring that they are integrated with other relevant (national and EU) polices on disaster risk reduction or national environmental planning.

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

About the authors:

Shellan Saling is a recent graduate from the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) where she received her MA in Development Studies majoring in Governance and Development Policy. Her research paper (thesis) was on climate adaptation policies, and specifically on national heat-health action plans and heat-health policy within the EU.



Sylvia I. Bergh, Associate Professor in Development Management and Governance, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), and Senior researcher, Centre of Expertise on Global Governance, The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS).


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All Bark, No Bite? The Case for Human Security in European Migration & Asylum Governance

In order to prioritise the needs of humans over those of the state, migration and asylum governance needs to shift towards utilising a human security framework. A case in point for the urgency to do so can be found in the inhumane conditions within the European ‘refugee camps’ to which migrants are confined under the nomenclature of ‘national security’. Mainstream frameworks for evaluating camps reveal the illegal and inhumane conditions yet remain unable to challenge their structural existence – all bark, no bite. Through human security, these camps can be evaluated and improved (the bark) and ultimately dismantled (the bite). 

In this blog post, I wish to explore what it means to center the human in migration governance. To do so, I draw on the framework and ontology of human security, prioritising the protection, and security of the human over the state. Looking at European asylum governance practices, specifically that of the ‘refugee camp’ or ‘migrant camp’, which can be broadly understood as spaces of containment and practices of detention, reveals the dire need to center the security of humans over national security. In a 2017 briefing, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles argues that while the “existence of robust and dignified reception conditions is a vital precondition for allowing asylum seekers to recover their dignity and to prepare their applications”, provision of such conditions has remained “a key challenge” for many European countries. This begs the question – how can Europe overcome this challenge? Or rather, to follow a human security line of thinking, how can asylum seekers be guaranteed to have dignified, humane reception conditions? Despite the existence of several prominent frameworks and guidelines for migration governance, this question remains unanswered.

As illustrated in a 2022 policy brief entitled Towards Humane and Dignified Living Conditions for Refugees and Other Migrants: A Human Security Framework for Assessing ‘Migration Camps’ in Europe that I published with the Human Development Research Initiative, despite these well-established international standards and frameworks, inhumane conditions remain the norm within European migration and asylum governance. Illustrative of these inhumane reception conditions are that of Camp Mória, and the space between the Polish and Belarusian border, both of which were explored in the policy brief and widely reported elsewhere (e.g., Human Rights Watch, Médecins sans frontières, UNHCR, ECRE).

These conditions call into question to what extent current practices can be viewed as ‘durable’ (to borrow the vernacular of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)), ‘sustainable’ (in the vernacular of some organizations and academics), and more importantly, humane and dignified. Scholars like Dorothy Estrada-Tanck highlight that within international law, human security “may have the potential to act as a catalyst for the realisation of human rights in the contemporary world”. In this vein, I wish to put forth the argument that human security is capable of evaluating, ‘improving’, and ultimately dismantling the practice of creating camps to hold asylum-seekers.


Mainstream Frameworks: All Bark, No Bite.

We can outline three prevalent frameworks applicable in the management of ‘migration camps.’ The SPHERE standards seek to establish a universal minimal baseline for humanitarian action via a rights-based approach. In a 2016 speech calling for humanitarian reform, David Miliband identifies how SPHERE Standards prescribes minimally “what should be provided for water and sanitation, food, shelter, and health… [yet] are often not enforced”. Within migration governance and extending protection and/or assistance to migrants, the International Organisational for Migration (IOM) has developed the “determinants of migrant vulnerability (DoMV) model” to elicit a “programmatic response” across multiple levels and types of relevant actors, assessing the interlinked domains of: 1) individual factors, 2) household and family factors, 3) community factors, and 4) structural factors.

The UNHCR’s official policy seeks to dissuade the provision of migration camps, instead favoring the three ‘durable solutions’ of repatriation, integration, and/or resettlement to a third country. Similarly, alternative arrangements have been proposed by Human Rights Watch and academics for increasing participation or sustainability in camp design. Yet, despite these alternatives, the existence of migrant camps continues, leading to a considerable body of scholarship referring to the practice of camps as the unspoken fourth ‘durable solution’.

In this way, I argue that the three outlined frameworks fall into the idiom, all bark, no bite – interesting ways for states and NGOs to conceive of and assess the problem at hand, or standards to aspire towards when implementing humanitarian support. Despite these well-established frameworks, there remains a wide sweeping consensus that the previous and current implementation of European refugee camps has failed migrants. To exemplify this, one can think of how the conditions at Camp Mória were found by Human Rights Watch to be blatantly in violation of both “EU and Greek laws”. Thus, while these frameworks provide relevant ways of informing humanitarian action, inhumane conditions persist (a whole lot of bark), yet are ineffective to temper the state’s capacity to confine migrants in order to protect ‘national security’. Importantly, these frameworks do not challenge or hinder the pursuit of the state’s interest over that of the migrant’s – giving them no bite. In other words, none of the three frameworks challenge a state-centric approach toward migration governance, and thus are unable to provide an answer to the key challenge of providing newly arrived refugees and other migrants with dignified, humane reception conditions.


From the bark: Human Security as Evaluating & ‘Improving’.

Similar to the other frameworks, human security is capable of evaluating and identifying ways to improve the conditions within refugee camps. Human security highlights the conditions necessary for a truly human life, inclusive of material and immaterial conditions, physical and psychological health, and other necessary human capabilities. From the outset, the United Nations Development Programme identified seven dimensions of human security, namely: 1) economic, 2) food, 3) health, 4) environmental, 5) personal, 6) community, and 7) political security. The re-orientation from nation state to human is accompanied by mandating a reliable, minimum degree enjoyment of basic human needs in a manner that links to both human rights and human development. All of this to say, the barking stays – by pursuing a human security approach, all the strengths from the mainstream frameworks remain well articulated. Additionally, the ontology of human security centers on ensuring the dignity and rights of migrants themselves as humans, rather than presenting guidelines for professionals to solve problems.

Theoretically, secure and dignified conditions can occur within a camp structure – but previous and current practice shows that the EU and member states have continually been either unable or unwilling to do so. Médecins sans frontières posits that policies such as the EU-Turkey deal promote confining migrants “in awful and unsafe conditions… further traumatising an already extremely vulnerable population”.


To the bite: Human Security as Dismantling Migrant Camps.

To conclude, while human security encompasses mainstream assessments of living conditions within refugee camps, I would like to put forth the argument that it goes even further – both barking and biting. Adopting a human security framework and ontology towards migration governance fundamentally challenges harsh exclusionary practices of detention and confinement pursued in the interest of the state, and the continual framing of migrants as threats to national security – the so-called “European strategy of containing those fleeing conflict and persecution”, as ECRE puts it. Human security articulates both the everyday experience of (in)security, while also drawing attention to the social, political and economic structures which contribute to this (in)security.

Assessing conditions through the lens of human security presents a hopeful way forward – beginning with improving the (im)material conditions which refugees and other migrants find themselves upon their entry in Europe and going beyond that to inevitably dismantle policies of confinement – doing so also empowers and engages migrants themselves, guaranteeing them agency over their situation. Thus, human security is necessary in migration governance to explicitly challenge and temper the interest of the state, reverting the focus to that of human beings themselves rather than nation-states.

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

About the author:

Xander Creed holds a MA Development Studies degree from the ISS, within the track Governance of Migration & Diversity and a specialization in Conflict & Peace Studies. Currently, Xander is a PhD candidate at the ISS, where their research interests include human centric ways of approaching migration studies and policy, as well as the relationships between (im)mobility and (in)security.


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Keeping Africans out: Injustice following wilful neglect and the politicization of Covid-19 measures

As the Omicron variant continues to spread across the globe, Western nations have taken the decision to impose travel bans to African countries. This measure to contain the virus, is the latest -but neither the only nor the most outrageous- example of how Covid-19 responses have been instrumentalised for political purposes, write Dorothea Hilhorst and Rodrigo Mena. 

This weekend, BBC News featured an interview with the co-chair of the African Union Vaccine Alliance Dr Ayoade Alakija. Visibly angry, she explains in a nutshell how it was inevitable that a variation of the Covid 19 (Omicron) would develop in Africa, and that the travel bans imposed on African countries only are more politically-motivated than scientifically-justified. Dr Alakija’s anger concerns both the lack of action beforehand and the immediate reaction when Omicron evolved, even before it has been properly established where the variation comes from and what its exact properties are. At the moment of writing this post, the travel ban is restricted to African countries, whereas the Omicron variation has already been found in several other countries too, including the Netherlands, Belgium and Israel. This ban shows how, once again, measures related to Covid-19 are not always taken based on scientific knowledge, but maybe on political agendas and strategies.

Multiple examples of the instrumentalisation of Covid-19 responses can be found in a recent article based on a research conducted by a group of ISS students on responses on Covid-19 in conflict-affected countries, including Brazil, Chile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Haiti, India, Philippines, and Zimbabwe (see in the links blog post in the cases).  The country studies found ample evidence for the claim that Covid-19 policies were often instrumentalised and subsumed to non-Covid -19 politics. The pandemic was either over-securitised (where its impacts were exaggerated), or under-securitised (where impacts were denied), and there were many examples of governments seen to use the pandemic as an opportunity to tighten their control over the population at large and political opponents in particular. In several of the countries, governments used the COVID restrictions to curb opposition or even arrest opponents on grounds that they violated these restrictions. Even though the global situation today is in many ways different from these country cases, they have in common that COVID responses are highly politicized and subject to geo-politics interests.

Another example of the instrumentalisation and injustices that Covid-19 measures may carry is found in Calais, France. The knee-jerk European reaction in response to the Omicron variation reminded us of the stories that Cambridge PhD candidate Maria Hagan heard from irregular migrants residing near Calais, in the early months of the pandemic. When the Covid-19 crisis evolved last year in 2020, authorities in Calais and other surrounding municipalities were quick to take ´protective measures´. However, it soon appeared that the measures were not meant to protect migrants from the virus, but to protect the French population from the migrants while rumours started to circulate that the latter were particularly likely to carry the virus.

In a similar twist as with today’s response to Omicron, these rumours in Calais were loosely associated with ideas of dirtiness and lack of hygiene. It was glossed over that if indeed migrants could not maintain hygienic standards, it was because of the French policies denying them shelter and showers, and leaving them to sleep in small tents that did not enable maintaining distance. At some point, migrants were not even allowed to enter grocery stores. This left them hopelessly outside, unable to buy the most basic supplies, which were indeed necessary to strengthen their bodies against the virus. As Maria Hagan concludes in a forthcoming article: “The half-hearted humanitarian response by the French state to protect the displaced at the border from pandemic […] demonstrate the state’s prioritisation of protection from the displaced above their protection from infection”.[1]

There is a lot amiss with the reaction to ban travels from African countries. To some extent it is a case of under-securitisation, by assuming that a travel ban from Africa can keep the variation under control, although it has been found beyond the continent too. On the other hand, there seems to be over-securitisation because the strictest measures are already taken while the scientific evidence is still being collected about the level of danger the variation poses. Moreover, the travel restrictions come into play in a world where the access to and distribution of the vaccine is highly unequal.

Important then is also to ask: Would these restrictions have been imposed if the majority of the population in southern Africa countries had been vaccinated? llustrative is the map below that shows the geographical division between Europe and the global South regarding the position in relation to the waiving of patents for COVID-related medical tools. The map shows how European countries voted against vaccine patent wavers, and with it, contributed to (or are in part responsible for) the low African vaccination records, because of a lack of sharing technology and not making vaccines available[2]. Now they act all alarmed and resort to reaction to keep (unvaccinated) Africans out.

Politics that protect the economic and political interests of a few above general interest and that resort to a strategy to keep people out are not only blatantly unjust but also another example of the instrumentalisation and politization of Covid-19 measures. Unless vaccination becomes available at a global scale it is likely if not inevitable that the virus will evolve variations that become increasingly apt at spreading. To stop this, we require genuine global policies aimed to protect all.

The authors thank Isabelle Desportes for her inputs and comments.

[1] Forthcoming paper: “They tell us to keep distance, but we sleep five people in one tent” The opportunistic governance of displaced people in Calais during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maria Hagan; Department of Geography University of Cambridge

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/56100076



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

About the authors:

Dorothea Hilhorst
Dorothea Hilhorst is Professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction at ISS.

Rodrigo Mena is Assistant Professor of Disasters and Humanitarian Studies at ISS.

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Le ONG europee si adattano ancora al registro dei loro interlocutori – ma ci sono segnali di cambiamento

Pensando all’Unione Europea (UE), si tende ad immaginare un corpo unico che parla con una sola voce. Una percezione simile vale anche per le ONG europee, ma uno studio recente mostra che nell’ultimo decennio diversi quadri teorici, perlopiù riformisti, hanno ispirato la visione ed i discorsi delle ONG riguardo allo sviluppo. Questo articolo esplora cosa significhi tale riformismo per le ONG, mostrando che un’agenda di sviluppo più radicale, che si distanzi dal modello di crescita economica e dal retaggio coloniale dell’Europa, stia potenzialmente emergendo, anche se le discussioni a riguardo avvengono ancora prevalentemente internamente.

Create allo scopo di cooperare per lo ‘sviluppo’ e la ‘giustizia sociale’ nei paesi del Sud globale, le Organizzazioni Non Governative (Internazionali) (ONGI) operanti su tematiche legate allo sviluppo hanno prospettive e discorsi specifici su temi globali, che influenzano le loro attività di lobbying e advocacy a vari livelli decisionali. Tali discorsi, radicati in specifiche teorie di sviluppo, possono successivamente influenzare le politiche. Ciò motiva un’analisi critica dei discorsi e delle teorie sulle quali questi ultimi si basano.

Nella mia ricerca dottorale in corso, analizzo il discorso generale sullo ‘sviluppo’ proposto da CONCORD, che rappresenta circa 2600 ONG a livello europeo. Comparo il discorso di CONCORD con quello di organizzazioni pan-Africane attive in Europa. Tale paragone può essere utile per rivelare punti comuni e divergenze relativamente alla problematizzazione di vari temi (es: le diseguaglianze globali sono accidentali? hanno radici storiche?), alle soluzioni proposte (es: più crescita, più commercio internazionale, redistribuzione delle risorse), o alla percezione del ruolo di vari attori (es: l’UE, le ONG stesse), in particolar modo per quanto riguarda lo ‘sviluppo’ in Africa.

L’obiettivo generale è quello di capire quali teorie di sviluppo influenzino i dibattiti a livello europeo tra le organizzazioni della società civile come quelle che studio, così da vedere quanto critici siano i messaggi che raggiungono l’UE attraverso queste organizzazioni. Per far ciò, ho intervistato membri del personale di alcune organizzazioni membre, osservato riunioni, analizzato documenti ufficiali che mostrino le posizioni delle organizzazioni.

È stato affermato come, a livello UE, le ONG debbano essere ‘critiche ma non troppo[i] se vogliono mantenere le loro relazioni con le istituzioni UE che adottano politiche o che le finanziano. Per capire come le ONG di sviluppo europee riescano a farsi strada nelle relazioni stato-società civile, ho suddiviso le teorie di sviluppo tra convenzionali (quelle che mantengono lo status quo neoliberale), riformiste (quelle che propongono cambiamenti di alcuni elementi del sistema economico, politico e sociale) o radicali (quelle che criticano il sistema nel suo complesso e tentano di proporre un cambio di paradigma). Se l’affermazione di Smismans è valida anche per il settore dello sviluppo, allora le ONG di sviluppo europee dovrebbero tendere, nei loro discorsi, verso teorie presenti nella seconda categoria. Il caso dell’advocacy di CONCORD verso le istituzioni UE sembra confermare questo postulato generale.

La mia ricerca descrive come il discorso cambi nel corso del tempo, in particolare quello di CONCORD nel decennio scorso. Si può notare come sia applicato un insieme di teorie ed approcci, concetti e quadri teorici piuttosto riformisti (es: approcci come quello dello sviluppo umano, dei diritti umani o dello sviluppo sostenibile). Vari quadri teorici possono essere applicati simultaneamente nella costituzione dei discorsi, ed è ciò che sembra avvenire in CONCORD. La presenza sporadica di riferimenti convenzionali (quali quelli alla ‘crescita a favore dei poveri’ verso il 2010)[ii] e di altri ben più radicali (come quelli alla ‘post-crescita’ a partire dal 2019)[iii] aggiungono sfumature rilevanti a questo quadro generale.

Allora perché si tende a posture e teorie riformiste? Questo risultato, che è prima di tutto teoretico, ha anche uno scopo strategico: si tratta di posizionare la confederazione all’interno della governance internazionale dello sviluppo, accettandone la grammatica generale (fatta di paesi donatori, istituzioni e agenzie, attori che implementano, paesi e comunità riceventi, pratiche di valutazione, linguaggio), operando al contempo per dare a tale grammatica dei significati più rispettosi da un punto di vista sociale ed ambientale, mantenendo quindi l’attenzione sugli obiettivi ultimi dello sviluppo (le popolazioni locali ed i loro bisogni). Ciò implica strategie di advocacy e proposte di soluzioni che facciano da ponte tra i bisogni locali (così come percepiti dalla confederazione) e le politiche ed i comportamenti delle istituzioni (così come analizzati dalla confederazione). Significa anche cercare costantemente un equilibrio tra ciò che si considera necessario e ciò che si ritiene raggiungibile (cioè accettabile da donatori e decisori politici).

La ricerca di consenso interno, insieme all’imperativo della rappresentatività di un insieme così grande di ONG, contribuisce inoltre a questa postura riformista. La rappresentatività è una risorsa di credibilità fondamentale nei confronti delle istituzioni politiche, ma può avere come contropartita quella di portare ad un consenso a minima, basato cioè sui temi che il settore ritiene da sempre imprescindibili. Fare lobby per un aumento dell’Aiuto Pubblico allo Sviluppo (APS) dell’UE e degli stati membri è uno di questi: l’aiuto allo sviluppo[iv] è considerato una priorità dalla maggior parte dei membri; il lavoro relativo al finanziamento dello sviluppo è, di conseguenza, un caposaldo della confederazione.

Le discussioni interne alla confederazione stanno però cambiando alla luce dei cambiamenti dell’ambiente esterno e di nuove sfide. Ciò si vede, per esempio, nel recente focus su un’economia al di là della crescita[v], ma anche in dibattiti interni su colonialismo[vi]neo-colonialismo e relazioni UE-Africa[vii]. Anche se questi non indicano necessariamente un cambiamento decisivo nel modo in cui lo sviluppo sia compreso e praticato, mostrano però una tendenza potenziale verso un discorso sullo sviluppo che sia più radicale, più focalizzato su come rimediare passate ingiustizie.


[i] S. Smismans, “European civil society and citizenship: Complementary or exclusionary concepts?”, Policy and Society, vol. and So  vol. and Soci

[ii] CONCORD, “EU responsibilities for a just and sustainable world CONCORD Narrative on Development” (https://concordeurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/CONCORD-Narrative-on-Development.pdf)

[iii] Cox, T. “Economic growth will not cure inequalities”, 25 June 2019, (https://concordeurope.org/2019/06/25/directors-blog-economic-growth-will-not-cure-inequalities/)

[iv] CONCORD, “EU ODA up, but far from levels promised and needed amid international crises – CONCORD press release: OECD DAC 2020 preliminary statistics”, 13 April 2021 (https://concordeurope.org/2021/04/13/eu-oda-up-but-far-from-levels-promised-and-needed-amid-international-crises/)

[v] CONCORD, Talking Development Ep. 1 “Beyond Growth: An Economic Model that works for Everyone”, 09 May 2019 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmHHEfx4G6k&t=8s)

[vi] Poissonnier, L. tweet on CONCORD General Assembly 2020, 17 November 2020 (https://twitter.com/Lonne_CONCORD/status/1328711315016339459)

[vii] CONCORD, Talking Development Ep. 8 “How civil society can keep up with the speed of change”, January 2021, mins 7:00 to 12:30, accessed 10 January 2021 (https://soundcloud.com/concord-europe-ngo/how-civil-society-can-keep-up-with-the-speed-of-change)

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

About the author:

Valentina Brogna è dottoranda al Centro di Ricerca in Scienza Politica (CReSPo), Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles (Belgium), attraverso una borsa FRESH (F.R.S. – FNRS). La sua ricerca compara i discorsi relative allo sviluppo di ONG di sviluppo internazionali e Organizzazioni Pan-Africane della diaspora in Europa, operative perlopiù a livello UE. Tali discorsi di riferiscono a varie teorie di sviluppo, in uno spettro che va dallo Sviluppo sostenibile al Rinascimento africano. Prima di intraprendere la ricercar dottorale, ha lavorato in organizzazioni della società civile nel campo dello sviluppo e femministe a livello italiano e UE.

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The EU’s new pact on migration: what’s next after all the shock, sadness, and solidarity talk?

Several shocking events that transpired in Greece last year have not been met by truly humane solutions, showing that the performative moments of ‘refugee crises’ are not enough to move EU leaders into adopting a different approach toward refugees. The EU’s long-awaited New Pact on Migration and Asylum is supposed to change how refugees are treated, but with the European Commission set to promote ‘a European way of life’ through the pact, harsh practices are bound to continue, writes Zeynep Kaşlı.

It has been almost half a year since the catastrophic fire razed the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos in September last year, leaving around 13,000 residents without shelter in the midst of a COVID-19 lockdown. Some were immediately relocated to mainland Greece; however, over 7,000 refugees had no choice but to move to another makeshift camp, awaiting the processing of their asylum applications through ‘accelerated’ procedures. In this context, the question arises: will the EU change its approach toward refugees by introducing the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, and will anything change this year for refugees themselves?

A worrying development that almost went unnoticed

In March last year, at the time when the first COVID-19 cases appeared in most countries across the globe, Greek and EU authorities had to take immediate action at the Greek-Turkish land border when Turkish authorities announced they would not stop passage to Europe and allowed thousands of refugees to pass the Turkish side of the Kastanies-Karaağaç Border Gate in Edirne. In response, the Greek government suspended the submission of asylum applications for one month, and the European border and coastguard agency Frontex deployed 100 additional border guards from 22 EU member states to halt the influx of refugees. Their ardent resistance to forced migration ended with the killing of refugee Muhammad Gulzar, leaving others wounded. Many thousands of other refugees who could not enter Greece were left with no place to go, stuck in limbo between fleeing and surviving.

What do these events tell us about the EU border and migration regime? Do they have any transformative role to play in EU-level policy making, and, if so, what is that role?

The news of these rather shocking and extraordinary events quickly spread across Europe, evoking strong emotions and triggering actions, from deep empathy to suspicion of the intentions of displaced people waiting at the borders. Under these circumstances, the long-awaited New Pact on Migration and Asylum was launched by the European Commission on September 23, 2020 as a “fresh start on migration: building confidence through more effective procedures and striking a new balance between responsibility and solidarity.”

The initial assessment by civil society organizations of the legislative and non-legislative proposals clearly show that the New Pact is considered far from a novel approach in terms of the guarantees put in place for compliance with international and EU legal standards, in promoting the fairer sharing of responsibility for asylum in Europe and globally, or in terms of the kind of migration management practices it is likely to accelerate. These include ‘return sponsorship’ and the increasing use of detention, as well as the restriction and criminalization of all sorts of humanitarian activities.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned ‘shocking’ events are about to become (from a European gaze) an intermezzo of what van Reekum calls a routinized emergency visualized through images of migration by boat. I agree with van Reekum that as manifested in ongoing rescue operations in the Aegean Sea, emergencies gain a routine character due to the unresolved ethical questions that the New Pact seems to be far from solving.

Really ‘shocking’, or history repeating itself?

The events at the Greek-Turkish land border were not new. We witnessed a similar ‘shock’ back in mid-September 2015 when over 3,000 people marched to the Turkish border province of Edirne asking for safe passage to Europe. At that time, they were forcefully stopped a few kilometers before the Kastanies-Karaağaç Border Gate and were allowed to wait until the EU heads of state had an informal meeting on September 23 to discuss the implementation of the European Agenda on Migration and how to increase collaboration with third countries like Turkey to alleviate the migratory pressure on the EU’s frontline member states. Just like in 2020, they were put in buses and transferred to other Turkish cities, while quite a number of them were detained and forcefully expelled to Syria without due procedure.

Hence, what we can call the first intermezzo in 2015 led to the EU-Turkey Statement aiming for a fast-track return of the rejected asylum seekers from Greece to Turkey as a “safe third country.” Five years after this first intermezzo, we can confidently say that the EU’s hotspot approach combined with the EU-Turkey Statement proved to be a highly ineffective policy at best, demonstrated by the low number of returns under the deal, the declaration of the suspension of the deal by the Turkish government, and the order of the Court of Justice of the European Union questioning the authorship and responsibility of the deal.

The second intermezzo in 2020 coinciding with the launch of the long-awaited New Pact further revealed two things. First, the EU has become more dependent on the willingness of its neighbours near and far to continue hosting millions of displaced people. Second, the only action plan the EU and its member states are able to come up with is greater militarization at the border and fewer rights for thousands of people who have already survived different forms of violence throughout their journey to and in Turkey and are in search for a life with dignity and peace.

Going back to the question posed above, the performative moments of the crises seem to play only a reproductive, rather than a transformative, role in shaping the EU-level migration and asylum policy. While the violent encounters at the land border further strengthen what van Houtum and Bueno Lacy call the ‘iron borders’ of fortress Europe, the burning down of camps such as Moria and ‘compassion fatigue’ in the Greek islands are the epitome of the ‘camp border’ within Europe that basically brings home the EU’s decades-old externalization policy. Seen from this perspective, the extraordinary events we witness at the land borders, hotspots and camps described above are only a byproduct what Jeandesboz and Pallister-Wilkins also call part of the routine work of bordering to order politics.

This routine work of bordering already became crystal clear in the discussions on the title of Commissioner-Designate Schinas’ portfolio on migration, security, employment and education. Even though the portfolio title was soon changed from ‘Protection’ to the ‘Promotion of the European Way of Life’ due to sharp criticism, even the changed title remains symbolic of the failure of the EU to transform its refugee policy. This is particularly visible in its reference to a singular European way of life that is to be promoted across Europe. While the EU means different things to different sides of the European public, from the populist right to the green left, it remains a union of free mobility for the lucky few, whereas it has also become a deportation union for many.

As the relatively shocking news from Greece has slowly turned into an intermezzo of routinized emergency, in the face of allegations against the EU agency Frontex, a deeper discussion is necessary on what a ‘European way of life’ entails in the face of EU member states’ responsibility for displaced people arriving at their borders or in the neighbourhood of Europe.

About the author:

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.

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Covid-19 | Strengthening alliances in a post-Covid world: green recovery as a new opportunity for EU-China climate cooperation?

As nations turn their attention to fighting the economic crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, green recovery seems to be a good—and perhaps for the first time, possible—option. As climate change remains the most pressing challenge despite the severity of the global Covid-19 pandemic, a green recovery plan to slow down global warming and meet climate goals becomes imperative. Leaders in the EU are taking the lead in greening the recovery, while China seems to be following suit. A ‘green consciousness’ seems to be emerging. Could these efforts improve EU-China relations and help these two global powerhouses work together to fight climate change? asks Hao Zhang.

Chinese and EU flag
Credit: Friends of Europe on Flickr

As the IMF’s latest report on fiscal policies shows, the Covid-19 crisis won’t change the global climate that is also in crisis, but responses to it might. Even though science hasn’t produced an answer on whether the current economic crisis induced by the pandemic will indeed affect the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, efforts to address it certainly will. It is undeniable that the current health and economic crisis together create a threat to our current development trajectory and that the scope and severity of the issue to some extent make lasting efforts and immediate actions crucial. These decisions on how we will recover from the pandemic and the resulting crisis will shape our society for the next few decades and, even more importantly perhaps, how we deal with our climate and environmental challenges. As the IPCC’s report warned that our current ambition and willingness are far from pushing us to reach our goal of containing global warming, a green recovery plan becomes imperative in a post-Covid-19 world.

The question then arises: How do we green our recovery? As the IMF suggests, fiscal policymakers should take the lead in making policies that support climate goals without undermining the purpose of boosting the economy. Then, finance ministries should be able to set up concrete and practical projects to implement these policies. In addition, public support for the green policies with the rationale that curbing emissions would likely reduce the risk of respiratory diseases is indispensable. In a post-Covid-19 world, this might sway the public in support of green measures in a way it never has before.

The EU seems to be taking the lead in employing green measures to recover its lockdown-hit economies. As policymakers tend to believe that a green plan can better help revive the economy, concrete actions can be witnessed. In May this year, the European Commission proposed a €750 billion recovery fund with green conditions, 25% of which is to be set aside for climate action, meaning that one-quarter of expenditure with a ‘do-no-harm’ clause can potentially rule out environmentally damaging investments.[1] In addition, the Commission also issued a €1.85 trillion, seven-year budget and pandemic recovery package. This EU green recovery package could be introduced elsewhere to stimulate the economy while fighting climate change.

In addition, the EU launched the world’s largest programs for innovative low-carbon technologies under the fund from the EU’s emissions trading system. This innovation fund is created to finance breakthrough technologies for renewable energy, energy-intensive industries, carbon capture, use and storage, etc. These could help create local job opportunities, lead the economy to a climate-neutral place, and also help the EU maintain its technological leadership in climate change. It is obvious that the EU pays great attention to the future of clean technologies, yet it allows member states and the market space to decide how the money is spent. The member states will be allowed to use their allocations from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility for a wide range of green projects detailed in their national energy climate plans, and their proposals will be reviewed by the Commission; at the same time, private capital will be encouraged to invest in clean energy technologies.

On the other side of the world, in China, residents also survived the first wave of the pandemic, and the government is now also making recovery plans. This May, in the report on the work of the government, the development of renewable energy and efforts toward the clean and efficient use of coal were emphasized.[2] At the same time, this year for the first time Beijing has decided not to set an economic growth target, which is interpreted as a way to help China shift away from energy-intensive infrastructure projects.[3] This indeed has sent out a very positive signal; however, given that China still hasn’t submitted its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the next reporting round, it also raises concerns about a lack of practical assurance.

Nevertheless, the cooperation between the EU and China in regard to green recovery seems promising. At the recent 22nd China-EU Summit on September 14 this year, President Xi Jinping stated that

China is interested in forging a green partnership with the EU and constructively participating in the global process of tackling climate change and preserving biodiversity. We are researching on reaching our long-term vision in the mid-century,[4] which includes carbon-peaking and carbon-neutrality.[5]

It is thus obvious that economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic is considered a top priority for leaders of both the EU and China, and it becomes increasingly clear that both parties are interested in a recovery package that aligns with their green transition goals.

Looking ahead, the EU and China can cooperate with each other in a few fields. First, the EU’s experiences could help China transition more rigorously to the use of green energy, especially in cutting the number of carbon-powered plants and subsidizing new energy vehicles. Second, the EU and China could agree to channel public and private funds to low-carbon investments both at home and abroad. Both parties are big investors of overseas development projects; they can thus work together to invest in projects subject to green terms. Going a step further, the EU and China could also work on developing international standards for sustainable finance[6], and China could learn from the EU’s experience in committing to more ambitious climate targets, specifically making ‘decarbonization’ a top priority in its next five-year plan.[7] Hopes are high for future cooperation between the EU and China in leading the world toward a green recovery, yet key decisions need to be made by both parties.

[1] Refer to Climate Home News, “EU €750 billion Covid recovery fund comes with green conditions”, May 27, 2020.

[2] Refer to ccchina.org.cn, 一图读懂2020政府工作报告, May 29, 2020.

[3] Refer to Climate Home News, “China prioritises employment over GDP growth in coronavirus recovery”, May 22, 2020.

[4] President Xi confirmed that China will try to reach carbon-neutrality before 2060 in his speech at a high-level meeting to mark the UN’s 75th anniversary on September 22nd, 2020.

[5] Refer to Global Times, “推动疫后全球经济复苏 中欧领导人视频会晤定目标”, September 15, 2020.

[6] Refer to China Dialogue, “Hopes for EU-China climate deal centre on a green recovery”, June 17, 2020.

[7] Refer to China Dialogue, “中欧气候协议前景如何?”, September 14, 2020.

About the author:

Hao ZhangHao Zhang is a PhD candidate at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR). Before joining ISS, she was a master’s student majoring international affairs at School of Global Policy and Strategy at University of California, San Diego. Her current research focus on policy advocacy of Chinese NGOs in global climate governance. Her research interests lie in Chinese politics, global climate politics and diplomacy.

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.

Europe in Times of Deglobalization by Peter A.G. van Bergeijk

The current phase of deglobalization is a challenge for social sciences. Peter van Bergeijk discusses what we can learn from previous deglobalizations. What do the periods of the Great Depression and Great Recession currently imply for Europe?


Both the “Roaring Twenties” and the “Roaring 2000s” were characterized by ‘globality’, a combination of belief in openness and optimism about our future. With open and global markets, capital freely moved around the globe. The speed and level of global change was unprecedented. New products changed our daily life, new economies emerged, and life expectancy improved, creating hope while strengthening confidence. The pre-crises years were characterized by an increasing share of internationally traded products, as illustrated in Figure 1.

pic 1

Source: van Bergeijk 2019.

However, this changed dramatically with the Great Depression and the Great Recession. First and foremost, there was the impact of the financial crisis that gave rise to the idea of secular stagnation. Openness as we can see in Figure 1 entered a downward phase for more than a decade.  In the international political arena, the erosion of the hegemon’s (in the 1930s the British Empire and nowadays the United States) position associated with the rise of previously peripheral countries in the global trade system was an important element. Countries in the periphery grew faster than the advanced economies and competition from the previous-outs created doubt about the future rules and norms of the world trading and investment system.  Figure 2 illustrates how the position of the hegemon is being handed over roughly at the time when deglobalization made its mark. In the 1930s, we see that an eminent change at the top takes place as the United States undercut economic power of the British Empire. Today we witness how the emergence of China challenges the position of the United States.

pic 2

* UK before 1950 covers the British Empire. Calculations based on Bolt et al. 2018.


On the other hand, significant differences could be noted between the deglobalization of the 1930s and 2010s. Both in a North–South and South–South context, trade in the Interbellum period relied on specialization based on comparative advantage, and not on intra-industry trade organized in international value chains which is an increasingly important characteristic of today’s trade. Protectionism is often seen as an important reason for trade destruction in the period after the breakout of the world trade collapse during the Great Depression, but much less so for the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath. Trade-wise, the most important difference is perhaps the fact that our deglobalization experience started from a much higher intensity of globalization and that according to current projections, a fall to the level of the 1930s is not likely.


The very existence of the European Union is a fundamental difference to the 1930s when the European continent was fragmented, confrontational and bellicose. While Europe is missing the military might that is often seen as a necessary condition for world leadership, there could be a possible scenario in which the European Continent has to act as the hegemon of last resort. In this scenario, neither the US nor China may assume the role of the world leader, either by choice or forced by internal and external circumstances. A hot trade war between the United States and China could fit into this scenario, for example, because trade is diverted to Europe. In this scenario, China refocuses its internationalization strategy and reorients from serving export markets to serving domestic markets. The US strengthens its isolationist policies and withdraws from a number of international agreements.

If that happens, European cohesion will increase as the costs of leaving the European Union become very clear to the member states (and their populations) after the dust settles on Brexit. So, while a particular weak spot of Europe currently is the lacklustre support of its basic philosophy amongst the large former communist countries (Poland, Hungary, Romania) and even among increasing parts of the Dutch population, coherence of the European Union may actually increase, especially if the British exit is as disastrous as many predict. With China and the US being unwilling or unable to provide global economic leadership, the world would turn towards Europe.

Indeed, the European Union was built on the idea of the Liberal Peace and can be expected to further democratization and the multilateral trade system. Maintaining good relationships with China, Japan and the United States will be crucial, however, for the extent to which progress can be made with the European external agenda.

Bolt, J., R. Inklaar, H. de Jong and J. Luiten van Zanden, 2018, ‘Rebasing ‘Maddison’: new income comparisons and the shape of long-run economic development’, GDC Research Memorandum 174, Groningen University: Groningen.
Peter A.G. van Bergeijk, Deglobalization 2.0, Edward Elgar, 2019.

This article is a shortened version L’Europe à l’ère de la démondialisation that appeared in French on Telos. 

In 2018, Bliss Blog featured a series on deglobalisation. Articles of this series can be read here, here and here.

About the author:

pag van bergeijk

Peter van Bergeijk (www.petervanbergeijk.org) is Professor of International Economics and Macroeconomics at the ISS.

Right-Wing Populism and Counter-Movements in Rural Europe by Natalia Mamonova

Right-wing populism has gained high levels of support among rural population in Europe. How could this happen and what are the solutions? Natalia Mamonova, of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative, explains the causes of populism in the European countryside and shares some ideas on potential resistance and the building of alternatives to the regressive nationalist politics.

Right-wing populism can be found right across Europe. Today, every third European government consists of or depends on a populist party. Not for the first time, populist movements have been spreading across this continent, but the current wave is, perhaps, the most significant one since the end of World War II. The contemporary right-wing populists have a strong rural constituency, as was evident by recent elections and referenda, where 53% of British farmers voted in favour of Brexit, for example. The ‘Law and Justice’ party enjoys substantial support from Polish countrymen for its aggressive nationalism and strict Catholicism. French far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen gained the support of many French food producers with her ‘buy French act’ campaign, in which she called for more food to be produced and consumed in the country.

Does this imply that contemporary European populism is a rural phenomenon? Certainly not, but Europe’s populists are rising by tapping into discontent in the countryside and exploiting rural resentments against elites, migrants and ethnic minorities. Despite the significant rural support for populist parties, the European countryside has remained largely overlooked in the contemporary debates on the political crisis and the ways out of it. Meanwhile, it was in the countryside that both Mussolini and Hitler won their first mass following, and it was angry farmers who provided their first mass constituency. The countryside, however, provides not only a breeding ground for populist parties, it also may for other progressive solutions in form of emancipatory rural politics. The latter is the focus of the Emancipatory Rural Politics Initiative (ERPI), a scholar-activist community that aims at understanding the rise of right-wing populism in rural Europe, as well as the forms of resistance occurring and the alternatives being built.

In the contemporary political and academic debates, the right-wing populism is commonly portrayed as a result of economic and cultural crises that hit Europe during the last decade. Indeed, the economic distress, created by the Global Financial Crisis, followed up by the Eurozone Crisis, has exacerbated economic inequality and social deprivation in rural Europe, which influenced the villagers’ support for populist parties. Likewise, the fears of losing the cultural identity due to globalisation, multiculturalism and the refugee crisis are especially profound in the countryside and make rural dwellers more receptive to the populist message that they are the true protectors of their nation’s culture and heritage.

However, these arguments do not explain why in Spain and Portugal, two of the countries hit hardest by the economic crisis, the far right remains only marginal. Meanwhile, Poland – which has one of the fastest growing economies in Europe – has become paralysed by right-wing populism. Likewise, if we consider the migrant crisis as the reason for right-wing populism, we would not be able to explain why the vote for the Front National in France was particularly high in certain rural areas that have never seen a single immigrant, or why the strongest support for banning minarets in Switzerland was expressed in rural cantons where the number of Muslims and immigrants in general was low.

We argue that the true cause of right-wing populism in Europe (and the world) is the fundamental crisis in globalised neoliberal capitalism. This crisis is the most pronounced in rural areas, where the neoliberal agricultural model of development has failed to provide benefits to the majority, instead facilitating accumulation by the ‘one percent’. For example, according to the European Commission report on the EU Farm Structures, during the last ten years, 100 000 small-scale farms have disappeared in Germany, 300 000 in Bulgaria, 600 000 in Poland and 900 000 in Romania. In total, the number of full-time farmers across the EU fell by over a third during the past decade, representing almost five million jobs. The European Common Agricultural Policy primarily supports larger companies that are oriented to boosting yields and industrial production, while small-scale farmers have become marginalized and forced to close.

The crisis of neoliberal capitalism is directly related to the crisis of advanced representative democracies, which is especially profound in the European context, where the EU is responsible for Eurozone decision-making. In the countryside, the peoples’ feeling of being politically ‘overlooked’ and ‘forgotten’ is not completely groundless. Europe’s political mainstream used to ignore the interests of the rural population because of the following reasons. First, rural votes are not decisive as villagers constitute just 28% of the EU-28 population. Second, the division between the urban and the rural is usually less pronounced in Europe and, therefore, politicians appeal to the working class, not to rural dwellers. And finally, villagers are commonly perceived as apolitical and, thus, not a reliable electoral group. These factors may explain why at the recent UN Human Rights Assembly in Geneva, nearly all European countries voted against or abstained the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.

The political underrepresentation of rural Europeans is also their own responsibility. Although the last years bear witness to what Michael Woods calls the ‘rural reawakening’ – an increase in rural mobilisation and activism in Europe – rural protest groups remain mostly fragmented and only informally linked. Moreover, rural activists are unable to build coalitions with consumer movements and urban-based food activists who are often more advanced in sustainable food politics. Despite the tremendous efforts of the European Coordination Via Campesina and other EU-focused rural movements, European farmers groups lack an ideological and organisational coherence and, until now, failed to develop strong transnational networks of solidarity and coordinated action. The lack of powerful social movements and political parties that could represent the interests of rural dwellers has contributed to an electoral success of right-wing populist parties in rural Europe.

We believe that top-down initiatives are unable to defeat the right-wing populism in Europe and elsewhere, the resistance should come from below. The first step towards this is to generate a common identity among various groups of food producers and consumers connecting them across class, gender, racial, generational, ideological, and urban-rural divides. Food sovereignty can be the tool to enhance solidarity, collective identity and political participation in rural Europe. It advocates for people’s rights for healthy and culturally appropriate food and offers a sustainable alternative to the neoliberal agricultural model and the way of life.

Furthermore, since the cause of right-wing populism is the failure of globalised neoliberal capitalism, cosmetic changes will not have a long-lasting effect, we need to change the entire system. We need to put food producers – not multinational corporations and supermarket chains (!) – at the centre of the European food system and decision making. This requires a radical transformation of power relations, which is impossible without a large-scale mobilisation of food producers and consumers. The first seed of the transformation has already sprouted. In January 2019, 35 000 of farmers and food activists from around Europe took to the streets of Berlin calling for ‘Agricultural Revolution’. They were ‘fed up’ with industrial agriculture and demanded a reorganization of EU farming policy towards a more sustainable model which supports the welfare of the environment, animals and small-scale farmers, and restores democratic and accountable governance in the food system.

The text is prepared based on multiple discussions with Jaume Franquesa and other ERPI scholars from the research project ‘Right-wing populism in rural Europe: causes, consequences and cures’. It was originally published on ARC2020


About the author:

csm_natalia-mamonova1_855f13fd5cNatalia Mamonova is a Research Fellow at the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) and Affiliated researcher at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) of Uppsala University, Sweden. She received her PhD degree from ISS in 2016. Since then, she was a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford, the New Europe College in Bucharest, and the University of Helsinki.  


Deglobalisation Series | Is anti-globalisation only a preoccupation in the Global North? by Rory Horner, Seth Schindler, Daniel Haberly and Yuko Aoyama

A remarkable ‘big switch’  has emerged from the turn of the millennium in terms of attitudes towards and discourses over globalisation. But while the world is currently witnessing a new backlash against economic globalisation, considerable support for globalisation within some parts of the Global South should not be overlooked.

While the world is currently witnessing a new backlash against economic globalisation, considerable support for globalisation within some parts of the Global South should not be overlooked. Supporters of the UK’s exit from the European Union seek to “take back control” from Brussels, while Donald Trump’s economic ethno-nationalism has promised to put “America first”. In contrast, the picture that emerges in the Global South is quite different, as part of a remarkable ‘big switch’ that has been taking place from the turn of the millennium in terms of attitudes towards and discourses over globalisation.

Support for globalisation in the global South

The polling company YouGov, in a 2016 survey of people across 19 countries, found that France, the US and the UK were the places where the fewest people believe that “globalisation has been a force for good”. In contrast, the survey found the most enthusiasm for globalisation in East and Southeast Asia, where over 70% of respondents in all countries believed it has been a force for good. The highest approval rate, 91%, was in Vietnam.

From a poor starting point, many in the Global South have experienced some improvement in basic development indicators in the 20th and 21st Centuries. People living in Asia accounted for the vast majority of those who experienced relative income gains from 1988 to 2008. In comparison with the 1990s, the Global South now earns a much larger share of world GDP, has more middle-income countries, more middle-class people, less dependency on foreign aid, considerably greater life expectancy, and lower child and maternal mortality rates.

Less of a backlash in the Global South necessarily means support for neoliberal globalisation—and the optimism in countries such as Vietnam may paradoxically be a result of an earlier rejection thereof. China, in particular, has not followed the same approach to economic globalisation as that which was encouraged by the US and organisations such as the IMF and World Bank in the late 20th Century.

Meanwhile, many of the world’s poorest in the Global South have seen very little improvement in quality of life in recent years, yet they are much more marginal and less well-positioned to express their frustrations than the ‘losers’ in countries such as the US and UK. They must not be forgotten.

China and India warn against deglobalisation

Most notably, the last two World Economic Forum gatherings at Davos have seen explicit statements from the respective leads of China and India warning against deglobalisation. In January 2017, China’s president Xi Jinping said that his country would assume the leadership of 21st Century globalisation. Defending the current economic order, Xi said that China was committed to making globalisation work for everyone—its responsibility as “leaders of our times”.

At Davos in 2018, Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, warned against deglobalisation:

It feels like the opposite of globalisation is happening. The negative impact of this kind of mindset and wrong priorities cannot be considered less dangerous than climate change or terrorism.

 The ‘big switch’ on globalisation

It is remarkable that the backlash most associated with the Brexit referendum in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the US has emerged from the right of the political spectrum, in countries long recognised as the chief architects and beneficiaries of economic globalisation.

At the turn of the millennium, the primary opposition to globalisation was concerned with its impacts in the Global South. Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank, in his 2006 book Making Globalization Work wrote that “the rules of the game have been largely set by the advanced industrial countries”, who unsurprisingly “shaped globalization to further their own interests.” Their political influence was represented through dominant roles in organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the WTO, and the corporate dominance of their multinationals.

Protests in Seattle against the WTO in 1999. By Steve Kaiser from Seattle via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA

In the 1990s the anti-globalisation movement opposed neoliberal economic integration from a range of perspectives, with a particular emphasis on the Global South. The movement was populated by activists, non-governmental organisations and groups with a variety of concerns: peace, climate change, conservation, indigenous rights, fair trade, debt relief, organised labour, sweatshops, and the AIDS pandemic.

Yet, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, UK prime minister Theresa May offered a sceptical assessment at the 2017 World Economic Forum at Davos, arguing that “talk of greater globalisation can make people fearful. For many, it means their jobs being outsourced and wages undercut. It means having to sit back as they watch their communities change around them.” The US, under Trump, subsequently began renegotiating NAFTA and withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Significant proportions of the population in the US and other countries in the Global North have experienced limited, if any, income gains in the most recent era of globalisation. Leading global inequality expert Branko Milanovic has explored changes in real incomes between 1988 and 2008 to show who particularly lost out on relative gains in income. He found two groups lost most: the global upper middle class—those between the 75th and 90th percentiles on the global income distribution scale, of whom 86% were from advanced economies—and the poorest 5% of the world population.

Emerging evidence indicates that increased global trade has played a role in economic stagnation or decline for people in the North, especially in the US. MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues suggest that the ‘China shock’ has had major redistributive effects in the US, leading to declines in manufacturing employment.

Economists had previously argued that the “losers” from trade could be compensated by transfers of wealth. Autor and his colleagues found that while there have been increases in welfare payments to regions of the US hardest hit by the trade shock, they fall far short of compensating for the income loss.

Not just globalisation

Not all of the stagnation and decline experienced in the Global North can be attributed to economic globalisation. Technological change is a big factor and national policy choices around taxation and social welfare have also played key roles in shaping inequality patterns within countries. In such a context, ‘globalisation’ has been deployed as a scapegoat by some governments, invoking external blame for economic problems made at home.

The current backlash is not just about economic globalisation. It has involved ethno-nationalist and anti-immigrant components, for example among supporters of Trump and Brexit.

A key lesson from the late 20th Century is to be wary of wholesale attacks on, and sweeping defences of, 21st Century economic globalisation. In light of the difficulties of establishing solidarity between ‘losers’ in different parts of the world, the challenge of our times is for an alter-globalisation movement which addresses all of them.

Moreover, if the stellar growth rates of the last 15-20 years slow down, the relatively positive view of globalisation in much of the global South may not continue, with the possibility of a backlash (re)emerging beyond the Global North.

Also see: Deglobalisation 2.0: Trump and Brexit are but symptoms by Peter A.G. van Bergeijk

About the authors:

Rory_Horner_work_profile_photo.JPGRory Horner, Lecturer, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester321250

Daniel Haberly, Lecturer In Human Geography, University of Sussex;


Seth Schindler, Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, and Aoyama2016


Yuko Aoyama, Professor of Economic Geography, Clark University