A world in turbulence: what future for development?

MO*conference @ Forward Fest: Development in a New Geopolitical Context

These are times in which international relations are being transformed at breakneck speed and in which the existing world order is being questioned fundamentally. Will these turbulent times enable us to bring about sustainable development and a just redustribution of wealth? Is this finally the right time to decolonize, are we heading into the end of the multilateral world we knew, is this the end for development cooperation?

On October 15th, 2020, five international experts gave their view on these urgent questions during a well attended MO*conference, as part of a two day Forward Fest, organized by the Flemish coalition of North-South movements 11.11.11.

Ulrika Modeer, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, stressed that ‘the intersection between vulnerability, inequalities & unsustainability will define the future of development. International cooperation is key to tackle inequalities and climate change, and to recover from COVID19.’

Shada Islam, according to Politico one of the leading voices in the geopolitical debate in Brussels, made the very important point that the crumbling international order always was Western-centered, and that the current pressure does relate to the claim of the Global South to have a voice and more agency. She also said that apart from the UN and states, ‘it is civil society that makes the world actually function’.

Annelies Verstichel, a Belgian diplomat who has been working on Belgium’s UN Security Council seat for the past years, testified that it is becoming more difficult to produce strong multilateral agreements and mandates, but saw at the same time opportunities emerging from this new situation.

Lata Narayanaswamy, Lecturer in International Development at theSchool of Politics and International Studies at the Univ. Leeds, made a strong case for combatting growing inequalities – rooted in capitalism – while strengthening solidarity as a strategy to withstand the assault of the right on minorities, economic alternatives and real sustainability. ‘Colonialism was built on the back of slave labor, but also on the exploitation of national working classes.’

Els Hertogen, director of the Flemish coalition of North-South ngo’s, wrapped up the conference, highlighting the importance of seeing the positives in today’s evolutions: the stronger voice from the Global South, the crucial role of civil society organisations, and the insight that a singular narrative can never help us to understand a complex world.

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