INCLUDE Platform

The final seminar of the INCLUDE-ISS Development Research Seminars series on ‘New Modes of Development Cooperation focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’ and was held on 8 October 2015. The seminar put both the new modes of development cooperation and the SDGs into a political economy perspective and provided a discussion on measurement of the SDGs and regional developments. The discussions at the seminar served as a basis for the valedictory speech ‘Can the Sustainable Development Goals stem rising income inequality in the world?’, delivered by INCLUDE Platform member Rolph van der Hoeven.

The conference ‘From post to present to future. The post-2015 development agenda and inequality in perspective’ focused on two interrelated topics: an evaluation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their potential contribution to reducing inequality. Richard Jolly, Honorary Professor and Research Associate of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex,  analysed the SDGs from the perspective of five fundamental objectives – universalism, sustainability, human development, inequality and human rights – linking these objectives to teaching and research in the field of development studies.

Jan Vandemoortele, Independent Researcher, formerly with UNDP and UNICEF, provided a critical reflection on the SDGs. He pointed out the strengths of the SDGs in getting the message across to the public at large and was positive about the consultation process by which the SDGs were developed and selected. However, Vandemoortele was critical about the inclusiveness of the SDGs, particularly their formulation in absolute numbers, which, in practical terms, reduces their universality and inclusiveness.

Rob Vos, Strategic Coordinator for Rural Poverty Reduction and Director Social Protection at FAO,  focused on the financing of the transformation process required to achieve the SDGs. Trillions of dollars are needed, as well as new modes of financing. Clearly this cannot be achieved with traditional instruments such as ODA. However, it seems possible to leverage the large amounts of international reserves with great potential.

Addressing inequality requires both a discussion of measurement (within countries and between countries) and of development for specific regions and country groupings. Andy Sumner, Reader in International Development and Co-Director of King’s International Development Institute,  pointed out that the World Bank’s new poverty line and accompanying narrative on the success of reduced poverty misses the point. He said that income levels below $10 per head do not provide sufficient certainty against a fall back into poverty. Furthermore, scenarios for future numbers and the location of the global poor still point to many problems and uncertainties.

Focusing on developments in Latin America and using a political economy perspective, Andrea Cornia, Professor of Economics, Department of Economics and Management, at the University of Florence,   challenged the idea that recession by definition increases inequality. Tony Addison, Chief Economist and Deputy Director of the UN University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), critically reflected on the African experience, where although structural reform increased growth it did so unequally. He pointed out the futility of quick ideological answers to the continent’s problems in achieving inclusive development.

Focusing on the ‘Next-14’ (including the BRIC countries), Deepak Nayyar, Professor of Economics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, formulated two interlinked hypotheses that summed up one of the main points of agreement among the speakers. Economic growth (catch-up) is essential to reduce inequality, but, at the same time, such growth will be unsustainable without reducing inequality.

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