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Inaugural address of Professor S. Mansoob Murshed, Utrecht University, 12 May 2003

The Decline of the Development Contract and the Development of Violent Internal Conflict

The central argument of this inaugural lecture is that the development contract that characterised North-South interaction prior to 1980 has been steadily declining since that time. Instead of concern with genuine development, we have instead a culture of containment motivating the North’s relations with the South. International development policies are not truly developmental, but are motivated by security considerations, which include the danger of excessive poverty in the South becoming a threat to the North. By contrast, in the earlier pre-1980 era of ideological rivalry between capitalism and socialism, policies and prescriptions with regard to the third world were more developmental and the North-South dialogue more meaningful. The period since 1980 has also been the period of accelerating globalisation. Globalisation has resulted in the marginalisation of vast swathes of the South. Evidence for that is declining growth rates in Africa and Latin America, and the rise in the inequality of incomes between rich and poor nations. In fact, the middle group in the international community of nations has shrunk in the past forty years. Our concern with poverty reduction is laudable, but true development also necessitates the narrowing of the North-South income gap. This is all the more true in a digital age when information disseminates rapidly. At the same time we have seen the rise in violent internal conflict, civil wars, international crime, terrorism and aggressive unilateralism on the part of some great powers despite the growth of multi-party electoral competition. This too is a symptom of development failure, and of institutions of conflict management, domestically and internationally. Ultimately, a policy of containing the South is self-defeating, as the developed world cannot live safely and in prosperity in a world where certain developing nations are stagnating. Reform of the international institutions of global governance is key to restoring the development contract.

Full text inaugural address (pdf, 22kb)