Has Universal Development Come of Age?

Published on 4 October 2017

Increasing attention is being paid to universal development based on the assumption that today’s development challenges are as relevant for the Global North as for the South. Now a timely new IDS Bulletin entitled ‘Has Universal Development Come of Age?’ explores how South and North approaches to development can be interlinked and argues that in order to achieve development for all more needs to be known about the nature of learning from South to North.  People and institutions need to share lessons and ideas wherever their origin to address common problems.

The idea that development should be seen as universal and not just the transferring of ideas and practice from the Global North to South is not new. This is despite the fact that historically development policy, practice and research have largely adhered to a North–South, geographic and aid-driven view of the world, with approaches of South–South cooperation coming to prominence over the last decade.

The advent of the Sustainable Development Goals provides a valuable framework and related opportunities with which to address a universal approach to development. However, there is little discussion about what works (and does not work) and why. The next phase of global development requires not only sharing challenges but ideas and practice.

‘Against a backdrop of interconnected and shared challenges such as climate change, resource degradation and growing inequality – and the rise of populism undermining many of these challenges – there is a pressing need for dialogue on how we can become more universal to bring about positive change’, said issue editor Richard Longhurst.

He continued: ‘The time has come for all who believe in universal development to build, to provide concrete justifications and experience of what things would look like. It should now be possible to craft better policies and solutions to problems by drawing on a wider range of perspectives other than what works in our own backyard.’

This Bulletin seeks to reinvigorate debate with examples of practice, and looks ahead to suggest how these ideas could be applied generally to make development studies and practice more universal.

The selected articles cover the last 40 years and while the importance of the lessons they provide are generally relevant in the present day, obviously context has changed. The Bulletin briefly examines five thematic areas of: policy approaches to national and global economic shocks, inequality and exclusion, greater participation, democratic governance and global health. Where possible, a ‘then’ and ‘now’ perspective is addressed. In terms of where do we go now on ‘what works’, the issue includes several signposts regarding the use of public works, conditional cash transfers and promotion of social protection more broadly, care of mental health, food and nutrition policy, engagement of youth, building up social institutions for family welfare, microfinance and small-scale credit.

Read the IDS Bulletin

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