Following the turn of political events in the UK and US, four guest speakers joined staff and students from IDS and Sussex University’s School of Global Studies, to talk about Brexit, Trump and the implications for development. The discussion sought to understand the outcome of the Brexit vote and Trump election and the challenges and opportunities for development. IDS student Xiang Wong reflects on some of the key discussion points.
Looking back on global trends
Michael Anderson from the Centre for Global Development, saw these events as a manifestation of people’s reaction to the major shifts in economic activities as a result of globalisation and development progress over the past decades, highlighting the financial crisis of 2008.
He summarised five global trends:
- retreat of global economic integration;
- declining growth of trade opportunities;
- increasing trends of using foreign aid for self interest and attacks on foreign aid;
- rise of conflicts;
- rise of authoritarian populism.
He also reflected on two opportunities for the U.K: that the U.K. could rise as a world leader in offering great trade deals to developing countries after Brexit; and with the need of skilled labour being ever present, the opportunity to recruit from other countries if human resources of EU origin are lost could be a potential “brain gain instead of brain drain”.
Priya Deshingkar, Research Director of the Migrating out of Poverty Research Consortium at the University of Sussex, looked at the recent events through the lens of migration and refugees, her focus being on the global south. She highlighted that migration has existed for as long as humanity, but the current refugee crisis has really bought the issue into sharp focus. Migration, whether between nations or rural-urban migration within the country, has always been subject to xenophobic attacks and discrimination, amplified by perceptions of migrants and weak political movement to improve the rights and conditions of the migrants. While there are many formal and informal policies restricting people from mobilising, none of them are successful and instead are making it more dangerous for people who migrate. Therefore, one of the key areas to investigate is the different motivations behind migration.
Connecting with the people
The MP for Hove and Portslade, Peter Kyle highlighted the disconnection between politicians, experts and the people. The result of the events reflected the frustration of the people who feel that experts and evidence are not addressing the real problems that they face in their daily lives. In talking about development, he recognised the significance of the development work accomplished thus far, but spoke of some of the opinions he hears ‘on the doorstep’, giving the example “sort out our hospital before you sort the world out”. This presents a huge challenge in defending international development work, and it is the responsibility of experts and policymakers to listen, and to communicate their expertise in an accessible language that can be understood by all.
Clionadh Raleigh, Professor of Human Geography at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, presented a realistic but grim perspective of development. She said that recent events are a reflection of rapidly rising inequalities across the world, with no offered solutions. She was sceptical of previous approaches that failed to recognise the true realities of rising violence and deepening inequality. She said what we should do now is to understand what really happened. Development work must be targeted at the root cause and allow time for countries to figure out solutions, engaging from the bottom up and not just pumping in funds or increasing trade, hoping that will be the solution.
Looking to the future
In order to navigate these challenging times, it is crucial that academics, policy makers, civil society, communities and citizens work more closely to understand and address the inequalities within and between countries, and the multiple factors that underpin the rise in populism and nationalism. Ending on a slightly more optimistic note, one of the audience argued that the discourse is creating increased awareness and consciousness which could lead to action towards an optimistic future.