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Why do emerging economies matter?

DID at 10
Professor Andy Sumner

Professor of International Development

12 December 2022

For the past ten years, the Department of International Development has used emerging economies to understand international development. Here is a summary of the findings from the conference, 'Development and the Emerging Economies', which was held as part of the department's anniversary celebrations.

The Department of International at King’s was establishment in 2012 initially as an institute and later a department.

We have focused throughout on the study of ‘emerging economies’ to understand development.

What does that mean?

Emerging economies are typically middle income, though this feature may mask wide disparities of income and even absolute poverty. The defining characteristic of emerging economies is of developing countries where traditional aid no longer matters due to the growth of domestic resources and productive capacities. Emerging economies include thus not only large countries such as Brazil, India, China, and South Africa but also much of Latin America and much of East and Southeast Asia and some dynamic African countries.

In the early 2010s there was fast growth and much discussion of the ‘catching up’ of emerging economies with the richer countries. Fast forward to today and post-pandemic growth is weak in most countries, fuel and food prices are rising as a result of the war in the Ukraine, populist nationalism has taken root around the world. At the same time questions of fairer or greener types of development have come to the fore alongside protest and resistance to the persistent inequality within and between countries.

This was the backdrop for the 10-year anniversary of the department.

The golden era of reasonable growth and stability may well be replaced by a set of inter-connected crises. The pandemic may be passing. Or is it? Even this isn't certain. And the reverberations post-pandemic suggests a continuing long crisis in terms of the economic consequences of higher debt service and higher fuel and food prices, to highlight just three longstanding issues that have been exacerbated. Intermingled with these crises are longer crises of democracy, the rise of authoritarian nationalism/populism and the climate crisis.

Our conference focused on shifts in politics and economics and other areas of the last decade, and their drivers and consequences. We will also look forward to the next decade of multiple crises.

Keynote I: Emergence and Multipolarity: ‘Southern’ Nodes in the Post-1990s World Order

Blog author: Anisa Muzaffar

The first keynote was given by C.P. Chandrasekhar, of Professor of Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

Professor Chandrasekhar discussed the complex geo-political and geo-economic positions of countries in the Global South, and their relationship with existing hegemonic powers in the North.

The presentation unpacked the factors that explain the rise of these Southern nodes, focusing on their growth models, geographic positions, and relationship with the Global North.

Relative comparisons between China and India were made, highlighting China’s position in the geo-economic space due to its manufacturing prowess, and India as an influential node in geo-politics, being seen as an ally of advanced nations.

Other Southern nodes, the successful East Asian economies and the next-tier industrialisers were discussed in relation to the differences in their relationship and dependence with the advanced economies, and how these have determined their relative voice in the global landscape.

The discussant raised further aspects of the presentation that could change the power dynamics among the Southern nodes, particularly within a more challenging global environment moving forward. This includes a growth model that is multi-pronged with greater coordination between the agriculture, manufacturing, and the services sectors; the emergence of stronger regional blocs that will push for international economic relations more conducive to the Global South’s development aspirations; and the shift to other non-traditional growth models that are more inclusive and balanced.

Keynote II: Global Development Trends this Century: Looking Backwards, Looking Forward

Blog author: Anisa Muzaffar

The second keynote session was given by Professor Frances Stewart who brought to fore critical issues that relate to the very essence of development, covering its approach, achievements, and future trajectory.

In a presentation titled ‘progress and regress, 2000-2030', the historical origins of development policy were laid out providing a framework that underlay the evolution of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In an assessment of the achievement of the SDGs, it was argued that they had generally brought about progress on social and economic goals, but not on sustainability or political goals. The negative impact on development brought by the Covid pandemic were also highlighted in relation to income, poverty, health, and education. In addressing the failures of the SDG Framework, suggestions were made to build in resilience as one of the objectives, recognise collective action, and make better connection between objectives and processes.

Moving into the future, the presentation highlighted that development studies, while providing a useful transition from colonialism, need to recognise the changing global landscape particularly in relation to the non-homogeneity of third world countries, and the commonality of global issues which renders learning from each other paramount.

The discussant highlighted that based on certain indicators, the MDGs were successful with countries achieving some universally common goals. The development agenda of MDGs and SDGs were shown to have some corelation with the countries’ economic growth.

An overall paradigm failure is clear in relation to countries’ focus on growth.

Panel: The Future of Emerging Democracies in the age of long crises

Blog authors: Imaduddin Abdullah and Azral Izwan Bin Mazlan

The panel focused on the fact that a decade ago there was a considerable optimism about the possibilities for deepening democracy, at least in part embedded in the rapid decline of poverty and accompanying expansion of ‘middle classes’ in a large number of middle-income countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Yet, the current period is much more discouraging (and even before covid). There is the rise of authoritarian states and populist-nationalist parties.

The chair, Linette Lim, University College Dublin, noted the interest for the panel is how or what politics can promote development. The panel blended discussion from theoretical and empirical perspectives.

Catherine Boone, LSE, began with the ‘paradox’ of democratisation in the world. Amid the rise of authoritarianism in many parts of the world, some African countries actually progressed in terms of some indexes of democracy.

Louise Tillin, King’s India Institute, reflected on the consolidation of social democracy and the expansion of social welfare policies that were contingent on that democracy.

Néstor Castañeda, UCL, argued that Latin America makes for an excellent case to explore the interlink between increases in women's participation and representation, the expansion of the middle-income class and a higher level of civil society rights.

Peter Kingstone, Montclair State University summarised the session as discussant by proposing that democratisation could be best explored by understanding the experience of emerging economies.

Panel: Protest and Resistance to a Politics of Crisis

Considering the multiple historical, political, and economic processes that come together in the present -threats to democracy, to human rights, to the environment and climate, to peace, and to global health-, and which have been discussed as ‘global crises’ in the DID 10-Year conference, this panel asked: Which crisis? Whose crisis? And what does a language of crisis do for the possibility of resistance from below?

Luis Andueza and Phoebe Martin spoke about how contemporary Latin American political activists redefined, building on previous movements, struggles against the infringements of human rights, be those the right to abortion in Peru, to the multiple grievances bequeathed by neoliberalism in Chile, which are yet to find a coherent political form. Maha Abdelrahman, in her talk, asked what the language of crisis, as exceptional moments in history, does for struggles for social justice. The movements and activisms discussed by Andueza and Martin show that many concerns are not momentary crises; these are longstanding structural issues shaping the societies we live in, and the ‘crises’ that may emerge from those structural inequalities and injustices.

The recording shows the richness of the discussion. Phoebe Martin’s paper was published as ‘Poner la cuerpa: The Body as a Site of Reproductive Rights Activism in Peru’ in the Bulletin of Latin American Research. Luis Andueza’s intervention was loosely based on this essay called ‘Notes on Chile: on zombie neoliberalism and its open wounds’ in the Latin American Geographies Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society. Maha Abdelrahman’s paper was based on an article published December 2022 in Development and Change, called ‘Covid-19 and the Meaning of Crisis’.

EADI & DSA Panel: Development in Crisis

Christiane Kliemann, from the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), writes about the questions that come up during this panel, including perspectives of disaster risk research, peace and conflict research and the multiple development challenges faced by a single country on the example of South Africa. Read the full story.

This conference was held as part of the DID 10th anniversary celebrations

In 2022, the Department of International Development celebrated its 10th anniversary. As part of its celebration, this conference was held.

Find out more about the DID 10th anniversary programme

In this story

Andy  Sumner

Andy Sumner

Professor of International Development FAcSS FRSA

Anisa Muzaffar

Anisa Muzaffar

PhD Student

Imaduddin Abdullah

Imaduddin Abdullah

PhD student

Azral Mazlan

Azral Mazlan

PhD Student

DID at 10

In 2022, the Department of International Development celebrated its 10th anniversary – everything we have achieved, as well as our work to come.

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