Development Goals

Democracy, Diversity, Development: 2016 was dominated by their dark sides, can we channel the Force this year?

Times of India, Blog page, 10 January, 2017

Original link is here

2016 was witness to dramatic political changes. Everything that seemed improbable, even unthinkable somehow found new ways of manifesting itself, and that too repeatedly.

The impregnable walls of the European Union (EU) were breached when its largest security provider, Britain, decided to break free from the European project. A celebrity of a reality TV show was able to capture the imagination of a frustrated American public and walked away with a near impossible victory in presidential elections.

Liberal actors and voices were constantly defeated in many arenas by populist movements. The new energy of right-wing forces in several geographies competed with the new fanaticism among Islamic radicals. The defeat of liberalism defined the mood and events of 2016.

More than any year in the recent past, 2016 signified a metamorphosis of the global order itself. 2017 therefore becomes a very significant year as it brings together two unknowns for all of us to grapple with.

First is the future of global economics and financial systems, which are yet to be adequately restructured following the crises of 2008. Second are the political questions raised by the happenings of the year gone by. Both of these will have to be addressed discretely and jointly, if gains of the post-war order are to be maintained and strengthened.

Three, words must receive significant attention this year as we respond to the economic and political challenges that lie ahead: democracy, diversity and development. All three are today under threat, and all three by themselves are a threat to global stability.

In sheer numbers, more countries have adopted democracy as their principal political system than ever before. But there is also little doubt that there has been petty and political capture of democratic systems within these countries.

Democracy as a social ethic is under threat. It is assuming shades of majoritarianism in some instances – becoming a tool for convenient choices by the majority section of society. Democracy has also become a means for political leaders to absolve themselves from taking hard decisions. The moral fibre of democracy is being undermined by its numerical logic.

It can be argued that democracy is becoming a weapon to weaken pluralism. The ability of multitudes to take part in democratic debates through mass media, social media and other emerging platforms has certainly included new stakeholders. Yet the principles of the ensuing debates are no longer decided by what is right or wrong, but on the basis of right and left; ideologies multiplied by numbers are determining outcomes.

Democracy has also been hijacked as a legitimising tool by undemocratic forces. Be it Islamist parties in Turkey and the Middle East, or fundamentalist groups in Asia, the US and Europe, all of them have used democratic means to fulfil undemocratic objectives. In many societies, the word “democracy” needs to be re-thought, re-imagined, re-served, and made compatible with pluralistic principles.

Diversity is at one level being threatened by majoritarianism – by brute force that seeks to reduce those who are different, and marginalise those who belong to minority communities. On the other hand, diversity itself is now being used as the basis to recruit and create small communities, sub-national identities and radical movements that are fuelled by the difference that defines diversity – with violent consequences.

An extreme fringe of the Muslim community in Europe, the Buddhists in Myanmar, and Shia-Sunni postures in the Middle East: all of these are using this difference to either inflict violence on the ‘other’ or to motivate violence against those seen as irreconcilable enemies.

Technology and diversity together have created a new dynamic. Assimilation of outsiders in new communities has today become improbable as, instead of communicating with their physical neighbours, people remain locked in with those miles away.

This creates a basis of new exclusions, divisions and differences between those who may otherwise be in physical proximity. It makes the evolution of assimilative cultures and societies more difficult. In fact, it threatens to undermine syncretic civilisations that have existed over millennia. Diversity is both under threat, and is a threat in itself.

Development today is being threatened by a reluctance of large and important players to remain invested in liberal trading systems; to commit to the ideals of globalisation; to promote cross-border flows of finance, technology and people; and to achieve a convergence of lifestyles across continents.

Democratic forces, and fissures of diverse interests, vantage points and identities, make convergence on development goals near impossible. Institutionalised greed and the lack of enlightened action, masking itself as capitalist principle, will challenge both the global objective of responding to climate change as well as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

But development is also a threat. Large actors, with large pools of funds, have begun to steer the processes of development to their own advantage. They seek to make life choices for all: to define healthcare for each citizen on Earth, write trade narratives for each society, define what constitutes the well-being and happiness of this planet, and adjudicate the boundaries to right to life itself. Development finance, aid, loans and know-how, under the garb of development partnerships, are seeking to create a landscape of economic growth, trade and transaction that will benefit a few.

The dark sides of democracy, diversity and development have defined global and local politics lately. Can 2017 be the year when the tide begins to turn and when a new light illuminates the essential and positive ethic associated with each of these three words?

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

 

Economic diplomacy and development partnerships: Rethinking India’s role and relevance

Samir Saran  and Urvashi Aneja, ORF Website, Oct 28, 2016

Original link is here

There are two prisms through which India’s role as a provider of global public goods and as a contributor to the evolving global growth and development agenda can be assessed. The first is a continuum starting from the independence of the erstwhile colonies, the Bandung conference and the Non Aligned Movement, to a more recent focus on south–south cooperation. This continuum is located within the narrative of solidarity, justice, economic reparations, development rights, and more recently, around the texture of assistance forthcoming from the emerging economies willing to share their growing available surpluses with their G–77 compatriots. India and its development sector analysts have, for the most part, framed its development partnerships through this prism. The recent BIMSTEC–BRICS meet in Goa, followed this course.

The second view of India’s role could be understood through the phenomenon of ’emergence’, one that breaks away from the above continuum and instead positions India (and some other nations) at a juncture where, beyond solidarity and rights, it is the responsibility of being a global power (and attendant benefits that flow from being one) that compels a certain development partnership agenda. In this view, India has new opportunities that necessitate new responsibilities driven by its expanding global interests, both of which shape the country’s development partnership initiatives. This assessment replaces romanticism with realism and is less frequently voiced for this very reason. India must be careful that this hesitation does not reduce the scope and ambition of its development partnership agenda to one limited to the vocabulary of south–south cooperation.

India has new opportunities that necessitate new responsibilities driven by its expanding global interests, both of which shape the country’s development partnership initiatives. This assessment replaces romanticism with realism and is less frequently voiced for this very reason.

This is not to suggest that south–south cooperation is not important and has not influenced contemporary conversations on development and growth. It certainly has redefined ‘aid’ by introducing new financial and technical ethics and cemented the concepts of ‘partnership’ and ‘national ownership’ as normative benchmarks. Even more importantly, new southern partnerships for development finance and international economic support have shaken up the institutions of the OECD from their ambivalent slumber characterised by a prescriptive development policy agenda and conditional financing. It has made the traditional donors more reflective and considerate in their economic engagements.

But, taken too far, the south–south cooperation framework can reduce the role and ambition of a country like India in global development to a mere extension or function of southern solidarity, one proscribed by the limits to south–south cooperation reflected in its description; one by the ‘south’ for the ‘south’. The global south must be the core constituency and ethical mooring of India’s development partnerships but not its ambition or the philosophical anchor of its economic diplomacy responsibility.

Taken too far, the south–south cooperation framework can reduce the role and ambition of a country like India in global development to a mere extension or function of southern solidarity.

It is too limited a world view for a country of 1.3 billion people that has set itself a goal of becoming a USD 8 trillion dollar economy in the next decade and half. It is inevitably poised to become a net provider of global public goods. It is perhaps destined to inherit the task of managing global institutions that exist and building new institutions that this century will demand. These likely eventualities must steer policy formulation and implementation of India’s economic diplomacy objectives, even as it indulges in the grammar of historic solidarity.

India’s role for itself must be redefined through the prism of its ’emergence’, as an actor with agency already far above its economic weight, and likely to increase significantly over time. This is due to a number of factors. First, the largest incremental capital for global development and infrastructure beyond what exists today will be contributed by India, its institutions and corporations in the next fifteen years or so. Even if this incremental capital only comprises a modest proportion of the total development finance pie, the fact that India will make the largest new contribution will augment its global agenda–setting power in the age of climate change and renewed commitment to sustainable development. In absolute terms as well, back–of–the–envelope calculations suggest that the current $2.35 billion earmarked for overseas grants, concessional loans, and technical training will rise to approximately $10 billion by 2030 if deployment follows GDP growth. To put this in perspective, the UK Department for International Development’s (DfID) annual budget for 2015–16 is $12 billion, a figure likely to come under stress in the days ahead. Other agencies like the German GIZ will also at best be able to maintain their level of contributions.

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Second, beyond the numbers, India may also have a new path to offer, a new development narrative to share. In all likelihood it will be the first country to move from low–income existence to a mid–income economy in a fossil fuel constrained and climate aware world. It will have to make this transition discarding the key economic choices and policy assumptions that aided Europe and America, Japan and China. Cheap labour, bulk manufacturing, cheap energy, exploitative economic policies with scant regards for human rights and even perhaps the liberal and open trade regimes that have defined the past decades of growth. The India story, if and when mature, will resemble none; it could be a unique and contemporary blueprint for other developing countries attempting similar transitions. While it is impossible to predict the details of India’s transition, some aspects can be anticipated. The economic change will ride on frugal innovation helping a frugal service economy. It will be buttressed by the capacity to at the same time offer high–quality low–cost services to domestic and global markets. It would have also created a new framework to provide skilling, education, employment and security to not only the half a billion population added in the past three decades, but also to the burgeoning senior citizenry growing each year.

The India story, if and when mature, will resemble none; it could be a unique and contemporary blueprint for other developing countries attempting similar transitions.

And finally, India may also lead the way in crafting a new trade architecture in South Asia and with partners in the developing and emerging world. The current global trade regime is under strain as restrictive agreements amongst the OECD countries and some others are undermining the WTO, and the benefits to developing countries are dwindling. The current trading system is also based on an incomplete globalisation. It is biased towards the movement of capital and goods, but much less towards the movement of services and peoples. For developing countries compelled to respond to 21st century challenges through the acceleration of a service economy, this partial globalisation poses clear challenges. For India, its South Asian neighbours, Africa and some others herein lies an opportunity to re–craft their trading arrangements to support their 21st century development trajectories.

Looking through an emergence prism, India’s development partnerships and economic diplomacy must be built around three concentric circles of interest and influence. The first must encompass India’s immediate neighbourhood and the big powers; the second, would cover its extended neighbourhood extending across Asia and the Indian Ocean littoral with some localities important for what they offer; and the third may include some distant geographies, all global commons and vital global issues and institutions to manage them. Development partnerships and economic diplomacy in each should be driven by a specific set of interests, capabilities and priorities.

Development partnerships built around these three concentric circles will allow India to build direction, specificity, and flexibility into its initiatives; to create a differentiated approach across various geographies; to build alliances and institutions that cut across the north and south; to find a balance between its immediate economic and strategic interests and its global responsibilities; and to manage and respond to the complex and multifarious requirements of a global development provider.

To be clear though, to argue for an emergence prism over a south–south narrative does not imply that India’s economic diplomacy should reject the importance of communities and collective norms for a singularly realpolitik logic; on the contrary, sustaining the role of a leading development provider will require India to be a normative power more than ever before and build communities, create opportunities and discover growth across the binary North–South and East–West divides. As a leading power it must cross this bridge first.