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One globe, a world of solutions

The world is changing rapidly – socially, technologically, environmentally and economically – bringing with it an evolution in the field of international development. A new Institute at the University will bring together some of the best minds in this area to tackle the inequalities faced by people across the globe.

More than one billion people in the world live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day. At The University of Manchester there is a very real determination to change that; to shape the policies and global conversations that will improve the lives of the world’s most disadvantaged.

That’s why the University has announced a major new centre, the Global Development Institute (GDI). The Institute will hold the promotion of social justice – the fight for equality in rights and opportunities – at its heart. It will unite the strengths of the existing Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM) and the Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI) – research hubs with a history of making a difference to real lives, from promoting young people’s well-being in Tanzania to helping Cadbury to launch an initiative to support cocoa growers.

When it launches in early 2016, the GDI will become the largest provider of development studies research and postgraduate education in Europe. It will deliver a step-change in Manchester’s activities and influence in this most challenging field of international development.

More than 45 academics and around 100 PhD students will undertake world-class interdisciplinary research to build on Manchester’s internationally leading reputation for development studies, which has seen the University ranked first for impact and second for quality in the UK Research Excellence Framework, and third in the QS World University Rankings.

Within the Institute, the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Doctoral College will develop the next generation of researchers, practitioners and policy actors, ensuring Manchester’s place as a home for global thought leaders in the advancement of development theory and practice.

But why is it so vital that we refocus our resources at this time?

Rapid global change

Asian countries are rising as world superpowers, climate change is advancing at a rapid pace and global inequality is increasing in new places and in new ways, all of which have a dramatic impact on questions around development and social justice that researchers must critically and rigorously address.

Professor Uma Kothari, Managing Director of the GDI, explains: “Rising inequality has two main dimensions. A contemporary dimension, exemplified by estimates that the top 1% of the world’s population have almost the same economic wealth as the remaining 99%. This situation maintains chronic levels of poverty in an affluent world. It reduces the prospects for economic growth and damages social cohesion, enabling the elite to capture public institutions and policies.

The University of Manchester research into the social and economic sustainability of cocoa production commissioned by Cadbury led it to switch its supply to fairtrade cocoa and invest £45 million in cocoa growing communities

“With climate change, spiralling inequality also contains an intergenerational dimension. Climate change has been created by the world’s rich nations but is disproportionately hitting the poorest. On current trends it will dramatically reduce the well-being and life opportunities of future generations.

“Global inequality, global poverty and climate injustice have to be more effectively tackled if humanity is to move towards a more socially just world that is sustainable.

“Our ambition with the new GDI is to be the world’s leading academic institute that creates and supports excellent research, achieves high levels of impact and knowledge exchange, and provides top-quality graduate education to secure social justice and sustainable development within and across nations, particularly for the least advantaged groups.”

Crunch time

The Institute arrives at a crunch time for global policymakers. In September leaders at the United Nations agreed a new set of Sustainable Development Goals – 17 goals incorporating health, sustainability, climate change and even peace that set the bar for universal efforts over the next 15 years. The new targets, a replacement for the Millennium Development Goals, formally recognise that change is no longer simply a case of poorer countries catching up – instead, all countries need to adapt their lifestyles, patterns of growth and aspirations.

Traditional notions of developed/developing and aid givers/recipients are gone; inequality exists across and within nations. To achieve a sustainable and just world, poorer countries will need to increase their use of global resources as much as richer ones will need to dramatically reduce their consumption. Leading academic thinkers will play a vital role in helping politicians and organisations understand how this can be achieved.

The GDI joins a long tradition of research at the University in addressing global inequalities, from fields including not only global development but also health care, business, law, social sciences and the arts.

The minds contributing to this broad beacon of research help us to better understand the differences in the experiences and quality of life of men and women around the world. These differences, at their most stark, mean that around 800 million people in the world will go hungry today and 29,000 children will die from preventable health care problems, although we know there are enough resources to go around.

Professor David Hulme, Executive Director of the GDI, explains: “Manchester was the crucible for the Industrial Revolution that transformed human well-being, but now threatens human survival. We believe that Manchester should also be the crucible for creating the ideas that shape what comes next – how we achieve sustainable development and social justice for all of humanity.

“Business as usual is not an option. While we’ve seen huge reductions in poverty over the last 20 years, finishing the job, let alone making the gains sustainable, will require seismic social and economic changes right around the world.

“The University of Manchester has been at the forefront of development studies for more than 60 years. With the creation of the GDI, we’re aiming to lead critical thinking, teaching and research over the next 60 years and beyond.”

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