Current Affairs

Oxford Forum for International Development reveals themes for upcoming conference

Moving online to overcome coronavirus restrictions, the Oxford Forum for International Development (OxFID) has revealed the three sub-themes which it will be focusing on in this year’s conference.

This event will address all of the themes in detail through opportunities for discussion and also by hearing from guest speakers prominent in their fields. Speakers will include Deputy Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Zsuzsanna Jakab; UN High Level Commissioner for Health, Employment & Economic Growth, Alaa Murabit; and Minister of Education for the Republic of Botswana, Unity Dow. Many other experts are also included in the line-up.

Under the first theme, the Forum will examine ‘Legacies of Power’, examining the historical basis and original approaches to international development.

The existence of hitherto unchallenged assumptions and implicit hierarchies will be considered. This will include concepts like the Brandt line which sought to binarily divide the world into the developed and undeveloped halves and asks the question as to whether the generally held presumptions about the ‘geographic distribution of poverty and prosperity’ are relevant and justified in the current global stage.

Additionally, the forum will look into the prevalence of European and North American value systems and the power balance implicit in the dissemination of knowledge in the context of development studies to assess whether a more pluralist approach to international development can be taken.

This approach to assessing the existing paradigms of international development gels with the steps taken this year to challenge existing systematic prejudices and bring to light previously veiled elements of discrimination. Examples of this in Oxford include the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign and the popular Uncomfortable Oxford page and tours.

The second theme will consider changes in the way bodies co-operate to foster international development. In the past, development work took place in the context of the power balance between the so called ‘developed’ and ‘undeveloped’ nations, which impacted the way institutions would form partnerships and co-operate.

OxFID 2021 will consider whether there has been a paradigm shift following countries like China, India and Brazil taking on the ‘donor’ role in international development and examine further how these geopolitical shifts are reflected in the structure of development organisations generally.

Finally, OxFID 2021 will look to address the highly topical impact of the coronavirus pandemic on international development. The evident economic disruption caused by the virus will be discussed alongside the emergence of new geopolitical tensions and the global shift over the last few years away from globalised action and toward populism. The forum will seek to assess ways forward from here on these issues.

Per the OxFID committee, the choice of these themes “reflects the issues we need to confront in the new decade”, including “the climate emergency, global health pandemic, rising inequality and systematic racism. This event takes place at a turning point in the study of international development, where a way forward must be plotted on stable foundations in the wake of serious global developments.”

The 2021 Oxford Forum for International Forum for Development will take place on the weekend of the 6th and 7th of February. They can be found at https://oxfid.org.uk