ISS hosts international symposium on Global Redistribution and the Challenges of Financing Development
Leading critical scholars and policy makers from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe came to ISS on 16-17 February to discuss the necessity of scaling up global redistribution, a matter of great urgency at a time when the rightward political shift in both the US and Europe has led to an attack on the principles and practices of progressive redistribution at both national and international scales.
The symposium was the first organized under the auspices of the five-year Aiding Social Protection: The Political Economy of Externally Financing Social Policy in Developing Countries (AIDSOCPRO) project which is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and led by Andrew M. Fischer, Associate Professor of Social Policy and Development Studies at ISS.
The symposium ran as a series of keynotes and plenary panels, where 30 invited international experts from across the fields of social policy and finance and development tackled and debated the following themes:
- how large scale global distribution could or should happen in light of the evolution of international financial and trade flows in developing countries today;
- whether the current aid system could be fit for purpose, or other modalities of global redistribution should be conceived;
- whether global redistributive flows should be directed towards social expenditures or productive sectors in poor countries; and
- the implications of directing aid towards social spending on the evolution of social policy and development in recipient countries.
The AIDSOCPRO research team also presented their initial findings on some of these questions from their ongoing research work in Ecuador, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Ghana, Paraguay, the Philippines, and Zambia.
Among a diverse and very rich range of insights, a few key highlights include:
- Contradictions within the international financial system between the demands for international financial stability versus the needs of financing development (see especially the keynote by Jan Kregel);
- The necessity to reduce regressive redistributions from poor to rich countries, such as through tax avoidance or financial outflows;
- The erosion of the aid system, in terms of the recent inclusion of military spending, commercial activities, and spending in donor countries;
- The importance of critically appraising whether various national developments towards expanding social protection in developing countries constitute progressive moves towards universalism (at least in a minimalist sense) or else whether they reinforce the segregation of social policy systems, often in combination with dynamics of financialisation, structural adjustment, the recent forceful revival of conservative politics in many countries, and even demonitisation (in the recent case of India; see the keynote of Jayati Ghosh).
- The preeminent role of domestic politics, as well as local conceptions of social protection and redistribution, in shaping the particular trajectories of social policy in developing countries, as well as the subversion of these politics in highly aid dependent contexts.