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Introduction to Our Plenary Sessions

Opening Plenary: Inequality in a globalised world


  • Professor Bertil Tungodden, Norwegian School of Economics (NHH)
  • Professor Kalle Moene, University of Oslo


  • Professor Lise Rakner, University of Bergen/Chr. Michelsen Institute

The gains from globalization are divided unequally. The poor have fallen behind in most countries posing a moral challenge for the world community. The rising disparity in income, wealth and the access to basic services such as health and education also creates social tensions within and across countries and impede prosperity. When economic inequality is accompanied by political inequality and a lack of voice, prospects for inclusive growth are low, opening up for populist policies and nationalism.

The aim of the plenary panel is to present and discuss basic research on globalisation and inequality. How can rising inequality be understood and explained and what type of policies could address it? In particular, the panel seeks to address the following questions: What are the current trajectories of global economic inequality and do they differ across countries and regions?  What are the key drivers? Why should we care about inequality and what type of inequality should development related research and policies emphasise? Should we not care about inequality as long as people are getting out of poverty? What polices can improve performance and lead to more social justice? And, how can they be implemented?  Finally, what are the implications for developing countries, development studies and development cooperation, given the current backlash and accordingly new configurations of globalization and inequality?

Plenary: Contesting Reconfigured Boundaries: Migration and Development


  • Professor Uma Kothari, University of Manchester
  • Professor Cathrine Brun, Director of the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP), Oxford Brookes University


  • Dr Arne Strand, Chr. Michelsen Institute

Development policies promote interventions in different socio-political contexts to generate social, economical and sometimes political change. Migration is an intrinsic part of the broader processes in which development interventions take place. As recent political and social tensions around migration and refugee issues in Europe has proven, international migration is still a poorly understood issue. An interdisciplinary lens is required to come to grips with its diverse aspects, and to more precisely understand how migration and migration policies relate to development and development polices.

This plenary session uses theoretical, empirical and historical analyses to understand and explain the migration and development nexus. It aims at critically examining the broader linkages and processes between migration and development in different countries and at various scales. In doing so, it challenges the current narratives on migration and deconstructs myths related to migration and development. How are refugee and migration policies currently changing? In which ways are development policies and migration policies intertwined at the EU level and in third countries? How can we understand the interconnection between development, development policies and migration?

Tax Justice plenary: Globalization and international tax justice: challenges and innovations for domestic revenue mobilization in developing countries


  • Professorial Fellow Mick Moore, Institute of Development Studies, UK
  • Associate Professor Brooke Harrington, Copenhagen Business School
  • Associate Director Catherine Ngina Mutava, , Strathmore Tax Research Centre, Nairobi


  • Research Professor Odd-Helge Fjeldstad, Chr. Michelsen Institute and African Tax Institute, University of Pretoria

States need money to foster economic development, to provide security and meet the basic needs of their citizens. Traditionally, governments collect taxes from individuals and businesses to generate public revenue. However, globalization has challenged many of the traditional instruments of revenue extraction. Global tax competition has made it more difficult to levy taxes on mobile capital as it might simply flow to low tax areas. Consequently, the tax burden has been shifted towards less mobile factors of production. The emerging ‘tax justice’ movement argues that unfair international tax rules have undermined the public finances of low-income countries by facilitating tax evasion and avoidance by wealthy companies and individuals.  Existing international tax rules have created, either by accident or by design, a system characterized by extensive secrecy, excessive complexity and widespread loopholes and may also have contributed to deepening existing inequalities. In other words, globalization has to some extent undermined the fiscal capacity of the nation state. The most striking manifestation of this system has been the growth of a global system of offshore financial centers – better known as ‘tax havens’ – which have offered a destination for both wealthy individuals and multinational corporations seeking, among others things, to disguise their wealth and profits. While most governments face such problems, they pose a particular threat to developing countries, where capacity to implement complex rules about international economic transactions remains limited. The same rules have generated new opportunities for corruption, through the complex structures of transnational enterprises, tax havens, secret bank accounts, and secretive legal arrangements to obscure the real ownership of assets.

The aim of the plenary panel is to present and discuss the research frontier on tax havens, international taxation and elite behaviour. The main emphasis is on how international tax rules affect developing countries, including effects on domestic revenue mobilization and income distribution, and possible ways the current challenges can be mitigated. In particular, the panel seeks to address the following questions: How can states meet their spending requirements in times of integrated global markets? Have some revenue instruments become obsolete, been replaced or simply lost their significance? How do international interdependencies affect the spread of new tax policy instruments in developing countries and how national preconditions mitigate such effects? And how do structural and institutional factors drive or hinder tax policy changes at both international and national levels?

Closing Plenary: Sustainability and the green shift in an era of disruptions


  • Professor Achim Steiner, Oxford Martin School
  • Professor Susan Parnell, University of Cape Town


  • Professor Joyeeta Gupta, University of Amsterdam

At the end of this conference let us take a cautious look at the future. What major trends can be detected? What can we hope for, and what should be done? What can be taken for granted already is that we are entering an era of disruptions

–          Socio-economic disruptions: The financial crisis of 2000 may not be the last one of this kind. Its root causes, excessive speculation of a deregulated financial sector and growing inequalities of incomes and wealth, have not been cured and remain a threat to political stability.

–          Political disruptions: Populist politicians take up the frustra­tion of those left behind and turn it into an onslaught on globalisation and the foundations of the post-war world order. Their Orwellian menace to the media, to science and experts tend to undermine the institu­tional foundations of democratic societies and the lifeblood of civility: trust.

–          Ecological disruptions: Climate change, loss of bio-diversity, soil erosion are the most threatening planetary boundaries to sustainable development and even survival of humanity. Survival will soon become difficult in regions exposed to extreme weather events so that climate refugees will add to wave of international migration that has already triggered off the populist blowback in many countries.

–          Technological disruptions/ revolutions: A host of new technologies is in the making, some of which may change the course toward ecological sustainability (photovoltaic energy, improved batteries, energy saving devices, etc.), while others (robotiza­tion, artificial intelli­gence, etc.) will replace human labour on a scale that threatens the cohesion of today’s industrial societies.

How will these disruptive trends interact with each other? And how will the green shift needed for reaching the SDGs by 2030 evolve from these disruptions? Will the green shift shape and impact the global development agenda and relationships between the North and the South?

It seems that the ongoing processes of urbanisation will have a major impact on the green shift. More and more cities around the world take up the challenge and become laboratories for green architecture and design, for climate-friendly transport systems and infrastructure, for sustainable life-styles and even as sanctuaries for species endangered by pollution, sprawl and industrial agriculture. Are green cities the forerunners of the green shift, especially when governments pay only lip service to the SDGs?

What role do emerging economies play both in the political arena and at the technology frontier? Will their aspirations to adopt the living standards of the OECD countries add to the global disruptions or will they be able to contribute to global sustainability? What role will the decision makers play in governments, municipalities, business and civil society in changing the course? And, finally, what does all this mean for development cooperation and development studies.



Mentoring Workshop for PhD Students and Early Careers

The mentoring workshop organized and chaired by Professor May Tan-Mullins (Professor in International Relations at Nottingham University, the Dean of Graduate School and the Director of Institute of Asia and Pacific Studies) is a great opportunity for PhD students and early career researchers.

The workshop will address some of the career development issues regarding publishing, career selection, importance of conference and networking, and home-work balance. It will begin with a concise presentation on the various topics raised, followed by substantial time allocated to a question and answer session. This workshop also presents an opportunity for fellow PhD students and early careers to network as there will be an informal drinks session after the workshop.

This workshop is limited to 25 participants and pre-registration on first come first served basis is necessary.
Time and venue tba.