Clare Short on the ‘Demise of DFID’ + some other development superstar lectures

December 7, 2020

     By Duncan Green     

When you organize a series of lectures with the rather grandiose title ‘Cutting Edge Issues in Development Thinking and Practice’, it really helps if the speaker’s topic is in the news at the time of their talk. So given recent turmoil over the fate of UK aid, when Clare Short rocked up (metaphorically) last week to deliver a lecture entitled ‘Reflecting on the Demise of DFID’, we expected fireworks and she didn’t disappoint. Here’s a taster:

On the cut to the UK aid budget by £4bn this year at a time of great need – ‘pure cruelty and meanness’.

On Boris Johnson’s remarks on UK aid ‘Civil servants are usually pretty good at getting ministers not to make statements to Parliament that show complete ignorance, but clearly not here’.

On fixing the UK aid budget at 0.7% of GNI: ‘I’m not wedded to 0.7 – it caused massive hostility among other departments at a time of cuts, and led to focus on quantity, not quality. But this is not the time for cuts.’

On the wider impact: ‘the defeat of DFID will send a ripple of weakness across the [International Development] system.’

More than that, her account of DFID’s creation and early days (she was its Secretary of State from its inauguration in 1997 until 2003) brought home the importance of individual agency, of personal character and moral and political compass, in how governments evolve – the creation of the department on a knife edge after the Foreign Office briefed the incoming Blair government not to create DFID, she thinks they probably only did so because they didn’t want her as a member of the ‘awkward squad’ to kick up a fuss before they even got started in government.

Fascinating – here’s the video of her lecture, with James Putzel as discussant.

Covid has actually been a bit of a boon with organizing the series – we can invite speakers from all over the world, without expecting them to trog down to the LSE to do it in person. That’s made it easier to have a list that is both diverse, and star studded. Here’s the list of lectures so far, with links to the youtube video and blogs written by LSE students. They’re in chronological order

Jayati Ghosh on ‘The Pandemic and the Indian government’s response’: blog; video

Saleemul Huq on Human Induced Climate Change: Dealing with loss and damage: blog and video

Deborah Brautigam; Folashade Soule-Kohndou; Shirley Ze Yu in a panel on China in Africa: blog and video

Branko Milanovic on ‘Capitalism Alone: The Future of the System that Rules the World’: blog and video

Jimi Adesina on Why Development and Transformative Social Policy Matter: Lessons of COVID-19 in Africa: blog and video

Nora Lustig on Inequality in Latin America: Markets, Covid-19 and Policies: blog and video

Last but not least, Danny Quah spoke early in the term, but had to abandon after a computer meltdown, so he is bringing up the rear this Friday (11th December 4-6pm UK time) on ‘Global Power Shift to Asia: Great Power Competition in the Marketplace for World Order.’ Watch here

Next term we have Ha-Joon Chang, Yuen Yuen Ang, Kate Raworth and Akosua Adomako Ampofo. Amazing fun.

December 7, 2020
Duncan Green