Events

The Post-2015 Development Agenda Discussion Series.

As the world approaches the target end date of 2015 for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the global development community, which has both supported and heavily critiqued their implementation, has been engaged in a discussion about how best to achieve the goal of eradicating poverty. The United Nations Secretary General convened a High Level Panel to advise on a global development framework beyond 2015. The World Bank has also engaged in a similar discussion on ending extreme poverty by 2030.

This series seeks to interrogate the emerging Post-2015 discourse, with a focus on Africa, to develop a better understanding of the theories implicated and the policies and interventions being considered, with a view to how diverse elements across MIT can contribute to the thinking and development of appropriate interventions through critical analysis of this emerging consensus on how best to approach development.

Economic Transformation and Inclusion – April 30th, Room 7-429

Africa’s growth performance has improved dramatically since the start of the century, despite global crisis, slowdown and uncertainty. However, it is widely recognized that such impressive growth has not resulted in economic diversification, adequate growth in formal sector employment and commensurate social and human development. Many national governments and influential institutions including the United Nations, World Bank, African Development Bank and others are calling for economic transformation – the dynamic reallocation of resources from less productive to more productive sectors. Despite the high growth that several African countries have experienced in recent years, poverty, inequality and unemployment remain high, indicating lack of inclusion for major segments of the population, most notably youth, in the development process and its outcomes. How will the benefits of the increasing number of African growth success stories translate to the poorest segments of society? How can transformation benefit both rural and urban development?

 

Past Events

Conflict & Development – April 10th, 9-450A, 12:30-2pm
Many of the development challenges faced by post-conflict states are distinct from other development contexts. Somalia and Somaliland in particular, with their decades of conflict that has only recently begun to diminish, face unique challenges.  Within the region there are various kinds of violence.  In the north, there are tensions between Somaliland (whose citizens overwhelmingly support full statehood) and Puntland (whose citizens seek to rejoin Somalia).  Violence in southern Somalia is more indiscriminate, driven by the al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab.  To complicate matters further, inter-clan conflict motivates other violent acts and al-Shabaab’s struggle has financial motivations, as it gets its funding largely from producing and smuggling charcoal throughout East Africa, a business that is worth $25 million annually.  This panel will focus on the way in which these diverse agendas complicate development goals in the region.  It will focus in particular on the role of private investment in building a robust economy amid violence. It will also address the complex issue of charcoal/deforestation. Charcoal is one of Somalia’s few major exports but the business is dominated by al-Shabaab, and because of this there is an embargo on Somali charcoal.  Further, charcoal production is a major cause of deforestation in Somalia, and many recognize that, despite the embargo, this is happening at an unsustainable rate.

 

PEPPER SOUP

UrbanAfrica hosts a brown bag lunch series, PEPPER SOUP, to discuss current events in Africa and the African Diaspora at the local, national, regional and global scales.  All are welcome to join, whether you are interested in a particular development, have knowledge about a place or project, or just want to learn more about African development, politics or culture!

From the aftermath of the Arab Spring in the North, to the rising economies in the East and West, land grabs across the continent, debates on gender equality, and of course Nollywood movies, Africa presents unending possibilities for discussion.

The first brown bag will be:
Date: April 8th, at 12:30pm
Location: DUSP Commons

We will discuss the conflict in Central African Republic (CAR) and Rwanda’s emerging economy.


INSTITUTIONS, POLITICS AND LAND IN AFRICAN CITIES

Land management practices in Africa have encountered major institutional changes in the post-colonial era. Yet the legacies of colonial history, rapid urbanization, growth in informal settlements, and flows of capital investment, are producing new challenges for the capacities and politics of these institutions. The event was a moderated discussion on how researchers and practitioners can think and act in new ways with respect to the institutional challenges of accessing land for the poor in Africa.

Featuring:

Ellen Bassett, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies and Planning with interests in land use planning, urban redevelopment, social equity, and community decision-making. Dr. Bassett worked with the Kenyan Ministry of Local Government, creating and updating local development plans. This was followed by similar work with the German governmental aid agency (GTZ). Following her doctoral program, Dr. Bassett also worked for five years in Uganda, focusing on natural resource management and planning. Dr. Bassett’s research emphasizes relevant land use, resource, and decision-making issues facing communities. She is particularly interested in understanding how different communities and societies formulate institutions, policies, regulations, and property rights to manage land use. Another project that Dr. Bassett is working on is an evaluation of living conditions in slums and informal settlements of Nairobi and Dakar.

Michael Hooper, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He joined Harvard after working for five years with the United Nations Development Programme, including a year spent on secondment to the Kenya Ministry of Planning in Nairobi. Hooper’s research interests focus on the politics of land use and urbanization, participatory planning and governance, and urban dimensions of international development. He currently works on projects related to forced evictions and involuntary resettlement, the politics of post-disaster reconstruction, the influence of perceptual biases on urban decision- making, the management of urban informality in developing world cities.

Garth Myers, PhD, Currently he is a Professor at the Trinity College where his research concerns the political and cultural dimensions of development in Eastern and Central Africa, with a primary but not exclusive emphasis on urban development. His research interests can be divided into projects that are related to: 1) the cultural-historical geography of development and chiefly focus on the legacy of British colonialism; or 2) the current development dynamics from more of a political-economic approach. Concerns for the language of development geography and for environmental planning carry over into both of these categories.


Conflict Poster

CONFLICT IN AFRICA: CHALLENGES TO STATE LEGITIMACY & CITIZENSHIP

In witnessing conflicts in many of Africa’s urban centers, such as Timbuktu, Abidjan, Mogadishu, Nairobi and Cairo, this discussion questioned the implications of urban violence on two aspects that are integral for urban and national governance: 1) the ability of the state to maintain legitimacy, particularly in the face of opposition or violence resulting from electoral and/or ethnic based conflict, and 2) the experience and ability of urban residents to exercise their role as citizens during conflict.

Featuring:

Luka Biong Deng Kuol is a fellow at Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Luka’s research focuses on the challenges of nation and state building of the new state of South Sudan in the context of transitional justice. South Sudan as the newest state is litmus test of how to make use of the wealth of knowledge and experiences in building a viable state that is founded on solid values of social trust and democratic governance.

Balakrishnan Rajagopal is Associate Professor of Law and Development and Director of the Program on Human Rights and Justice at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been a member of the Executive Council and Executive Committee of the American Society of International Law, and is currently on the Asia Advisory Board of Human Rights Watch, the International Advisory Committee of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and the International Rights Advocates. He is a Faculty Associate at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation.