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Session Overview
7-SP058 - 1/2: Challenging and Challenges of Development, Solidarity and Social Justice - 1/2
Thursday, 08/July/2021:
11:00am - 12:15pm

Session Chair: June Fylkesnes, University of Agder, Norway
Session Chair: Dr. Hege Bergljot Wallevik, University of Agder, Norway
Session Chair: Dr. Hanne Haaland, University of Agder, Norway

Session Abstract

The dynamics of international development have been and are marked by various actors fighting to control and define “development” and dominate strategic thinking and financial flows. Yet, international development practices are heterogenous with a diversity of actors presenting “alternatives” and resistances to mainstream discourses. Do alternative development actors challenge discourses and practices of solidarity and social justice? Citizen initiatives within humanitarian aid and development are challenging established NGO systems, and religious actors are being recognised as important development partners. The panel will provide a space for discussions about challenging and challenges of development, solidarity and social justice.

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Sustainability Of Development Interventions, A Matter Of Evolution?

Sara Kinsbergen

Radboud University, Netherlands, The


Worldwide, an increasing number and diversity of actors take up an active role in the field of international development cooperation. Companies, philanthropists, famous stars and ordinary individuals alike feel urged to actively contribute to the global fights against poverty. In the Netherlands, we bring these actors together under the heading of the philanteral aid channel. The voluntary character is the most important trademark that binds the different actors in this channel and distinguishes them from other, more traditional development actors.This study focuses on one vast group of alternative development actors: Private Development Initiatives (PDIs). These organisations are characterised by their small size (i.e. small budget and limited number of staff) and voluntary character (i.e. low percentage of paid staff members).

In 2010, a first longitudinal study on the work of PDIs started. Fifty Dutch PDIs and their local counterparts participated in a study on the sustainability of their development interventions. The study took place in the Netherlands, Kenya and Indonesia (Kinsbergen et al., 2017). Nearly ten years later, the second phase of the study took place. Through re-visits of 16 of these organisations, both in the Netherlands and in Kenya, the coming-of-age of their development interventions is analysed. Through the lens of the generation-strategies of Korten (1990), the evolutionary nature of the interventions is being studied. More precisely, this article questions if there is indeed, as suggested by Korten (1990: 115), ‘a pattern of evolution […] away from more traditional relief activities […] towards greater involvement in catalysing larger institutional and policy changes’.

Kinsbergen, S., Schulpen, L. and Ruben, R. (2017). “Understanding the Sustainability of Private Development Initiatives: What Kind of Difference Do They Make?” Forum for Development Studies 44, no. 2: 223-248.

Korten, D. C. (1990). Getting to the 21st Century: Voluntary Action and the Global Agenda. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press.

Combating Violence Against Women - A Contested Global Norm

Lars Engberg-Pedersen

Danish Institute for International Studies, Denmark

UN declarations and agreements are a significant tool to try to define 'development'. However, they constitute but a temporary definition as subsequent international meetings may redefine the prescriptive global norms that seek to concretise ‘development’ (Fejerskov et al. 2020). An example of this is the elimination of violence against women which was strongly articulated in a UN declaration adopted in 1993 and reiterated in the Sustainable Development Goals 5.2 and 5.3 in 2015. Nevertheless, elements of this set of norms have been strongly disputed at the annual sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women by a variety of countries and actors. These sessions normally lead to Agreed Conclusions, but in 2003 and 2012, both sessions focusing on violence against women, they failed to do so (Kabeer 2015). While the failure to reach consensus in 2003 was linked to the heated debate of Iraq in the Security Council at the same time, a quite diverse group including the Holy Sea, US conservatives, Russia and a number of Muslim countries blocked an agreement in 2012. This suggests that ‘development’ may be phrased and contested by rather heterogenous groups of actors, and that the struggle to define ‘development’ has much to do with national politics.

This paper addresses three questions: (i) To what extent do global norms on the elimination of violence against women change over time? (ii) What global-local dynamics influence this norm development? (iii) What are the implications for how such global norms affect country-specific social change? Much of the literature on norm diffusion take global norms as a fixed point of departure and study how they spread and influence local dynamics. However, such processes may depend on the history of norm development in the first place, on the broader ideational context of particular norms and on the specificities of the normative battles that global actors wage.

The paper is based on written accounts of international negotiations on the elimination of violence against women from 1993 until today as well as interviews of participants in and observation of the 2020 session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Fejerskov, A., L. Engberg-Pedersen and S.M. Cold-Ravnkilde 2020. Rethinking the study of global gender equality norms: Towards a situated approach. In Engberg-Pedersen, L., A. Fejerskov, and S.M. Cold-Ravnkilde. Rethinking gender equality in global governance: The delusion of norm diffusion. Palgrave Macmillan.

Kabeer, N. 2015. Tracking the gender politics of the Millennium Development Goals: Struggles for interpretive power in the international development agenda. Third World Quarterly, 36:2, 377-395.

Conundrums of Development, Global Solidarity, and Justice.

Sebeka Richard Plaatjie

University of South Africa, South Africa

Can unjust polities produce a just society? Is justice ever possible in the absence of truth? This essay examines contemporary development discourse from within the forgoing questions, and reflects on its possibilities and constrains, for a just development paradigm. We argue that the prevailing developed discourse is the art of war and is predicated on the theory of ‘right of conquest’. This is a ‘right’ of the western world against the conquered racialized indigenous people of Africa, in the unjust wars of colonialism. Development in this context is, the very source of injustice and global disharmony which, nevertheless can still also be liberated from itself. We argue that development, global solidarity and justice is possible only in a post-conquest development paradigm. This is a paradigm in which the conquered peoples must first enjoy untrammeled citizenship of the world, b) that the western world also makes amends for the crime of colonialism and, that development must open itself to civilization by Africans, amongst other imperatives. We further propose and map out an African civilization project for development from the African philosophical perspective, to which this essay pays considerable attention.

Creating and Sustaining Legitimacy in Citizen Initiatives for Global Solidarity: The Roles of Project Coordinators in The Gambia

June Fylkesnes

University of Agder, Norway

This paper explores the legitimising space in which citizen initiatives for global solidarity (CIGS) operate. In particular, it investigates the role that project coordinators in a beneficiary country play in supporting CIGS legitimacy, both vis-a-vis Norway as well as towards the communities where the projects are based. Qualitative interviews from The Gambia inform the paper and literature on NGO legitimacy is used to compare and contrast NGO and CIGS’ legitimacy claims.

Little is known about citizen initiatives for global solidarity (CIGS) in Norway, and they are distinguished from more established NGOs by their small scale, that they are based on voluntary work and that they do not receive funding from a national aid budget (Kinsbergen and Schulpen 2013). NGOs may carve out a legitimising space for themselves in the official Norwegian development aid landscape, but how do CIGS manage to create and maintain legitimacy when they operate mainly outside the official aid structures?

Atack (1999) discusses normative legitimacy, whilst Ossewaarde el al. (2008) state that NGOs must also consider legitimacy in regulatory, cognitive and output terms. Lister (2003) states that NGO legitimacy is often described in technical terms, using in particular concepts such as ‘accountability, performance, representativeness’, whilst the questions of ‘legitimate to whom?’ and ‘legitimate for what?’ should also be considered. She claims that, beyond technicalities, legitimacy is also a social construct. Lister (2003) states that legitimacy might mean different things to different stakeholders, that several sources of legitimacy exist, and that time and space will influence the meaning-making of the legitimacy concept.

This paper argues that legitimacy for CIGS is largely socially constructed. Qualitative interviews with project coordinators in The Gambia are used to explore further Lister’s questions of ‘legitimate for whom and for what?’. The paper finds that the project coordinators create and sustain several legitimacies. The paper discusses how the coordinators balance these legitimacies vis-à-vis various stakeholders.


Atack, I. (1999). Four criteria of development NGO legitimacy. World Development, 27(5), 855-864

Kinsbergen, S. and L. Schulpen (2010). The Anatomy of the Private Initiative. Radboud University Nijmegen, Centre for International Development Issues Nijmegen.

Lister, S. (2003). NGO legitimacy: technical issue or social construct? Critique of anthropology, 23(2), 175-192.

Ossewaarde, R., Nijhof, A., & Heyse, L. (2008). Dynamics of NGO legitimacy: how organising betrays core missions of INGOs. Public Administration and Development: The International Journal of Management Research and Practice, 28(1), 42-53.

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