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Session Overview
2-SP098: Views on the EU as a Development Actor in Conversation with Postdevelopment
Tuesday, 06/July/2021:
11:00am - 12:15pm

Session Chair: Nathan Vandeputte, Universiteit Gent, Belgium
Session Chair: Prof. Sarah Delputte, Ghent University, Belgium
Session Chair: Dr. Julia Schöneberg, University of Kassel, Germany

Session Abstract

In contrast to Western development models centred on needs and economic development, postdevelopment questions the need for development as such, in favour of more radical alternatives endorsing global solidarity and social justice. Hence, departing from the argument that bridging EU development policy analysis with postdevelopment starts from a dialogue that must be based on tracing and unmaking colonial continuations, in this seed panel we harness the opportunity to scrutinize how such concrete ‘alternatives (to) EU development policy’ might look and how we – as (Western) academic scholars – can (or can’t) incorporate these into our own framework of development policy analysis.

EADI Working Groups: the European Union as a Development Actor and Post- and Decolonial Perspectives on Development

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Development Ethics and Changing Solidarities in the Second Postdevelopment Turn

Su-ming Khoo

National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

This paper discusses the ‘second postdevelopment turn’ in the context of changing conceptions and social foundations of Europe’s own ‘development’ model. It compares the current phase of postdevelopment thinking with an earlier phase, which came to prominence in the 1990s, with the wide dissemination of critical development theories e.g by Galeano, Escobar, the DAWN collective and Sachs. Many of these ideas and critiques of the first turn date back to the 1960s and 70s, so what is ‘new’ in the current critiques and 21st century calls to abolish development and search for alternatives?

Solidarity is a central but neglected principle in human rights, health, bioethics and development, and it is a concept full of contention, evasion and confusion (Khoo 2015a). Conceptions of solidarity have historically embedded hierarchies and exclusions, and therefore compel us to address power, control and resistance, while finding ways to recover overlooked subjects and marginalised voices. The ‘social market economy’ was the basis of the European development model from the 1940s, but social contracts began to change rapidly in the 1990s. Developing country demands for fairer global economic and political structures became salient in the 1970s, but had lost momentum by the 1990s (Alston 2001). The changing context affected how solidarity and the self and the ‘other’ of development was imagined, at the centre, at the margins and in-between. The changing social contract in Europe implies changing conceptions of solidarity within European countries and across the region, transitioning from a Europe of enlargement, integration and social inclusion in the first postdevelopment turn to a Europe of blatantly rising inequalities, hardening nationalisms, Brexit, borderization of people, and ‘externalization’ (Lessenich 2019) in the second postdevelopment turn.

The second postdevelopment turn returns the debates to whether external ‘development assistance’ is justifiable, given a changing social contract and a sense of developmental reversals and shortfalls within European borders. Meanwhile, border policing and the businesses of securitization, privatization, and ‘NGOisation’ are fragmenting the ‘development’ landscape and adding to the rationales for its abolition (Orbie & Delputte 2019).

I argue that it is not a rejection of development itself that is needed, since ‘development’ has always been emergent and contested (Khoo 2015b). What we need is a stronger engagement with development ethics as ‘postdevelopment’ comes to the fore once again. Many of the ethical challenges to development currently cluster under the demand for ‘decoloniality’, however decoloniality rather rarely intersects with feminist and human development, the major explicitly ethical theoretical and evaluative approaches in development theory. Some promising alignments have emerged connecting decolonial, feminist and human development approaches (eg Khader 2019; Sengupta 2018) and this article reviews and evaluates the joint potential for contesting the changing social contract within Europe, as well as its international obligations to render international assistance.


Alston, Philip (2001) “People’s Rights: Their Rise and Fall.” In People’s Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 259–93.

Khader, Serene (2019) Decolonizing Universalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Khoo, S (2015a) Solidarity and the Encapsulated and Divided Histories of Health and Human Rights Laws, 4, 272–295

Khoo, S-m., (2015b). Development Studies. In: James D. Wright (editor-in-chief), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2nd edition, Vol6. Oxford: Elsevier, 307–313.

Lessenich, Stephan (2019) Living Well at Others' Expense: The Hidden Costs of Western Prosperity. Cambridge: Polity

Orbie, Jan; Delputte, Sarah (2019) Let's Abolish the EU Commissioner for Development, GiC Network, August 7th 2019

Sengupta, Mitu (2018) ‘Post-development’, in Drydyk, J.; Keleher, L. (eds) Routledge Handbook of Development Ethics. New York: Routledge, 35-40

Assets Maps Or Undeveloping The North? Practical Consequences Of The Post-Development Critique

Aram Ziai

Universität Kassel, Germany

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Paradigm Change or Paradigm Lost? Stuck Between Rejuvenating and Rejecting Democracy Support

Nathan Vandeputte

Universiteit Gent, Belgium

This essay sets out to explore the contentious choice between either embracing ‘liberal’ democracy or its ‘alternatives’ when contemplating the standards for rejuvenating international democracy support. In a context of global democratic relapse, current recommendations and ideas to improve democracy are either liberal in essence – cf. emphasizing individual civic and political rights, and aimed at safeguarding liberalism from illiberalism – or democracy is presented as something uniquely different from liberal democracy. Borrowing from Africanist scholarship it has for example been stated that African democracy is consensual and egalitarian in character and if it follows the line of least resistance to Western democracy, it can only become a democracy of alienation. As such, western democracy support should be rejected.

Regardless, however, while both strands in the debate claim to pursue markedly different paradigms, in this essay I argue that both are nevertheless rather similar: they both present ‘democracy’ as an object of geopolitical competition; they both rely on normative reasoning, thereby excluding any irrational dissonance; and most fundamentally, both are rather elitist without sufficiently considering whether such claims are supported by democracy’s recipients, namely ‘the people’.

Taking some local Ugandan experiences as a reference point, this essay then concludes with the argument that the question of democratic progress does not allow for such binary choice between ‘Western democracy’ or ‘alternative democracy’. Rather, ‘democratic progress’ is more likely will be the result of a discursive struggle in which elements of both are rearticulated and find resonance. More fundamentally, as to the question of debating what paradigm of democracy support prevails, it should be about uncovering and embracing the paradigms that emerge from and find resonance with the people themselves.

Post-Development Elements In EU-Africa Relations: Where To Draw The Line And What Change Does The Post-Cotonou Agreement (2021) Bring?

Niklas Mayer1, Michael Richter2

1Maastricht University, Netherlands; 2University of Bremen, Germany

Post-development scholars argue that the reasons for increasing inequalities in spite of 70 years of ‘development cooperation’ are that the concept is used in a hierarchical, post-colonial way, with the aim of ensuring political and economic control and leverage over the ‘partner country’ (Schöneberg, 2020; Escobar, 2016).

The call for a “pluriverse” approach (Delputte, Orbie & Schöneberg, 2020; Mignolo & Walsh, 2018; Escobar & Esteva, 2017), accepting heterogeneity and alternative ways of development, giving agency to regional social movement and grassroot organizations and moving away from a standardized, Eurocentric ‘one-fits-all model’ would imply a paradigm shift for EU Development Policy.

We explore the change from Cotonou (2000) to Post-Cotonou Agreement (2021) and take stock of the last 25 years of EU-Africa relations. Our findings suggest that the EU now gives more agency to regional institutions, such as the African Union Institutions. Hierarchies are flattened in the approach of the EU towards Africa, as the sanctions mechanism (Art. 96 & 97 of the Cotonou Agreement) will likely be abolished and agency of African Union institutions has been highlighted. This reduces the patriarchal element of EU-Africa relations. Post-Development scholars would likely assess this as a step into the right direction. Nevertheless, Post-Development criticism may arise as the EU inspires and encourages the African continent to mimic the European pathway. In practice, this is seen in the African continental free trade zone (AfCFTA, started in January 2021), the African Free Movement Protocol (2018, 11 ratifications missing to enter into force) and the coordinated political Corona response by the African Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the African Commission.

From our point of view, EU development policy towards Africa should be aware of Post-Development criticism, in order to create truly equal partnerships instead of hierarchical dependencies. The interests of both continents should be reflected in their multilateral relations with each other, local movements should be supported and local interests should have more weight than a European blueprint for development. However, whilst analyzing the EU’s evolved approach towards the global south, we argue that certain values and practices represent universally attainable goals. Aspects like corruption control, ambitious climate change action, or human rights have to be promoted by EU development policy and thus need to be recognized as universal. Whilst the departure from a strict one-size fits all model might be beneficial, it must not turn into an instrument for the stabilization of authoritarian regimes. Hence, we propose that development policy within the EU’s approach towards its neighbors needs to be differentiated and suitably adapted to its specific context, whilst not losing sight of universally attainable goals. This might only be achieved by the adaptation of a “hybrid model”, combining some Post-Development policy considerations on a strong ground of universal values and norms in the EU’s approach towards the South.

This article draws on an analysis of policy-documents and multilateral agreements (especially the Cotonou and Post-Cotonou Agreement), on academic literature, on newspaper articles, reports from the EU-AU summit and on expert interviews. By doing so, we give policy-recommendations on where to draw the line between implementing Post-Development elements into EU-AU relations and insisting on universal values and goals.

The ‘Good Life’ As An Alternative To Neo-liberal Governance: Proposing A Post-development Approach To EU Resilience-building In Central Asia

Fabienne Bossuyt1, Nozimakhon Davletova2

1Ghent University, Belgium; 2University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Uzbekistan

This paper draws on post-development thinking in order to further advance the nascent scholarship that critically engages with the European Union (EU)’s approach to resilience as part of the EU’s external governance policy. Considering the limited effectiveness of the EU’s promotion of governance in its neighbourhood and further afield, the paper joins those scholars who argue in favour of a radical departure from the neo-liberal approach that the EU follows in its conceptualization and promotion of resilience in third countries. In the EU’s new Strategy for Central Asia, which was launched in May 2019, boosting the resilience of the Central Asian societies is singled out as a key priority. The paper argues that if the EU is serious about promoting resilience as a way to empower ‘the local’ and contribute towards a truly sustainable future for the societies of the Central Asian countries, then the EU will need to embrace a de-centered, post-neoliberal approach to resilience. This implies that the EU would have to accept ‘the other’ - in this case, the Central Asian societies - for what they are and advocate home-grown self-organization based on a deep understanding of the local meaning of good life. Empirical illustrations to substantiate this claim are drawn from a concrete case, namely the Mahallas in Uzbekistan.

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