Development Days 2024 – Crises and Futures of/in Development

The Development Days conference, held on 15-16 February 2024, was a resounding success. We had many interesting and analytically rich sessions that provoked more discussion than what there was time for. The conference atmosphere was spiced with a tangible sense of community-building.

In the times of crises we live in, a stronger and critical development research community is indeed needed. The FSDR Chair and Conference Co-Chair, Bonn Juego, opened the conference with a welcome speech, touching on the annual gathering’s theme and proposing a “Development Studies as a Prefigurative Discipline of Conscience in the Time of Polycrisis”.

Professor Barry K. Gills delivered a nostalgic and, as always, critical keynote, reflecting on his five decades of “life in Development”. Professor Franklin Obeng-Odoom provided a thought-provoking introduction to the evolution of Gills’ work and ideas. This keynote was followed by a roundtable discussion involving Gills’ colleagues, co-authors, and students from throughout his career: Don Marshall, Jamie Morgan, Kevin Gray, Walden Bello, S.A. Hamed Hosseini, Anja Nygren, and Antti Tarvainen. As highlighted in the discussion and tributes during the roundtable, Gills is admired for the strong moral foundation of his academic work, his commitment to global justice and solidarity with the Global South, and his humility and courage to “go against the grain”, as Professor Marshall aptly put it.

The reminiscent and emotional atmosphere was palpable as the invited speakers and audience celebrated Gills’ career, achievements and the support he has given to students and colleagues since the 1980s, including and the past decade as professor in Global Development Studies at the University of Helsinki.

Collectively, we warmly thank Professor Barry Gills and wish him all the best as he is soon to step into retirement or, as suggested during the roundtable and the jovial evening reception at the City of Helsinki, into an “indefinite research leave”. The recording of Gills’ keynote lecture, as well as the roundtable in his honour, is available at FSDR’s YouTube channel.

Eminent scholars Jayati Ghosh and Alfredo Saad-Filho also delivered the keynote lectures.

In her enlightening lecture on “Development in the Time of Climate Crisis, Professor Ghosh discussed concepts such as climate imperialism, and reminded us why addressing inequality is essential in the climate crisis and its solutions. Against the common public narrative, the Global North is responsible for nearly 80 per cent of global cumulative carbon emissions from 1850 to 2011. She further posited that if inequality is reduced, poverty eradication is indeed compatible with climate change mitigation, given the richest countries and individuals cause the most carbon emissions globally. Ghosh’s keynote lecture received a commentary from Professor Teivo Teivainen.

The closing keynote lecture was given by Professor Alfredo Saad-Filho, whose critical and thought-provoking lecture was titled “Neoliberalism in Crisis: Challenges and Alternatives”. In his keynote lecture, Filho presented a comprehensive overview of the crises that the neoliberal system has contributed to, including a critique of financialisation. The keynote session was commented by Professor Markus Kröger and followed by a range of questions and discussion from the audience.

Some photos from the conference: