The failure of COP26 to secure binding commitments delivering a pathway to global warming limited to 1.5°C is attributable to a UN political process that prevents addressing the inequalities between and within nations in generating greenhouse gases. Historical divergences of national wealth and the present extreme inequalities of purchasing power (Piketty, Milanovic, Savage) manifest themselves in how the richest people in the richest nations are now the leading forcers of climate change. A second dimension of inequality, receiving less attention, concerns the inequalities between nations of environmental resources in fossil energy, agricultural land, minerals and renewable alternatives. The concept of sociogenesis of climate change analyses the combination of these two dimensions of inequality to account for the present political impasse, national and international. A dominant feature of a nation’s wealth has historically been based on the unrestricted exploitation of its own environmental resources, or those that it commands through colonisation or trade. This has resulted in the US now producing more than double the CO₂eq per capita than China, or Germany consuming four times more coal per capita than India. The COP26 impasse on coal and fossil fuels arose in part from China’s and India’s unwillingness to strand its environmental assets without alternative pathways to equivalent national wealth, while wealthier nations continue to excessively exploit theirs. A sociogenic analysis of wealth and environmental resource inequalities signals the need for a radical change in the political processes required to mitigate the climate emergency.
This article considers the degree to which achieving equity in Global North–South research partnerships is possible under current UK funding models. While there has been significant discussion with respect to the decolonisation of research, it will be argued that there is some distance between the language of equity articulated currently by UK funding bodies, and the realities of working as a project partner in the Global South. The article draws on the prior and ongoing experiences of a multidisciplinary team of researchers brought together by a UK-funded research project. In the interests of moving towards more equitable systems of knowledge production and dissemination, it explores the power asymmetries that can be inherent in Global North–South research partnerships, and the extent to which issues of coloniality continue to shape aspects of research agenda setting, project framing, impact, academic publishing and the division of labour within partnerships.
The continuing coronavirus pandemic has combined with other global crises to highlight some of the fundamental challenges of inequality that currently face us. They are global both in their current configuration and their historical constitution. Similarly, any solutions to the challenges represented will be global. The continuing relevance of the social sciences will rest on their ability adequately to conceptualise the global processes involved. It is only by acknowledging the significance of the ‘colonial global’ that it will be possible to understand and address the necessarily postcolonial present that is the context for issues of inequality in the present. This article argues for the need to consider our colonial past as the basis for thinking about contemporary configurations of the global. This is followed by an address of the implications of these arguments for how we understand citizenship and belonging in the present. What is needed is a ‘reparatory social science’ committed to undoing the inadequacies that have become lodged in our disciplines and working towards a project of repair and transformation for a world that works for all of us.
This review article posits human migration as one of the most pressing social challenges of our time. We argue that challenges associated with migration and displacement will persist if their governance continues in piecemeal, performative and nationalist fashion, with the privileging of resource investment in national border fortification over addressing the root causes of migration and displacement. Advocating for intersectional and transnational approaches, we review some of the important, interdisciplinary dimensions of migration as a phenomenon that touches on every facet of human life. We then discuss how different groups of people on the move struggle with structural barriers to migration, as they attempt to access and then settle into new communities, and the challenges to inclusion and integration encountered in so-called host societies. Topics of discussion include borders and geographical divides, gender, sexuality, race, class, labour, displacement, rights, access and climate-induced migration.
Despite obstacles, institutional barriers and prejudices, interdisciplinarity is a growing movement within academia. Evolving from the pioneering experiences in broad multidisciplinary ventures since the post–Second World War era, interdisciplinary programmes and research projects are now a worldwide reality in universities. Complex and interconnected challenges of humanity, such as social unrests, economic and ecological crises, political turmoil and global human health emergencies demand integration of efforts and competencies of researchers from a wide range of backgrounds, and the involvement of actors from outside the academia. In recent years, complex challenges fuelling the need for better integration of work in universities and research centres with real demands of societies are further feeding transdisciplinary endeavours. Such movements pose new questions, ranging from institutional arrangements to methodological frameworks, which are far from being solved. This article reflects on the nature and practice of scholarly engagement in this trajectory during the 21st century from vantage points of the Global South. Some insights are based on what we have learnt over our work lives, and some are based on collected information about experiences in India and Brazil. This contribution also raises questions that could potentially concern other countries, especially in the Global South. However, it is not a handbook directly applicable to realities other than Brazil and India. Discussions in academia about pathways to interdisciplinarity should go beyond its legitimisation. The agenda now has to shift towards transdisciplinary co-construction of knowledge, by creating gateways to connect the scientific world to the ‘real world’.
Since the early 2010s, academic and policy debates about the interlinkages between climate and security have expanded and deepened. Climate is now widely acknowledged to magnify security risks especially in conflict or post-conflict contexts. This relationship is viewed as complex, dynamic and indirect, involving a wide range of intermediate variables. However, this discussion – and hence, related policy efforts – have tended to occur at highly aggregate levels of analysis, especially national, regional and global ones. Instead, this paper addresses climate-sensitive peacebuilding at the local level. What does local climate-sensitive peacebuilding look like on the ground? What are the promising areas for research and policy responses in fragile and conflict-affected settings? After offering a broad overview of climate-sensitive peacebuilding, we focus on the case of Afghanistan, drawing on specific examples that were in place prior to the 2021 return to power of the Taliban. We find that the traditional Western approach in the country – top-down, focused on hard security rather than human security and highly state-centric – tends to ignore the impacts of climate change. In addition, the dominant security paradigm overlooks the potential of local peacebuilding initiatives that address adaptation and resilience. We argue that climate-sensitive peacebuilding offers a bottom-up alternative to addressing the intersection of these risks in conflict-affected settings.
In this paper I argue that the new coronavirus pandemic has brought to light some of the contradictions and paradoxes of our time, namely the contrast between human fragility and the technological hubris linked to the fourth industrial revolution (artificial intelligence); and the contrast between the TINA ideology (there is no alternative) and the sudden and extreme changes in our everyday life caused by the virus, thus suggesting that there are indeed alternatives. I then analyse the main metaphors that have been used in public discourse concerning our relations with the virus: the virus as an enemy; the virus as a messenger; the virus as pedagogue. I prefer the last one and explain why, and in what sense the virus is our contemporary.
The United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) has thrust food systems transformation onto the main stage of international discourse in 2021. As recognised by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, food systems are at the heart of delivering on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals for people, planet and prosperity. There has been a growing recognition that the global food systems, as currently constructed, are flawed due to the high levels of food and nutrition insecurity, food losses and waste, rising levels of inequalities, health-related challenges, and high levels of environmental degradation arising from unsustainable production systems. This article provides reflections from my own experience as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit. It articulates the key drivers behind the conceptual shift towards systems thinking to addressing the world’s food challenges. The article discusses some of the challenges faced by the global food systems and highlights why a paradigm shift from the traditional narrow focus on production and self-sufficiency to a more holistic and integrated approach is urgently required. The article provides an African perspective to the food systems discourse, highlighting some of the priority actions identified by African stakeholders and articulated in the Africa Common Position to the UNFSS, which sets out Africa’s opportunity to turn adversity into opportunity through food systems transformation. The paper outlines some highlights of the Summit, with a view to emphasising the key transformative pathways and crucial next steps that are required at country and regional levels.
We live in surprisingly turbulent times. To be sure, plagues, conflicts, even cataclysmic environmental change, are not unknown in human history. On the contrary, they are the familiar accompaniment to the struggle for existence that continues to define life for so many on our overcrowded planet. It is hard to think of a period of human history when at least part of the world hasn’t been subject to some sort of apocalyptic crisis or another, not least because of pandemics.1 Whether it was ‘natural’, or the result of megalomania, miscalculation, or our collective mistreatment of the natural environment doesn’t make a great deal of difference to those on the receiving end. Despite all the remarkable advances that have taken place in economic and broadly understood social development, for many people, life can still be ‘nasty, brutish and short’, as Thomas Hobbes cheerily observed. The good news is that there is nothing inevitable about anarchy, nor is it necessarily the best way of thinking about IR; the world is still surprisingly orderly and rule governed. The bad news is that actual anarchy or old-fashioned chaos and mayhem are real possibilities if we don’t act collectively to address our common problems.
Realists might say that it was ever thus. And yet the remarkable thing about the times we inhabit is that, for a not inconsiderable number of people, something approaching ‘the good life’ is – or was – a reality. Significantly, in many parts of the world it is not only privileged elites who have benefited from the sorts of economic and technological developments that have underpinned truly astonishing increases in social welfare and standards of living.