News  New development studies institute redefines vision

McGill launched the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID) on Monday with an inaugural conference focusing on the future of development. ISID will absorb the existing Centre for Developing Areas Studies (CDAS) into its broader mandate to renew energy for development in a changing global context.

Like CDAS, ISID will continue to be committed to multidisciplinary research, but with renewed emphasis on accountability and evidenced-based policy-making. It will eventually become home to undergraduate programs in International Development Studies, African Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies, as well as a new Development Studies option at the Master’s level.

Phillip Oxhorn, the ISID Director, stressed that the energy of youth interested in development figures centrally in the new institute.

“ISID brings under one roof what universities can uniquely do while also capturing the energy and commitment of young people,” he said, explaining that the institute is a response to changes in the global order.

Among those present was David Malone, President of the International Development Research Centre welcomed the launch of the institute by emphasizing the importance of their goal.

“Development is a dead serious business and should be treated with the seriousness it deserves,” he said, adding that it would be important for the ISID to break from Canadian precedent by sharing its success stories and disseminating its work more widely.

The evening’s visiting keynote from India, Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, pointed to the timeliness of the ISID given the rise of China and India.

“It will not be a shift without conflict,” he said. “Both have a sense of growth and entitlement, they are not negligible.”

Mehta expressed hope that development policy-makers and practitioners to be more critical of the various assumptions held within the field, and called on the development community to be more aware of state actions.

“The most representative and participatory states are not necessarily the most responsive,” he said.

Other attendees at the Institute launch include McGill President Heather Munro-Blum, McGill Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi, Canadian International Development Agency President Margaret Briggs, and International Development Research Centre President David Malone, the Right Honourable Joe Clark.

Roughly seventy people – mostly academics and practitioners – were present for the opening ceremonies at the Omni Hotel, with more joining in on Tuesday panels offering perspectives from donor agencies, non-state actors in development, various development institutions, and from youth practitioners, lasting throughout the day.

In his keynote address, Save the Children CEO David Morley acknowledged the privilege of speaking about poverty while conference delegates enjoyed a decadent three-course catered lunch.

Adam Matheson, U3 International Development studies commented on the elegance of the lunch.

“I understand the need to have a professional, formal conference to attract important speakers and guests; but a lavish 3 course meal while we listened to statistics on world hunger and squandered aid money seemed a little ironic.”