Development in 3D

Development Policy04 Feb 2008The Broker

It is generally accepted that globalization (or trade liberalization) is leading to greater inequalities worldwide, although the causes and solutions (if any) are heavily debated. There is less certainty about the spatial distribution of these inequalities. Is the greatest gap still between the North and South, a premise that has been the basis of development cooperation for the last 40 years? Or are the most serious disparities to be found within countries, between urban and rural areas, as others have recently demonstrated?

Or, as David Harvey and Manuel Castells have argued, does physical space actually matter? Perhaps the world economy is in fact a network with hubs in both rich and poor countries connected through financial and information flows. This may seem rather abstract, but why then are centres in both developed and developing countries (such as Brazil, China and India) increasingly profiling themselves as advanced service providers to those hubs of the globalized economy?

Such debates still usually take place far away from mainstream development discourses, which focus on – just as its infrastructure is framed by and for – the national level. In this respect it is interesting that the theme of the World Bank’s flagship World Development Report 2009 is Development in 3D: Density, Distance and Division. The aim of the report, according to the outline, ‘is to identify and understand the interactions between geography, economic activities and living standards, and to draw the implications of these interactions for public policy’.

The changes that accompany development can be observed in three spatial dimensions: rising density, falling distance and persisting division. After discussing the major forces that influence the spatial distribution of economic activities and of social welfare, the report will assess what public policies are most effective in facilitating the transformations that will be necessary both to sustain economic growth and reduce disparities in welfare.

WDR 2009 will focus on three policy debates – on urbanization in developing countries; on territorial development policies; and on the pros and cons of regional integration. Drawing on experiences in both developed and developing countries, the report will highlight policies through which governments have, intentionally or otherwise, shaped these disparities, and consider promising approaches and interventions.

The final report will be published in October 2008 (see this website).