Wednesday, 19 October 2011

GUEST BLOG: Rethinking Development in an Age of Scarcity and Uncertainty

Louisa Fearn is a third year undergraduate student at the University of Leeds where she is studying Environmental Geology. Below she reports on a recent conference she attended, sharing her insights as a geologist with a keen interest in international development.

"Last month I attended a conference on international development held at York University from 18th- 22nd September: ‘Rethinking Development in an Age of Scarcity and Uncertainty: New Values, Voices and Alliances for increased Resilience’ was jointly held by the DSA (Development Studies Association) and EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes).

The event, attended by 750 development academics and practitioners, was the largest gathering of its kind in 30 years. I worked in a team of 30 student volunteers that organised the running of the event, and in return could attend sessions fitting with my responsibilities.
Themes of the conference included climate change, migration, conflict, gender, research methods and governance. In addition there was a more discrete theme of lectures and working groups that all indirectly demonstrated the importance of geology as a discipline in international development. As a natural scientist, I was very much in the minority and one of the highlights was appreciating the differences between natural and social scientists and the challenges this creates when aiming for interdisciplinary work.

A few of the presentations focussed on the role of the extractive industry in development:
Constraints, Opportunities and Hope: Artisanal Gold Mining and Trade in South Kivu (DRC).Sara Geenen of University of Antwerp, Belgium. This was an excellent presentation, emphasising themes Joel brought up in an earlier post on the impacts of unregulated artisanal mining.

The Rhetoric and Reality of Transparency in Energy Governance: The Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and Publish What You Pay Campaign.James van Alstine, University of Leeds. I could not attend this lecture but have met James who researches and works in corporate responsibility, seeking to establish informal and formal (Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative) rules to govern the impacts of societal and environmental impacts of oil, gas and mining companies.

Another lecture considering the extractive industry was from
France Bourgouin, Danish Institute for International Studies:  Mining for Sustainable Development? What Role for Multinational Mining Corporations in Resource-Rich Developing Countries.’ Using a case study of gold mining in Tanzania, France discussed the role of Barrick Gold in the development of the nation.

Perhaps the lecture I found most interesting was from
Graham Davies of Colorado School of Mines in ‘Replicating Sachs and Warner’. A former metallurgical engineer now researching resource extraction and development, he discussed the possible reasons for poverty, ranging from the resource curse to geography, demographics and the potential for focussing on health and sanitation as a mechanism out of poverty.
I thoroughly enjoyed the event, and it gave plenty of scope for considering the role of a development specialist in geology, and indeed, the role of a geologist in global development."