CGD Summer School 2016 – A Week of Sun, Socialising and SDG Solutions

The feelings and basis of the Summer School was a meeting of people from all over the world, with valuable views born out of their experiences from their countries. This collaboration of minds was fantastically fresh for me, and I will carry this experience throughout the rest of my education in Leeds…

Luke Humphrey blogs about this year’s CGD summer school

The summer sun shone around Leeds especially for the students of the 2016 Centre for Global Development EADI (European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) Summer School. Chock full of distinguish and specialised academics from across the world giving lectures and workshops on a smorgasbord of eye-catching development subjects ranging from Climate Change to Development Journalism.

summer_school_2016_LukeAs a second year International Development student at the University of Leeds, many subjects over the week were second nature, but what was not familiar was the bottomless amount of knowledge, depth and insight provided by both seasoned lecturers and a diverse and engaged group of students. What was most enlightening in fact was the discussions and debates from the students coming from four different continents across the world altogether for the school. A scorching hot Monday set the scene for a double dose of development talks. Firstly from Professor Cuz Potter and Jinhee Park, an intriguing and informative tale of city transformation, rural to urban, green pastures to dense city high rises. Cuz and Jinhee pulled in their extensive knowledge of South Korea. What becomes immediately apparent is how interconnected development is with so many other fields of study, from Architecture & City Planning to Engineering and Construction, development is at the heart of what we are studying, but it stretches out so much further when applied to real life projects and transformation of societies in the developing world. Not only does this huge spectrum of study find its way into the lectures, but also it shines through the wide variety of student’s backgrounds. Engineers, Geographers and Historians alike gather to study a constantly growing field full of potential. What cannot be stressed enough is the limitless amount of different experiences and background from the participants which greatly enriched every debate and discussion during the summer school.

Although the main focus of the lectures was on the Sustainable Development Goals, a huge chunk of the topics covered, whether it be urban healthcare, community resource management or development journalism, included the role of gender in these development policies and efforts. If urbanisation causes healthcare to fall by the wayside (as discussed by Dr Helen Elsey in her fascinating lecture ‘Can Urbanisation be Healthy? Equitable Responses to Urban Poverty and Health’), it is women and girls who are usually hit the hardest, and subsequently, if an educational development plan is set up in a developing country, it is usually women and girls who can benefit the most from the scheme. Gender proved to be of vital importance in the summer school discussions, finding its way into the majority of the captivatingly creative end of school presentations by the students. Not only that, but in the context of the schools discussions – the SDGs feature gender heavily in their 17 goals. In fact gender equality and women’s empowerment has its own goal – 5: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. Gender equality breathes through every single goal however, whether it be protecting our world’s oceans (goal 14) or ending hunger (goal 2). Certainly what can be drawn from the week is that gender is crucial and paramount to achieving any of the 17 SDGs, and to ignore it would devastate any development project whether it be on education or city planning.

The stand out event of the week was of course the keynote lecture delivered by Professor Joyeeta Gupta – ‘Sharing our Earth: The Role of the SDGs’. Professor Gupta’s credentials would make any development geeks jaw drop – a leading author on the 2007 Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to sitting on the editorial board of Environmental and Social Policy, the International Journal on Sustainable Development and the Review of the European Community and International Environmental Law to name a few. Joyeeta brought in some home truths about the SDGs involving the environment and sustainable living – that without conscious sustainable policies by governments willing to accept a sustainable development mandate, many of the SDGs cannot be achieved, and the hopes of transitioning towards sustainable of living will be dashed. Ultimately cooperation and the shared access to resources in a sustainable manner is vital to 21st century environmental development and therefore vital to the SDGs.

Since the summer school ended on Friday the 10th Jun, one thing sticks in my mind, and I am sure the minds of many of the other students, volunteers and lecturers. On the 23rd June, Great Britain voted to leave the European Union, bringing with it a collapse in its currency, trade, government and arguably its society. The feelings and basis of the Summer School was a meeting of people from all over the world, with valuable views born out of their experiences from their countries. This collaboration of minds was fantastically fresh for me, and I will carry this experience throughout the rest of my education in Leeds, and hopefully onwards into the world of development work. It is easy to despair when cooperation and shared values seems impossible in a country which has just voted to leave a union of countries who have worked to push through ground-breaking environmental laws and regulations. In light of this referendum result, hate crimes have soared as those with ignorant and intolerant views of migrants and of their fellow person in general have seen a political mandate which they identify with, gain 52% of voters support. Trust in politicians has crumbled as leading Leave campaigners have immediately retracted their promises of imminent immigration control and that £350 million will now be free to be spent on the NHS. But this shows that more than ever we need the sustainable development governance and policies that Professor Gupta speaks of. In the words of British MP Jo Cox, “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. This is painstakingly obvious when you sit down with those who are from all over the world and speak to them about their experiences and views, as we did in the 2016 CGD Summer School. I believe this was the main message of the school – that without recognizing our many many similarities and begin to cooperate and share our world through truly sustainable and strong governance, we will continue down this divisive and intolerant path laid out before us in the past month.