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Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals

Mission unfulfilled

This blog series was launched with a sharp opinion by Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in particular on the role of trade in them. Marc Maes (11.11.11-Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement) agrees that the SDGs do not question the neoliberal paradigm. However, he argues that trade policy does play an important role in the Agenda 2030. He systematically illustrates how the different trade provisions have been barely implemented. Trade policy should not only support the Agenda 2030, but it should also become more sustainable. European Union (EU) trade policy has been failing in this regard. 

The Coronavirus pandemic and the irrelevance of the SDGs.

Time for a Jubilee

According to Remco van de Pas (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp), SDG3 on health and wellbeing has been irrelevant to address global challenges in this area. The futility of this SDG and limits of the World Health Organization are today painfully clear in the approach of the covid-19 pandemic. Although the crisis was not unexpected, WHO member states have insufficiently invested and left much scope for charities and private investors. The author scrutinizes global public health policies and advocates the creation of a new Jubilee Campaign for indebted countries.

Blog series – debating the SDGs

In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were launched to great fanfare by the United Nations. Not only governments at different levels, but also NGOs and companies invest a great deal of time and energy into the SDG story. This year, a first state of affairs will be drawn up. There are still 10 years to go to reach the 17 general objectives and 169 sub-objectives. Time to evaluate and look ahead. This blog series by the Centre for Global Studies at Ghent University (Belgium) aims to foster critical debates on the SDGs.  

We will publish weekly episodes, from different authors – including academics and voices from the development sector – discussing the SDGs from different angles. 

This series is created in collaboration with MO*Magazine. The contributions will be published in English on this webpage and in Dutch on MO*Magazine. 

Episode 1: Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte (UGent) – Who wants some more old wine in new bottles? Why the Sustainable Development Goals will not save the world.

Episode 2: Remco van de Pas (Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp) – The Coronavirus pandemic and the irrelevance of the SDGs. Time for a Jubilee.

Episode 3: Marc Maes (11.11.11-Coalition of the Flemish North-South Movement) – Trade and the Sustainable Development Goals. Mission unfulfilled.

Episode 4: Francine Mestrum – How sustainable are the SDGs? We need more development, not post-development.

Episode 5: Chiara Macchi (Wageningen University & Research) – The SDGs and the urgency of human rights in times of crisis

Episode 6: Jonathan Matthysen (Oxfam Belgium) – The SDGs as double agent for progressive sustainable development

Episode 7: Bernard Mazijn (UGent) – Agenda 2030: the limits of multilateralism?

Episode 8: Brecht De Smet (UGent) – SDGs caught between development and underdevelopment. It is time for new alternatives based on old critiques

Episode 9: Tonia Novitz (University of Bristol) – The normative promise of sustainability for labour standards – and the limitations of the SDGs

Episode 10: Mia Kristin Häckl and Julia Schöneberg (University of Kassel) – It is time to abandon “development” goals and demand a post-2030 Utopia

Episode 11: Keya Khandaker and Lata Narayanaswamy (University of Leeds) – The unbearable whiteness of international development: the SDGS and decolonial feminisms

Who wants some more old wine in new bottles?

Why the Sustainable Development Goals will not save the world 

Jan Orbie and Sarah Delputte (Gent University) are of the opinion that the SDGs do not tackle – and may even strengthen – global injustice. Delays and failures in achieving the SDGs may easily be blamed on the global disruptions following the covid-19 pandemic. However, there have always been fundamental problems with the SDG approach. SDGs do not contain any structural reforms and further legitimise the existing world order, as evidenced by the role attributed to (free) trade.   

Seminar on Post-Development

Global Studies Research Seminar 2020

The making and unmaking of development: de- and reconstructions – May, 18-20

The Ghent Centre for Global Studies, together with the Governance in Conflict Network, invites participants for a spring seminar series on post-development, with reading groups (in February, March and April) and a 2,5 day seminar in May, with workshops and debates with keynote lecturers Jason Hickel (LSE), Lata Narayanaswamy (Leeds University) and Pavel Lopez (Università di Milano ‘Bicocca’). You can find the full program and registration information, here.

Call for applications – Erasmus Mundus Master Global Studies (EMGS)

The 2020 application round for the two-year Master program in Global Studies (EMGS) and the Erasmus Mundus grant is now open and we would like to encourage all suitable candidates to apply. 

EMGS combines approaches from Global History, International Studies, as well as Cultural Studies, Area Studies, Social Sciences and other disciplines. It is an interdisciplinary, research-based programme offered by a Consortium of six European universities: Ghent University (Belgium), Leipzig University (Germany), the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK), Roskilde University (Denmark), the University of Vienna (Austria) and the University of Wroclaw (Poland), in partnership with nine leading non-European universities in the field of Global Studies: Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia), Dalhousie University (Canada), Fudan University (China), Jawaharlal Nehru University (India), Macquarie University (Australia), Otago University (New Zealand),  University of California at Santa Barbara (USA), University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), University of Yaoundé I (Cameroon). 

The deadline for applications is February 15, 2020 for all applicants who want to be taken into consideration for the Erasmus Mundus scholarship and for admission to the programme, which starts in fall 2020. 

Further information on the programme is to be found under: as well as under: The direct link to the application website is:  Please do not hesitate to contact Mrs. Konstanze Klemm for any question related to the application process:

Public Lecture Houria Bouteldja – December 13, 2019

The Struggle for Decolonisation in France

On December 13, the French-Algerian political activist and writer Houria Bouteldja will speak on anti-racism, anti-imperialism, islamophobia and decolonisation at Ghent University, at the invitation of the Ghent Centre for Global Studies, the Middle East and North Africa Research Group, the Dept. of Conflict and Development Studies, the Governance in Conflict Network, TAPAS – Thinking About the Past, and the Centre for Research on Culture and Gender.

Friday December 13 – 18:00 – Academieraadzaal, Volderstraat 9.

What’s (y)our story? September 24, 2019

On September 24, the Ghent Centre for Global Studies and the 3 other Interdisciplinary Research Consortia, together with the Research Department of Ghent University, will organise a full-day event at Het Pand on “Storytelling for researchers” and “Science narratives in post-truth times”, with: 

  • a workshop for (junior and senior) researchers by multimedia agency Critical Narratives
  • a public lecture by the (investigative) journalist Joris Luyendijk
  • and lightning talks by UGent scholars: Marianne Maeckelbergh (Conflict and Development), Ronald Soetaert (Educational Studies), Julie Van Bogaert (History), and Tom Vander Beken (Criminology, Penal Law and Social Law) 
  • followed by a panel debate, moderated by Sami Zemni

Full program:

The event is open to researchers from all disciplines and to the entire UGent community, but please note that the workshop has a limited number of seats. Registration, before September 16:

Global Studies Research Seminar – Spring 2019

The Global Turn: key concepts and approaches in Global Studies

The Global Studies Research Seminar provides doctoral students (and advanced Master students as well as postdoctoral researchers) whose research is situated in, or related to, the field of Global Studies in‐depth and advanced training in contemporary critical Global Studies, and theory and methodology in related fields, such as Postcolonial and Subaltern Studies, International Studies, EU Studies, Area Studies, Conflict Studies, etc., next to general scholarly skills such as reading, writing, discussing and presenting.

This year’s edition of the Global Studies Research Seminar, will zoom in on globalisation as a multiscalar process, that takes place on a global-local continuum, involving global, regional, national and local actors and settings. Unlike top-down approaches and contrary to popular belief, in Global Studies the global is not considered to be separate from the local – like an abstract force from above to which the local can only passively subject. The global is always also locally situated and produced. We “see the global through the local and vice-versa” (McCarthy, 2014) and put local agency at the centre of our analysis.  Starting from this global-local continuum, we will subsequently introduce and discuss three key interdisciplinary conceptual frameworks and corresponding methodologies in Global Studies, that provide entry points or lenses to analyse these global-local processes: 1) assemblage; 2) frontier; 3) rule and resistance. (See program in annex 1 for further elaboration of the 3 conceptual frameworks offered in this course.)

Global Studies – defined as the study of contemporary globalisation and historical global processes – is a vibrant academic field that is inherently interdisciplinary. The interrelated, multi-level, global-scale challenges it addresses (economic and social development, urbanisation, resource depletion, etc.) are not confined to the realms of singular scientific disciplines. Although STEMM sciences are not necessarily excluded, in the academic landscape Global Studies is firmly rooted in the Social Sciences (especially political science, anthropology, economics and sociology)and Humanities (especially history and international law). It builds on critical, postcolonial and reflexive research traditions that question Eurocentric academic disciplinary boundaries and theories (Darian-Smith and McCarty, 2017). The inter- and transdisciplinary perspectives offered by Global Studies research provide new analytical tools to study the complex and interrelated problems that confront our globalizing world, thus enabling innovative research that is able to address these global challenges.

The learning targets of this course are:
1) practice of interdisciplinary in Social Sciences and Humanities, focused on the study of globalisation;
2) in-depth knowledge of analytical concepts and advanced methods in Global Studies;
3) ability to apply these concepts and methods to in one’s own research project.

Schedule and program

6 seminars of 3hrs each – in the spring semester of 2019 – Thursdays, from 1 to 4 pm.

February 14 – General introduction

  • Introduction of the Global Turn: defining the global / local continuum
  • Discussion of participants’ research topics: what makes your project a global studies research?

Lecturers: Julie Carlier, Christopher Parker and Eric Vanhaute

Required reading:  Eve Darian-Smith and Philip McCarthy (2017), The Global Turn. Theories, Research Designs and Methods for Global Studies, Oakland: University of California Press, chapter 2 and 3, pp. 29-75.February 28 – Approaching the global-local through the concept of assemblage

February 28 – Approaching the global-local through the concept of Assemblage

One way of studying the articulation of the global and the local, is the concept of assemblage. Global assemblages are the local articulations of global forms – territorialisations that create new material, social and discursive relationships, be they public sector reforms, forms of urban planning, or modes of accounting and organising the financial sector. Assemblage is a framework for analysis that foregrounds agency and remains close to practice, allowing for a critical and reflexive approach, and opening up a promising interdisciplinary trajectory for the Social Sciences and Humanities, focused on the study of globalisation.

International guest lecturer: Anna Amelina, Professor of Intercultural Studies, Brandenbug University of Technology
UGent GCGS lecturer: Christopher Parker, Professor of Conflict and Development Studies

Required reading:

  • George Markus and Erkan Saka (2006) ‘Assemblage’, Theory, Culture, Society 23 (2-3):  101-106.
  • Anna Amelina (2017) Transnationalising Inequalities in Europe: Socio-cultural Boundaries, Assemblages and Regimes of Intersection,  London: Routledge, pp. 60-81 (Chapter 4: Where to locate socio-cultural boundaries: Socio-cultural inequalities and their context)

March 14 – Approaching the global-local through the concept of frontier

A second framework to study the interaction of the global and the local, is offered by concept of frontier (and frontier zone), understood as the process (and the spatial setting) of the interaction between two different social systems. The frontier concept offers an analytical tool to examine the local dynamics of transformative processes that push globalization. Examples include the power struggles that come with land governance and property rights, the extraction and commodification of natural resources (e.g. mining), the planning of urban spaces, and the expansion of international trade regimes. Across disciplinary lines, “frontier” enables Global Studies scholars to link the local and the global, not by starting at the global level, but by departing from the frontier process itself.

International guest lecturer: Christian Lund, Professor of Global Development, University of Copenhagen
UGent GCGS lecturer: Eric Vanhaute, Professor of World History

Required reading:

  • Christhian Lund and Mattias Borg Rasmussen (2018) ‘Reconfiguring Frontier Spaces: the territorialisation of resource control’, World Development, vol. 101, pp. 388-399.
  • Ulbe Bosma and Eric Vanhaute (2017) “Capitalism and Commodity Frontiers. The Transformation of the Global Countryside” working paper of the Commodity Frontiers Initiative:

March 28 – Approaching the global-local through the concepts of rule and resistance

Thirdly, we focus on the new regulatory regimes and oppositions that emerge out of the interplay of global forces and local struggles. For, globalization structures concrete spaces and is simultaneously shaped by localized histories. This is not a symbiotic process: it is a contentious interaction that creates new rules and forms of governance, as well as new forms of resistance, from extractive industries and indigenous rights’ movements, to economic (de- and re-)regulations and social movements like Occupy Wall Street.

International guest lecturer: Lara Coleman, senior lecturer in International Relations and International Development, University of Sussex
UGent GCGS lecturer: Marianne Maeckelbergh, Professor of Global Sociology at Leiden University and as from November 1, 2018: professor of Conflict and Development Studies UGent)

Required reading:

  • Lara Montesinos Coleman and Doerthe Rosenow, Mobilisations, in: Pinar Bilgin and Xavier Guillaume (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of International Political Sociology. London and New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • Marianne Maeckelbergh (2011) Doing is Believing: Prefiguration as Strategic Practice in the Alterglobalization Movement, Social Movement Studies, 10:1, 1-20.

May 2 – closing session I– presentation and discussion of papers – part I

Participants apply one or more of the frameworks / concepts discussed in the sessions above to their own research project and explore its promises and pitfalls, possibilities and limits.
In-class discussion and feedback on the presentations

Lecturers: Julie Carlier, Christopher Parker and Eric Vanhaute

May 9 – closing session II–presentation and discussion of papers – part II

Participants apply one or more of the frameworks / concepts discussed in the sessions above to their own research project and explore its promises and pitfalls, possibilities and limits.
In-class discussion and feedback on the presentations

Lecturers: Julie Carlier, Christopher Parker and Eric Vanhaute