Press Review: First Impressions April 2013

Welcome to our monthly internal press review, featuring the latest publications by UNU-MERIT and its School of Governance: from working papers to policy reports to entire books.

Our April output includes three working papers, a book chapter, and a background paper. Geographically, these cover migration through Ethiopia, Mexico, Morocco and the Philippines; parental leave for fathers in industrialized countries; as well as development and economic performance worldwide. Additionally, a book jointly published by UNU-MERIT, UNU-WIDER and UNIDO was featured by the UN News Centre.

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What Direction for Dutch Higher Education?

The current state and future prospects of Dutch education were the focus of a cross-school debate in April 2013, based on a recent report by Empower European Universities (EEU). Hosted by Amsterdam University College (AUC), the debate focused on the contribution of higher education policies to economic innovation in 32 European countries, as highlighted in EEU’s ‘State of University Policy for Progress in Europe’ report.

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Walk the Line: How to Reclaim our Public Spaces?

At some point every day, we use the most ‘human’ form of urban transport: our feet. Walking has always been the basis of human mobility and even now, in our mistaken belief that ‘development’ has to mean cities filled with highways and polluting vehicles, pedestrians are still fighting for recognition.

For many, this battle has intensified since the 1960s, thanks to Jane Jacobs’ book The Life and Death of Great American Cities. This challenged the US model of towns built for cars while criticizing previously ‘untouchable’ architects such as Le Corbusier and Robert Moses. Indeed, Jacobs’ public protest against Moses’ plans to build a highway over Washington Square Park in New York City is now legendary. Frustrated by the protests, Moses declared: “There is nobody against this. Nobody, nobody, nobody but a bunch of, a bunch of mothers.” In the end, the mothers won!

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Winds of Economic Change: Blowing Up an Innovation Storm?

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) flagship Trade and Development Report (TDR2013) will deal with the ‘Winds of Change in the World Economy: Rethinking Development’. The premise of the report is that the 2008 global economic crisis amounted to a structural economic break in the world economy, and that the consequent ‘winds of change’ blowing through the world economy are changing the economic landscape in a dramatic fashion.

This has both positive as well as negative implications for developing countries. For instance, on the positive side the share of developing countries is growing rapidly; many are converging fast with the more stagnant advanced economies. Arvind Subramanian remarkably describes present times as a ‘golden age of global growth’.

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Afghan Migration: Addressing Challenges, Mapping Futures

Afghanistan faces many changes in 2014, with the impending withdrawal of coalition forces and presidential elections set for the spring. In this climate of uncertainty, many are tempted to adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude; yet the country’s many complex challenges require urgent, coordinated responses. This was the message of an April 2013 conference organized by the School of Governance in the framework of the IS Academy project.

With nearly three quarters of its population affected by migration, and the largest number of international migrants worldwide, Afghanistan is a country at the heart of many debates on migration.

Now, more than ever, it is important to know what is pushing the culture of migration so manifest in Afghanistan. Next the international community needs to decide how it can help Afghanistan to develop adequate solutions for its massive migration challenges. (To this end, our playlist below presents several representatives from international organizations).

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The BRICS Summit: Innovative China and the Others

Another year, another month, another big summit: with the Doha-Round of the World Trade Organization a failure, and many Western economies stumbling from one financial crisis to another, the multi-polarization of the globe is gathering pace. One case in point is Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – the BRICS.

The 5th BRICS Summit recently took place in Durban, South Africa. Commentary on the BRICS and their summit often took contrarian positions. Some cheered the group’s existence and plan for a development bank, arguing it is high time for the emerging world to create its own institutions to replace the Western-dominated World Bank and IMF. Others reiterated their doubts whether the BRICS can be a coherent group at all. Some also tried to explain why and how the summit’s hosts, South Africa, a small and sluggishly performing economy compared to the others, came to be a member and how the country may end up being the 35th province of China.

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AlumniWatch: New Governance Insights from Jordan

For the latest in a new series featuring top alumni, we asked Dr. Zina Nimeh to share her impressions of the PhD programme and how it has shaped her career. Zina speaks of what brought her to Maastricht, the challenges of gathering data in the Middle East, and the poignancy of completing the course during the ‘Arab Spring’.

I joined the world of academia a bit later than the average academic. My professional career in policy making was fulfilling and rewarding, but I somehow felt that it lacked the depth and academic rigour that would make it truly meaningful. This is why when I learned of the launch of a new PhD programme in Maastricht, backed with funding from the Marie Curie Research foundation, I was intrigued!

Set to begin in the fall of 2005, the interdisciplinary programme offered a state-of-the-art curriculum taught by prominent scholars in a wide scope of fields ranging from economics, to sociology to political science. It promised to equip prospective researchers with an all-embracing combination of theoretical education, technical skills and personally tailored areas of knowledge which would be utilized through “evidenced based policy making”.

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