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Harvesting questions: the results of the first two ERD consultations, and a quick look ahead


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During the next few months, a team of authors from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the German Development Institute (DIE) and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) will be busy with drafting the 2012 European Report on Development (ERD). Similar to the first two editions, this report will be prepared through a collaborative effort, to which many researchers from other institutions and parts of the world will contribute.

The focus of this report will be on how natural resource management can promote inclusive and sustainable growth. Within this overall theme the report will start from a contextual analysis of increasing scarcity and the effects of climate change, and will explore the actual and possible roles of public and private actors (both for-profit and non-profit) as they engage in the management of water, energy and land in order to promote inclusive and sustainable growth. The ERD will explore the hypothesis that increased scarcity has highlighted the existence of a water-energy-land (WEL) nexus, which suggests that appropriate natural resource management needs to be integrated and take into account the interdependencies amongst resources. While aiming for a global and diverse audience, one key objective for the report is to feed into the preparations and deliberations for the upcoming RIO+20 Earth Summit in 2012.

While it is obvious that the drafting team will be primarily concerned with ensuring an influential and high-quality research report as well as a strong set of background papers commissioned from other research institutions, it should be highlighted that such reports are based on wide consultations with the wider development research community. For this reason, the ERD team is organising a large number of consultation events throughout the research process to get inputs from different stakeholders with different areas of specialisation. In the past few weeks, two meetings were recently organised to gather additional expert inputs and views to inform the research process which will accelerate during the coming months:

On the 18th and 19th of May, a consultation in Maastricht examined how the report can best tackle the analysis of investments in land in developing countries, as well as explore more generally how applying a political economy lens might benefit the report’s analysis and messages. The discussions in this workshop underlined the many layers of complexity that come with the overall theme chosen for this report: the lack of a common definition as well as the intrinsic possible conflicts of the ‘inclusive and sustainable growth’ concept, the heterogeneity of investments in land in developing countries which does not make it analytically justifiable to categorise this under ‘land grabbing’, the fact that these investments can be valued differently from the perspectives of inclusiveness, sustainability or economic growth, etcetera.

Less than one month later, on 8 and 9 June, a consultation in Bonn provided the opportunity to discuss first ideas for the two water and energy chapters of the ERD report. Throughout the session, the so-called WEL-nexus (i.e. the idea that public and private sector activities in relation to water, energy and land are strongly interrelated and interdependent) was further interrogated, as was the potential added value it could bring to the report. Case studies were presented which further examined the implications of the investment made in the production of first generation biofuels (i.e. using crops that can also be used for human consumption), and several concrete examples were explored on the ‘political economy’ of investments in water resources in developing countries.

The two consultation events had in common that the number of questions greatly outnumbered the answers, something which has been quite valuable during this formative stage of the research process. For the coming months, however, it is clear that the search for answers must now be intensified. We need your further help with this.

While the search for answers is ongoing, a third consultative event in this phase of the study process will soon be held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 10 and 11 July 2011. This event, which is organised jointly with the African Economic Research Consortium, will look again at the three components of the WEL-nexus, but this time with a greater focus on the potential role and actual involvement of private sector actors, as well as how public policies may influence their activities with a view to promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.

Following this consultation, the ERD team members as well as the authors of the background papers which have presented their own ideas during the consultation will face the joint challenge of putting their ideas and reflections on paper. It is however clear that we value highly the consultative part of the research process. This is also why this Blog as well as upcoming events (such as York in September) will be important means for the research team to continue discussions with various stakeholders.

This blog post is also available on the official ERD blog:

Niels Keijzer is Policy Officer Development Policy and International Relations.


This blog post features the author’s personal view and does not represent the view of ECDPM.


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Economic Transformation and TradeEuropean external affairsAfrica

External authors

Niels Keijzer