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RP 3: Globalization and Development

How to achieve inclusive and sustainable development? Globalisation and economic development have transformed the lives of many for the better. Yet persistent or even rising economic, social, and political inequality, and climate change and environmental degradation call into question the capacity of globalisation and multilateral trade and investment rules, as well as the prevailing pattern of development to deliver progress for all and to respect our planetary boundaries. The Globalisation and Development Research Programme studies the economic, political and social foundations of inclusive and sustainable development.

Our research is primarily empirical in nature and focuses on practical solutions to reconcile economic development and globalisation, human development, and sustainability through better policies, governance, and practices. We draw on the regional knowledge and broad methodological expertise of GIGA researchers from development economics and related disciplines, especially comparative politics, and international political economy. Our particular strengths are in original data collection, experimentation, and policy innovation. We strive to bridge the gap between theory and practice by engaging in fundamental research, in policy analysis, and in designing and testing new policy interventions. Much of our research is therefore carried out in partnership with national governments, international development agencies, and NGOs. We engage in high-level policy dialogues, have well-established working relation with policy-makers and practitioners, including in the Global South, and conduct rigorous impact evaluations.

We focus on three research areas that address different aspects of inclusive and sustainable development in the Global South. The Trade, Investment and Sustainable Transformation Research Team studies the ambiguous impacts of global forces, such as digitalisation, global value chains, international investments, as well as the representation of the Global South in international trade and investment negotiations. The Institutions, Governance and Political Economy Research Team investigates the quality and performance of institutions and governance processes and their capacity to contribute to inclusive and sustainable development. The Education, Health and Employment Research Team analyses mechanisms to overcome poverty, exclusion and inequality. It focuses on labor markets, the inequalities in access to (quality) health care and education as well as the role of social protection.


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Research Teams

We focus on three research areas that address different aspects of inclusive and sustainable development in the Global South. The Trade, Investment and Sustainable Transformation Research Team studies the ambiguous impacts of global forces, such as digitalisation, global value chains, international investments, as well as the representation of the Global South in international trade and investment negotiations. The Institutions, Governance and Political Economy Research Team investigates the quality and performance of institutions and governance processes and their capacity to contribute to inclusive and sustainable development. The Education, Health and Employment Research Team analyses mechanisms to overcome poverty, exclusion and inequality. It focuses on labor markets, the inequalities in access to (quality) health care and education as well as the role of social protection.

Research Team 1: Trade, Investment and Sustainable Transformation

This research team is concerned with globalisation – understood as a process of increased economic integration through international trade, investment, and human mobility, – as well as its socio-economic and environmental repercussions. Our research looks at key global questions, such as threats posed to the multilateral world trade order by geo-economic competition and weaponised interdependence. We are also interested in the way globalisation interacts with and shapes other megatrends. This includes climate change where our focus lies on how low and middle-income countries can “decarbonise” economic development. Another example is the role of digitalisation and the service sector for structural change in developing countries.

Our research projects often examine and compare the local impacts of these trends, globalisation and related polices – building on original data from the GIGA regions. For example, we are part of the Land Matrix Initiative, which collects data on foreign large-scale land investment in various countries and the related research focuses on the impacts of these “land grabs” on rural livelihoods. In our analyses of policies, for example of climate policies, sustainability and labour standards, and investment promotion policies, we assess how economic, social and environmental ends can be reconciled.

Research Team 2: Institutions, Governance and Political Economy

Effective governance is a prerequisite for inclusive and sustainable development. The Institutions, Governance and Political Economy team focuses on the quality and performance of institutions and governance processes in developing countries. We study governance failures, such as corruption and elite capture, problems of collective action and public goods provision, and social conflict. In these contexts, we examine how governance outcomes can be improved through institutional design or policy interventions. For example, some of our research focuses on decentralisation and local governance performance. We have developed tools to monitor institutional capacity and local government performance at large scale and we conduct field experiments to test ways of improving local government performance and strengthening formal and informal accountability towards citizens. We also examine informal social norms shape the behaviour of elites and citizens and the functioning of formal institutions. For example, through field-based behavioural research, we investigate how religious ideas influence social behaviour and what mechanisms can help to reduce discrimination of outgroups due to their religious beliefs, ethnic origin or gender .

Research Team 3: Education, Health, and Employment

This research team explores education, health, and labor market topics. Our work thus looks at the causes and consequences of poverty and the dramatic wealth, income and social inequality that characterises many countries of the Global South. We also analyse discrimination related to race, ethnicity, gender, and religion. Our research covers a wide range of crucial social issues related to the design, scope, and implementation challenges of social protection programs, the creation of decent work and sustainable and gainful employment at fair wages, the access to affordable and essential health care services, the global and regional fertility transition, and the achievement of quality schooling and learning.

The team is frequently involved in rigorous impact evaluations of specific policies and development interventions, for example in schools and for firms and farms in poor contexts. In these evaluations, which typically require large-scale data collections, we can build on long-standing collaborations with local partners and relevant policy communities. In comparative analyses, we collect the experiences from different contexts to produce policy-relevant insights that we share, inter alia, through well-established networks and collaborations with international organisations.