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Converging divergence? Unpacking the new geography of 21st century global development

Rory Horner and David Hulme

Global Development Institute Working Paper Series from GDI, The University of Manchester

Abstract: Building on a body of research on the “what” and “how” of post-2015 development, and motivated by the significant spatial shift to having a universal frame of reference in the Sustainable Development Goals, this article considers the “where” of contemporary development. The shifting geographies of economic, human and environmental aspects of development are charted. Some converging trends between the Global North and South render untenable the framing of international development as a 19th and 20th century world of “divergence big time”. Yet, some degree of global convergence does not adequately capture a world where development inequalities are profound. Instead, while the over-arching binary framing of development is blurring, such a trend is overlain by growing divergence at smaller spatial scales – especially within nations. “Converging divergence” characterises the new geography of 21st century global development, moving beyond overly optimistic claims of global convergence, but also beyond pessimistic accounts of the perpetuation of old development divides. The implications of “converging divergence” are explored and it is concluded that 21st century global development involves and must address a very different geography from that of 20th century international development.

Date: 2017
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