UNDP and Oxford Martin Programme to host workshop on Adapting International Institutions

13 March 2023

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A new workshop aims to support the next generation of Human Development Research

In April 2023, the Oxford Martin Programme on Changing Global Orders will partner with the UNDP Human Development Report Office in a workshop which will seek to extend and deepen the conversation on how we design international institutions and frame policy to proof them for the future, learning from the past.

As the 2021-2022 Human Development Report identified, we are seeing emerging and interacting layers of global uncertainty: from the inequalities and dangerous planetary changes of the Anthropocene, from rapid technological innovation and large-scale transformations of our societies, and from the intensification of political polarization making it harder to come together to tackle shared problems. Together, they drive distress and unsettle lives, calling for radically new approaches to development.

Many of these challenges call for an agility on the part of international organisations that is not always in evidence. Globalisation is not only multiplying the number of voices they need to listen to, but at the same time often radically differentiating them.

Convened by Pedro Conceição, Director & Lead Author, Human Development Report Office, UNDP and Andrew Thompson, Professor of Global & Imperial History Nuffield College, Co-Director of the Oxford Global History Centre, this workshop will bring together speakers from the fields of environmental and global history, economics, and international relations with leading experts from international organisations to explore a range of key questions:

  • What are the processes in the past that have limited the ability of institutions to change?
  • Conversely, what has previously animated institutional innovation and helped to propel organisational change?
  • How have international organisations responded to past periods of geopolitical upheaval?
  • When have the external challenges been too great for any single organisations to grasp? And what sort of collective action (if any) has then emerged?
  • How do we assess historical narratives of “collapse” versus “continuity” and how these narratives persist in conditioning our thinking about institutional formations and futures today?
  • What can we learn from the shifting configurations of global governance and how the international community has come to understand problems (e.g. emergency relief, human rights, peacekeeping etc.) in particular ways?

This workshop aims to build towards a contribution to the next generation of Human Development Research by exploring how international organizations may need to become more agile and adaptable to an evolving context. International institutions need to understand their history in order to appreciate what they currently are and what they might choose to become.