The development landscape has never been static but in these times of uncertainty and insecurity, we are witnessing ever more profound shifts in global relations, inequalities, and forms of exclusion.
Dominant trajectories and paths of ‘development’ have led the world to the brink of collapse. Around the world pandemics have deepened unequal access to health care and vaccines and have had negative socio-economic impacts structured along national, racial, gendered and class lines. Many forms of life on earth are close to extinction and global warming has led to severe and devastating wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other disasters. We are also experiencing a crisis of political representation, with public support for leaders and politicians waning. Due to fake news and cyber propaganda, we are witnessing a crisis of trust, which is triggering populist and nationalist narratives that undermine solidarity, collective action, and resistance.
This is combined with rising economic inequalities and occurrences of civil wars, local conflict and forced displacements. These global patterns are intimately interconnected: the growing climate emergency, the global pandemic, the protests against systemic and structural injustices and the rise in global inequalities. A fundamental rethinking of development has never been more urgent, timely and salient.
Worldwide protests calling for transformative and structural change, against racism and injustice, alongside calls to decolonise minds and acts have illuminated a path towards reflecting and rethinking how history has been framed through colonialist narratives and how these persist in the present. These tensions are a sign that human aspirations and ways of living, as well as perceptions of what constitutes development, are responding to mitigate, and hopefully overcome, the adverse consequences of these global patterns and crises. This will require greater understanding of the multiple and varied spatial and temporal rhythms of development be they: planetary, climatic and seasonal, economic and capitalist, political and institutional. The challenge is to consider a fundamental transformation of policies, practices, mindsets and behaviours, one based not solely on technological and scientific innovations but founded on cultural, intellectual and artistic creativity and inspiration. We need to consider a variety of data, evidence and research to identify key challenges and to develop new concepts, methods and policies.
The Lisbon conference aims to illuminate the various causes and manifestations of these current unprecedented challenges and to explore and map ‘new rhythms of development’.