Joint conference of exceed (Excellence Centers for Exchange and Development) and
the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)


Almost seven decades after the program of ‘developing the underdeveloped regions’ was launched, its results are ambivalent. While some point to successes of development cooperation and recently the Millennium Development Goals in reducing poverty in the global South, others attribute these successes mainly to China and to modifications of the international poverty line (Hickel 2016). Even the entire paradigm – helping countries become like the global North – has been criticized as eurocentric. In a situation where still thousands die each day due to lack of food, medicine and clean water and where power inequalities often continue to underlie cooperation, it is paramount to reflect how development cooperation could be improved or even rethought in the light of previous experiences and of current conditions and dynamics.

One important area of consideration is how new instruments of development cooperation (e.g. budget support), rising powers, new donors and South-South cooperation (Quadir 2013) might change the framing, effectiveness and fairness of cooperation, how they fare in these respects so far and why. Since 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals are heralded as the new way forward, also re-framing development as well as cooperation and likewise leaving behind the dichotomy of ‘developed’ vs. ‘developing’ countries.

However, if the apparatus of development cooperation – be it of old or new donors – functions as an ‘anti-politics-machine’ (Ferguson 1994) that conceals the political dimension of power and conflicts in its operations, cooperation must also be reconsidered on a different level. Organized interventions in collective affairs according to a standard of improvement (Nederveen Pieterse 2010: 3) have always benefitted some groups more than others. It is time to rethink and modify development cooperation accordingly, if our aim is improving the livelihoods of the poor, we need to recognize the different social groups, their interests and their political conflicts.

The organizers of the conference “Rethinking development cooperation” – the five Excellence Centers for Exchange and Development (exceed) and German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) – have combined forces to re-evaluate whether current principles for effective development cooperation are suitable or not.

During the course of the conference, the following topics will be discussed: