T he Svalbard Global Seed Vault, the world’s largest and most important secure seed storage facility, is located 1 300 kilometres beyond the Arctic Circle. The Seed Vault, established in 2008 by the Norwegian government, holds thousands of varieties of seed samples, including those of rice, wheat and beans. The main goal is to ensure…

The start of a new year offers an opportunity to reflect on goals, aspirations and plans as well as assess how realistic these are. Most low-income countries continue to plan activities over a five to 10-year period, often guided by documents variously promoted as visionary, ambitious and forward-looking. The day-to-day policy environment for ministers and…

The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has recently proclaimed 2019 to be the “best year ever” in human history. This bold claim is built on facts such as rising life expectancy at birth, reduced child mortality rates, growing literacy levels, increased access to electricity and piped water and our ability to fight major diseases.…

The Nobel laureate in economics Professor Amartya Sen has long argued that human beings constitute the ‘ends’ of economic activity, rather than its means. Indeed, Sen has, for decades, argued that “development” is not only about income but also about the human desire to live longer and better lives. Inspired by the work of Sen,…

T he Nobel laureate in economics Professor Amartya Sen has long argued that human beings constitute the ‘ends’ of economic activity, rather than its means. Indeed, Sen has, for decades, argued that “development” is not only about income but also about the human desire to live longer and better lives. Inspired by the work of…

On Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali became the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, this recognition was primarily due to Abiy’s “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”. Indeed, the breakneck…

My wallet never contains any cash and I almost never use an automated teller machine (ATM) in Norway. My life revolves around paying for services using mobile apps for bus and train tickets and parking and debit cards for groceries, fuel and all other household purchases. Even my children receive their weekly pocket money through…

M ost discussions on African development tend to include the leadership question. There is growing frustration, especially among Africa’s youth, on the inability of the current political system to provide them with better representation and a stronger say in how their countries are governed. Apart from the age factor, many of Africa’s leaders are also…

A little over a decade ago, there were widespread concerns over a major decline in global agricultural production and a corresponding rise in food prices. With the world’s largest share of arable land, Africa began to witness increased interest from foreign investors, who were optimistic of their ability to transform the continent’s agriculture sector while…

The world has achieved numerous developmental successes. Poverty has been eradicated in some parts of the world and drastically reduced in others (e.g. China and India). Impressive results have also been achieved in global health and disease prevention as well as in many other areas of development which I have discussed in this column. However,…

T he average world life expectancy at birth is now over 70 years. We are all living longer, and while this is good news, it is also creating enormous pressures on existing, and often fragile, health care services in many parts of the world. There is considerable focus in the international development discourse on the…

The first Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi last week has generated renewed interest in better understanding the growing competition among major world powers in Africa. While there has been considerable attention on Beijing’s and New Delhi’s motives and interests, Russia’s footprint on the continent has received less attention. During its Cold War rivalry with the…

Rwanda has been making news headlines in recent weeks. Despite being a small and landlocked country, with a brutal history of genocide, it is often viewed as a success story that others could emulate. For many years, Kigali has been praised for being one of the cleanest cities in the world, and many Africans increasingly…

Having uninterrupted access to electricity is taken for granted in many parts of the world. In Norway, we rely on an abundance of hydroelectric power to warm our homes and offices and to light up our cold and dark winters. Our lives are almost never disrupted by a power cut unless something extraordinary happens. The…

Addressing the challenges of climate disruption, international migration, pandemics, violent conflicts and poverty eradication require increased collaboration across national borders. The growth of nationalism and protectionist policies are, however, forcing many to rethink well-established understandings of the benefits of globalisation. Will the traditionally powerful actors of the Global North will be able to reassert their…

The role and impact of civil society organisations (CSOs) in voicing public demands has dominated recent headlines in many parts of the world. This has resulted in a renewed discussion on how such groups are able to influence public behaviour as well as highlight government failure. Many are also questioning whether CSOs should be involved…

Development is not only about income. The Nobel laureate Professor Amartya Sen has argued that human beings constitute the ‘ends’ of economic activity, rather than its means. In Development As Freedom, Sen writes: “Development is not about raising GNP. No one wants money for its own sake. One wants money for something else, including good…

The growing environmental risks posed by worsening air pollution has generated considerable media attention and resulting citizen anger in recent years, particularly in some of the world’s biggest economies. It is estimated that polluted air contributes to 7 million premature deaths every year. According to IQAir, a leading provider of pollution data, the ten most…

Access to, and the affordability of, medicines is now attracting increased global attention. There are several issues at stake – the actual costs of the research and development process, production costs, pricing policies and the bargaining power of individual countries to negotiate good deals. The rising cost of medicines is the primary complaint of most…

Over the past 10 days, I have been traveling across India giving a set of public lectures on sustainable development. During this visit I have had the privilege of interacting with a wide range of individuals— politicians, civil servants, fellow academics and the common man on the street. We have discussed and debated the numerous…