In Spring 2016, one of the editors used the volume for a ten-session seminar at the United Nations University. This post provides the syllabus as an aid to anyone who wishes to replicate or adapt elements from this course in their own teaching.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: An in-depth examination of international development concepts and theories within their historical contexts, as well as current thinking and real-world evidence relating to international development.

CREDITS: Two credits. One extra credit is available for a fully satisfactory 15–20 page (double-spaced) research paper on a topic agreed upon by the instructor. A detailed outline will then be required and must be approved before a full draft is undertaken.

AIMS & OBJECTIVES: Students should gain a sound understanding of a wide range of concepts and theories relating to multiple facets of international development, and develop their own critique of the materials discussed in each class.  There are no pre-requisites for this course.


There is no exam in this seminar, which emphasizes broad participation by the students and not the professor (who will not be lecturing on the topics assigned). Students are only expected to read the “required” readings; additional optional readings are only indicated for those who have a deeper interest in a topic but will generally not be the basis of class discussion.

Students’ grades will be based upon submission of four 1-page reaction papers (no longer than 500 words each) written during the course period, in response to the questions listed below which relate to the readings for the subsequent class (60%). In-class participation will account for 40% of the grade.  Each of the reaction papers must focus on one question assigned for the following class. The first reaction paper will not count towards the final grade if it would drag the grade down. (In other words, no student will be penalized for a first reaction paper that is weak. Strong ones, though, will count towards the final grade.)

Reaction papers should avoid summarizing the readings, but rather engage with them to challenge and at times support the student’s own thinking. Students are also encouraged to disagree with the readings if their reasoning leads in this direction and is supported by convincing argumentation.




Class 1 – Development Ideas

  • The State of Development Thought (by Bruce Currie-Alder, Ravi Kanbur, David M. Malone  & Rohinton Medhora)
  • Amartya Sen’s Foreword (prefatory pp. x-xi).
  • Critical Issues introductory essay, pp. 17–20 in the course book


Class 2 – Study of Development / Development Theories

  • Chapters 1 and 2 (by David Williams and John Harriss, respectively).


  • Rodrik, Dani. (2007). One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions and Economic Growth. Princeton: Princeton University Press. [PDF 5MB].

Reaction paper for class 3, choose one of these questions:

  • Are the policy prescriptions of development economists mostly right or wrong? Why?
  • Is the fight against poverty more important than the struggle against inequality? Are they incompatible as primary objectives of policy? Why and why not?
  • Is poverty above all a symptom of societal dysfunction or its cause?
  • Are markets and market mechanisms to be trusted more than governments and their decision-making? Why and why not?


Class 3 – Growth, Poverty, and Inequality

  • Chapters 3–6 inclusive (by Shahid Yusuf; Shanta Deverajan & Ravi Kanbur; David Hulme; and Frances Stewart & Emma Samman).



Class 4 – Women and Development, Measuring and Evaluating Development 

  • Chapters 7–9 inclusive (by Irene Tinker & Elaine Zuckerman; Marie Emma Santos & Georgina Santos; and Patricia Rogers & Dugan Fraser).


  • Sen, Gita, and Caren Grown. (1987). Development, Crises, and Alternative Visions: Third World Women’s Perspectives. New York: Monthly Review Press. [PDF 500KB].
  • Alkire, Sabina and Maria E. Santos. (2010). “Acute Multidimensional Poverty: A New Index for Developing Countries,” OPHI Working Paper 38, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Department of International Development, University of Oxford.
  • Blue, Richard, Cynthia Clapp-Wincek and Holly Benner. (2009). “Beyond Success Stories: Monitoring and Evaluation for Foreign Assistance Results—Evaluator Views of Current Practice and Recommendations”. Washington, DC. [500KB].

Reaction paper for class 5, choose one of these questions:

  • How do you assess economic growth relative to human satisfaction? Are they mostly mutually reinforcing? If not, why not? And does this matter critically in development objectives?
  • Social Protection used to be considered to be confined to advanced economies. Can poor societies afford it? Should it be a high priority? If so, relative to what?
  • Is law important to development? What can it offer development policy and programming?
  • Are the problems of indigenous communities unique to them? And have any particular strategies and approaches worked in addressing them? Why and why not?


Class 5 – State and Society: Inclusion, Protection, Law, Indigeneity

  • Chapters 10–13 inclusive (by Albert Berry; Armando Barrientos; Kevin E. Davis & Marie Mota Prado; and Maivân Clech Lâm).
  • Brief Essay on State & Society in course book, pp. 169–172.


  • Sen, Amartya K. (1977) “Rational fools: a critique of the behavioral foundations of economic theory” Philosophy and Public Affairs 6(4): 2317-344. [PDF 200KB].
  • Helliwell, John, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs (eds.). (2012). World Happiness Report. Columbia University: The Earth Institute. [5MB].
  • Fiszbein, Ariel and Norbert Schady. (2009). Conditional Cash Transfers: Reducing Present and Future Poverty. World Bank Policy Research Report. Washington, DC: The World Bank. [PDF 5MB].
  • Grosh, Margaret, et al. (2008). For Protection and Promotion: The Design and Implementation of Effective Safety Nets. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
  • Carothers, Thomas. (2006). Promoting the Rule of Law Abroad: In Search of Knowledge. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
  • Blaser, Mario, Harvey A. Feit, and Glenn McRae. (2004). In the way of development: indigenous peoples, life projects, and globalization. London: Zed Books in association with International Development Research Centre, Ottawa.

Reaction paper for class 6, choose one of these questions:

  • Developing countries face many problems in managing their public finances. Which of these problems might they most easily address? How and why? And what can they afford to ignore, if anything?
  • Is the new “structural economics” simply the old “industrial policy” (as practiced in France and elsewhere, with “national champions” and other markers of state management)? Why has it been so successful in China? And why has it not taken off in India?
  • In designing their policies, some developing countries have focused on export-oriented models with significant state involvement, others on laissez-faire economics. Should there be a better understanding of what works best for different types of countries? Or might it be better not to generalize? Why? Think of some specific examples.
  • Both Raul Prebisch and Adebayo Adedeji were prophetic figures, much celebrated today, but ones who largely failed in their own day. Why did the approaches they advocated fail to take hold, and why are they nevertheless today attractive? Are there significant differences between Latin America and Africa on this score?


Class 6 – Public Financing, Structural Economics, Trade, and Integration

  • Chapters 15, 16, 17 and 19 of the course book (by Richard M. Bird & Arindam Das Gupa; Justin Yifu Lin & Célestin Monga; José Antonio Ocampo; and Adekeye Adebajo).


  • Bird, Richard M. (2011). “Tax System Change and the Impact of Tax Research,” in E. Albi and J. Martinez-Vazquez (eds.), The Elgar Guide to Tax Systems. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
  • Lin, Justin Yifu. (2012). The New Structural Economics: A Framework for Rethinking Development and Policy. Washington, DC: The World Bank. [PDF 700KB].
  • Gutiérrez Sanín, Francisco, and Gerd Schönwälder. (2010). Economic liberalization and political violence: utopia or dystopia? London: Pluto Press.
  • Ayuk, Elias, and Samuel Tambi Kaboré. (2013). Wealth through integration regional integration and poverty-reduction strategies in West Africa. New York, NY: Springer.
  • Prebisch, Raúl. (1950). The Economic Development of Latin America and its Principal Problems. New York: United Nations. [PDF 2.5MB].


Class 7 – Peace & Security: Peacebuilding, Violence, Resources, and Transitional Justice

  • Chapters 20–24 inclusive (by Gilbert M. Khadiagala & Dimpho Motsamai; Mats Berdal; Keith Krause; Charles Cater; and Pablo de Grieff).


  • Gravingholt, Jorn, Sebastian Ziaja and Merle Kreibaum. (2012). “State Fragility: Towards a Multidimensional Empirical Typology,” German Development Institute (DIE) Discussion Paper, DIE, Bonn. [PDF 5MB].
  • McCandless, Erin, Abdul Karim Bangura, Mary E. King, and Ebrima Sall. (2007). Peace research for Africa: critical essays on methodology. Addis Ababa: University for Peace, Africa programme.
  • Berdal, Mats R., and David Malone. (2000). Greed & grievance: economic agendas in civil wars. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
  • Darby, Sefton. (2010). Natural Resource Governance: New frontiers in transparency and accountability. London: Open Society Foundation. [PDF 2MB].
  • De Greiff, Pablo and Roger Duthie (eds.). (2009). Transitional Justice and Development: Making Connections. New York: Social Sciences Research Council. [5MB].


Class 8 – Environment and Health

  • Chapters 25, 26, 30 and 31 (by M. S. Swaminathan, Rajul Pandya Lorch & Sivan Josef; Cecilia Tortajada; Tim Evans; and Nandini Oomman & Farley Cleghorn).


  • Godfray, C.J.H., et al. (2010). “Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People.” Science 327 (5967): 812-818. [PDF 230KB].
  • Molden, D. (ed.). (2007). Water for Food, Water for Life: A Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture. London: Earthscan Publications and Colombo: IWMI.
  • Frenk, Julio. (2010). “The Global Health System: Strengthening National Health Systems as the Next Step for Global Progress,” PLoS Medicine, 7(1).
  • Esparza, José. (2012). “A Tale of Two Vaccines: Polio and HIV” [Weblog entry], Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Impatient Optimists, October 19, 2012.


Class 9 – Geographic Diversity: China, India, Brazil, Africa and the Arab World

  • Chapters 38, 39, 41, 42, 43 and 44 (by Lan Xue & Ling Chen; Renato Flores; Mthuli Ncube, Abebe Shimeles & Audrey Verdier-Chouchane; Devesh Kapur; Olu Ajakaiye & Afeikhena Jerome; and Ahmed Galal & Hoda Selim).

Reaction papers for class 10, choose one of these questions:

  • Why was the UN seemingly so much more influential in decades gone by than it is today? Or is that a delusion? How do you see its influence today, for good and ill? Cite specific examples.
  • Can the UN still hope to shape the development track of emerging powers? Why and why not?
  • Do you agree with some of the conclusions of volume editors in the epilogue? And on which ones do you differ? Why?
  • Has development policy and programming suffered from too great an influence of economists nationally and within international organizations? Why and why not?


Class 10 – UN Influence and Concluding Thoughts

  • Chapter 52 and Epilogue (by Richard Jolly; and Bruce Currie-Alder, Ravi Kanbur, David M. Malone & Rohinton Medhora).


  • Jolly, Richard, Louis Emmerij and Thomas G. Weiss. (2009). UN Ideas That Changed The World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Jolly, Richard, Louis Emmerij, Dharam Ghai and Frederic Lapeyre. (2004). UN Contributions to Development Thinking and Practice. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.