Oxfam’s International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima gave a keynote speech on inequality and development to a packed lecture hall to officially launch the institute, the largest of its kind in Europe
Last Wednesday, the university launched the Global Development Institute (GDI), the largest research and teaching institute of its kind in Europe.
The launch was chaired by Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Dame Nancy Rothwell, and the Co-director of the institute Professor David Hulme. The event was attended by over six hundred academics, students and members of the humanitarian sector from across the country. The keynote speech was delivered by Oxfam International’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, and focused on inequality and development.
Before Mrs. Byanyima’s talk the audience were pleasantly surprised by a video clip from famed economist and Nobel Prize Winner, Joseph Stiglitz. In his address, Stiglitz spoke of his respect for the GDI and his excitement at its focus on the rising levels of global inequality, an issue he is well known for. He spoke of Manchester’s strong academic record and his voiced his admiration for the university’s ‘hallmark,’ its ‘multi-disciplinary approach’.
Primarily, the GDI is a merge of two departments: the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM) and the Brooks World Poverty Institute. Both departments have been world leading in their own right. In terms of development, Manchester is already ranked 1st in terms of policy impact in the UK, while it claims an impressive 3rd in the QS Global rankings for the topic. In particular, the IDPM, which is over 60 years old, boasts a vast network of over 10,000 graduates working across the globe in over 100 countries. The institute will contain 45 academics and over 100 PhD students.
According to Professor Hulme, the formation of the GDI seemed a necessary response to the increasing complexity of the international sphere due to globalisation. He told The Mancunion: “Today we are living in an ever more globalising world; with the launch of the institute we’re recognising the incredible inter-connectedness of all of humanity.”
Beginning her speech, Winnie Byanyima, who is herself a graduate of the Manchester University, gave a heartfelt account of her student years. A refugee from Idi Amin’s Uganda, Winnie had worked hard to get a place at the university studying aeronautical engineering. Much to the auditorium’s amusement, she confessed had had little time for her degree and had instead spent the majority of her student life discussing radical politics with friends or endlessly leafing through varied tomes in the Africa section of the John Rylands Library.
The bulk of Winnie’s speech was spent discussing her ideas for a more ‘human economy.’ This was connected to a recent report published by Oxfam detailing how currently the world’s top 62 billionaires hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of the global population.
Winnie pointed to the rising inequality of incomes in economically advanced economies and the appalling work conditions seen in many developing countries as both being directly linked to a global acceptance of ‘market fundamentalism’ or ‘neo-liberalism.’ Winnie argued the ideology had to be challenged on all fronts, including and perhaps most essentially at universities.
“The global economy works for the few rather than for the many…almost a billion people go to be hungry every night…this makes no moral or economic sense.”
‘There is no global success story’ – exclaimed Winne. There is a “wildfire of inequality is spreading across the world.”
Winnie took time to discuss how gendered global income inequality was. Out of the top 62 billionaires dominating the economy, one is a woman. Winne contrasted this to the overwhelming dominance of women in the poorer paying sectors of the global economy, pointing to the textile industry in Myanmar, where women make up the vast majority of workers.
“We need to create a human economy. An economy that works for the people, not people working for the economy…think how many scientists or doctors are pounding maize as we speak!”
Winnie roused a huge cheer when she argued that everyone should step forward to protect public services from increasing privatisation: “sometimes I want to jump out of my office and join the junior doctors fighting to protect the National Health Service.”
“We [Oxfam] are not anti-business. We are against businesses that put profit against anything else”
Winnie also pointed to how around the world poor countries are losing an estimated $170 billion – more than the total money they received in aid – due to global tax avoidance and evasion schemes.
Towards the end of the talk, David Hulme interjected emphasising how more needed to be down about inequality: “after your first billion, does it really add more to your life to have another billion? Share it out a bit!”