Global Development, globally speaking

In 2013, during a period “in between jobs”, I took a short two week course on Global Development and the “Global South”.

I must stress that I am no eco-warrior. Nor was I particularly selfless or world-conscious beforehand but a family friend of mine, Benny Dembitzer, who runs the course recommended it to me.

It is recommended for:

  • Staff members of development agencies who wish to enhance their knowledge of development issues.
  • People who intend to work in development in the UK or internationally.
  • People preparing for a gap year in a developing country.
  • Members of the general public who wish to give structure to a general interest in the field of development.

But really everyone should get involved!

Sleepwalking into Global Famine - Benny Dembitzer

Benny is a former international development consultant who has worked for several different international organisations that range from OXFAM to the World Bank, from the United Nations Development Programme to the International Trade Centre. He was European Director of the organisation that won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and is also the author of “Sleepwalking into Global Famine: The World Cannot Feed 9.3 Billion People”.

He also runs the course with Marja Voutilainen, a respected name in Global Development.

The course last year was held at the previous University of London union- a very central location for all of London. It was an easy to reach location with lots to do around. (Food and pubs!)

There were people from charities and a number of well-known organisations (Fairtrade Foundation, UNICEF and Water Aid to name just a few).

Sessions were great and interactive with plenty of discussion and as we were all adults, you were able to steer the conversation to where you want it to go.

There was also plenty of time at the end of sessions to clarify anything that you don’t understand as well as plenty of material to read through and recommended reading for if your interest is piqued.

The course leaders also arrange a meal for all course members where you can get to know them and others on the course.

I was able to learn about everything from agriculture to education and also found out quite a few buzz facts that I would never have known otherwise.

Here are a bunch: (the accuracy of which I can’t confirm as the notes I took were only as good as my note-taking skills, and also may have been either not verbatim/ not to be taken as fact/ year old stats)

  • Historically, around a quarter of Irish immigrants to the USA returned to Ireland.
  • Of all countries, Lesotho has the highest proportion of its GDP as remittance (money sent back home from foreign workers) – 25% in 2009.
  • Barclays wanted to drop the remittance services to Somalia campaign by Laura Hammond of SOAS turned into a heavily backed petition to protect remittances from the UK to
  • Singapore and Sweden have some of the lowest infant mortality rates worldwide.
  • Some of the biggest employers of migrant workers worldwide are the Chinese Army, the Indian railways and the British NHS.
  • A third of all doctors in the UK were born overseas.
  • Ghanaian doctors and nurses make up so much of the NHS that what they are earning exceeds the total amount of aid that the UK gives to Ghana.
  • Costa Rica scrapped their army in 1949 in favour of healthcare and education spending.
  • In Niger 1 in 3 children die.
  • World AID is focused a lot on HIV but very little on all the many other diseases around the world.
  • Only around 30% of children in Africa speak the same language at home as at school. Causes major complications for literacy/ development.
  • Indium used in touch screens in your mobile phones and tablets could run out as soon as 2025.
  • Ghana had a better GDP than Brazil in the 1960s.
  • In Ethiopia around 52% of under-5s are stunted.
  • An American company tried to patent basmati rice outside of India in 1997.
  • Botswana relied heavily on beef production in the past.
  • The UK spends over £100,000 on one child from 3-21years old where in Africa the average spend is around £300.
  • Quinoa almost tripled in price over the last few months of 2013.


Do you want to learn more and network with others about social issues that will affect the entire world?

Speak to your line manager/ HR department and get them to pull whatever strings need pulling.

Marja and Benny who organise the course are passionate about the issues they cover and they also arrange for some of the best speakers and scholars in these fields.

The next course runs 27th March to 8th April. It has been run for around 15 years and nearly 800 people have taken part, from some 80 different organisations.  It is an ideal introduction if you plan to change careers, or need some basic introduction to the issues, or want to make contacts.

See here: for more information and updates on the next course.


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