Introduction Department of Social Research Department of Political and Economic Studies Contact Information

Faculty Office:
Unioninkatu 37 (P.O. Box 54)
00014 University of Helsinki
Phone +358 294 1911 (University)
Fax +358-2941 24835
E-mail soc-sci[at]helsinki.fi

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Development Studies

The discipline of development studies focuses on the interface between intentional development interventions and actual development processes in developing societies affected by both the internal dynamics of the societies concerned and external forces on a global and national scale. Against this backdrop, the research activities of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) are broadly organised around the following themes:

Finnish relations with developing countries. The IDS has long been involved in Finnish development aid, and is now moving towards a broader approach toward development policies in Finland and the European Union.

Political, social, economic and cultural systems in developing countries. This theme is the foundation of the Institute’s research activities. Historically, much of this research has focused on Eastern and Southern Africa. Today, research is increasingly involved with countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, in addition to African countries.

Global and local structures and institutions in development. The projects include research on the global economy and governance, development discourse and civil society.

Resource base of development and its management. This group includes research projects on key natural resources such as forests and community-based natural resource management systems.

Development studies essentially targets information relevant to solving development problems. This does not mean, however, that the IDS focuses exclusively on applied research. The Institute believes that in a rapidly changing world, basic high-quality academic research can be more relevant to social and political practice than narrowly conceived applied research. Much of the research conducted at the IDS is characterised by an emphasis on theoretical and historical aspects of development, and many projects have received funding from the Academy of Finland. Commissioned research on topical development policy issues has received funding mainly from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Actual research topics vary. At the moment, major ongoing projects include: Non-governmental organisations in the developmentalist complex in Tanzania, India and Vietnam: A human rights-based approach to disability in development and The interplay of disability-sensitive development cooperation and national policy in Uganda. The IDS also invests heavily in training researchers. It has some two dozen doctoral students and houses the Finnish Graduate School for Development Studies (Devestu).

The central themes in internal development processes include the environment, politics and social change. Examples of research topics in this area include: Voices from the Southern Civil Societies: Difference or Equality; From Security to Inclusive Development: The Politics of the Rule of Law in Africa’s Democratic Transition; A Study on Social Borders: Ethnicity in the Age of Globalisation – Identity Construction in East and West Malaysia; The Possibilities of Islamic Welfare; Community-Based Natural Resource Management Systems in Tanzania; State and Everyday Life in Africa and Social Hierarchies in Flux: a Study of Social Organisation in Peninsular Malaysia.

Development intervention research focuses on development aid and its impact on developing countries. Recent research projects include Does Finnish Aid Matter? A Study on the Impacts of Finnish Aid on the State, Forests and Rural People; The Security-Development Nexus and International Development Assistance: A Study of Reconciliation and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Nepal and Uganda; Globalisation, Institutions and Policies: Finland and Developing Countries and Development Cooperation for Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution – the Scope and Potentialities of Finland’s Development Cooperation in Nepal.

In addition to these two topic areas, research projects are also underway in other areas, including global structures and the environment. One such example is the project Decentralisation, Forest Certification and Community Forestry in Central America.

Further information:
www.valt.helsinki.fi/kmi/english/tutkimus.htm