Lecture 2008: Saving Globalization from its Cheerleaders

The theme of the annual WRR Lecture, which was held on 8 December, was Saving globalisation from its cheerleaders. The topics addressed by guest speakers Nancy Birdsall and Ha-Joon Chang were the winners and losers of globalisation; the future of international (development) cooperation; the limits and capabilities of global governance; and the role of nation states. Herman Wijffels delivered a response to the lectures and engaged in a debate with the speakers.

Image: ©WRR / Chantal Ariens


Globalisation is a multifaceted process which offers countries and individuals opportunities to advance. However, it is now generally recognised that not everyone benefits from globalisation and that the differences between and within countries are increasing. Globalisation is not a given, but – just as before the First World War – can be undermined by a lack of public support and rising tensions between winners and losers.

Effective, fairer and more sustainable

Apart from the oppositions between haves and have-nots, more and more people are becoming concerned about the bogged-down negotiations on creating a fairer trade system for developing countries (WTO), the instability of the financial markets, the threatened consequences of climate change, and rising food and energy prices. Consideration is therefore being given in many countries to the creation of new global institutions and compensation mechanisms to make globalisation more effective, fairer and more sustainable.


The WRR is contributing to this debate by inviting the views of two prominent scientists who have been intensively concerned with globalisation and development in numerous publications. Nancy Birdsall will focus in her lecture on the relationships between globalisation and a development agenda. Ha-Joon Chang will concentrate on the significance of globalisation for the role, capabilities and limitations of nation states.

Based on his recent experiences at the World Bank and as the mediator in the formation of the present Dutch coalition government, Herman Wijffels will respond to the lectures. Finally, the three speakers will engage in a debate chaired by Peter van Lieshout, member of the WRR and chairman of the WRR project group which is preparing a report on the future of development cooperation in a globalising world.

About Nancy Birdsall

Nancy Birdsall is the founding president of the Center for Global Development.

Prior to launching the center, Birdsall served for three years as Senior Associate and Director of the Economic Reform Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her work at Carnegie focused on issues of globalization and inequality, as well as on the reform of the international financial institutions.

From 1993 to 1998, Birdsall was Executive Vice-President of the Inter-American Development Bank. Before joining the Inter-American Development Bank, Birdsall spent 14 years in research, policy, and management positions at the World Bank, most recently as Director of the Policy Research Department.

Ms. Birdsall is the author, co-author, or editor of more than a dozen books and monographs. She has also written articles for books and scholarly journals published in English and Spanish. Shorter pieces of her writing have appeared in US and Latin American newspapers and periodicals.

About Ha-Joon Chang

Ha-Joon Chang is Assistant Director of Development Studies in the Faculty of Economics and Politics, University of Cambridge. Born in the Republic of Korea, and educated at the Seoul National University and subsequently at Cambridge, professor Chang's books include Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective and Globalization, Economic Development, and the Role of the State. Since 1992 he has also served on the editorial board of the Cambridge Journal of Economics. He was a member of the Advisory Panel for the Human Development Report (1999) and has acted a research project coordinator and consultant to numerous UN agencies and international agencies, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the British Government's Department for International Development, and the International Development Research Centre in Canada, and the South African Government's Department of Trade and Industry.