GEG 10TH Anniversary interview with founder and director Ngaire Woods

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GEG: What motivated you to start the Global Economic Governance Programme ten years ago?

NW: Around that time I was working on a project analysing the post-crisis global financial architecture, the “crisis” in question then of course being the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s. Similar to the aftermath of the most recent downturn, it was another moment in history when major reforms seemed possible, and we wanted to ensure the voices and interests of developing countries were heard.

Out of that project it became immediately clear that there was a huge gap in our collective understanding about how global economic governance institutions and processes affect emerging and devel­oping countries. So that’s the niche we were looking to fill when we set up the Programme a decade ago, and that’s essentially the same space we’re working in today.

GEG: How has the Programme evolved over the last decade?

NW: I like to think of GEG as an “incubator”. It’s a place where tal­ented scholars from all over the world can come and work out their concepts and early thinking, and with the support of GEG see their ideas develop and flourish. This means we’re driven by the inter­ests and passions of our scholars, and we’ve evolved accordingly: Leonardo Martinez coordinated a project on pathways through the financial crisis with Brad Setser, Calum Miller and Arunabha Ghosh; Carolyn Deere Birkbeck expanded our expertise in areas of trade and intellectual property; Devi Sridhar brought new emphasis on global health governance, Alex Betts on migration governance, and Lindsay Whitfield on aid governance. More recently Emily Jones has been working on developing country negotiating strategies and now financial regulation. This year she became Deputy Director of the Programme. Now, in the aftermath of another financial crisis, we find ourselves once again looking at finance.

GEG: What do you see as GEG’s current role within the University and broader global discussions of economic policymaking?

NW: I think GEG is an excellent example of how a college-based but departmentally-affiliated research centre can work. It plays an important role within University College, demonstrating to alumni that the college is deeply involved in current, policy-relevant work, and we’re extremely grateful for the support the college and its alumni have shown us. Through the Global Leaders Fellowship (GLF) programme GEG brings scholars from developing countries into the University College and Oxford communities, expanding the perspectives of researchers working here and fostering exciting new collaborations.

Looking at GEG’s role in broader academic and policy debates, I see us as serving as a constant reminder that the voices and interests of developing countries need to be heard on the global stage. All too often these debates are too narrow: you get a group of rich coun­tries sitting around a table negotiating financial reforms and fail­ing to realize that the outcome of those negotiations will profoundly affect developing countries. GEG’s role is to highlight this fact, to increase our understanding of how these global agreements and institutions influence developing countries, and to help developing countries identify strategies for using global institutions to advance their own interests.

GEG: How does the Global Leaders Fellowship (GLF) Programme build from GEG?

NW: I’m extremely proud of the GLF programme, which we jointly run with the Niehaus Centre at Princeton. The fundamental question of what do the institutions for governing the global economy look like from the Global South remains critically understudied. Through the GLF programme we’re making a substantial contribution to filling this gap, and helping create a network of scholar-practitioners who can begin to redress these historical imbalances, both in academia and in the policy world.

GEG: How do you imagine GEG might evolve over its next decade?

NW: The work we embarked on ten years ago is far from complete, so I don’t imagine our overall mission and fundamental motivations to change any time soon. I think GEG will always be an institution driven by two questions: (1) how can smaller, less powerful countries use existing global rules and institutions to their advantage, and (2) what strategies can they employ to help change these rules? What we’ve learned through our research is that developing and emerging coun­tries do have room to manoeuvre in global economic governance; our challenge looking forward is to produce the research which is needed to help them make the most of these opportunities.