McGill University’s Board of Governors formally created the Institute for the Study of International Development in December 2008, and it has already become a leader in cutting-edge research and teaching related to international development. Such rapid success in part reflects McGill’s long history of commitment to promoting development studies, dating back to the creation of the Centre for Developing-Area Studies in 1963. It also reflects a renewed commitment to building bridges between McGill and the international development community through our unique focus on multidisciplinary research that is intended to contribute directly to better evidence-based development policies and practices.
Ultimately, ISID’s raison d'être stems from its strengths in the social sciences and humanities. This allows us to provide a unique reality check often lacking in policy discussions regarding some of the most fundamental challenges of today, including food security, health and climate change, to name but a few. Although advances in the so-called “hard sciences” and technology are often necessary, only the social sciences and humanities can address the challenges these advances and their applications pose for society. ISID researchers therefore endeavor to provide the kind of critical research needed to ensure, for example, that new innovations are politically viable, actually adopted by their intended beneficiaries, and unencumbered by unanticipated negative social consequences. In other words, we bring human societies and the people who compose them to the forefront of efforts to find practical solutions to some of today’s most pressing development challenges.
This same approach forms the backbone of our innovative multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate teaching programs. Not only are they designed to train future generations of researchers, teachers, policymakers and development practitioners, they are intended to provide our students with the skills and knowledge that they will need to be better global citizens. It is with these same aspirations that we are launching a new series of Executive Education Certificate Programs that will be held in Montreal, Ottawa and several developing countries.
To help realize these ambitions, ISID is developing a series of Research to Policy initiatives. These include public conferences, rapporteur’s reports on Chatham House Rule discussions addressing pressing challenges such as the implications of the 2008 economic crisis in order to bring a distinctly Southern perspective into development debates, and a new series of policy papers. Our capacity to launch all these initiatives reflects the fact that there are literally dozens of faculty members and well over 1000 graduate and undergraduate students connected with ISID who are working directly on development related issues. Our resources are further enhanced by the sage advice we receive from our International Advisory Board, as well as the various networks we have established with key development organizations such as the Canadian International Development Agency, Canada’s International Development Research Centre, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank. Our impressive ties to successful development practitioners, including Professors of Practice such as former Canadian Prime Minister, the Rt. Honourable Joe Clark, and our new Leadership Council, only strengthen these networks.
These are indeed exciting times at ISID as we strive to help make the world a better place for the billions of people living in or near poverty throughout the world. We invite you to learn more and stay engaged with our growing ISID community.