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HP12 - Value chains, inequality and development

Convened by Stefano Ponte (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark), Aarti Krishnan (University of Manchester, UK) and Thando Vilakazi (University of Johannesburg. South Africa))

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Global inequalities are growing and have become widely recognized as major challenges to international development. The globalization of production has been a main driver of inequality, yielding new winners and losers within and across nations. Global value chain scholarship has shown that the massive participation of Global South actors in global value chains has generally not led to a significant increase in the proportion of value added accrued within these countries, despite expectations to the contrary. Inequality between firms in the Global South and in the Global North is actually increasing in many global value chains, yet we still know little about what forms of governance and what kinds of power shape what aspects of inequality. In parallel to these concerns, scholars have also been examining successes and failures in processes of economic, social and environmental upgrading that shape the development outcomes of GVC participation. Finally, research is looking into whether regional value chains can provide alternative and more inclusive paths to upgrading.

In this panel, we seek contributions that can help us better understand the roots of inequality in global and regional value chains, and the related dynamics of economic, social and environmental upgrading. Policy and advocacy interventions to tackle inequality in development contexts have so far operated with limited knowledge of the governance and power dynamics that shape value chains, and indeed have had limited success. The contributions to this panel would not only provide new theoretical insights, but also new suggestions for public authorities and social movements on how to address unequal bargaining positions in global and regional value chains.