Development studies is an interdisciplinary branch of social science. Development studies is offered as a specialized master's degree in a number of reputed universities across the world, and, less commonly, as an undergraduate degree. It has grown in popularity as a subject of study since the early 1990s, and has been most widely taught and researched in developing countries and countries with a colonial history, such as the UK, where the discipline originated. Students of development studies often choose careers in international organisations such as the United Nations, World Bank, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), media and journalism houses, private sector development consultancy firms, corporate social responsibility (CSR) bodies and research centers.
Throughout the world, a number of professional bodies for development studies have been founded:
The common umbrella organisation of these association is the Inter-regional Coordinating Committee of Development Associations (ICCDA). In the UK and Ireland, the Development Studies Association is a major source of information for research on and studying in development studies. Its mission is to connect and promote those working on development research.
Development issues include:
The emergence of development studies as an academic discipline in the second half of the twentieth century is in large part due to increasing concern about economic prospects for the third world after decolonisation. In the immediate post-war period, development economics, a branch of economics, arose out of previous studies in colonial economics. By the 1960s, an increasing number of development economists felt that economics alone could not fully address issues such as political effectiveness and educational provision. Development studies arose as a result of this, initially aiming to integrate ideas of politics and economics. Since then, it has become an increasingly inter- and multi-disciplinary subject, encompassing a variety of social scientific fields. In recent years the use of political economy analysis- the application of the analytical techniques of economics- to try and assess and explain political and social factors that either enhance or limit development has become increasingly widespread as a way of explaining the success or failure of reform processes. The era of modern development is commonly deemed to have commenced with the inauguration speech of Harry S. Truman in 1949. In Point Four of his speech, with reference to Latin America and other poor nations, he said:
More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the suffering of these people.
But development studies has since also taken an interest in lessons of past development experiences of Western countries. More recently, the emergence of human security – a new, people-oriented approach to understanding and addressing global security threats – has led to a growing recognition of a relationship between security and development. Human security argues that inequalities and insecurity in one state or region have consequences for global security and that it is thus in the interest of all states to address underlying development issues. This relationship with studies of human security is but one example of the interdisciplinary nature of development studies.