After the welcome and opening remarks, the ERF 17th Annual Conference took off with its first plenary session, that set the tone of discussion and provided inspiring food for thought that will inform the conversations in rest of the event.
The session revisited the relationship between the nature of political regimes(democratic or not), policymaking processes and development outcomes. The speakers addressed such questions as: does it take an open (democratic) society to achieve betterdevelopment outcomes? Are the few cases of non-democratic regimes achieving successfuldevelopment the exception and why? Is democracy inevitable once progress is made on the economic front? And what do we know about how societies become more open economicallyand politically?
Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Center for International Development and Professor of the Practice of Economic Development at Harvard University, reflected on the issues of complexity, evolution and feedback loops in economic and social systems.
Samir Makdisi from the American University in Beirut focused his presentation on the democratic deficit in the Arab region. In his view, the lack of democracy has contributed to the lag in major aspects of Arab development.
From his side, John Wallis from the University of Maryland reflected on the concept of limited and open access societies and how societies organize themselves to limit violence.