Pillar 4: Promoting sustainable development in small states

Pillar 4 focuses on sustainable development in small states. Small developing states face specific social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities.

The common challenges faced by small developing states are:

  • narrow resource bases
  • small domestic markets and thus lacking the benefits of economies of scale
  • a heavy dependence on a few external and often remote markets (often the former colonial master)
  • relative high costs for energy, infrastructure, transportation and communication
  • relative long distances from export markets and import resources, meaning that imports are often expensive
  • relatively weaker resilience to natural disasters
  • growing populations in a restricted geographic space
  • limited opportunities for the private sector and a proportionately large reliance of their economies on their public sector
  • particularly in small islands, fragile natural environments, vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.


Many small developing states are disadvantaged in their development process, although this varies. The key element of Pillar Four is thus to explore the challenges and diversities facing small developing states and get the students to think about how small developing states fit within the wider global political economy.





The purpose of this seminar is to introduce students to the problems that face small states in Africa, a continent that is historically the most underdeveloped and one in which there are a number of small states. The seminar seeks to make students familiar with the key policy dilemmas and issues which policy- makers must address, as well as some of the surprising relative advantages that African small states may possess.

Ian Taylor, Professor in International Relations and African Politics, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.



The purpose of this seminar is to introduce students to one of Africa’s so-called “success stories” – Botswana. Students should become familiar with the most important developments since independence in 1966 and how and what policies were introduced to drive development in a former backwater of the British Empire so that the country enjoyed high levels of growth and development.

Ian Taylor, Professor in International Relations and African Politics, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.



In this seminar we will discuss the historical trajectory of Ellan Vannin (Isle of Man) and its relationship(s) with past rulers: Norway, Scotland and the Lords of Mann. We will seek to capture the dynamics that led from a neglected and poor fishing and tourist-based economy to one that is amongst the wealthiest in the world. We will discuss the island’s status as a Crown Dependency but one that is not part of the United Kingdom, nor the European Union.

Ian Taylor, Professor in International Relations and African Politics, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.



This lecture focuses on the impact of migration on islands in the Mediterranean with the aim of illustrating contrasting and similar experiences of different small islands. Although much is known about the impact of migration, further analysis of the impact on small islands is needed. 

Professor Roderick Pace, University of Malta.



The seminar discusses if small states can be considered weak states. Further, successes/failures of small states in the world economy are looked at. Two major schools of thought are elaborated – democratic corporatism and the concept of vulnerability and resilience. Finally, changes in the international economy and challenges to existing theories are discussed.

Tarmo Kalvet, Senior Research Fellow, Tallinn University of Technology, Tallinn, Estonia.



Additional reading material for Pillar 4

Corbett, Jack and Jack Connell. 2015. “All the world is a stage: global governance, human resources, and the ‘problem’ of smallness.” Pacific Review 28(3): 435-459.

Easterly, William, and Kraay, A. 2000. “Small states, Small Problems? Income, Growth, and Volatility in Small States.” World Development 28(11): 2013–2027.

Erk, Jan and Wouter Veenendaal. 2014. “Is Small Really Beautiful? The Microstate Mistake.” Journal of Democracy 25(4): 135-148.

Rodrik, Dani. 1998. “Why do more open economics have bigger governments?” Journal of Political Economy 106: 997–1032.

Weatherhead, Michael. 2006. “Small countries: a survey of the literature.” in Grynberg, Roman (ed.). WTO At The Margins, 29-73. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Isle of Man

Cochrane, F., Duffy, R. and Selby, J. (2003). „A Provocative Dependence? The Global Financial System and Small Island Tax Havens“, in Cochrane, F., Duffy, R. and Selby, J. (eds.) Global Governance, Conflict and Resistance. United Kingdom. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 194-215.

Ryder, G. and Slok, W. (2003). „Harbinger of a Dilemma: an Evaluation of the Digital Divide and E-Government Strategies on the Isle Of Man“. PACIS 2003 Proceedings. Paper 3.

McKercher, W.R. (2000). „The Isle of Man: Jurisdictional Catapult to Development“, in G. Baldacchino and D. Milne (eds.) Lessons from the Political Economy of Small Islands: The Resourcefulness of Jurisdiction. United Kingdom. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 91-106.

Wilson, G.N. (2008). „The Revitalization of the Manx Language and Culture in an Era of Global Change“, Refereed papers from the 3rd International Small Island Cultures Conference Institute of Island Studies, University of PEI, June 29–July 2, 2007. Available at: http://sicri-network.org/ISIC3/o.%20ISIC3P%20Wilson.pdf.



Good, K. (2016). „Democracy and development in Botswana“, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, pp. 1-16.

Hillbom, E. (2012) „Botswana as a ‘Development-Oriented Gate-Keeping State“, African Affairs 111(442): 67-89.

de Jager, N. and Sebudubudu, D.  (2016). „Towards understanding Botswana and South Africa’s ambivalence to liberal democracy“, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, pp. 1-19.

Taylor, I. (2012) Botswana as a ‘Development-Oriented Gate-Keeping State’: A Response, African Affairs 111(444): 466-476.


Suggested essay topics for Pillar 4

  1. How did the Isle of Man overcome its economic weaknesses?
  2. What explains Botswana’s relative success as a small developmental state?
  3. Discuss some of the key issues facing small states in Africa
  4. What are considered to be the intrinsic disadvantages of small developing states?
  5. The 2015 surge in immigration towards the EU has affected small islands but in a different way. With reference to the Aegean islands and Malta show to what extent this true.
  6. The sudden arrival of thousands of migrants on the EU’s borders has alerted small islands to the urgent need of building their resilience to future similar occurrences. Discuss the concept of resilience building and how can this be applied to small islands? How can they shield economic activities, the source of their livelihoods from such events?