“DEVELOPMENT” – What does it mean to me?

 

To me, International Development is a debate. This debate is formed from the experiences we’ve encountered in the geopolitical environment in which we live. To some, and if used in the correct framework, development could help achieve the correct balance of dignity, control and empowerment. However to others, it can be seen as an industry with a distorted agenda, using it for their own manipulation and means.

When largely financial orientated organizations are used as a carrier for development, for instance the international financial institutions of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, it becomes too frequently that the most vulnerable people can become volatile to their control.

Exploitation: A land management program funded by the World Bank in Cambodia. The lake behind the village was filled in to make room for luxury high rises and shops.

I view this approach to policy and development as ‘prescription money’, whereby the financial support sent to a place of need often comes with ‘side effects’. Commonly, a broad set of loan conditionality’s with no regard for the situation of the country. When Governmental based aid is sent in, or official development assistance, but bypasses the social structures and cultures of a place in need of certain sanctions, it can lead to a loss of voice for the people who require the most help. I strongly agree that within the field of development, money can only be pivotal in creating change when it works alongside a community, interacting and understanding their lifestyle, rather than large scale plans that are most likely to cause an exploitation of the most vulnerable people. As Chambers (1997) said “Neglect of the personal dimension of development at first sight seems bizarre.”[1]

From a western viewpoint, I believe that Development delves further than that of what the media exposes to the wealthy. Even being labeled “The Fifth Theory of the Press.”[2] This media influence creates the unproblematic façade of charity to the wealthy – but is this truly what developing countries require? Often adverts that are shown to the citizens of ‘giving’ nations are value laden and focus on certain social issues. In recent years, more and more journalists have criticized NGO’s for their heightened exaggeration of disasters for in order to earn more donor money, as well as their political and religious bias. Fergal Keane, a foreign affairs correspondent for the BBC concludes that the media tends to “simplify and shock in charity appeal which diminishes context and leads to compassion without understanding.”[3] In reversal to this, I disagree that governments themselves should use their promises of aid as an incentive to become elected.

africa

Although I agree that aid or specific help to alleviate social issues in a nation can work as a short-term solution, I think the bigger picture is the future economic prosperity of a nation, whereby people can generate their own taxation, rather than taking money from the outside. When aid is sent to governments or countries with a poor institutional framework, it can strip the self-initiative from a nation, and depending on the distribution of this help, even create further tensions within communities. As the Ugandan journalist and aid critic, Andrew Mwenda said: “Even if you have 10 PHD’s, you can never beat Bill Gates.”[4] He explains aid as a form of philanthrocapitalism from the western world, a patronizing act of business which is then taken advantage of by corrupted governments within Africa, as there is no incentive for enterprise which would generate their own tax revenue.

To conclude, I believe that development is the power of vocabulary, forever changing as the frame of words surrounding development constantly evolves. Even today, we can see that this is the case with the new Sustainable Development Goals launched in New York. As well as a change in the methods for how development is spent, the goals focus on the languages of environment and responsibility based development. With increasing crises such as natural disasters and acidification of the ocean as an effect of climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals are beginning provide more context for “sustainability” and how its current relationship with development can’t survive without huge impacts to our planet.

[1] Chambers, Robert. “Editorial: Responsible Well-Being — A Personal Agenda For Development”.World Development 25.11 (1997): 1743-1754. Web.

[2] Academia.edu,. “The Fifth Theory Of The Press”. N.p., 2016. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

[3] David Campbell,. “How Does The Media Persuade Us To Give To Charities? – David Campbell”. N.p., 2010. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

[4] Mwenda, Andrew. “Aid For Africa? No Thanks.”. Ted.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 7 Jan. 2016.

Images:

http://www.vqronline.org/reporting-articles/2014/06/giving-flood

http://www.water-charity.org/african-project.html

 

Advertisements
“DEVELOPMENT” – What does it mean to me?