Development Possibilities

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It’s 2045. Since Jeremy Corybn became prime-minister in 2020 and elected Robert Chambers as his right hand man there has been an extremely positive shift in Britain’s approach to ‘development’. This blog post is going to assess and explain this ‘shift’. I will begin with a general over view of development strategy as a whole. I will then have a look at the changes which have been made to aid and taxation. Finishing with a paragraph of how this change was brought about.

The change in leadership has led to a more “grass-roots” focus as opposed to the “top-down” method previously being used (Rahman, 1993, p. 221). Britain and Africa are now working together as equals, and Britain is allowing African countries to take control of their own development. Putting the ‘partner’ back into the ‘partnerships’ of donor– recipient relations.

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Britain has finally woken up to the reality that “aid cannot achieve the end of poverty” (Easterly, 2006, p. 318). Corbyn has since halved the amount of traditional aid being given to Africa since 2020 (Glennie, 2008, p. 123). This has reduced Africa’s Aid dependency and led to independence for them to make their own decisions. Being able to “learn from their successes and mistakes” (Glennie, 2008, p. 134) had led to improved economies and a drastic decrease in poverty across the continent.

The aid which is being given has shifted from purely economic to the transfer of technologies (Glennie, 2008, p. 135). Most commonly being vaccines, antibiotics, nurses, roads, water pipes and textbooks (Easterly, 2006, p. 322). Corbyn has shifted Britain’s development goals away from sweeping “institutional reforms” and is instead focusing on the livelihoods of individuals (Easterly, 2006, p. 318). He believes this is way to achieve most good, and the results are speaking for themselves!

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In 2021 Trevor Manuel and Jeremy Corbin discussed the reintroduction of trade taxes in Africa, with a focus on cracking down on big foreign multinational companies (Glennie, 2008, p. 130). Corbin put this into action immediately and even began shaming companies who were attempting to avoid paying their taxes. He recognizes the fact that “for well-being to be responsible, in a sustainable global eco-social system, those with more have to accept having less” (Chambers, 2005, p. 197).

Because Corbin and Chambers are “genuinely concerned with development” they are able to “make concessions without demanding concessions in return” (Glennie, 2008, p. 135). The people of Britain have finally taken a stand and elected someone who actually cares about the wellbeing of the planet and the people living on it. Seeing this, countries all over the world have been standing up and following suit (Chambers, 2005, p. 197). We must be grateful that such a dramatic change has occurred, because prior to this ‘development’ seemed to he heading down a very dark road.

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Chambers, R. (2005). Ideas For Development . London: Earthscan.

Easterly, W. (2006). The White Man’s Burden – Why the West’s efforts to aid the Rest have done so much ill and so little good. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Glennie, J. (2008). The Trouble With Aid – Why Less Could Mean More For Africa. London and New York: Zed Books.

Rahman, M. A. (1993). People’s Self-Development. London and New Jersey: Zed Books.

(All Photos used in this blog were taken by myself)

 

 

Is ODA a Good Thing?

In my previous blog posts I have spoken very negatively of the effectiveness of governments ‘developing’ other countries by simply giving money to corrupt governments that poor people will never see. In this post I will explore whether this stereotype of ODA I have in my head is actually true. I will begin by explaining what ODA is and then touch upon the conditions often attached to ODA. I will then look at the positive outcomes of ODA (yes it’s not all bad!) before examining ineffective use of ODA and whether it can in fact be harmful.

What is ‘ODA’?

Official Development Aid (ODA) began in the 1940s when the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) began giving food and goods to developing countries (Riddell, 2009). This soon evolved into ‘bilateral assistance’, in which governments would provide “grants and cheap loans to recipient governments” (Vernon, 2009). The idea to give economic aid stems from the success of The Marshal Plan in rebuilding European economies after the war (Moyo, 2010 p. 36). Consequently, bilateral assistance has now become the most common form of ODA (Riddell, 2009).

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Everything has conditions.

The relationship between recipient governments and donor governments is called a ‘partnership’, however these relationships are generally unequal (Vernon, 2009). ODA usually comes with conditions as to how the aid should be spent and often involves policies on aspects of how the country should be run (Moyo, 2010 p. 39). There are many critics of conditionality’s who believe some drastic changes need to take place (Evans, 2009). Glennie argues that donor governments have gone too far and “have effectively decided key recipient government policies for decades” (2008 p. 36). Some donors use conditionality’s to implement democracy into recipient governments as they believe it is the key to economic development (Moyo, 2010 p. 42). However, Moyo argues that this is not the case and it can actually hinder development (2010 p. 42).

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Positivity.

Despite all of the negative things I have previously stated about ODA – it is not all bad, and this section will look at the positive achievements of ODA. With the help of ODA some incredible things have been achieved, especially in health and education (Rabinowitz, 2009). ODA was used to set up the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), which increased immunization rates of children in 6 key diseases by 70% in 16 years. This is estimated to have saved approximately 3 million lives a  year (Glennie, 2008 p. 28). Moreover it was thanks to ODA that many developing countries could scrap ‘cost recovery’ programmes which charged people for basic services, creating a dramatic increase in the amount of children in school and the amount of children being immunized (Glennie, 2008 p. 29).  ODA has also helped to develop infrastructure in many underdeveloped countries e.g. the ‘road-building and improvement program’ in Ethiopia received 40% of its financing from ODA (Glennie, 2008 p. 30). There are many more examples such as these showing how ODA can improve conditions in specific controlled policies, however many academics argue that when ODA is used over a long period of time with far reaching goals it can be ineffective or even damaging (Moyo, 2010 p. 44).

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The dark side.

Although ODA has managed to make some positive changes in developing countries when the goals are defined and carried out well, if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture you have to ask yourself ‘is it enough?’ In this section I will explore the argument that ODA is not doing enough good and the possibility that it could even be causing harm.

As more ODA has been poured into Africa’s economy its economic growth is actually declining rather than increasing. To add to this, when ODA was at its highest poverty in Africa increased by 55% (Moyo, 2010 pp. 46-47). “For most countries, a direct consequence of aid-driven interventions has been a dramatic descent into poverty” (Moyo, 2010 p. 47). One reason for this could be that some governments have now become dependent on ODA as a permanent source of income and thus see no point in developing their economies (Moyo, 2010 p. 36). Thus ODA is “no longer part of the potential solution, it’s part of the problem – in fact aid is the problem” (Moyo, 2010 p. 47).

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Over the past 5 decades there has been $2.3 trillion spent on ODA (Easterly, 2006 p. 4), however, this vast amount of money has “not secured a better life for Zimbabweans; nor allowed people in Sri Lanka or the DRC to live in peace; nor prevented political violence and mass displacement in Kenya or Georgia” (Vernon, 2009). Recipient governments’ dependency is not the only thing to blame. Another reason for the shortcomings of ODA is donors promising to achieve so much, but believing the method to achieving these ‘big plans’ is throwing money at countries without making sure it is being used effectively (Easterly, 2006 pp. 7-15). There needs to be a better thought-out plan as in many of these countries the state actually has a vested interest in maintaining “powerful elites” and keeping “poor people poor” (Vernon, 2009). Thus showing that the current ODA agenda has some “seriously negative results” (Wallace, 2009).

To conclude.

This blog post has shown that ODA is far from perfect and we are being extremely naïve if we think that world poverty will be cured by simple handing over bundles of cash (Hilary, 2012). However it can be useful in addressing specific “desperate needs of the poor” (Easterly, 2006). Therefore “the main hope for the poor is for them to be their own searchers, borrowing ideas and technology from the West when it suits them to do so” (Glennie, 2008 p. 24).

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Easterly, William. 2006. The White Mans’s Burden: Why The West’s Eddorts To Aif The Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2006.

Edwards., Michael. 2009. Four immediate responses to Phil Vernon. Open Democracy. [Online] 9 November 2009. https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-edwards-alison-evans-tina-wallace-gideon-rabinowitz/four-immediate-responses-to-phil-vernon.

Evans, Alison. 2009. Four immediate responses to Phil Vernon. Open Democracy. [Online] 9 November 2009. https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-edwards-alison-evans-tina-wallace-gideon-rabinowitz/four-immediate-responses-to-phil-vernon.

Glennie, Jonathan. 2008. The Trouble With Aid: Why Less Could Mean More For Africa. London : Zed, 2008.

Hilary, John. 2012. Christian Aid seeks ‘exit strategy’ from aid. Progressive Development Forum . [Online] 5 September 2012. https://progressivedevelopmentforum.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/christian-aid-seeks-exit-strategy-from-aid/.

Moyo, Dambisa. 2010. Dead Aid:Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa. Farrar : Straus and Giroux, 2010.

Rabinowitz, Gideon. 2009. Four immediate responses to Phil Vernon . Open Democracy. [Online] 9 November 2009. https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-edwards-alison-evans-tina-wallace-gideon-rabinowitz/four-immediate-responses-to-phil-vernon.

Riddell, Roger. 2009. Is aid working? Is this the right question to be asking? Open Democracy. [Online] 20 November 2009. https://www.opendemocracy.net/roger-c-riddell/is-aid-working-is-this-right-question-to-be-asking.

Vernon, Phil. 2009. Overseas Development Aid: Is It Working? Open Democracy . [Online] 9 November 2009. https://www.opendemocracy.net/phil-vernon/overseas-development-aid-is-it-working.

Wallace, Tina. 2009. Four immediate responses to Phil Vernon . Open Democracy. [Online] 9 November 2009. https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-edwards-alison-evans-tina-wallace-gideon-rabinowitz/four-immediate-responses-to-phil-vernon.

(All photos in this blog were taken by myself)

Development: If you want something done right, do it yourself?

In my previous blog I expressed a need for the power of development to be given to the people directly affected by it. In this blog I will explore instances of people taking that power for themselves. I will begin by looking at a single case study of the Zapatista Uprising and assess its success. I will then explore smaller scale movements, what they have achieved and assess how ‘independent’ they really were. After which I will draw a conclusion as to whether or not I believe ‘peoples movements’ are the most effective way to meet the needs of the people or not.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

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In this section I will look at the Zapatista uprising. I will begin by explaining what happened, and will then go on to assess its effectiveness. In January 1994 The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) temporarily captured the major cities and towns of Chiapas using arms. The reason for this was to rebel against a system of government which represses the Indigenous and Camesino people of Mexico. Since then they have called a ceasefire and are trying to achieve their aims without violence.

They have hosted various conventions and international meetings, attended by both Mexicans and international observers. They formed a political party called The Zapatista Front of National Liberation (FZLN) to protect indigenous rights. The Zapatistas have inspired other indigenous movements and the establishment of a National Indigenous Convention, as well as encouraging land seizures and many regions in Chiapas to declare themselves autonomous multi-ethnic regions. In reaction to this the government backed paramilitaries have killed thousands of indigenous people and made over 20,000 people internal refuges (Johnston, 2000 p.463-493). This begs the question – is it worth it?

In my eyes it has been. It is a move towards progress. They have shown the struggle of indigenous people to the world, and high lightened the weakness of the current system of government. They still have a long way to go, but they have achieved a lot more than if they had done nothing. “No matter what, we were dying… We didn’t go to war on January 1 to kill or be killed. We went to war to make ourselves heard” (Subcomandate Marcos, Johnston , 2000 p.466).

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The Zapatista uprising is an extreme example of a ‘Peoples Movement’, however there are many other small scale examples of people bringing about their own change across the world without any use of violence or breaking the law. In this section I will look at two examples of small scale peoples movements and assess their effectiveness. One example of this is the 1981 Residents’ Association of Conjunto Palmeiro (ASMOCONP) which started a few concerned neighbours meeting at one of their houses. The association went on to address issues such as sewage, buses, construct a canal and even set up their own community bank and local currency. “Residents have achieved social and economic success” (Neumann, Mathie, Linzey, 2008 p.39-58). They achieved most of this alone, but sought help from outside in matters in which they weren’t so experienced.

Another example of a small scale peoples movements is the Self Employed Women’s Association in India. SEWA has grown into a movement of solidarity among self-employed women workers around the world and has steadily transformed the conditions of work and livelihoods of its members who work in an otherwise unprotected, yet substantial, sector of the Indian economy (Chen, 2008 p.181).

SEWA began as an independent force run by workers for workers, but has since collaborated with a “public-private partnership scheme” and various “government schemes” (Chen, 2008 p.185). This shows the difficulty of independent people’s movements to remain independent as they often lack the resources or expert knowledge to bring about real change. The important thing is that the outside help doesn’t have its own agenda and try to change or influence the movement itself. (Rahman, 1993 p.196)

To conclude, I believe I have illustrated that “the best promise for development lay with the initiatives of the ordinary people” (Rahman, 1993 p.179). This is because it actually addresses what the people really need, and not what the government/outside organisations think/claim that they need. Yes it can be a struggle, but no more than living through years of oppression and poverty. The most important thing therefore is that they are very careful when seeking outside help in order to make sure it is still their needs which are being met.

 

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BAYAT, A. (1997) Un-Civil Society: The Politics of the ‘Informal People’. Third World Quarterly 18 (1).p.53-72.

CHEN, M. (2008) A spreading banyan tree: the Self Employed Women’s Association, India. In: MATHIE, A. CUNNINGHAM, G. (eds.). Communities changing the course of their own development. Rugby: Practical Action Publishing.

JOHNSTON, J. (2000) Pedagogical guerrillas, armed democrats, and revolutionary counter publics: Examining paradox in the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico. Theory and Society. 29(4).p.463-505.

NEUMAN, R A. MATHIE, A. LINZEY, J. (2008) God created the world and we created Conjunto Palmeiro: four decades of forging community and building a local economy in Brazil. In: MATHIE, A. CUNNINGHAM, G. (eds.). Communities changing the course of their own development. Rugby: Practical Action Publishing.

RAHMAN, A. (1993) People’s Self-Development: Perspectives on Participatory Action Research. London: Zed Books.

WEBB, M. Success stories: rhetoric, authenticity, and the right to information movement in north India. Contemporary South Asia. 18(3).p. 293-304.

(All photos used in the blog were taken by myself)

What is Development

The word ‘development’ means different things to different people. Most notably it means one thing to the general public and the academics and activists trying their best to achieve it, yet for many of the people who actually possess the power and resources to do something about it, ‘development’ seems to mean something completely different.

Back in 2012 I became aware of plight of the Tibetan people. I felt compelled to help. I spent all of my savings on a CELTA qualification and a flight to Nepal with the intention to help educate Tibetan refugees. I wanted them to be able to tell their own story, as I believed that ‘until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter’ (Komla Dumor 2013). At this point I very much shared Robert Chambers (1997: 1743) view on development as ‘Good change’ trying to ‘make the world a better place’.

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Unfortunately upon arriving in Nepal I was confronted with a very different reality, a dark side to development. Local Nepalese people would speak of international aid going to the corrupt government and not reaching those who need it most. Governments, NGOs and development agencies such as The World Bank often focus on economic development to combat poverty. However, this isn’t always effective and can sometimes even increase inequality, as it flows into the wrong hands and they use it for the wrong things. Gilbert Rist (2007:485) argues that economic growth ‘takes place only at the expense of either the environment or human beings’. Despite this, it is still a common strategy for development and income level is still the most common measure of development. Chang, Ha-Joon (2010)

I would like for development to be as Robert Chambers visualises it. I would like it to bring about progress towards a more equal world and for all human lives to have the same value. However, so far it doesn’t seem to be achieving that. Why? I believe the answer is because development has become an industry in which the rich and ‘powerful tend to dominate’ (Chambers 1997: 1743) thus increasing inequality as opposed to reducing it. A prime example of this is the new Sustainable Development Goals of 2015 which are being funded by big business and corporations (Nick Dearden 2015). In order for development to actually tackle poverty, inequality and human rights the power over development decisions needs to be taken out of the hands of the greedy and corrupt and given back to the people in which development is directly affecting.

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Chambers, Robert (1997) ‘Responsible Well-being: A Personal Agenda for Development’, World Development, Vol. 25(11):1743-1754

Chang, Ha-Joon (2010) ‘Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark: How development has disappeared from today’s ‘development’ discourse’, (2010) in S. Khan & J. Christiansen(eds.), Towards New Developmentalism: Market as Means rather than Master (Routledge, Abingdon).

Dreaden, Nick (2015) The UN Development Goals Miss the Point – It’s All About Power http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/09/25/un-development-goals-miss-point-its-all-about-power?

Rist, Gilbert (2007) ‘Development’, Development in Practice, 17(4-5):485-491.

Telling the African Story: Komla Dumor at TEDxEuston Feb 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfJn8HCKO8g

(All photos used in this blog were taken by myself)