It’s 2045; Where Have the Past 30 Years Gone?

In the year 2015, I began my first year of studying International Development at the University of Sussex. Since then, the developing world has seen vast changes. Whilst in my first year of studying, I had many unanswered questions about the future of the developing world. What will happen to the millions of refugees that fled wore torn Syria? Will Africa ever be independent of aid? Will conflict, climate change and exploitation continue the cycle of development fatigue? I wondered; what will the world look like in 2045? In this blog post I will reflect on some of the changes that have occurred in the past 30 years, and consider what the future holds for the next 30 years to come.

Fifteen years have passed since The Sustainable Development Goals of 2015 reached their expiration date, with 2030 seeing a set of new goals put in place. Many strides have been made across all 17 goals, including poverty reduction, increased access to healthcare and education, and reduced gender inequalities. In particular, the goal which set out the aim to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ has had particular success. In the year 2014, statistics showed that in Niger, “77 per cent of women aged 20 to 49 were married before age 18” (UNICEF, 2014). However, over the past 30 years, the practice of child marriage has declined significantly. Now, 1 in 10 young women alive today were married in childhood, compared to 1 in 4 young women alive in 2014 (UNICEF, 2014). Looking back on my studies in 2015, I can see that ‘the girl effect’ really is creating change.

Regrettably, not all development issues have seen the same positive advancements. Now in 2045, I should be proud to say that the UK has maintained its commitment “to spending 0.7% of national income on aid” (Barder, 2015). However, very little progress has been made since I wrote a blog on African aid in 2015. Statistics show that now, in 2045, “some 550 million people are still living on less than $1.25 a day, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa” (Greenhill et al, 2015). Therefore, I still dare to question; Should Africa be an agent of its own progress?

Moving away from the SDGs, one of the most prominent issues whiRefugee imagech I studied in 2015 was the refugee crisis. The crisis resulted from the war in Syria and other violent outbreaks, and saw around one million refugee arrivals by land or sea in 2015 alone. The UK eventually agreed to take part in the refugee quota scheme, and over the course of the war with ISIS, ended up taking around 35,000 Syrian refugees. Now, in 2045, with the war having ended over 20 years ago, Syria is making steady progress on the path to recovery. Millions of refugees have returned home in the prospect of rebuilding their lives, and helping to restore Syria’s rich history and diverse culture that it was once known for.Equality image

Looking further into the future, I would like to see a world which is no longer in the cycle of ‘Sustainable Development Goals’. I would like to see a world where Africa is free from aid. I would like to see a world where civilians don’t have to flee from their home country in fear of war. It is hard to imagine in a world like today that this will ever be possible, however, “it’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting” (Coelho, 1994, p.11).

Bibliography

Barder, O. (2015) Is The UK Putting Its Own Interests Ahead Of The Poor In Its New Aid Strategy? (Online) Available from: www.cgdev.org/blog/uk-putting-its-own-interests-ahead-poor-its-new-aid-strategy

BBC News. (2015) Migrant crisis: Migration to Europe explained in graphics. (Online) Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34131911

BBC News. (2015) Migrant crisis: Opponents furious over new EU quotas. (Online) Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34331126

Bunting, M. (2011) What will aid look like in 2031? The Guardian (Online) 23rd March. http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/mar/23/future-of-development-sector

Loader, D., McGraw, A. and Mason, M., 2007. Jousting for the new generation: Challenges to contemporary schooling. Aust Council for Ed Research.

ODI (2015) Financing the future: how international public finance should fund a global social compact to eradicate poverty. (Online) Available from: http://www.odi.org/publications/9462-financing-future-international-public-finance-should-fund-global-social-compact-eradicate-poverty

Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform (2015). Sustainable Development Goals. (Online) Available from: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs

Ending Child Marriage (2014). Progress and prospects. (Online) Available from: http://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf

 

 

 

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Africa Must be an Agent of Its Own Progress

In the aid sector today, there is huge controversy regarding whether aid is a help or in fact a hindrance to the development of Africa. Governments and NGOs are being criticised for continuing to provide aid to African countries when statistics clearly show that it is not improving livelihoods in the long-term. As such, the effectiveness of aid is being increasingly questioned. It is, however, difficult to ignore the fact that the majority of the West hold the view that without aid, millions of Africans would not survive. Moreover, I find myself asking; should Africa be an agent of its own progress?

Since the 1940s, over a trillion dollars of aid has been shipped from foreign donors to Africa. Despite this vast sum of money, Africa is in fact poorer today than it was two decades ago. Dambisa Moyo, author of the book ‘Dead Aid’ believes that aid is at the root of keeping Africa in extreme poverty, she points out that “the more it infiltrates, the more it erodes, the greater the culture of aid-dependency”(Moyo, 2aid image009, p.37). I believe that Africa is a continent that has a web of opportunities. However, it has been stripped of all self-initiative. Under the aid model, Africa is portrayed as a place of despair, hopelessness and in need of charity. The infiltration of aid will keep Africans reliant on handouts in order to survive. What is the purpose of aid if it is creating the exact thing that it is trying to eradicate? The population of Africa must be empowered to become entrepreneurs and create their own financial opportunities in order to create long term and sustainable development.

I cannot deny that some aid projects are fundamental to the development of Africa. However, as Andrew Mwenda states in his TED talk;

“The mistake of the international aid industry is to pick these isolated incidents of success, generalise them, pour billions and trillions of dollars into them and then spread them across the whole world, ignoring the specific and unique circumstances in a given village, the skills, the practices, the norms and habits that allow that small aid project to succeed” (Andrew Mwenda, TED talk).

The work of Akon, an international music star, is what I believe to be the type of ‘help’ that Africa both wants and needs. The project ‘Akon Lighting Africa’ has worked to provide rural areas with an affordable and renewable source of electricity. The scheme has also set up a solar akon lighting Africa imageacademy in Mali in order to educate young Africans on how to set up and maintain the solar powered lights, therefore creating jobs. So far, the project has provided 14 African countries with a range of different solar equipment, including street lights, and has provided local jobs within these communities.

Another fundamental issue of aid is that foreign donors are not regulating how the money is spent when it arrives in Africa. Moyo believes that the transfer of aid makes good leaders bad and bad leaders worse. She points out that “A World Bank study found that as much as 85 per cent of aid flows were used for purposes other than that for which they were initially intended, very often diverted to unproductive, if not grotesque adventures.” Moyo uses the example of Zaire’s president who asked President Reagan for easier conditions to pay back the country’s US$5 billion dollar debt, however “he then promptly leased Concorde to fly his daughter to her wedding in the Ivory Coast”(Moyo, 2009, p.22). This is a prime example of aid not being regulated properly, therefore allowing corrupt African governments to use the money as and when they please. Moyo states that “African governments view aid as a permanent, reliable, consistent source of income and have no reason to believe that the flows won’t continue into the indefinite future” (Moyo, 2009, p.36).

African leaders are being given no motivation to put financial plans in place to create long term and sustainable development when money is continuously being handed over on a silver platter. Hancock points out that health services in Nicaragua improved significantly after the country’s aid was cut off. Moreover, this suggests that if aid into African countries was stopped, or even reduced, then governments would take initiative to create a financial plan for the development of their country.

In conclusion, I believe that aid, in most cases, is a hindrance to the development of Africa. Only organisations that help to create opportunities and jobs for local Africans, like the work of Akon, which in turn creates sustainability, will actually help to alleviate Africa from the extreme poverty which it is currently suffering. Therefore, I believe that, in most part, Africa should be an agent of its own progress.

Bibliography

Akon Lighting Africa, (2015) (Online) Available from: http://akonlightingafrica.com/our-activities/overview/

Hancock, G. (1989) ‘The Power, Prestige and Corruption of the International Aid Business’ Lords of poverty. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

Moyo, D. (2009). Dead aid. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Mwenda, A. (2007) TED talk ‘Let’s take a new look at African aid’ (Online) Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfobLjsj230

Riddell, R. (2009) ‘Is aid working? Is this the right question to be asking?’ (Online) Available from: https://www.opendemocracy.net/roger-c-riddell/is-aid-working-is-this-right-question-to-be-asking

The Guardian. (2015) ‘Akon: “I don’t think charities in Africa work”’ (Online) Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/oct/05/akon-charities-africa-lighting-energy-access

Can ‘Good Governance’ Ever be Achieved?

The Oxfo12974587273_ddf6d8fbd1_ord English Dictionary defines ‘government’ as “The action of ruling; continuous exercise of authority over the action of subjects or inferiors; authoritative direction or regulation; control, rule.” There are many different types of government; democracies, monarchies, authoritarian regimes and totalitarian regimes, however, there remain a number of unanswered questions as to what type of government is best for the development of a country. In this blog post, I will analyse the effectiveness of different types of government in providing ‘good governance’. I will further compare the effectiveness of governments with alternative organizations such as NGOs in providing and implementing development strategies.

The link between democracy and development is one that has been widely discussed. Patrick Heller points out that “over the past decade, a large number of developing countries have made the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy” (Patrick Heller, 2001, p.131). Nowadays, a democratic government is widely seen as the best system in order to produce ‘good governance’. Democracy is a system which allows people to partake in all aspects of their lives. However, not all academics share the same positive view on democracies. Karl Marx described a democracy as a system where “the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and oppress them” (Karl Marx, philosopher, 1818-1883).

Around one third of people living in undeveloped countries are living under authoritarian rule. However, despite the widespread view that a democratic government is best for development of a country, there are exceptions, such as China, which holds the record for the fastest developing major country in the history of the world, yet has been run by a communist party since 1949. Merilee Grindle points out that “China and Vietnam are frequently used as examples of countries that have made major gains in economic development and poverty reduction in the presence of many characteristics of bad governance” (Merilee Grindle, 2005, p.4). As stated by the DFID, “what works in one country to improve governance may not work in another. The demand for democratic politics must come from within” (DFID, 2007, p.3).

A voter from Zam Zam Internally Displaced Persons Camp, North Darfur, submits her ballot on the first day of Sudan's national elections.

A voter from Zam Zam Internally Displaced Persons Camp, North Darfur, submits her ballot on the first day of Sudan’s national elections.

Despite common thought that governments can be detrimental actors in the process of development, they can in many cases have transformative power in the development field. The Millennium Development Goals are a UN initiative. These eight goals were set up in order to address major issues such as extreme poverty, hunger, shelter, gender inequality and education. Since these goals were put in place in 2000, the world has made major developmental advances. “Between 1990 and 2002, average overall incomes increased by approximately 21 percent” (Millennium Project, 2002-2006). In addition, child mortality rates have declined whilst life expectancy has seen an increase. However, this progress has been far from straight forward, with huge variations across countries. As Merilee Grindle points out, “the ability to reach the MDGs are clearly affected by conditions of governance in particular countries” (Merilee Grindle, 2005, p.10). Grindle further suggests that “the opportunities for change are always constrained in some measure, and in some cases made impossible, by existing institutions, structures of political power, and capacities”(Merilee Grindle, 2005, p.11).

In many undeveloped countries, as in many developed countries, the government is not always the best mechanism to implement development strategies.  Patrick Heller suggests that NGOs along with civil society organizations and social movements have an essential part in making the state more democratic. Heller believes that “community based organizations (CBOs) and NGOs are more deeply rooted in society, they can engage in innovative community-based initiatives and can provide vital information about social needs” (Patrick Heller, 2001, p.152). For Example, in Rwanda, a number of NGOs set up the modernisation of the courts in order to help deal with over 130,000 prisoners accused of crimes that took place during the genocide. In this case, NGOs played a key role in the development of a poor country where the state is not strong enough to take its own action.

In my opinion, governments are essential to development. However, I believe that the capability of governments, both in developing and developed countries, to carry out all processes alone is limited. All organisations, including the political sector, the media, trade unions and NGOs must work together towards building state responsibility, accountability and capability. The processes needed to produce ‘good governance’ differs between countries. As stated by the Department for International Development:

“Governance systems have many different forms, depending on local culture, society and history. It is for each country to design and implement its own democratic institutions (…) the demand for change must come from within” (DFID, 2007, p.20).

Bibliography:

BBC News. (Online) Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/china_politics/government/html/1.stm

DFID (2007) Governance, Development and Democratic Politics: DFID’s work in building more effective states. London: Department for International Development.

Grindle, M. (2005) ‘Good Enough Governance Revisited’, Report for DFID.

Heller, P. (2001) ‘Moving the State: The Politics of Democratic Decentralization in Kerala, South Africa, and Porto Alegre’, Politics and Society, Vol 29 (1): 131-163.

Millennium Project. (2002-2006) (Online) Available from: http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/goals/index.htm

Patton, J. ‘Bellevue University’s Economics Department’, What Is The Sum Of Good Government? (Online) Available from: http://jpatton.bellevue.edu/macro/goodgovernment.html

UN System Task Team on the post-2015 UN Development Agenda. (2012) ‘Governance and Development’, (Online) Available from: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/Think%20Pieces/7_governance.pdf

Development; ‘What does it Actually Mean?’

hands on worldWhat is development? When faced with this question, it is not surprising that most people stumble upon their words. Sustainability? Poverty reduction? Education? Individual betterment? Economic growth? The list goes on. In this blog post, I will look at the contrasting definitions of the word development, and the way in which it has perhaps become ascribed to have little meaning at all in the world today.

When initially confronted with the question ‘what is development?’ I would have answered that development should be about empowering people with the right to education, health services, and access to food and shelter. However, after researching into the topic, I began to question myself. How can development mean the same thing in a poor country as it does in a wealthy country? My answer; it doesn’t.inequality slum vs pool

In his editorial, Robert Chambers (1997) states that “the underlying
meaning of development has been good change” (Chambers, 1997, p.1744). However, a crucial problem in defining the word development is to where and to whom you are applying it. Although Chambers (1997) describes development as “good change” (Chambers, 1997, p.1744), he also believes that the definition of development can be “personally defined and redefined” (Chambers, 1997, p.1743). I agree with Chambers’ view, as, in my opinion, the type of development needed in one area of a country may be the polar opposite of the necessary development in another area. For development to be described as “good change” (Chambers, 1997, p.1744) we have to ask the people in question whether they see it as good change or not.

Many organisations such as governments believe that economic growth is the best strategy to help develop a nation. However, Gilbert Rist (2007) believes that improving the economy of a country will not improve the lives of those living in poverty stricken areas. Rist (2007) states that “The survival of the planet will depend upon abandoning the deep-rooted belief that economic growth can deliver social justice” (Rist, 2007, p.485). Personally, I too agree with the views of Rist, as I believe that for development to truly take place anywhere in the world, we must start at the root; sustainability.

Similarly to Rist, Chang Ha-Joon (2010) holds some negative opinions towards development, stating that “helping the developing countries is actually bad for them because it will only encourage dependency mentality” (Ha-Joon, 2010, p.3). This view is further supported by the article ‘Understanding public attitudes to aid and development’ which suggests that richer countries may have contributed to ‘underdevelopment’. I believe that many hold this negative view towards development due to the ignorance of the West. The word development perhaps nowadays means little other than to allow the elite of the West to hurl money into poverty stricken areas in order to make them feel as though they are doing some ‘good’ in the world. As suggested in the article ‘Understanding Public Attitudes to Aid and Development’, this transfer of money and resources from rich to poor countries is not something that individuals in poor countries can participate in. Instead, it will provide food to allow the affected to simply ‘get by’ for the next few months. Moreover, for development to be sustainable we must allow people in developing countries to have freedom and control over their own lives, thus creating long-term and sustainable development.

I believe that there will never be a ‘correct’ definition of the word development. As Chambers (1997) points out:Image of plant

“Development has been taken to mean different things at different times, in different places, and by different people in different professions and organizations” (Chambers, 1997, p.1744). For me, this is a key definition that should be used by all when trying to understand ‘what is development?’

In my opinion, the ambiguity of development highlights the importance that we must continue to explore the topic in order to understand the continuously changing needs of the developing world.

Bibliography:

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

Glennie, Alex, Straw, Will and Wild, Leni (2009) ‘Understanding Public Attitudes to Aid and Development’, London: ODI and IPPR.

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