Responding to this unit is a daunting prospect. In discussing and presenting ideas about emerging issues in development we committing ourselves to one day having these ideas heaved onto the scrap heap of developmental theories that lie in our wake?
Regardless of this danger, countries and communities across the globe continue to suffer gross poverty and inequality and so efforts must continue to alleviate them. By studying the history of development over the past half a century there are opportunities to learn from mistakes, identify good practice and put in place a vision for the future of development practices and theories. I don’t suppose for a second that we now hold all the answers and have little doubt that around this corner or the next a ‘new and improved’ theory for development will reveal itself. But it is reassuring to discover that current policy making is influenced by the past, that early theories continue to hold relevance for today’s efforts.
I found myself frequently pausing the lecture associated with this unit – not as in the first unit, to furiously scribble down notes in an attempt to untangle a web of alien vocabulary and ideas – but instead to pause for thought about the direction of development in the future.
The MDGs are by no means new but they do encompass some of the most prominent and current issues in development. The focus on human development has emerged as one of the biggest priorities. However it does not stand alone, the importance of politics has reassuringly re-emerged along with an appreciation that development is not one-dimensional. Coupled with the emphasis for human development there is recognition for the important role played by the market and government, what Tom refers to as ‘a multi dimensional approach to development’.
Comforting though this sounds there are still problems and undoubtedly more problems wait on the horizon. The MDGs for example are limited by thier fixation on quantifying development and producing measurable results. Adopting a supposedly people centred method also means having to employ a more flexible and experimental attitude towards how development in any given region will manifest itself. Accurate indicators cannot be expected for the intangible characteristics of well-being. I anticipate that the danger in this inability to quantify success will make policies less attractive for those who hold so much sway in international markets. Awkward topics risk being avoided, as Hulme argues, “When they challenge the interests of powerful groups or nations, they are removed from the agenda and/or their principles are compromised or assiduously avoided.” (2007). How this problem is to be addressed let alone resolved is indeed a challenge. Perhaps as these power shifts from one set of groups and nations to another, solutions will reveal themselves.
Change is certainly on our doorstep. Those who have been able to weather the most recent economic storm are emerging as influential and powerful engines for growth. Whilst the US remains a key player it no longer imparts such a massive impact on the rest of the world’s economies. I find it reassuring that with the growing powers in the East perceptions are shifting and what has previously been unquestionable in development policy is laid bare to scrutiny. No more blue prints – after all if poorer countries follow in the wake of richer countries then the 2008 economic crisis may appear a mere drop in the ocean compared with the catastrophic impact of a fully ‘westernised world’. How we will cope without the safety of ‘an integrated package of measures and outcome’ (Lehmann, 1997) remains to be seen. I have doubts about whether those working within the development field can easily shrug off the habit and comfort of designing solution-based programs. The idea of ‘going your own way’ and opening up to more experimental development practices leaves much uncertainty. The difficulty of measuring what will inevitably be a very diverse collection of recipes for development will be problematic and this I suspect will make them unappealing to those from whom investment is sought.
I am glad now that I ventured to propose, after unit 3, that good governance is too important a factor to disregard because of it’s openness to the risk of corruption and ulterior agendas. Along with new, globalized views on development comes an opportunity to reinvent and reinvest in governance.
Previous units have shown have governance was too often formed to co-inside with more developed countries ideology and agendas. David Booth sums up this deficit in good governance: “Programmes to improve governance continue to reflect what ministers and parliaments in donor countries will support, rather than a relevant body of knowledge and experience,”(2011). These are prescribed policies which many governments are incapable of implementing with any tangible effect.
Reading Unsworth’s ‘An Upside Down View of Governance’ puts forward the value of reassessing the use of governance in a manner that will support the new, multi dimensional approach to development:
“It focuses less on the destination – formal, rules-based democratic and market and institution – and more on the means of getting there, preferring an open-minded exploration of how elements of effective public authority are actually being created in a variety of ways,” (2010)
Democracy is a good example of something that was previously force fed to developing countries as a pre-requisite for development. Whilst democracy is generally regarded as a strong mechanism for growth in numerous directions it is no longer being prescribed as a remedy but more as a desirable outcome. There is greater regard shown for evidence that transferring models from OECD countries into strikingly different environments is ineffective.
My skepticism creeps in on much the same line as with the human development approach discussed above. Whilst new strategies for good governance are appealing to some, those who hold positions of power and heavily influence international decisions on development may be less keen to see an end to their own agenda. My hope is that whilst transparency and accountability continue to be highly valued, pressure will be sufficient to protect those who are most at risk from corruption or geo-political aims.
An end to grand theories; increased transparency; global communications and shifts in the economic centre of gravity are all key ingredients from which human development can emerge. Along with globalization has come an end to unquestionable elites in the development field, after all, ‘Corruption and waste prosper in dark places,” (Owen, 2001). With fewer places to hide development practice has had to reform. Previously all-powerful nations can no longer dictate the terms of aid policies, which, in turn, are increasingly giving way to development policies. I feel especially optimistic in the recognition that development is an international responsibility. Policy coherence on issues of not just aid but agriculture, climate chance and politics lends itself to the increasingly smaller world in which we live.
The future of development is not comfortable. It demands efforts at objectivity and varying perspectives, there is some doubt about the human capacity to view things without the subjective influence of their nurture. My hope is that whilst it may be impossible to be completely objective it is at least within our means to listen more closely and pay greater respect to those who have relevant experience and expertise. There is call to disregard old labels and redundant approaches of best practice blue prints. A multi-dimensional approach will require a balance between political, human, environmental and economical aspects of policy making. This is not an easily balanced formula, however, as the failings of grand theories have shown they are the fundamental necessities to development.
Barder, O, (2011), ‘Eight Lessons from three years working on transparency’ http://www.owen.org/blog/4433
Booth, D. (2011), ‘Governance for Development in Afric: Building on what Works’. Africa Power and Politics, Policy Brief, no.1, April
Hulme, D, 2007, Human Development Meets Results-based Management in an Imperfect World, University of Manchester
Lehmann, D. (1997) An Opportunity Lost: Escobar’s Deconstruction of Development. Journal of Development Studies, 33(4)
Unsworth, S (2010), An Upside Down View of Governance. Bighton: Institue of Development Studies.