Reflections on International Development: Ideas and Actors, twelve weeks in.

Around this time four years ago, 27th December 2008, I remember watching the news with my family, and we were all crying. Nearly 200 Palestinians had been killed, with hundreds more injured. This was after the Israeli air force launched dozens of air raids on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip (1). This is the first time I remember feeling so strongly about people that I didn’t know first-hand, and that weren’t filmed in black-and-white, accompanied with heartbreaking music for a charity appeal. Although the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 also made me feel a need to help, too, this was a case of natural disaster relief, rather than due to the actions of individuals- which can be altered, whereas a tsunami cannot be stopped by people. Since this time, I knew I wanted to work in a field which tried to improve peoples’ lives. I was outraged that people could treat one another as such. As a half-Serbian girl growing up in the UK in the nineties, I had been exposed from an early age to the persecution and malice that people are capable of inflicting on one another. Who decides that these things can happen? This isn’t fair! What about the people starving in African or Asian countries? I wanted to contribute to efforts to reduce these things happening. My sentiments have remained since a young age, and as such, I consider taking International Development at Sussex as one of the best choices I’ve made in my twenty years of life.

A year or so prior to the course, I was filled with what I can only describe as hopeless naivety,  believing that with enough fundraising, organisations such as Comic Relief would do the rest and eventually poverty would be alleviated. In the year before starting at Sussex, I read articles and books on development, including Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid, which began to reveal to me that the situation with aid was not as simple as I had first thought. Even with billions of US dollars worth of aid, it is often misspent or gouged away at through corrupt government officials. Although I viewed the African peoples that Moyo talks about as vibrant, intelligent peoples with so much potential for prospering, I suppose I still saw them as ‘victims’ to some extent. The notion of which now agitates me. Who was I to decide who was a victim and who was not? They may be victims by Western standards, but tradition and culture mean people have different values. Of course, human rights should not be breached, but anything other than that becomes a bit more of a grey area, as I’ve learnt.

The course so far has helped me form and solidify my own opinions on various issues: that I believe social reform and female empowerment the most key element to development, and that I believe that the legalisation of drugs and prostitution would be more beneficial worldwide than detrimental. Reading about rights for sex workers, especially, sparked interest in the sexuality and gender areas of development. The course has also helped open my eyes to new initiatives and technologies- such as The Wonderbag.

‘Wonderbag’s clever insulating properties allow food that has been brought to the boil to finish cooking while in the bag without the use of additional energy. So, families can cook appetising hot meals, while saving energy – and money. It also means less time tending cooking food – time that can be better spent looking after children, earning an income or doing essential chores.’ (2)


A wonderbag in action

A wonderbag in action

Such things have informed and inspired me in ways that I hope will be useful for not only myself in the future, but also what I hope to contribute to development.








Reflections on the past twenty years, 18th December 2032

I am sitting on the high-speed train going through New Indo-China, currently passing through Kathmandu (formerly Nepal). Despite being the UK ambassador for the World Health Organisation, with travel inherent in the job description, I’ve still not entirely gotten over my fear of flying, so I’m forever grateful for the technological innovations meaning I can take trains instead. This six-hour journey gives me ample time to reflect on the past twenty years- since I started my bachelor’s degree in International Development. Then, I would never have envisaged the state of the world as it is today.

I’m parched, so I’ve ordered a strawberry bubble tea, though my Mandarin really isn’t up-to-scratch. Thanks to the EU curricula reformations of 2022, future EU citizens will not have the same problem as I have- ‘Mandatory Mandarin’, along with another chosen European language, are taught from nursery until the end of compulsory secondary schooling (age eighteen).

I’m on my way to the tenth annual New Indo-China –Africa relations conference, where New Indo-China’s financial relations with Africa will be discussed and assessed. Basing my research on the huge successes of South American economic giant Bolivia (whose economy boomed in 2016 with the extraction of the ever-valuable lithium from its immense salt flats), who used the money to improve infrastructure, health, and education, I will be giving a talk on spending strategies for Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, whose collective GNIs have doubled in the past two decades, through the harbouring of energy via solar panels in the Kalahari desert. Although ugly, these ‘solar fields’ feature in every hot, arid desert in the world. This has also allowed for the USA’s economy to continue to maintain itself with the vast Southern deserts, despite it being overshadowed in both power and population by New Indo-China (composed of all [except for Japan and North Korea] of Asia, given the namesake as a commemoration of the pain caused by colonialism, and as a reminder that any mass breach of human rights should never happen again).



Significantly, the first Nobel Peace Prize awarded to a celebrity was given to Angelina Jolie, commending her for the foundation of the CSDD (Celebrity Strike to Drop the Debt) movement of 2018-2019, where- as we all remember- for three months, 92% of non-political celebrities and athletes globally refused to make media appearances, including filming, recording, or playing sport for two months, from mid-November to mid-January. This halted life as we knew it in the West, caused mass hysteria in the media, and raised the profile of the campaign to a global extent. Christmas 2019 was dubbed as ‘the ghost of Christmas past’, with no new filming done, so television-watchers has to settle for re-runs from previous years. The power of the media was shown to its fullest extent, and in many countries capital was fundraised, with a cut of 46% of sales worldwide for Christmas spending. The money, albeit far from the totals of debt worldwide, was instead given to the countries that owed the money, in a stand to show solidarity amongst all humans, regardless of nationality. Valentines Day 2019, the date all international debts were cancelled, was hailed as one of the most important days in modern history, ‘the gift of love from one human to another’.


Another crucial year in the past twenty is 2024- the official end to the unofficial Four Year World Wide Water Wars (4W). Four years of global struggle, hyperinflation, widespread rationing, and a halt to any progress, economic or otherwise, was put to an end by the discovery of underground wells, kilometres deep, in Siberia, Russia (part of the Pan-Slavic Union).


Flag of the PSU


This meant that as well as the world being thirsty no longer, with enough provisions for two more years, and allowing for the PSU to benefit financially for the first time ever, it also allowed enough time and resources to be freed that desalinisation research could be properly intensified, resulting in processes which are now sustainable.

This seems to prove Boserup’s 1965 theory, “necessity is the mother of invention”. (4)

Unfortunately, in the past twenty years, biodiversity has fallen by 14%, but reforestation and conservation projects have been steadily improving, since the switch to solar power several years ago. 4W resulted in a horrific billion deaths over the four years, and has acted as a warning for what depleting resources and overpopulation can lead to. I am hopeful that with a sustainable form of energy finally being achieved, and with the world debts being dropped, that this is a great starting point to begin to tackle issues that have otherwise been pushed aside by the prior causes: fighting poverty and corruption worldwide. Perhaps in another twenty years I will write again, and describe the successes of poverty reduction, or even elimination! Hopelessly hopeful? Maybe. But look how far we’ve come in twenty years!

References used





Rights or Rescue?


Amsterdam’s Red Light District (1)

Prostitution. The act of selling sex. There is no doubt that the sex industry makes millions every year, whether or not it takes place in the formal, or informal, system. There is also no doubt that prostitution has been around almost as long as humans themselves.

Last week, I was lucky enough to visit Amsterdam with friends as a gift for my twentieth birthday. It was an eye-opening experience as it exposed me to a country with very different legislation on areas such as the sales of alcohol and ‘soft’ drugs (it is legal, and even encouraged, to smoke marijuana in the thousands of “coffee shops” which are spread throughout the city). Aside from relaxed laws on cannabis, the other significantly different element to the Netherlands from its other European counterparts is that prostitution is completely legal. It is also legal to own a brothel.

Walking through the red light district was a very strange experience, with scantily-clad women standing behind glass-panelled doors with the red light above them, waiting for their next customer. At first, I felt sickened by the idea that passing men were essentially ‘window shopping’ for women to sleep with. However, when I saw women looking jaded, doing their nails, or talking on the phone and laughing, it hit me… They’re just bored at work. I have to admit that at my restaurant, when we have no customers at my work and there are no tasks to do, and everything is clean, I do the same. I go out for a cigarette. I text my friends. It just made me realise how normal this was for them. They are selling their service just as I sell mine as a waitress. This made me think, why would prostitution illegal? These women are smiling, laughing, they are not covered in bruises. They are well-dressed (for what they are wearing)- they do not look impoverished. Of course, relatively few people in the Netherlands are, with a Human Development Index of 0.910 in 2011 (2), the third highest in the world. Still, the business in the Netherlands, as I knew, was regulated, and condom use was mandatory. I even saw a ‘condomerie’ with humorous hand-crafted condoms. Condom use here is such a given that an arts and crafts business for it can flourish. Finally, I thought that these women must be making a LOT of money. It makes up 5% of the Netherlands economy (3).There will always be a want and need for sex, and this industry fills that niche perfectly.



Of course, this situation and system is not replicated in every other country in the world. What about sex workers in other countries? In developing countries? There is a very large sex industry in India. British former journalist, Sarah Harris, spent months in Southern India filming the lives of “victims of sex trafficking”, in a film called ‘Prostitutes of God’.

Despite being made illegal in 1988, Southern India’s ‘devadasi’ system continues to thrive. This system, which dates back to the sixth century, involves a dedication ceremony which ‘marries’ girls to the fertility goddess Yellamma. To begin with, these girls would perform rituals and dances, looking after the temples they lived in. The devadasi became less respectable over time, ‘“Many ended up becoming the mistress of a particular ‘patron’ – often a royal, or nobleman – as well as serving in the temple”’ (5) With the introduction of Christianity through colonialism, temples lost their authority, so the women lived elsewhere instead, continuing to sell their services. “’Today, although there are still many women called devadasi, and who have been dedicated to the goddess, a lot of them are essentially prostitutes.”’ Says Harris (6)

The goddess Yellamma

The goddess Yellamma


‘“When the devadasi become older and can’t attract the same business, they end up trafficking, and taking girls from the small villages to big cities like Bangalore, where they set up brothels. Most of the girls chosen are illiterate agricultural workers, who go because they think they’ll make more money as devadasi than if they work on the land.”’ (8)

The film shows Harris interviewing some devadasi, and learning what their experiences and daily lives are like. Online, there are several pieces with anecdotal evidence from women describing their horrifying experiences as devadasi– being beaten or raped as young girls ‘the devadasi tradition dictated that her virginity was sold to the highest bidder and when [the devadasi girl] had a daughter at 14 she was sent to work in the red light district in Mumbai.’ (9)

Organisations such as FREEDOM FIRM and RESCUE FOUNDATION carry out raids on brothels. ‘Using hidden cameras, our investigators identify the minor victims as well as the brothel keepers, pimps, and traffickers, document the crime, and then submit this information to the police. With assistance from Freedom Firm, the police raid the brothels and rescue the girls, who are then placed in aftercare. The police arrest the perpetrators and file criminal complaints against them.’ (10)

This seems like a very worthwhile cause, saving children’s livelihoods, giving them a chance to recuperate and lead a normal life following their ‘freedom’. However, the procedure above is described by the company itself. Of course, the prostitution of children should be condemned and punished, but on hearing from some of the older devadasi themselves, it is clear to see that the situation is not just a case of a rich, white benefactor ‘rescuing’ abused children. Harris’ film caused great retaliation and fury from the people it featured and ‘exposed’, who were not even given a form of consent to legitimise them being filmed.


The video shows how the people were portrayed in a bad light according to them, with Harris telling the British public things which are not true in their opinion.

“I told you [Sarah] I am a woman in sex work and you have defamed me as a brothel owner” (12)

“My mother used her money from sex work to raise me” (13) Despite everything, the film even shows community atmosphere. Child prostitution aside (this is NOT the same as prostitution which is consensual sex between two adults), this work is a livelihood for many women. It is their own choice. How is this any different to the red light district in Amsterdam? If these people want to earn money by selling their services just like a tailor or a personal trainer might, should charities be allowed to step in and stop them?

“Who Will Rescue Us from Those Who Wish to Rescue Us Against Our Will?”


There is a difference between sex trafficking and prostitution. There should be stricter laws on child prostitution, but when they have reached adulthood, women should be able to make their own decisions about the service they want to sell, whether it be a labourer, or a store clerk, or a prostitute. Organisations such as rescue foundation, despite having good intentions (and good results by saving underage children), often impact badly on the communities they so wish to help, infantilising people by assuming they cannot make decisions for themselves.

People do suffer in the sex industry but perhaps if prostitution was decriminalised, and the sex workers are given rights globally, then there will be less abuse and illegal trafficking. Like in Amsterdam, stricter regulations would mean certified sex workers, who are then protected more by the governments, and checked for diseases, reducing the spread of sexual infections. Because each worker would be certified, it would make it harder to introduce workers who were not, i.e trafficked women, or children. I believe that a reform in worldwide legislation regarding prostitution will ultimately mean that there will be no need for ‘rescue’.



3-     Daley, S. (2001). New Rights for Dutch Prostitutes, but No Gain. New York Times. August 12, 2002: A1 and 4




8 –





Can celebrities save the world?

No, unfortunately I’m not talking about a superhero A-team including of Beyoncé and David Beckham in tight, bright lycra. Or maybe I am. The rich and famous doing work for charities and fundraising is often portrayed as something not far off martyrdom, so representing them as actual superheroes is not the most far-fetched element of this piece. But does the support and advocacy of NGOs by the rich and famous always contribute to their causes as positively as the media conveys, or does it merely strengthen the polarities and concepts of ‘us and them’, or ‘the West and the rest’,  by a poor African child being given a meal by a beautiful, flawless Hollywood A-lister?

Celebrity philanthropists are certainly not a new phenomenon. Edward G. Robinson, the thirties star of the black-and-white era Hollywood, who made 101 films in his 50-year career (1) donated more than US$ 250,000 to 850 political and charitable groups between 1939 and 1949 (2). This is one of many early examples. To many- myself included- it makes a lot of sense that those with vast amounts of money use at least a small proportion of it for the benefit of others. But for which reasons might these charity benefactors be created? Of course, it could be wholly based on the individuals’ good will, with no ulterior motives whatsoever. But it is unlikely that self-righteousness and the prospect of ‘good press’ do not feature in the donors’ minds, not least because the PR teams of each celebrity constantly want to ensure a spotless reputation for their money-making employers. Some examples of celebrities and the organisations they promote:

British tennis player Andy Murray is a member of the Malaria No More UK Leadership Council.




Beyoncé Knowles, along with Kelly Rowland founded the (somewhat humorously-named) Survivor Foundation, for family disaster relief.



And one of the most famous and highest-paid footballers of all time, David Beckham, has worked with a number of international aid bodies, including UNICEF, Comic Relief, and Red Cross.



Before shoving potential cynicism at celebrity ‘do-gooders’, it is imperative to understand the kind of work that is done. In the UK, we are showered with images and stories of our household names- including those from across the pond- raising money and awareness by essentially being fabulous and asking for donations for just that. Consider Red Nose Day, which has become somewhat of a nation-wide event where families sit together and watch-amidst videos of impoverished Africans and suffering Brits- famous people (especially comedians) making fools out of themselves for financial contributions. It works.  In 2011, the money raised by the British public was a record-breaking £108.4 million. (7) In terms of fundraising, this is fantastic. The benefit of using celebrities to front a campaign is that people are more likely to listen to them (and therefore donate money, or take on board their messages) than if the same things were said by relatively unknown heads of NGOs, regardless of how charismatic a speaker they might be.

As celebrities are unbound by political constraints- coupled with support from the public- this means they have the opportunity of free access to a variety of organisations and means of sharing their opinions. As the Guardian puts it, ‘Few politicians get asked on to popular shows such as Oprah, but the right celebrity can’ (8)

The chairman of the Africa Progress Panel and former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, talks to Live Aid founder Bob Geldof. Some celebrities now have unprecedented access to world leaders. Photograph: Marcus Brandt/AFP/Getty images

The chairman of the Africa Progress Panel and former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, talks to Live Aid founder Bob Geldof. Some celebrities now have unprecedented access to world leaders. Photograph: Marcus Brandt/AFP/Getty images


Celebrity activists can raise the profiles of campaigns that otherwise would have little to no attention given by the public, particularly if the cause is far away. Doubtless, if the 2004 Boxing day tsunami had not been given 24 hour media coverage of the relief efforts, with celebrity help, much less money would have been raised, ergo limiting the relief programmes. I for one do not want to think of the extent at which this might have been true.

The 2004 tsunami is also a good example of how fickle the all-powerful media industry can be. ‘For example, private donations to relief agencies during the early stages of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 had been sufficient to support approximately one million displaced Rwandans, but after the tribulations of O.J. Simpson and Tanya Harding eclipsed Rwanda in international news, funding for relief activities began to decline’ (10)

This is one of many examples that warn that through celebrity intervention, ‘politics becomes mere entertainment, [and] the danger is that society loses its ability to solve pressing social problems.’ (11)

There lies a catch-22 in that although celebrity efforts can get lots and lots of funding that would probably not be possible- or at least not as easy to obtain- without them, it also poses the problem of strengthening schisms between the giver and the receiver. Think about how each ‘side’ is represented to the other. In the UK, at least, we are bombarded with the notion that all Ethiopians live in mud huts and that all their ribs are visible. Naturally, to get the most donations, the people in the most disadvantaged situations are filmed (with accompanying melancholy music by Take That or Adele, which crescendos towards the end when the celebrity voice-over in question mentions just as monthly donations are mentioned).  This is to generate the most sympathy, essentially- nobody wants to donate to well-fed Ethiopians studying hard to get into one of Ethiopia’s university institutions (of which, by the way, there are many (12) ). These people understand how they are being portrayed. Helpless, desperate, starving and uneducated, with flies on their faces. The very notion of this humanitarian work seems is questionable, as there can certainly be more than a slightly pervading sense of pity. Of course, there are people who need help. We have ALL been in situations where we are struggling, and would not turn down a helping hand. Perhaps we could not carry seventeen shopping bags up five flights of stairs, or really just didn’t “get” that last algebra equation. Pretty much everyone would accept help if offered. But perhaps not if it was under the pretence that we really are pathetic and hopeless- we just needed someone to take maybe three or four of the bags, or to show us how to ‘complete the square’.  We shouldn’t be made to feel ASHAMED for needing or accepting help. If shame was a clause of the agreement, many would turn it down, to save humiliation. There is still a question of peoples’ PRIDE here, which is amplified with the juxtaposition of Western celebrity philanthropists and swathes of children suffering in favelas or shanty towns.

And as for the converse, how should the beneficiaries see their donors? As God-sends? An answer to their prayers? How both partners in the donor-recipient relationship are perceived needs to be given more consideration. It is clear that the fiscal contributions of celebrities can be bountifully useful in funding projects worldwide, which are often successful- think Red Nose Day. However, I believe there are other uses of celebrity influence which might be more successful in the fight for poverty reduction, rather than merely continuing to plead for money… Fighting for campaigns for universal education, social reform or dropping international debts, suggesting for a re-evaluation of trade blocs and barriers to free up access for trade… All elements which will could also contribute to the improvements of peoples’ lives, without directly reinforcing stereotypes. Celebrities could effectively gather enough worldwide support to pass great movements.

Jamie Oliver set up his global charity, Better Food Foundation which is more along the lines suggested, as it educates people on food, nutrition, and food culture. It is not just a one-time gift.


Or, to omit any ulterior motives, perhaps celebrities could give more of their own money to worthwhile causes or campaigns…anonymously (like any true superhero)?




4,5,6- Images: James Husbands


8, 9 –

10- Brown, P., and Minty, M., (2oo6 ) ‘Media Coverage & Charitable Giving After the 2004 Tsunami’ William Davidson Institute Working Paper Number 855

11- West, D.M., (2007) ‘ANGELINA, MIA, AND BONO: CELEBRITIES AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT’ , Session II: Angelina, Bono, and Me: New Vehicles to Engage the Public, Washington D.C


13- Images: James Husbands

DFiD- All it’s cracked up to be?

A ‘development actor’ can refer to a wide range of organisations which operate a variety of frameworks for development, such as multi-lateral systems (examples are the UN or the World Bank), bilateral development agencies (associated with nation-states), and the increasing involvement of the countries with new emerging economies- Brazil, India, and China.

Each of these actors aim to provide aid and development assistance to regions that are, simply, “worse off” than themselves. We can look at the aim of such establishments as meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals set by the UN (see image below [1] ), with targets for each, to be fulfilled by 2015.


Although NGOs, philanthropic foundations and multinational corporations also contribute to global development aid, the greatest proportion (an estimated 80-85%) comes from ODA, which is why I feel that ODA should be explored further. An acronym for Official Development Assistance first given in 1969 by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), this aid is given to countries that qualify as recipients of official development aid (and appear on the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s List of Aid Recipients (2) ). 70% of this aid is given bilaterally, and 30% is multilateral, through various international and nation-state organisations.

To begin with, I had a look through some of the statistics from OECD, paying particular attention to which donors provided aid to which recipient countries, and to see if the UN’s advised 0.7% (3) of GNI of a nation given to ODA was met.



Of course, this graph shows the US as being the biggest donor of ODA- which it is very proud of- but what proportion of the US GNI does this actually make up?



Only 0.21%, with the only countries meeting the 0.7% recommendation being Scandinavian nations. Taking a closer look at individual donor countries, interesting links are made. America’s top three recipient nations are Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan respectively (6). And, with a bilateral share of 87% in 2009 (7), this begs the question

What are the REAL motives of the donor countries?

Despite being naturally quick to criticise the US, I decided instead to take a closer look at the UK (8), not least because as a taxpayer it would be useful to see where the budget for international assistance was going, and to see if there were similar links to the USA’s pattern of aid.  Afghanistan and Pakistan also feature in the UK’s top four recipient nations, but India has received by far the most aid from the UK 657 USD million (9). India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies though, so why? Could it be linked to previous colonial ties? Or perhaps is the UK trying to build and maintain strong relationships for India before it becomes economically dominated by this emerging Asian giant?

DFID is the UK Department for International Development, and is funded by the UK’s government budget, made up of British citizens’ taxes, its tagline being

“UK aid from the British people”

Of course, DFID has numerous success stories, but I think it is important to also draw from the failures of the organisation, that are far less publicised, and would potentially make any British patriot red with embarrassment.


This video emphasises the extent at which development programs can GET IT WRONG, even if the original intentions are good. This video exposes the ‘Business Partners for Development’ project which was partly-funded by DFID. A coal mine development was set up in a rural residential area, was sold to the locals as an opportunity to create jobs, and open up a financial market. The reality was that it has polluted crops and the air so badly that the school has to be moved, though the project’s chosen site for the new school is just as dangerous, in a location which means it could collapse with even small tremors. This shows poor planning, and, in my opinion, a blatant disregard for the quality of lives of the people who it has affected the most.

One of the most striking parts of the video is when one of the villagers says [about the school]:

“They should send their own children to study here , then they’d understand”

Which, to me, demonstrates how notions of “us and them” are only reiterated with poorly-planned programs. For me, the most infuriating part is the statement from DFID: ‘A replicable model was developed’ (11). If this is what UK agencies want to replicate, then I’m sure I must have a ludacris idea of what development means. Because it is certainly not ‘well-being for all’ (12). It is imperative to realise that this case study is far from standalone. In 2003, DFID’s aid money endeavoured to amplify the number of Kenyan children attending primary school, but in reality, “… this foreign aid-funded programme simply resulted in children being transferred from private to government schools. There was no increase in the number of children attending primary school”- James Tooley (13). Very recently, research has revealed that DFID’s aid budget is ‘being channelled towards projects with the express purpose of extending the power of agribusiness over the production of food in sub-Saharan Africa… promotion of genetically modified crops will also lock small farmers into dependency on corporate providers of seeds and chemical inputs, undermining any chance of defeating hunger’ (14), which directly contradicts the first Millenium Development Goal.

Each of these situations exemplifies how DFID’s aid programmes can result in the disadvantaged people in question being in a worse position than before the programmes were implemented. It makes me burn with rage that relatively small bodies of peoples’ decisions can have such a disastrous effect on the masses, and although this is an age-old problem, there is no reason why correct legislation and implementation should not lead to ‘good change’ (15) (Chambers)

The only real solution to this deep-rooted problem of misspending and poor instruction of programmes that scream self-interest that I can envisage would be to ensure stricter regulations on what can or cannot be done in terms of aid, so good intentions could become good change. If aid-giving legislation was tightened, and the 2005 Paris Declaration and 2008 Accra Agenda for Action- both in Aid Effectiveness- principles were followed; ownership, alignment, harmonisation, results, and mutual accountability (16), then I believe both donors and recipients would benefit hugely, by taking responsibility and pride in the development processes, rather than just filling meeting quotas, or wasting large sums of money on schemes detrimental for potentially both ends of the spectrum. Ideally, there will be little-to-no spectrum at all, eliminating the concept of “us and them”.

43393519Aid works bettter thumbnail


1  Image from

2 – DAC List of ODA Recipients

Effective for reporting on 2011, 2012 and 2013 flows.







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





What IS development?

As someone who studies INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT, I should be quick off the mark to explain- at the very least- what INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT actually means, right? Well, the international part is straightforward enough; between nations. But the development part is a little trickier, as experts in the field itself fiercely dispute among themselves as to what the term might actually be defined as.

From my first week of lectures and readings, I have been able to gauge just how different definitions for development can be; depending on the INTENT of the organisation or individual by whom the definition is given. For example, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) suggests that- with reference to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs)- development involves ‘the IMF help[ing] poor countries achieve the sustained high levels of growth that establish the basis for poverty reduction'(1). For many, this instantly conjures up the ideals of “us and them”, “the West and the Rest” and so on and so forth. Of course, such a large organisation working on a global scale must maintain a level of generality, but the focus is, for the IMF, on facts and figures- leading to GROWTH, with seemingly very little attention being paid to the tangible thoughts and feelings of the people who make up the figures; those who are subject to this development.

Duncan Okello, Director of East Africa Regional Office, Kenya, shares this view; ‘development, however defined, should be about people. It is positive that this narrow view of measuring and labelling the progress of humanity was sufficiently challenged… however esoteric statistics may be, the more compelling thing to look at are the human faces behind those figures.’ (2) In other words, Okello is suggesting paying more attention to the ‘developing’ peoples’ views and emotions. It should be noted, too, that life experience can greatly change an individual’s perceptions- and therefore definitions- of development. ‘For Duncan Okello, executive director of Nairobi’s Society for International Development (SID), inequality is Kenya’s true Achilles heel’ (3) Living in a developing country with first-hand experience of a Kenyan lifestyle allows for an introspective standpoint on local development issues, whereas lives spent in developed countries do not.

Two conflicting ideas of what development is have already been mentioned. It is all very well to debate such contentious issues but the fact of the matter is that development, whatever that might actually entail is of high importance in our contemporary world, and may pose even more significance in the future. In the words of G. Rist:

‘The time has come – and it is indeed high time – to debunk the ‘development’ buzzword. To
do so means that we must define it properly – relying on actual social practices, rather than
wishful thinking.’

So, in order response to Rist’s paper, I read around to find the best definition for development that I could. Eventually, I found R. Chambers’ paper on his Personal Agenda for Development, wherein his personal definition for development fully embodied what I had ben trying to express in a simple phrase for months and possibly years:

‘The objective of development is well-being for


Put so simply, it eliminates the need to pinpoint whether the development is economic, social… Whatever. The point is that it is what a person, populations, nations NEED in order to develop. In order to be well. That, for me, is the objective of development and can therefore be considered what it IS.

1- Factsheet- The IMF and the Millennium Development Goals. August 24, 2012

2- (

3- Kenya: Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence on Inequality
08 September 2009, / SAIIA

4- Rist, Gilbert (2007) ‘Development as a buzzword’, Development in Practice, 17: 4, 485 — 491)

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


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

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