6. DEVELOPMENT IN A HISTORICAL CONTEXT
6.5 Towards a new Paradigm: Human Development
Today, many factors indicate that the research of development finds itself in a crisis.
This is primarily due to the fact that there exists a growing recognition that even the
the different patterns of both development and underdevelopment in the Third World. Correspondingly there exists the acknowledgement that so many years of development strategies have brought forth so modest results (Degnbol-Martinussen 2004).
This growing awareness of the lacking successfulness of existing mainstream development strategies has largely opened up for a criticism of the way, in which development research work with the generalising notion of the Third World as a homogeneous group of countries and societies qualitative different from the rest of the countries and societies in the world (ibid.).
In this sense, breaking with the historic approach to the Third World as being in need of one and the same thing, and accordingly differentiating in the debate about the Third World, might bring forth more useful results. For example, as professor John Degnbol-Martinussen suggests, today development research ought to question the meaningfulness and appropriateness of grouping and lumping together all the problems and circumstances of developing countries and societies, including those of Asia, Africa and Latin America, into one and the same category. Such a discussion has thus opened up for the possible argument that more attention must be given to the unique and special circumstances of the individual developing country, bringing forth a specific awareness of the given country’s local conditions rather than merely suggesting that these societies are all subjected to an essentially uniform set of conditions of development and transformation (ibid.).
In extension of this, Degnbol-Martinussen suggests the following definition to determining the core areas of development research today as ”…the societal reproduction and transformation processes of the developing countries, in conjunction with the international factors that influence these processes…” (ibid.: 4). This definition proposes a rather specific narrowing of focus as it suggests that specific emphasis is placed on societal factors including those of cultural studies, and thus in consequence suggest the appropriate applicability of theories and methods stemming from the social sciences rather than merely those of economic theory.
Though it might be useful to compare “descriptions, interpretations and explanations concerning societal development in Asia, Africa and Latin America” (ibid.: 11),
conceiving the Third World as a homogeneous group of societies, and accordingly applying all-embracing generalisations, is misleading. By aiming to understand societies of developing countries within one and the same conceptual and theoretical framework, the researcher may be prone to “ignore or grossly underestimate the importance of internal differences” (ibid.: 12).
Along these lines, rationalities of participation as well as inclusion and partnerships have become constructed and incorporated as solutions to development problems today. As Degnbol-Martinussen argues, constructing the rationales for this sort of approach to development has mainly occurred due to the above explained
‘insufficient’ results of development aid – primarily the acknowledgement of previous approaches failure to secure projects’ sustainability. The inclusionary, partnership-based approach can thus been seen to have been constructed as presenting a possible solution to the problems faced by previous projects of development aid, by aiming to create ownership and responsibility of development processes within the local community (ibid.). Concepts of participatory approaches initially originated within the concept of ‘community development’ stemming back to the 1960s and 1970s.
However, “issues such as poverty alleviation, gender equality and enhancement of civil society” (OECD 1997, 22) stimulated great support for the approach throughout the 1990s.
Though concepts of participatory development and partnership are fairly recent in its articulation as explicit policy and programme focus, they have as concepts managed to become key notions within the world of development practice. By considering partnerships as the most likely way to make development projects successful lead to a specific focus on the civil society. This becomes apparent when looking to one of the leading actors within development today.
Taking the lead in the world of development today, the United Nations serves as provider of more than half of all global development (Staur 2011). Historically the UN has functioned as forerunner in the debate as well. The UN Department of Social and Economic Affairs was the first to publish a document in 1951 regarding “the economic
political agenda. Escobar refers to this document as “one of the most influential documents of the period” (Escobar 1994: 4).
Danish ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations for Denmark, Carsten Staur emphasises the globally important task of development, when stating that it is one of the key responsibilities of the UN.
In his lecture on UN Carsten Staur highlights the UNDP’s shift from using experts from the North to using local knowledge through experts from the South when conducting development, specifically in relation to sustainability. The focus of the UNDP is to build civilian capacity. The primary aim of building civilian capacity is to build institutions, which according to Carsten Staur is what primarily is needed in developing countries (Staur 2011).
This crosscutting focus on civilian capacity and local knowledge, and the main notion that local ownership facilitates success is furthermore explicitly articulated with the Paris Declaration formulated by the OECD.
The Paris Declaration is built upon five central pillars for making aid more effective;
1. Ownership: the developing countries must take upon themselves to set their own national development strategies for poverty reduction, to improve their institutions and to tackle corruption.
2. Alignment: the donor countries and organisations must align behind and support the strategies and objectives formulated by the developing country, and rely upon local systems in order to do so.
3. Harmonisation: donor countries must work to streamline their in-country efforts, which includes coordinating, simplifying procedures and to make information available and transparent.
4. Managing for results: both donors and developing countries ensure that development policies are directed to achieving clear goals and results, and working for progress towards measurement and monitoring of these results.
5. Mutual accountability: donors and partners alike are jointly responsible and accountable for achieving development results (OECD 2005).
The importance of incorporating the civil societies or local partners in the development projects over experts from the west will require another way of
‘thinking’ development (Degnbol-Martinussen 2004).
As examined in the above, the historic break with the top-down, economically concerned development paradigm suggests a rather exclusive narrowing of focus within the core areas of development research, as this entails placing specific emphasis on societal factors.
As Degnbol-Martinussen writes, the dominating mentality of development today acknowledges the citizens’’ responsibilities and not least their power and capacity to influence development separately from corporate economy, state and politics. This is crucial in recent development theories and international agreements: as “people become actors instead of being simply beneficiaries” (OECD 1997: 88), as well as entailing a main objective of empowering local actors (Degnbol-Martinussen 2004).
Within the realm of development, it is therefore broadly understood that the most sufficient means of reaching successful sustainable development today builds on the core pillar on strengthening civil society through approaches of inclusion, participation and partnerships.