Archives for the month of: December, 2013

It has been 96 days since I got on a plane in New York and landed at Heathrow, ready to start my term abroad at Sussex and I had no idea what was getting myself into.  I expected to have fun and learn about new cultures, and I did, but I also would have my view on life challenged daily, mostly in part to this module.

In my first blog post, I mentioned how I have gone to Jesuit schools most of my life and how that significantly shaped my view on development and social justice.  I thought my trip to Belize was a great example of social justice.  For the most part, my classmates and I come from well off homes and we were taking time out of our own lives and money from our own pockets to travel to Belize to build this amazing woman a house for her and her three children.  This is what development was to me for a long time: people making the lives of others better.

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 Soon to be mom of four standing in front of the house my classmates and I built the summer of 2011 in Belize.

But something I learned this term is that development is not always positive.  Development can sometimes hurt more than it can help.  Before, I would not think twice about the money that was being used for aid.  It went to those in need, did it not?  It never crossed my mind that the money people so generously donated to help those less fortunate was being used to line the pockets of corrupt politicians or to pay for atrocities against the people it was supposed to be helping (i.e. Live Aid in the 1980s).  But this was not the most surprising thing I learned this term.

While I was reflecting about the past three months, I kept coming back to my place in the development world.  I am a relatively privileged, having opportunities that others can only dream about, like coming to England to study and being able to travel Europe during my stay.  I have a family who supports my decisions, no matter what they may be.  But I never thought how my place in the world skews my views on development.  By Western standards, those who are less fortunate or who are employed in professions not deemed as “appropriate” are victims and need to be saved, but has anyone thought to ask them if they wanted to be saved? Just because something does not look like what we have does not mean it is wrong and needs to be changed, which I think is a big part of the mindset in development today.

These past 96 days have been such an eye-opening experience and the days spent in that lecture theatre in Fulton are a huge reason for that.  I am going to take what I learned and look at the world through a new lens and I hope you do the same.

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30 years ago, there were countless agendas and causes that were splitting the attention of the development community.  From international development, to climate change, to world hunger, the world was getting whiplash from jumping from cause to cause so rapidly. However, I am glad to announce that era in our history has finally come to a close.

The past thirty years in international development have seen a mass movement from the development practices of yesteryear to the practices we now see in 2043.  Gone are the days when aid is given in terms of material objects.  The past few decades have witnessed a more hands on approach when it comes to development, with government workers, NGOs, and those actually in need of the help, isolating what the root of the problem is…and then solving it.  The UN holds discussions between all the parties involved and ideas are formulated and then voted on to find a solution that everyone can agree with, much like it did 30 years ago.  The powers seated in the Security Council, however, are now interchanged every two years to ensure that every country gets heard.

Image from throughmylensetlh.blogspot.com

Image from throughmylensetlh.blogspot.com

After the Live Aid debacle in 1985, in which the funds collected were used to kill thousands of Ethiopians (although the money was supposed to go to help the Ethiopians), it became clear that throwing money at a problem will not make it disappear, but may even worsen it.  A few decades after the relief concert originally aired, it became known that not only was the money misused originally, it was used to buy guns (Plaut, 2010).  While aid workers thought they were dealing with grain merchants, they were really doing business with rebel leaders, unknowingly giving money to the rebels for the purchase of weapons.  Sadly, this is not the only story like this one.  Countless misuses of aid money have been recorded and it was about time it came to an end.  Simply by changing the way aid was given (going from putting a bandage on the problem to actually solving the root of the problem), we have been able to raise the standard of living in Africa and other previously “third world” areas.

Thirty years ago, global climate change was another issue looming over everyone.  The ice caps were melting and more and more natural disasters were taking place.  Through international research into sustainable energy sources, now then less than 10% of our energy needs are met with fossil fuels.  Energy harnessed from the Sun, water, wind, and biofuels (like those made from corn and other crops) have helped with our dependence on oil and fossil fuels, which in turn, helped lessen the impact on our environment.

Image from solarfeeds.com

Image from solarfeeds.com

Thirty years ago, world hunger was a serious issue.  Even children living in some of the richest countries in the world were going hungry.  That’s when the UN in 2026 came to agreement over the No More Hunger Plan.  This plan called on governments to take a front seat in the drive toward ending hunger in their countries.  In developing areas, experts were sent in to teach the locals more efficient farming techniques to increase their crop yields.  In already developed areas, laws were put in place to regulate the school system to make sure every child had three meals a day and did not go hungry.

Back to 2013…

Outcomes like these, while very optimistic, are entirely possible in the future.  I think that there does need to be a change in the way development is handled, to really get at the root of an issue.  If there were a genocide happening, we would not just send in doctors and think that will solve everything.  We would call on international governments to stop the leader who was committing such atrocious acts.  Why can this not be the case for other development problems?

There are a lot of different voices in the development community, but what if all the voices could harmonize? Imagine the possibilities…

References:

Plaut, M. (2010, March 03). Ethiopia famine aid ‘spent on weapons’. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8535189.stm