Looking back 30 years… from 2045

This blog so far has looked at issues in development and aid that we face here and now, dilemmas and debates which we are engaging with currently. But what does the future actually bring? This post shoots into the future to look back on 2015 and what has been accomplished since…

December 4th, 2045

In the last 30-odd years, the human population has increased by a third of what it was in 2015 (we now stand at over 9billion). This has, of course, not come without its challenges. Everywhere but Europe has experienced a huge growth in population – it is still true in the world’s poorer countries that population grows faster than in the richer.

population projection guardian
2015 projection of population growth, The Guardian

With all these people now on the planet, a shift in power has occurred. Although the US has more or less maintained its position of power, due to its foundations laid in the 1940s (before any other country was able to), a reversal of the East-West divide appears to be slowly taking place as the world has been forced to pull together, as strains on our environment have become increasingly worse (more rapidly than leaders in decades past wished to acknowledge). This is one of the few positive outcomes, however aspects of recent history are, of course, not easily overlooked. Arabic countries, for example, are still very much angered by the way in which Europe responded to religious extremists’ acts of terror, for example, and resentment also still lies from the exploitation of their resources for oil.

Over 30 years ago, we found out that there was enough ‘clean’ energy to power the world times over:

However, the drive of the fossil fuel companies and investors is still relentless, and despite a rise in renewable energy use, “even in 2030, the great powers […] still seek much of their energy [in fossil fuels]” (Morris, 2011). We rely on power which is not only finite, but horrendously damaging and even conflict-provoking.

While our climate has degraded, it is possible to say that other areas are (luckily) improving. The public have come to realise that they must demand information on their governance and revenues, becoming ambassadors of informed citizenry as Paul Collier encouraged (see his TED talk here). Due to this, the global poverty gap has been reduced as governments, and, in turn, charity and international organisations, have come to realise the need for clear, honest governance – creating environments of “good governance”, where many have claimed that development happens easiest. This reduction of the poverty gap has allowed the gender gap to reduce alongside it – “multiple studies have shown that healthy and educated women are more likely to have healthier and more educated children, creating a positive, virtuous cycle for the broader population” (Schwab, 2014). As misogynistic mindsets break down, I have seen a slow but definite change for women worldwide, progressing towards equality. While there is in no way a complete sense of equilibrium, what has developed is a much wider-spread sense of empowerment than that which existed 30 years ago, as gender equality movements (which, people are realising, do encompass all social rights) have spread across the world like wildfire.

The last 30 years have shown two major forms of development: a positive, social kind, and a negative, environmental kind. What remains is to understand how we may change the latter, to create a harmonious future of stability and equality in all aspects – a future that many would have guessed that we had reached by now, but much change is yet to come.


Carrington, D. (2014) ‘World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of continuous rise’ The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/18/world-population-new-study-11bn-2100 (Accessed: 6.12.15)

Jones, S. & Anderson, M. (2015) ‘Global population set to hit 9.7 billion people by 2050 despite fall in fertility’ The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/jul/29/un-world-population-prospects-the-2015-revision-9-7-billion-2050-fertility (Accessed: 6.12.15)

Morris, I. (2011) ’20 predictions for the next 25 years’ The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jan/02/25-predictions-25-years (Accessed: 6.12.15)

‘Paul Collier: The Bottom Billion’ (2008) TED 2008. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_collier_shares_4_ways_to_help_the_bottom_billion/transcript?language=en (Accessed: 6.12.15)

Schwab, K.(2014) ‘The Global Gender Gap Report 2014’ World Economic Forum. Available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GGGR14/GGGR_CompleteReport_2014.pdf (Accessed: 6.12.15)

Weber, M. (2015) ‘Q&A with Mark Robinson: The Role of Good Governance in Sustainable Development’ World Resources Institute. Available at: http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/02/qa-mark-robinson-role-good-governance-sustainable-development (Accessed: 6.12.15)

Does Emergency Aid Hinder Development?

In 1947, the Marshall Plan was put into action by the US to provide Western European countries broken by WWII with loans totalling $13bn to rebuild their country’s infrastructure and economy, with the logic that they would keep the US as an ally, and not fall to the Communist East.

This has been said to have sparked the workings of modern-day aid in times of conflict or damage (Moyo, 2009), as “it was only from the late 1940s that individual governments began to provide aid directly to different recipient countries. Yet quite quickly this […] bilateral assistance dominated official aid-giving” (Riddell, 2009). The idea of aid conditionality also stems from the Marshall Plan: “the notion [of] the imposition of rules and regulations set by donors to govern the conditions under which aid is distributed” (Moyo, 2009).

In the context of emergency aid, conditionality may very much follow the political agenda of the donor – “Aid allocations are not clearly linked to a country’s needs; they are still shaped profoundly by donors short-run political interests” (Riddell, 2009). Many countries are becoming increasingly dependent on aid, particularly in emergency-prone areas. In these areas, emergency aid is often the focus, rather than aid aimed at sustainability and development, so a country is unable to build up infrastructure to be able to withstand conflict or disaster effectively. Short-term interventions give the impression of success to donor countries where individuals “want to be told that solutions to the problems of poverty, conflict, and disease are easy, so that they can feel assured of making a difference…They want to be brought to tears by a compelling narrative” (Taub & Cronin-Furman, 2014). However, they can often undermine the small, existing chances of sustainability (Moyo, 2009).

The way in which a public responds to a disaster in order to create funds for this aid is often dictated by the media’s portrayal, and subsequent glamorisation of the issues at hand. The media’s attention span is extremely quick and fickle, and this has led to many countries almost becoming accustomed to floods of aid, with a lack of anything solid once attention moves on. Haiti has experienced this in recent years, as described by locals in a report by National Geographic:

“With each disaster, in an effort to help, foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and missionaries flood the country with such predictability that some locals call the period in the aftermath of hurricanes “missionary season.” Of course, not all do-gooding is created equal. Though many foreigners stay for only a few days, in what amounts to a mercy vacation, others remain for years of grueling, often vital, work in a country that lacks basic services. Haiti has more than 4,000 registered NGOs, but there is no effective oversight of foreign aid institutions, no formal impartial measure of the efficacy of the aid…”

The problem with disaster responses, as often happens in aid donation, is that much of the funds from donor countries do not go directly to the public of the recipient country – the conditionalities linked to the funds mean that the donor country seems to have almost exact control as to who the money goes to, as seen in the following graphic, after the Haiti 2010 earthquakes:

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 14.38.40

The public could be left under the impression that the money they donate, inspired by televised appeals from glossy celebrities hugging orphans, does directly towards re-stablising a country in need, and is what the people and their elected governments (given the understanding that democracy should foster development, which Moyo (2009) argues is not necessarily the case) all want. They assume that donations go through these governments to help, as they are “the democratically elected public entity most capable of producing jobs and initiating the massive rebuilding effort facing the nation” (PIH,2011). Ignoring the importance and perspective of the recipient government means that we ignore the Paris Declaration formed in 2005, which declares:

“The ownership or leadership role over a country’s development policies and strategies should belong to the national government. The developing countries’ governments should formulate the strategies and policies to which donors respond to achieve effectiveness towards development”

The technical goals of the donors rarely see eye-to-eye with the political goals of the host country representatives, as Riddell (2009) argues. However, as I discussed in my last post, it should perhaps also be remembered that the views of the government do not necessarily reflect those of the people, so at the same time assuming that a government will fairly distribute foreign emergency aid is flawed. “The state is… primarily a vehicle for the enrichment and maintenance of powerful elites” (Riddell, 2009).

It must be understood that emergency aid is seen as a separate entity from development aid. Even the harshest critics of aid, such as Moyo and Beale, have maintained that they are not against emergency aid. Nevertheless, it is possible to argue that the maldistribution of funds and the short-term goals of the donors can lead to emergency aid working only superficially – a country will be less prepared in the long run for another issue that may arise, meaning they become dependent on aid in the future – thus, development aid’s less finite goals are harder to reach.



Fuller, A. (2015) ‘Showing Haiti on its own Terms’ National Geographic, 12 November. Available at: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2015/12/haiti-photos-by-haitians-text (Accessed: 29.11.15)

Partners in Health (2011) UN Special Envoy Report: more aid should be channeled through Haiti’s elected government, Available at: http://www.pih.org/blog/un-special-envoy-report-more-aid-should-be-channeled-through-haitis-elected (Accessed: 29.11.15)

Moyo, D. (2009) Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How there is a Better Way for Africa, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Reality of Aid (2008) Aid conditionality and democratic ownership, Available at: http://www.realityofaid.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Aid-conditionality-and-democratic-ownership.pdf (Accessed: 29.11.15)

Riddell, R. (2009) ‘Is Aid Working? Is this the right question to be asking?’, Open Democracy, 20 November. Available at: http://www.opendemocracy.net/roger-c-riddell/is-aid-working-is-this-right-question-to-be-asking (Accessed: 29.11.15)

Taub, A. & Cronin-Furman, K. (2014) ‘Celebrity disaster relief: what not to do’ The Guardian, 19 February. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/19/downton-abbey-elizabeth-mcgovern-celebrity-disaster-relief (Accessed: 29.11.15)






NGOs: Opposition to the state?

Non-Governmental Organisations boomed during the 1970s and 1980s following the rise of neoliberalist ruling classes’ realisation that “their policies were polarizing the society and provoking large-scale social discontent” (Petras, 1997). Now, there are roughly 40,000 international NGOs (ngo.in, 2010). In many countries, NGOs show many positive sides to the developmental work they aid the state with. However, this is in no way what is expected by many governments – in many countries and in many aspects, NGOs can play an oppositional role to the state instead of operational, leading to suspicion and thus affecting the NGO’s developmental impact (Clark, 1993).

Above is an example of this: Uganda rejecting pro-LGBTQ+ agencies as they “promote the vice [of homosexuality], hiding under the umbrella of protecting human rights” (0:05s). Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister claimed that they were receiving support from abroad and “recruiting” youth into homosexuality, banning 38 NGOs (Smith, 2012). The question is raised here of whose voices are being presented. Frank Mugisha, the head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, stated that “Simon Lokodo [Ethics and integrity minister] is very homophobic but it’s coupled with politics… We will continue to ask for the oppressive laws that are being used to intimidate us to be abolished” (Smith, 2012).

The issue, then, is that the government in a democratic society should be working for the whole population, whereas NGOs often can only reach small groups – “the impact of NGOs on the lives of poor people is highly localised, and often transitory”, state Edwards and Hulme (1992). They also note the contrast that “governmental developmental efforts are often large in scale but limited in impact“. Indeed, a government often would not have in its existing infrastructure the means to radically change certain issues such as widespread prejudices against race, gender or sexuality. Clark (1993) argues that a strong interaction between an otherwise potentially polarised government and NGO sector can often push governments to take initiative to carry out development, or can effectively assist them. As seen in Uganda, however, the assumption that a government should want to shape the peoples’ minds in a way that many NGOs see fit, and that does not breach human rights, is not necessarily true.

For development to be implemented, the ‘developers’ should be able to harness the resources available to them in that country or region (capital, human or natural) to meet the population’s demands (Clark 1993). The government will ultimately be the entity that holds the power in deciding the power that the NGOs hold in a country, and as soon as these organisations are seen as a threat, the already fickle relationship between state and NGO can become even more unstable. Often it is argued by the NGO that the state, while able to reach all its citizens, is distant from them, and tends to “develop interests different from and opposed to those of its citizens”, while local initiatives can instead be more readily responsive to the people’s real demands. (Petras, 1997). It is also often argued that the “…Government has a mandate to look after the country but not the machinery to influence what other actors are doing” (Cannon, 1996). Marx argued that “the oppressed are allowed every few years to decide which of the oppressing class to represent and repress them“(Bellamy and Ross, 1996) – it is crucial to bear in mind that the views of the government often do not accurately portray the views of the majority of the citizens, and that the government itself is often not what the people themselves truly desire. To reference Uganda again, the current president of the country, Museveni has been in office for over 28 years, a political tenure that strongly suggests a hold over a party more powerful than true democracy should allow it to be.

Museveni addresses supporters in Arua, Eagle Online

The strength of a country’s democracy can be – but, it should be noted is not necessarily – what the strength of that country’s relationships with NGOs depend on. The more accurately the population’s desires are understood and (attempted to be) implemented by the state, the more efficiently the NGOs may work with them. If governments are working top-down, and NGOs bottom-up, then in theory a mid-point could be reached; an equilibrium can be found in which NGOs need not be an opposition to the state, but an enabler to improve the conditions of their peoples’ lives.


Cannon, C. (1996) NGOs and the State: A case study from Uganda, Development in Practice, 6:3, 262-269, DOI: 10.1080/0961452961000157844. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com.ezproxy.sussex.ac.uk/doi/pdf/10.1080/0961452961000157844 

Clark, J. (1993) The Relationship Between the State and the Voluntary Sector, The World Bank. Available at: http://www-wds.worldbank.org/servlet/WDSContentServer/WDSP/IB/1993/10/01/000009265_3961005082045/Rendered/PDF/multi_page.pdf

Edwards, M. & Hulme, D. (1992) Making a Difference: NGOs and Development in a Changing World, Earthscan. Available at: https://books.google.it/books?id=UUH5AQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=it#v=onepage&q&f=false

Marx, K., as quoted by Bellamy, R. & Ross, A. (1996) A Textual Introduction to Social and Political Theory, Manchester University Press. Available at: https://books.google.it/books?id=Xh4cEpkjwLAC&pg=PP1&lpg=PP1&dq=A+Textual+Introduction+To+Social+and+Political+Theory&source=bl&ots=665czxSZEV&sig=_Pyf4hewYuiNtg_YeBWFL3sHjJM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDQQ6AEwA2oVChMIjo__u8jryAIVywgaCh0muQq2#v=onepage&q=A%20Textual%20Introduction%20To%20Social%20and%20Political%20Theory&f=false

NGO (2010) Available at: http://www.ngo.in/

Petras, J. (1997) Imperialism and NGOs in Latin America, Monthly Review Vol. 49, Issue 07. Available at: http://monthlyreview.org/1997/12/01/imperialism-and-ngos-in-latin-america/

Smith, D. (2012) Uganda bans 38 organisations accused of ‘promoting homosexuality’, The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/20/uganda-bans-organisations-promoting-homosexuality

How may development be defined?

Development is a word used constantly, and thus has the potential to become a word that is often misused. This is perhaps due to the fact that there is no clear definition, no “global concept of development valid for all regions and all cultures”(Emmerij, 2007)that may be used as a guideline to development actors.

A key reason for this is how much the word relies on perspective – whether it is that of news outlets, local governments, NGOs, the recipients of aid… all might see development entirely differently, making a definition of development seemingly impossible to come to. However, if this is so, at least a group of core ideals of development must be realised globally, many have noted. Efforts such as the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals attempt this, but conflicting views and overriding voices can alter the original good intent of a collective, broadly applicable set of guidelines. To combat this, “there certainly must be common elements in development theory and practice, but with polices around this adapted to different needs.”(Emmerij,  2007)

The UN's Sustainable Development Goals, 2015 http://untribune.com/understanding-the-sustainable-development-goals-five-key-questions/
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, 2015

Other reasons for which a universal definition of development is difficult to agree on are the tools used to measure development. The standards that are used to see a country or town or culture as ‘developed’ too often comes from Westernised principles of what economic and social development should be, with little regard for the desires of the people themselves. They fail to see the real object of development – the goal of bettering people’s lives, and doing so in a way that leaves them with dignity (an objective that many see as fundamental), choice and a sustainable future for themselves. Development is change – “good change”, as Robert Chambers describes it (1997), and it needs to be in aid of what is truly desired by those affected, and not what is envisioned by a single mindset. Traditional indicators of development when looked at individually do not truly show a country or town’s situation. One could not, for example, look at the percentage of people involved in the agricultural sector of an economy  as a development indicator without first understanding (for example) what drives a country’s education, or certain groups’ land and work inheritance traditions. This means that presuming the needs of those who NGOs or external governments aim to ‘develop’ becomes dangerous, as often there is a risk of personal agendas becoming involved, in the side of development that some describe as an ‘industry’; the true needs of the public are overlooked.

A global definition of development becomes ever more difficult upon the premise that much of the time, visions of development conflict; the object of development is often hard to understand when the discussion around it overwhelms the very purpose, as Raghuram notes: “the struggle for change has not been commensurate with the theoretical understanding that is available”(Palgrave Journals, 2007). With this in mind, as Rist also argues, the most important thing is really that the definition of development comes through “…actual social practices, rather than wishful thinking.”(Rist, 2007) A solidified, consistent core meaning of development is not yet genuinely established worldwide, but it is necessary if we are to cooperatively achieve the goals that are set out over and over again. Environmental, agricultural, technological, political and economic development are all intertwined. To help one of these, or instead to help one group of people or one region, the entire picture must be looked at, and development should be, in its purest sense, defined as the aim of letting people progress in a way that gives everyone a fair chance.


Chambers, R. (1997) Responsible Well-Being – A Personal Agenda for DevelopmentElsevier Science Ltd.

Rist, G. (2007) ‘Development as a buzzword’, Deconstructing Development Buzzwords, Practical Action Publishing

Palgrave Macmillan Journals – Development (2007), Reflections on 50 Years of Development. Available at: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/development/journal/v50/n1s/full/1100394a.html (Accessed 29/10/15)

(Image) UN Tribune (31/08/15), Understanding the Sustainable Development Goals: Five Key Questions. Available at: http://untribune.com/understanding-the-sustainable-development-goals-five-key-questions/