What does development mean to me now?


When I started this course I definitely thought I knew more about development than I did in reality. I had lived abroad and been surrounded by those in the field of development and then experienced the often narrow view of those British people who had never travelled further than Cornwall. Although I respected their sympathy for those in developing nations, I thought I had a more accurate view of the world as diverse but equal. However, I now see that those who know the ‘real’ business of development would look at me in the same way. Although perhaps slightly closer to the ‘truth’, I still subconsciously projected the image of a small girl with flies in her eyes onto the whole of Africa, much of Asia and South America. And this was despite my own eyes having told me different. Similarly, I also celebrated the achievements of the likes of Children in Need and begged my- more experienced and critical- parents to donate. Although I know my views have developed I am now even more enthusiastic to mature my views further.

my view 1Ashis Sarkar, five, at Sakhbariya Primary school, North Bethkash

Does one show a helpless, begging child and the other a liberated, empowered child? Or do both simply represent the motives and views of the aid industry?

My view of the beneficiaries of aid and the processes of aid were (and probably still are) largely limited. I now recognise the depiction of charity as being like an ice-burg: adverts, fundraising shows and even the popularised elements of the MDGs are simply what aid workers show the public to gain funds. The reality of development, the main body of the ice-burg- establishing syllabus’s for schools, working to prevent corruption within governments etc.- is far from glamorous and, sadly, would not capture the hearts of the population. I see this need for charities to present the stereotype of Africa in order to be effective as a serious flaw in the mind-set of the Western world

Something that truly knocked this idea into me was Radi-aid: the spoof charity video encouraging Africans to help freezing Norwegians. Whilst fundamentally challenging the aid system itself, it also defied the common image of Africans as a project rather than as humans with opinions and self-respect. Win’s 2004 article that urges development actors to literally think outside the box rather than subjecting developing nations to categories, measures and presumptions was particularly influential for me. Radi-aid furthered these critiques of stereotypes, saying ‘if these were the images you saw of Africa then to you it would be nothing but a helplessly troubled continent. And if these were the images you saw of Norway then you might see it as a land full of desperate people freezing to death’ (BBC world news, 2012). For me this also emphasised the power of advertising and imagery in development and how it influences not only the small scale donations but also, perhaps, greater international relations and the approach of whole governments to other nations. The consequential link to colonialism was, for me, a shocking and unexpected idea.

my view 3

Freezing Norwegians?

my view 4

Poor Africans?

The idea that there is an excess of money going to developing countries and that less is perhaps more has also had a powerful effect upon my views. In the lecture on celebrities the general view was ‘let’s raise money to save lives’ but this can be seen as a shallow, uniformed and unsustainable view. Lomborg (2012) gives the example of HIV: he sustains that funding towards vaccinations is indeed essential but says that ‘there is no silver bullet to the epidemic’. He emphasises the need to focus on wider, more structural issues such as education, alcohol tax and research into curing AIDS that will have a long term impact. Similarly, Raheb, whilst talking about humanitarian aid to Palestine says they need more empowerment aid to be able to ‘import, export, trade, to do business. This is what is important; not to give them a fish’. I think his use of focusing not on the ‘silver bullet’ is vital to positively progressing the system of development aid.

BBC world news (2012) Focus on Africa : Africa For Norway, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmbcrnXD1DM [accessed 2/12/2012].

Lomborg, Bjorn (2012) In Africa, we must do the most good with each pound spent on Aids-HIV, Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/nov/08/africa-pound-spent-aids-hiv?INTCMP=SRCH [accessed 2/12/2012].

Raheb, Mitri (2011) Too much humanitarian aid and too little empowering aid, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XixkHudd70A [accessed 2/12/2012].

Win Everjoice (2004) ‘”If it doesn’t fit on the blue square it’s out!” An open letter to my donor friend’, in Inclusive Aid: Changing Power and Relationships in Development, ed. Rachel Hinton and Leslie Groves, London: Earthscan.

Image sources
http://www.financialjesus.com/tag/gas/ What interested me about this image is that I had searched ‘African child’ into Google and found pages of similar images of helpless-looking children. I chose this one and went to its website to be able to provide a link… next to the picture was the headline ‘get rich and stay rich’…

http://young-chiefs.com/?p=851 Silfath started her own fashion business

word count


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