2028 review of the Development Goals


Author: Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson Jr.: secretary for the advisor to the development Undersecretary.

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This report will be the first of a series of reviews of the second generation Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established in 2013. It will reflect on the extent of their success and progress from the first generation of goals (MDG1) and accordingly present introductory proposals for future goals. The report will follow the established structure of the goals that remained consistent, through much opposition, in the previous revision. It will focus on ending poverty and hunger and universal education. The MDG3, after popular protest over the previous compositions of the UN panel, will include input from a greater scope of actors. In response to accusations of “inconclusive” (Melamed, 2012; 12) assessments, appropriate committees will calculate success on an empirical basis with appropriate quotas. However, quotas will be targeted more towards Human Rights, justice and equity rather than charity and aid (Lammers, 2009; p4).

1. End Poverty and Hunger
• Targets set in the MDG1 and MDG2 were widely critiqued for their failure to incorporate widening inequality into their assessment of progress. Melamed (2012; 7) emphasised that ‘progress on under-five mortality can, for example, be achieved nationally even if the poorest are seeing no change in death rates’. To achieve more efficient, in depth census results, success of future goals will be assessed more heavily on a global, national and regional level.
• In response to anger concerning the lack of human rights language, stress will be put on the right to life. This is a significant development from the 2012 negotiations in which then Prime Minister David Cameron placed greatest importance upon simply ‘good and honest government, the rule of law, transparency and accountability, and free markets’ (Tran, 2012). Although these elements are strongly upheld in the drive to end poverty and hunger, they must be equal to human rights.
• In terms of poverty reduction through employment opportunities, developing countries will be encouraged to increase their productive capacities. Production projects, consistent with the goal of environmental sustainability, will be focused on creating new sources of energy and encouraging entrepreneurship whilst decreasing imports to create more self-sustaining economies.
Four Stories about Hunger in Kenya by Gideon Mendel

2. Universal Education
• As previously mentioned, the predominance of equity must be increased in future goals. MDG2 continued the success of increasing the capacity of schools and furthermore pushed to provide education for 11-15 year olds. However, in accordance with UNICEF’s long standing aim, educational goals must now focus on targeting all children equally. We must close the gap between the quality of education in developing and ‘developed’ countries rather than simply providing education. Therefore there must be a greater focus on children with disabilities, exploited and abused children, those without parental care, children in detention and children who marry young (UNICEF, Ellen Lammers, 2009; 1: Sowa, 2010; 14).
• Correspondingly, the objective of funding must now be qualitative, rather than quantitative elements: there must be sufficient funding to effectively train and hire teachers. School resources- school buildings, classrooms, textbooks etc.- must also now be maintained. This goal runs in accordance with the aim of sustainable development. In this way, the role of NGOs will continue to develop towards the role of ‘watchdog’ (Moffett cited in Newsome, 2012), whose most important function will be to play a temporary role in establishing infrastructure and from then on ensuring its long-term, sustainable efficacy.

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To conclude, it is imperative that those determining MDG3 reflect more comprehensively upon past efforts than their counterparts in 2013. The suggestions of sustainability, equity and justice must now be realised universally, not simply in ‘mainstream’ and prevalent areas. Goals must be tailored towards the aim of establishing systems within the developing states that can self-sustain MDGs.

Lammers, Ellen (2009), The MDGs post-2015, The Netherlands, The Broker.

Melamed, Claire (2012), After 2015 Contexts, politics and processes for a post-2015 global agreement on development, London, ODI.

Newsome, Matthew (2012), Does the future of farming in Africa lie in the private sector? Guardian [30/11/2012] http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/nov/23/future-farming-africa-private-sector?intcmp=122

Sowa, Theo (2010), Protect for the future Placing children’s protection and care at the heart of achieving the MDGs, London, EveryChild.

Tran, Mark (2012), Human rights could be faultline in post-2015 development agenda, The Guardian [02/12/2012] http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/nov/21/human-rights-faultline-development-agenda

Image sources:

Gideon Mendel/Concern Worldwide http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/gallery/2012/sep/12/tackling-hunger-kenya-in-pictures#/?picture=395936074&index=7

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/apia/education/ *note: although this UNECSCO program from 2012 advocated quality education adhering to the MDGs, these children are still sat on the floor in a fairly run down building. Future goals must build upon the framework of a school building to maintain other aspects of education integral and fundamental to Western education.


The Aid System- Is It Broken?


Aid in the popular media has been portrayed as a noble endeavour with the honourable aim of achieving the appropriate society in which rights would be enjoyed through financial investment. This is the image that we, the public, have faith in. However, beneath this picture that we, regrettably, may call a façade, is a more grim reality that must be explored.

The conventional representation of developing countries, arguably, is manipulated, fabricated and misleading. The classic illustration of this is Africa; Win (2007) points out that ‘the development industry has thrived on the stereotypical image of an African woman who is its “target” or “beneficiary”’. This is a fundamental issue that I may link to my opening statement; that aid, even in its most benevolent form, is seen as an investment. This dehumanises the process and its recipients. Here, Hancock’s (1989) shocking analogy of ‘Africa… [as] a continent-sized beggar hopelessly dependent on the largesse of outsiders’ begs us to ask whether even the basic notion of imagery- even before any official aid has been shipped off- has caused the system to be irreversibly ‘broken’ .

To further explore the idea of ‘dead’ aid, Dambisa (2009) compares contemporary aid to the Marshall plan and draws from it some lessons we can learn today. Firstly, Europe was not entirely dependent on aid; it never accounted for more than 3% of GDP whilst 15% of Africa’s GDP is aid. This reliance on the zeitgeist of charity in donor countries creates a far greater tone of uncertainty as the knock on effects of economic instability of the developed nations is startlingly magnified (Lensick and Morrissey 2000, cited in McColloch 2009). A current example that I found relevant is India; Glennie (2010) points out that ‘the main criticism of aid to India is that India doesn’t need it. But that is exactly the reason why it can work well’. India’s reduced reliance, perhaps, allows aid to be directed to ‘life changing’ development on the ground.

A second significant difference outlined was that the Marshall Plan was finite whilst ‘Africa is fundamentally kept in its perpetual childlike state’ and ‘African governments view aid as a permanent, reliable, consistent source of income’ (Dambisa 2009). For me, this view (if true) illustrates the continuation of a colonial, blinkered view of the Northern “prerogative” of maintaining “the rest”. This creates a ‘dangerous’ ‘moral tone’ for the future of aid (Hancock 1989). However, this argument is not universal; official Christian Aid policy is that “aid alone will never end poverty, so we’d like to see DFID implement a credible exit strategy from aid”’ (Hilary 2012). Perhaps the view of the necessity of endless aid is held in the public eye only… those in the business recognise the futility of over-reliance on distant sustenance. A prime example of this, for me, would be in Botswana where they ‘vigorously pursued numerous market economy options… Botswana succeeded by ceasing to depend on aid’ (Dambisa 2009).

A final way in which I see the aid system to be ‘broken’ is its ineffective, corrupt nature. Dambisa (2009) outlines the ‘micro-macro paradox’ in which a short term intervention (a Hollywood star sending 100,000 mosquito nets) may have few discernible, sustainable long-term benefits. Worse still, it can unintentionally undermine whatever fragile change for sustainable development may already be in play; the African mosquito-net maker whose relatives depend on his income is out of business. For me, this approach is parallel to the defective colonial image of short term material aid.

In terms of corruption (a concept increasingly prevalent in the media) Adis’s (2009) example in which ‘recent allegations of the politicization of foreign assistance to Ethiopia, including humanitarian food aid’ were common yet denied by the secretary of state for international development, was particularly striking. It raises the question of whether donor states and organisations are aware of incidences of corruption but their pressure to meet quotas outweighs their moral compass.

To conclude I agree with that Hancock’s (1989) idea that ‘if the statement “aid works” is true… then aid’s job should be done by now and it ought to be possible to begin a gradual withdrawal’. However, in the majority of cases this is clearly not true and it would be irresponsible of donor countries to do so. From this we may take away lessons from the history of aid, reflect on the flaws of its structure and aims and either ‘fix’ our approach to aid or shape our safe departure.

Ababa, Adis (2009) as cited in Newsnight (2011) ETHIOPIA billions of dollars of development aid as a tool for political oppression [online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzuQw3DQz4w [10th November 2012]

Barder, Owen (2010) ‘Beneath the Appeal: Modestly Saving Lives’, Open Democracy

Glennie, Jonathan (2008) The Trouble with Aid: Why Less Could Mean More for Africa, London: Zed Books.

Glennie, Jonathan (2010) If India Doesn’t need aid, why do foreign governments still give it? Guardian.

Hancock, Graham (1989) Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige and Corruption of the International Aid Business, New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press.

Hilary, John (2012) Christian Aid seeks ‘exit strategy’ from aid, Progressive development Forum.

McColloch, Neil (2009) Aid Under Pressure: Support for Development Assistance in a Global Economic Downturn, IDS

Moyo, Dambisa. Dead aid: Why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.

Win, Everjoice (2004) ‘Not very poor, powerless or pregnant: The African woman forgotten by development’, IDS Bulletin Vol 35(4): 61-64.

Images from:
‘Making it work’ http://www.radiobridge.net/www/work/indexWORK8.html
‘poverty still has a woman’s face’ http://defineterms.com/college-essays/essay-on-poverty-poverty-still-has-a-woman-face/

The role of NGOs


Although originally coined in 1945 with the adoption of the UN charter, the expression ‘non-governmental organisation’ (NGO), it may be argued, has never been clearly and objectively defined. Generally, an NGO may be construed as being a legally constituted organisation that is not officially linked to governmental or political organisations (although this element will be contested bellow) or be for profit and revolves around social aims. Additionally, Martens identifies a further division in interpretation between juridical studies in which ‘the emphasis is placed on the legal status of NGOs in the national context and their implications for international law (and) Sociological works (that) are based on studies of societal actors’ (Martens, 2002). The success of an NGO, according to ‘The Global Journal’, can be rated according to innovation, effectiveness, impact, efficiency and value for money, transparency and accountability, sustainability, strategic and financial management and a peer review. This list implies that NGOs, despite being unelected and therefore officially unaccountable bodies, are nonetheless scrutinized.

Defenders of NGOs would claim their origins to be in the altruistic and philanthropic intentions of a post-colonial, developed world, awoken to the horrors of their imperialistic actions. However, an inspection of the early motivations and actions of NGOs, for some, would suggest otherwise; Manji et al suggest that NGO’s ‘role in ‘development’ represents a continuity of the work of their precursors, the missionaries and voluntary organizations that cooperated in Europe’s colonization and control of Africa’ (Manji et al, 2002). The example is given of the Kenyan Women’s association, MYWO and the Christian Council of Kenya that were both involved in government funded schemes ‘designed to subvert black resistance during the ‘Mau Mau’ uprising’. Furthermore, the emergence of neoliberalism in the 1970’s saw ‘the purpose of ‘development’ (as being) to guarantee ‘growth’ so that ultimately other freedoms can be enjoyed at some indeterminate time in the future’. These views of the history and fundamental purpose of NGOs contradicts the widespread vision of the benevolent, humanitarian NGO.

Despite this, NGO’s still retain widespread support and can be seen as valuable in development. Banks et al note that NGOs are ‘widely praised for their strengths as innovative and grassroots-driven organisations with the desire and capacity to pursue participatory and people centred forms of development and to fill the gaps left by the failure of states’ and ‘a means through which the gulf between citizens’ needs and existing services can be bridged’ (Banks 2012). Many perceive that governments and other state agents are so tinted by corruption and capitalistic intentions that NGOs, however flawed themselves, will nevertheless be preferable. The idea of ‘grassroots-driven’ is also significant; it insinuates the ideal of a less bureaucratic, more ‘bottom up’ system that, consequentially, can be efficient advocates for the ‘have-nots’ and for minority groups. This image, perhaps, is what draws continuing support from the public and donors and aids them in retaining their humanitarian and altruistic character. An example of this would be the INGO charter; ‘an initiative of International NGOs to demonstrate their commitment to accountability and transparency’ (INGO 2006). This implies that, although unelected, NGOs are nevertheless liable to criticism and are held responsible for their actions.

However, there are also many arguments against the continuing prevalence of NGOs in the development ‘industry’ that led Van Rooy to claim that it was time to ‘pack up shop’ (Van Rooy 2010). ‘The term “NGO”’ according to O’Connor, ‘is regularly used deliberately to create an illusion of innocent philanthropic activity’ (O’Connor 2012). These ideas, as David Sogge puts it, are ‘shibboleths, catch phrases that distinguish believers from doubters’ (Sogge, cited in Manji et al 2002). A significant flaw, for many, is the relations of NGOs to their donors that ‘meant that NGOs were compromising their grassroots orientation, innovativeness, accountability and legitimacy’ (Edwards and Hulme 1996). Firstly, the limited geographical scope of NGO sources, with 37 of The Global Journal’s top 100 best ranking NGOs coming from the US, indicates the narrow scope of economic ideologies within the field (The Global Journal 2012). An extension of this is the idea that ‘the aid system today is structured so that as long as NGOs can keep donors satisfied, they can grow, thrive and expand even when providing inadequate services’ (Mohan 2002; Power et al 2002). A final critique is aimed at the concept of ‘NGO’ itself; that the level of funding now received from governments compromises their ‘non-governmental’ function: ‘Britain’s Department for International development allocates around 8% of its aid budget to NGOs. The US government transfers nearly 40% of its aid programme through NGOs’ (Manji et al 2002).

To conclude, there is clearly a great, and swelling, critique of NGOs concerning their financial policies and accountability but support, particularly from the public, remains stronger, perhaps, than the developmental efforts of governments; their theoretical independence draws in funding from those who prefer the voluntary, rather than taxed, contribution to aid and those who view the work of DFID and the government itself to be corrupt and inefficient.


O’Connor, Jenny (2012) ‘NGO’: The Guise of Innocence, New Left Project.

INGO charter (2006)

Martens, Kerstin (2002) ‘Mission Impossible? Defining Nongovernmental organisations’, Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Non profit organizations, Vol. 13, No. 3

Manji, Firoze and O’Coill, Carl (2002) ‘The missionary position: NGOs and development in Africa’, International Affairs, 78 (3): 567-583.

The Global Journal (2012) ‘Top 100 NGOs ranking’

Banks, Nicola with David Hulme (2012) The role of NGOs and civil society in development and poverty reduction, Manchester: Brooks World Poverty Institute

Provost, Claire (2012) ‘Talk point: your questions on the future of UK aid’, guardian

Lindenberg, M. and
Bryant, C. (2001) Going Global: Transforming Relief and Development NGOs, Bloomfield: Kumarian Press

Fabig, Heike and Boele, Richard (2009) ‘The Changing Nature of NGO activity in a globalizing world pushing the corporate responsibility agenda’.

Van Rooy, Alison (2010) ‘Good news! You might be out of a job. Reflections on the past and future 50 years for northern NGOs,’ Development in Practice, 10(3): 300-318

How has the history of development affected the present?


‘Development’, it can be argued, has only been recognised as a separate discipline relatively recently, with the reflections of academics on the past greatly influencing the contemporary processes of aid. I will be focusing on the profound effect of Colonialism for the reason proposed by Lange; ‘the colonial state was the primary extension of foreign domination’ (Lange, 2004). Lange articulates both negative aspects of the lasting impact of Colonialism with his own view being that ‘British colonialism left positive political legacies’ only in some circumstances. The opposing views of history illustrate the origins of intervention justified through the aim of the development of good governance and the strengthening of institutional structures; a concept central to development programmes today.

            A pattern of critique of Aid throughout the last century is its short-term, and therefore limited, nature. The Colonial Development Act of 1929 (a significant milestone in solidifying development as a discipline) meant that ‘colonial assistance was only given in cases of national emergency, and was purely of a temporary nature’ (Abbott 1971). However, aid programmes worldwide had not ‘learnt their lesson’ by the 1950s; the Columbo Plan was a humanitarian programme aimed at deterring Communism that, according to Van Rooy, was simply a ‘short term quick-fix’ (Van Rooy 2010). She contrasts this unsustainable form of development to the fall of the Berlin wall when, after reflecting on the success of past efforts, ‘new programmes in judicial reform…‘civil society building’, ‘democratic transition’ all flooded into Europe’ (Van Rooy 2010). These cases are significant in exemplifying how our experimentation in foreign policy in the past has in some cases taught governments and development agencies which methods of assistance are most flawed. Whether, as a result, our more recent programmes have been more successful, however, is still debateable.  Furthermore, a common criticism of the present government is their spending on non-emergency aid in a time of economic crisis in the UK, suggesting that the general public has not similarly ‘learnt from the past’.

            British Colonial history has also, arguably, influenced our lasting attitudes towards development. Surprisingly, however, it is not always the notion of compensation for colonial brutality that is most prevalent. Instead, there appears to be a pattern that aid-giving nations still wish to get something in return. Chamberlain, the secretary of state at the time of the Colonial Development Act, first favoured ‘the investment of British money… for the benefit of their population and for the benefit of the greater population which is outside’ (Abbott 1971). Similarly, Noam Chomsky commented on brutal intervention in Africa, stating ‘we have to figure out some way of saying ‘I’m doing it for their benefit’ (McCormack et al, 2008) and Baah reflected upon the Development agencies that contributed greatly (UK: £5 million) to the construction of the Akosombo Dam in Ghana. The objective was not to help Africa to develop but was instead in the interest of the West (Baah, 2003). These instances suggest again that history, in fact, has not so profoundly influenced our present approach to development, as the altruist would hope, but instead that the view prevails that it is ‘unreasonable’ (Nkruma cited in Baah, 2003) to expect a developed country to give aid for nothing.

A further impact of colonialism that I found particularly interesting was its effect on Africa. McCormack traces the roots of the contemporary conflict and structural weaknesses in Africa; the British Army’s policy of divide and rule created a tension between groups that helped to maintain British rule: many of these divides remain today; for example the politicization of the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda would profoundly contribute to the genocide of 1994 (McCormack et al, 2008). The Berlin conference (1884-5) and subsequent creation of many small countries in Africa was based on imperialist greed and Africa is still grappling with the ‘social dissolution’ (Stinglitz, 2002 cited in Baah 2003) that resulted. An example, however, of development institutions reflecting upon the past would be the push for the use of grants instead of loans that, many scholars argue, left many African countries indebted (Moyo 2008). Additionally, the Human Rights Act of 1948 was perhaps also a reflection upon the treatment of colonies after World War Two with former colonies being given the rights to be heard, to accountability and to Rule of Law.

To conclude, even today, according to Kothari, Post-colonialists attempt to review how contemporary global inequalities between rich and poor countries have been, and continue to be, shaped by colonial power relations. Some have argued that development is a ‘‘neo-colonial’ project that reproduces global inequalities and maintains the dominance of the South, through global capitalist expansion, by the North’ (Kothari 2005). Most recently, we can see the moral memory of colonialism being resurrected in the Mau Mau case (Cobain et al, 2012) in which may ‘result in a new and uncomfortable understanding of recent British history’, perhaps finally spurring a significant change in our approach to development.



Lange, Matthew (2004) ‘British Colonial Legacies and Political Development’, World Development, Vol 32(6): 905-922

Abbott, George (1971) ‘A Re-Examination of the 1929 Colonial Development Act’, The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 24 (1): 68-81

Van Rooy, Alison (2010) ‘Good news! You might be out of a job. Reflections on the past and future 50 years for northern NGOs,’ Development in Practice, 10(3): 300-318.

McCormack, Pete and Miller, Jesse (2008) ‘Colonialism in 10 minutes: the scramble for Africa’

Baah, Anthony (2003) ‘History of African Development Initiatives’, Africa Labour Research Network Workshop Johannesburg: 1-10

Moyo, Dambisa (2008), ‘A Brief History of Aid’ in Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How there is Another Way for Africa, London: Penguin, pp10-28

Kothari, Uma (2005) ‘From colonial administration to development studies: a post-colonial critique of the history of development studies’, in A Radical History of Development Studies: Individuals, Institutions and Ideologies, ed. Uma Kothari, London: Zed Books.

Ian Cobain, Richard Norton-Taylor, and Clar Ni Chonghaile  (2012), ‘Mau Mau veterans win right to sue British government’, The Guardian

What is development?


In multiple academic writings concerning development, the author begins by stating that defining Development is a ‘contentious issue’ (Chang 2010). Most then go on to disparage the vague nature and unknown expanse of Development and the consequential, inevitable critique of their chosen definition by those from other areas of expertise that ‘development’ encompasses.

Some, as Cornwall identifies, such as Chambers, Uvin and Toye, are progressive and forward thinking in their definitions, using terms such as ‘good change’, ‘responsible well-being’[i], ‘sustainable change’, and ‘rights based’[ii]. These academics are countered by more retrospective views (Leal, Mkwandawire; participation and good governance)[iii] and Rist and Sachs’ pessimism in which development is a ‘vague’[iv], ‘myth’[v]. Rist and the World Bank, to challenge Chambers’ idea of ‘sustainable change’, label it an oxymoron, recognising that the traditional idea of economic and social growth is ‘inevitably unsustainable’[vi].

Furthermore, a multitude of disciplines and specialisms can be found within ‘development’ and also result in a sense of ambiguity in classifying the term. Whilst I, for example, may consider development to focus on non-income dimensions of human welfare in the same way as UNDP’S ‘Human Development index’[vii], encompassing religion, education, healthcare and community, others may regard development as a sphere of economic growth. The British public, it is said, tends to regard development and aid in this manner; ‘the role of governments and individuals in rich countries in helping poor people in developing countries’[viii], the focus being on the economically undeveloped connotations of the ‘poor’. From this stems a further criticism of the Chambers’ altruistic, theoretical understandings of ‘development’; increasingly, there is a view that development is actually a harmful force and that ‘even the best development programs… were very damaging for their supposed beneficiaries’[ix].

This range of disciplines, for some, results in a profession within which a wide range of experts can effectively amalgamate their specialisms. On the other hand, Rist and others claim that this results in the arena of development being too ‘vague’[x], perhaps even to the extent that it ceases to be a definable, functioning practice, instead a ‘set of beliefs and assumptions’. However, I would challenge Rist’s cynicism with the example of the World Bank that, even as a dominant economic body, incorporates ‘quality of life: access to education and health care, employment opportunities’[xi] and so on into their definition of ‘development’.

To conclude, I would agree with Friedrich Nietzche’s statement; ‘all things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth’[xii]. The ambiguity of development, for me, provides a benefit and a weakness; it may allow for a wider expanse of progression and exploration into new methods of progress but also, as Nietzche is implying, may allow for the exploitation of the term to justify actions that are, essentially, counter-productive and possibly harmful.

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

[ii] Cornwall, Andrea and Eade, Deborah (2010) ‘Deconstructing Development Discourse

Buzzwords and Fuzzwords’

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Rist, Gilbert (2007) ‘Development’, Development in Practice, 17(4-5):485-491.

[v] Cornwall, Andrea and Eade, Deborah (2010) ‘Deconstructing Development Discourse Buzzwords and Fuzzwords’

[vi] World Bank (2004), ‘What Is Development’

[vii] Chang, Ha-Joon (2010) ‘Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark: How development has disappeared from today’s‘development’ discourse’, (2010) in S. Khan & J. Christiansen (eds.), Towards New Developmentalism: Market as Means rather than Master (Routledge, Abingdon)

[viii] Glennie, Alex, Straw, Will and Wild, Leni (2009) Understanding Public Attitudes to Aid and Development, London: ODI and IPPR

[ix] Paget-Clarke, Nic (2005) ‘Interview with Gustavo Esteva’, The Society of the Different, Part 1: The Center of the World

[x] Rist, Gilbert (2007) ‘Development’, Development in Practice, 17(4-5):486

[xi] World Bank (2004), ‘What Is Development’

[xii] Cornwall, Andrea and Eade, Deborah (2010) ‘Deconstructing Development Discourse

Buzzwords and Fuzzwords’: 12

Image source: http://capreform.eu/the-development-angle/