A blog post from 2046: looking back at 30 years of development

Reflecting on the past 30 years of development, I am disappointed by our lack of progress. Below, I have highlighted some of the key areas in dire need of attention back in 2016, and the consequences of inaction.

Climate Change

Following the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, and his assertions that Climate Change is a hoax invented by the Chinese to inhibit the development of other competing countries, the USA became a non-negotiable party at Climate Control summits. This almost certainly contributed to greenhouse gas emissions exceeding the OECD’s 2011 projection of a 50% increase by 2050; the atmospheric concentration of GHG has already exceeded 700 ppm in CO2 equivalents this year, causing a global temperature rise of 5 degrees since 2016. This has had devastating effect in the world over; melting ice caps have caused catastrophic flooding in areas of low lying land including the Netherlands, Japan, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, with huge loss of life.

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The extinction of the polar bear in 2032 triggered worldwide climate protests demanding governmental action, however shortly following this the Kardashians released a new season and the public forgot to care. The only notable progress in the past 30 years has been through a widespread adoption of vegetarian and vegan diets since the tax on meat and dairy was introduced in 2022. Lower consumption of these products reduced climate emissions by 1 billion tonnes a year – the same as the entire aviation business – and has helped save half a million lives per year through a healthier diet.

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2016 predictions of the effect of Climate Change by 2050 have proved true

Poverty

Global wealth disparity has continued to rise in the past 30 years and the UN and World Bank continue to overlook the fact that the money richer countries are sending in aid to poorer countries is being paid back over 4.5 times each year in debt repayment for loans which have already been paid off. The only fluctuation in this cycle came when, in 2017, Donald Trump used his influence to redirect the World Bank’s aid to Latin America to fund the construction of the “Trump Wall”; although following his unsuccessful run for second term the wall was partially destructed, areas have been left up as a monument to the fast-paced destruction of the American economy during his Presidency.

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The Trump Wall in 2018

Official Development Assistance

With the rise of a progressively right-wing government in post-Brexit Britain and other areas of Europe due to fear-mongering surrounding the continued refugee crisis and Middle Eastern conflict, the development sector was hard hit. The Daily Mail finally convinced the majority that the 0.7% of GNI spent on foreign aid each year was an outrageous amount considering all the problems in the UK and in 2024 this amount was reduced to 0.55% of GNI. While campaigns to bring Britain’s spending on ODA back up have become popular in the past 10 years, any move to increase spending has been blocked by right-wing politicians putting shady statistics on the side of buses, suggesting that NHS will burst into a ball of flames and consume all but the dangerous lefty spawns of Satan if ODA increases.

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The established got into power by claiming to be anti-establishment

In conclusion, the increase in power of the right-wing in large areas of the Western hemisphere over the past 30 years has been highly detrimental to the development industry. While small-scale NGOs continue to fight back, and get aid to areas that need it the most particularly in these war-torn times, inaction from governmental agencies means any real progress has been, sadly, inhibited.

 

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Bibliography of sources:

Aish, G, Leonhardt, D, Quealy, K (2014), Flooding Risk from Climate Change, Country by Country, The New York Times [Online]. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/upshot/flooding-risk-from-climate-change-country-by-country.html?_r=0

Carrington, D (2016), Tax meat and dairy to cut emissions and save lives, study urges, The Guardian [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/07/tax-meat-and-dairy-to-cut-emissions-and-save-lives-study-urges

Château J, Clapp C, Dellink R, Lanzi E,  Magné B, Marchal V, van Vuuren D, Vliet J (2011), “Chapter 3: Climate Change”, The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050. Available at: https://www.oecd.org/env/cc/49082173.pdf

DFID (2015), UK aid: tackling global challenges in the national interest. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/478834/ODA_strategy_final_web_0905.pdf

Frelick, B (2016), Dispatches: Fearmongering about Refugees, Human Rights Watch [Online]. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/03/04/dispatches-fearmongering-about-refugees

Hickel, J (2015), It will take 100 years for the world’s poorest people to earn $1.25 a day, The Guardian [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/30/it-will-take-100-years-for-the-worlds-poorest-people-to-earn-125-a-day

Provost C, Tran M (2013), Aid: how much does the UK spend, why it’s important and how it works, The Guardian [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/mar/20/uk-aid-spend-important-works

TheRulesOrg (2013), Global Wealth Inequality: what you never knew you never knew. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWSxzjyMNpU&feature=youtu.be

It’s time to change the tune on African aid’s sob story

 

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As Christmas fast approaches, the roll out of hard hitting charity ads has begun, guilt-tripping consumers over the fact that we just spent over £100 on a Waitrose shop and offering us an easy way to balance the scales by texting SAVEALIFE and donating £3 to an African child. BandAid’s 1984 charity appeal ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ is back in the charts, with such catchy and heart-rendering lines as “there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time” and “the greatest gift they’ll get this year is life”.

 

While no doubt the coming together of celebrities to make a fundraising appeal as grating and diminutive as this raised considerable amounts of money and appeals to members the general public, I can’t help but attach it to a larger issue in the way charitable organisations advertise. We see it repeatedly – in posters, on the TV, in everything from appeals for sad, overworked donkeys with flies in their eyes, to appeals for sad, starving children with flies in their eyes; there’s little to distinguish these adverts even though the subject matter is so blatantly different. This year, I’d love to see a charity appeal where a struggling African mother isn’t shown silently clutching her swollen-bellied child with beseeching eyes staring into the camera, while a British voice intones that you, and yes only YOU, dear white, British, kindhearted stranger can save her. Give her the microphone and let her tell us for herself what she needs.

 

This type of advertising is no doubt the most effective. Naturally, it runs on human empathy, hence focusing on mothers and children, naturally, it only portrays one side of the story, because it’s that particularly unaesthetic side which is going to have you reaching for your wallet come Boxing Day while you’re lying on the sofa, guilty and full, reminded that people are starving all over the world. 

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However the problem, and one I think is very real, is that it presents one story of whole continents like Africa, a story that is not representative of the majority. Africa, we are told, is a place – one I still hear referred to as a country – of vast deserts and exotic animals, of war and famine and thirst. “Nothing ever grows” in Africa (again, BandAid) and indeed, “no rain or rivers flow” (certainly not the second longest river in the world). The people are portrayed as mute and incapable of knowing what would improve their own lives.

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Enter the empowered, heroic Westerner, whose donation of £3 a month will change the lives of one of these impoverished families, resulting in endless gratitude from the helpless African and a sense of moral satisfaction for the Brit. Whose image is this type of advertisement helping?

The damage of appeals like these is that it strips people from less economically developed countries of their voice and disempowers them from taking control of their own development altogether; in these campaigns they are never portrayed as the ones to move themselves out of poverty, but rely on the kind Westerner donating, incidentally, from the homeland of Africa’s old colonial masters – the ones that left African countries in the damaged economic state they are still trying to recover from today.

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Is it not time we change the tune on Africa’s story, show its diversity, maybe feature a successful, female, black African professional for a change or even start talking about which African country is facing the issues the campaign is confronting, rather than blanketing all these problems under one pigeon-holing term: Africa? I can’t help but link the current tone of these appeals with the rhetoric of the original British ‘humanitarians’: the slavery abolitionists of the 1800’s. The poor black man, submissive and docile and appealing for white British help (Hall, 1993) is a concept that doesn’t seem to have gone out of fashion in the past 200 years, and there is something deeply disturbing in the fact that we are still buying into it. This is not the world we live in. We know that, NGOs know that – and it’s time that they start showing it.

 

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Source bibliography:

Bennett, D (2009), Aid Watch Grinch Edition: Are We Mean To Ask That NGO Ads Not Be Simplistic and Wrong? Available at: http://www.nyudri.org/aidwatcharchive/2009/12/aid-watch-grinch-editon-are-we-mean-to-ask-that-ngo-ads-not-be-simplistic-and-wrong/

Hall, C (1993) “‘From Greenland’s Icy Mountains . . . to Afric’s Golden Sands’: Ethnicity, Race and Nation in Mid-Nineteenth-Century England”, Gender & History, Vol.5 No.2 pp. 212-230

Lambert, D and Lester, A (2004) “Geographies in Colonial Philanthropy” Progress in Human Geography, 28,3 pp. 320-341

Mbaye, B (2006) “The Economic, Political, and Social impact of the Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa.” The European Legacy: Toward New Paradigms 607-622. Available online: file:///home/chronos/uaa977e500c5a17446ce7626709fffad3f09c634d/Downloads/The_Economic_Political_and_Social_Impac%20(2).pdf

Mohanty, Chandra Talpade (1991) “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses” in Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, ed. Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, Ann Russo and Lourdes Torres. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press

Ngozi Adichie, C (2009), The Danger of a Single Story, TED Talks. Available online at: https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Schwittay, A (2013) ‘Representing Financial Inclusion.’ Anthropology Today 29(5): 9-12.

Wainaina, B (2005) ‘How to Write About Africa’, Granta 92. Available at: http://www.granta.com/Archive/92/How-to-Write-about-Africa/Page-1

WORLD vs. BANK: who is the World Bank really helping?

The World Bank self-proclaims to “promote shared prosperity” through low-interest loans to developing countries, and yet global wealth disparity is only rising. Who really benefits from the World Bank, and whose development is it truly supporting?

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The main focus of current development – one that is promoted through the conditions of the World Bank’s loans and its focus on infrastructure projects – is the growth of developing countries’ economies, in a world which is already far too developed. Trying to reproduce the economy of the Global North in developing countries as a solution to global poverty and inequality is a contradiction bordering on madness, as anyone with a basic understanding of global economics and the current disparity of wealth would agree.

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Showing how many times the world’s replenishable resources we are using per country, each year. The global average is 1.6 worlds, with developed countries such as Australia and the USA and European countries consuming the most.

Seeing as we are already consuming 50% more of our planetary resources than can be replenished each year, pushing for further growth is not only illogical but will ultimately be impossible; our resources are overstretched and our carbon emissions have recently reached what many environmentalists are terming “the point of no return”. Not only does development focused on economic growth promote a consumerist cycle which exacerbates the environmental disaster we are facing (the idea that more production = more money = less poverty) but this is being pursued regardless of statistics showing that it is simply not working.

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The richest 62 people own the same wealth as half the world’s population

While the global economy has grown by 380% since 1980, the number of people living on less than $5 a day has increased by 1.1 billion in that time; and yet we are still pursuing growth as a solution to poverty. The disparity of global wealth has been increasing rapidly, despite the $130 billion in aid sent from richer countries to poorer countries each year. This is seemingly a contradiction, until you discover that poorer countries are paying over 4.5 times that amount – about $600 billion – back to richer countries every year, in debt repayment of loans that have already been paid off many times over.

 

World Bank and the Third World Debt

While admittedly not all of these loans are from the World Bank, a lot of them are; and moreover, the style and conditions of lending promoted by the Bank, as well as the neo-liberal development it encourages, create a world in which this type of development – which is evidently leading us backwards – is the norm. While the richest 1% of the population now own 43% of the world’s wealth, there has been no readjustment in the Bank’s policy of aid; leading us to ask why, with the statistics so clearly showing that only the elite are benefiting, the Bank does not change its strategy.

Let’s talk for a moment about how the World Bank is structured. It’s based in the USA, with an American Bank President at the head of it; these have all typically been old, white Western men, pursuing old, white, Western agendas. Whereas the current American-South Korean President, Jim Yong Kim, brings an element of racial diversity to the team, he is somebody who publicly called for the World Bank to be shut down in the 1990s after experiencing first hand the devastation and disease in shanty towns surrounding Lima, Peru caused by the “structural readjustment” stage of the Bank’s development strategy; inflation controls and government cutbacks dictated by the lender, which frequently cause a period of economic instability and further poverty in the countries being “developed”. Yet these days he is portrayed in the media playing golf with Obama – a long, long way from Peru and any problems it may still be facing.

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It’s worth noting that the countries which invest the most money in the Bank get the highest amount of votes on how that money is spent; meaning that the USA has 20% of the voting power, with just one representative. Contrastingly, the 47 sub-Saharan African countries have only 7% of the voting power between them. With this system in place, poorer countries are effectively stripped of the power to decide how loans from the World Bank direct their own development. Arguably, the countries that do have the influence to decide how loans from the Bank are spent use this power to pursue their own neo-liberal foreign policies, regardless of the fact that it is evidently not helping the developing world.

Conclusively, in terms of the development and loans the Bank provides, it is not the poorest countries who are benefiting. For a more even distribution of global wealth and poverty reduction, the only conceivable solution could now be “de-development” and a more modest way of living in the Global North. However, in a world where the richest 300 people – a lot of them owners of large American corporations – have greater wealth than the poorest 3 billion, the question becomes why those in a position of influence over global economic policy would be aiming for this redistribution at all.

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Bibliography of sources:

Balch, O, (2012) Should the development community beware corporates bearing gifts?, The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2012/aug/07/development-community-beware-corporates-bearing-gifts

Bansal, S, (2011) Private sector has potential to aid development, but beware the pitfalls, The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/jul/11/private-sector-aid-potential-and-pitfalls

Blankfield, K (2016), Forbes Billionaires: Full List of the 500 Richest People in the World 2016. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kerenblankfeld/2016/03/01/forbes-billionaires-full-list-of-the-500-richest-people-in-the-world-2016/#45d92e786c24

Danaher, K, (1994) 50 years is enough: the case against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Boston, Mass, South End Press.

Edward, P, (2006), The Ethical Poverty Line: a moral quantification of absolute poverty, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 2, pp 377 – 393

Gilpin, R and G. M., (2000), The Challenge of Global Capitalism: The Global Economy in the 21st Century, Princeton University Press. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/g/gilpin-capitalism.html

Hickel, J, (2015),  Forget ‘developing’ poor countries, it’s time to ‘de-develop’ rich countries, The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/sep/23/developing-poor-countries-de-develop-rich-countries-sdgs

How does the World Bank operate?, (2005), Bretton Woods Project. Available at: http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/2005/08/art-320865/

Kahn, B, (2016), The world passes 400ppm carbon dioxide threshold. Permanently., The Guardian [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/28/the-world-passes-400ppm-carbon-dioxide-threshold-permanently

Kernan, M (2016), The Global Development Narrative and “Strategic Ambiguity”. Available at: http://therules.org/global-development-narrative-strategic-ambiguity/

Luhby, T (2016), The 62 richest people have as much wealth as half the world, CNN. Available at: http://money.cnn.com/2016/01/17/news/economy/oxfam-wealth/

Oakland Institute, (2015), Peru, the Poster Child for the World Bank in Latin America. Available at: http://therules.org/peru-the-poster-child-for-the-world-bank-in-latin-america/

Peet, Richard (2003) Unholy Trinity: The IMF, World Bank and WTO, London: Zed Books

Rice, A, (2016), How the World Bank’s biggest critic became its president, The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2016/aug/11/world-bank-jim-yong-kim

Riofrio, G, The case of Lima, Peru. Available at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dpu-projects/Global_Report/pdfs/Lima.pdf

The IMF and The World Bank: puppets of the neo-liberal onslaught, (2000), The Thistle, Volume 13, Number 2. Available at: http://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v13/2/imf.html

TheRulesOrg, (2013), Global Wealth Inequality – what you never knew you never knew. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWSxzjyMNpU

The World Bank Group, (2016), What we do. Available at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/about/what-we-do