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Perspectives on Development


Participating in an IVP volunteer project will often bring you face to face with the immense inequalities that exist between so-called ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ or ‘developing’ countries. It is also likely to raise questions and debate on what development is, what its goals are and the best ways in which the goals can be achieved.

The terms developed/underdeveloped/developing, North/South, First World/Third World … are contemporary categories for understanding the world. The terms provide a certain snapshot of the state of the world, at least in terms of the distribution of wealth globally. However, while we live in a starkly divided world, the divisions between rich and poor are found within each country.

This chapter briefly examines the concept of development and sets out some of the important development issues that have been the focus of global campaigns over the last number of years. The campaigns acknowledge that these issues very much interconnect developed and developing countries. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals provide an overall framework for the examination provided.

The concept of development
‘Development’ denotes growth, maturation, advancement. When considered in terms of the social or individual ‘development’ is understood to be about movement or change from a situation of lack and limitation to one of sufficiency and capability. This means that development is a process of transition. However, the fact that economic and social development are discussed in the context of ‘developed’ and ‘underdeveloped’ countries means that development is also commonly considered to have an end-point and that there is an ideal-state for human society, represented in and by ‘developed’ countries.

The dominant political, economic, cultural and other explanations of development usually start with an examination of how ‘developed’ countries came to achieve their situation of sufficiency, capability and advancement in industrialisation, science, knowledge and organisation. These explanations propose conditions under which development prospers, and support the formulation of models that can be applied in ‘underdeveloped’ countries. In these dominant theories the goal of development is assumed to be the reproduction of the achievements and ideal-states found in ‘developed’ countries.

Alternative theories of development question and critique any or all of these dominant explanations and the models of development that are based on them. The most radical alternative theories of development challenge the proposition that the goal of development is the reproduction of the economic and social situations of ‘developed’ countries.

All ideas on the goals of and models for development also carry with them ideas about the type of contributions that governments, societies and individuals need to make, and especially about where, when and how external contributions should be made.

In the following sections, we will look at development theories, the UN Millenium Development Goals, and some issues for development.

References and further research:

Bolan, S., 2007, “Uganda launches education campaign for war-affected children” – accessed 13 Mar 2007
Human Rights Watch, 2006, “Lessons in Terror Attacks on Education in Afghanistan”, July 2006, Vol. 18, Number 6(c) – accessed 14 Mar 2007
International Labour Organisation, “International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour: IPEC”
Larson, Ann, “The Social Epidemiology of Africa’s Aids Epidemic,” African Affairs, Vol. 89, No. 354. (1990): pp. 5-25
Treichler, Paula A., “AIDS, Africa, and Cultural Theory,” Transition, No. 51, (1991): pp. 86-103
United Nations Capital Development Fund (2007) . About UNCDF. Retrieved 7 March 2007 from
United Nations Capital Development Fund (2007) . About UNCDF: Local Development Retrieved March 7, 2007, from
UNAIDS/WHO AIDS Epidemic Update: December 2006, accessed 1 March 2007
UNICEF Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse – Child Labour
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child –,
UN High Commission for Refugees – “Educating Refugees around the world” -
UN Millennium Development Goals, accessed 28 May 2007
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2006, accessed 28 May 2007
Make Poverty History Policy Platform, accessed 28 May 2007

Some examples of development theories

Macro-economic development

– often attempt an explanation of the historical development of (Western) economies
– identify barriers to growth within other economies – the barriers identified have shifted or been augmented over the last 50 years, with the need for transparent governance practices being one of the most current. This is evident, for example, in the Australian Development Assistance Program
– propose development models that will remove these barriers
– may variously identify private enterprise or state institutions as the prime actors in achieving development, and so include both capitalist and socialist models of development. May also variously advocate centralised, localised, privatised and government-led policies and programs
– are linear in approach, reasoning that if attention is given to specific ‘key’ factors within the social, economic or political situations of an ‘underdeveloped/developing’ country then economic development and social betterment will follow
– have the benefit of furthering understanding of some of the factors that hinder development and identifying opportunities and limitations.

IVP volunteers may come across examples of macro development projects supported by the United Nations, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and national development assistance agencies such as AusAID.

Local development

– highlight the need for members of communities to be actively engaged in their own economic and political development
– emphasise assistance that creates local capabilities and sustainable economies
– some versions may still be linear in approach; others, especially those that are founded in an ecological perspective of the objectives and impacts of development, are more wholistic
– generally recognise that each community is unique and that assistance must be tailored to local needs in order to be effective and provide lasting benefits; genuinely people-centred development theories regard all communities as possessing at least some of the resources required, rather than having to rely totally on external inputs
– conversely must find ways to resolve the limits to local resources and to integrate local responses with national policies and programs. Decentralisation of national government, not just in service provision but also in priority setting and decision making, is seen as fundamental to the success of local development models
– generally share the current macro-economic development concern with transparent and accountable governance, and equitable access to reliable infrastructure.

IVP volunteers may come across local development projects supported and delivered by non-government, not-for-profit organisations based within countries they visit as well as international organisations such as Oxfam. Micro-finance is another initiative that they will often encounter, in which small amounts of money are lent through locally-managed and socially-inclusive services to allow individuals to create and expand business initiatives that are appropriate to the local area and resources.

SCI and IVP are not development organisations, but the philosophy and values of SCI and the purposes of workcamps orientate SCI and IVP towards a theory and model of local development aspiring to achieve the goals of local communities through the cooperation of people from all over the world.