A New Development Agenda: Outlining the Challenges to Development in the 21st Century. (Development and Modernization)

Harvard International Review, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

A New Development Agenda: Outlining the Challenges to Development in the 21st Century. (Development and Modernization)


A Conversation with LOUISE FRECHETTE

HARVARD INTERNATIONAL REVIEW:

It has recently been suggested that there is a link between development and terrorism. How does development relate to sources of violence and unrest? Does this make development a more pressing issue?

We have to be careful when we try to establish a direct causal relationship between poverty and terrorism. Frankly, it is an injustice to the poor to suggest that they, simply because they are poor, will necessarily resort to violence. There is, furthermore, nothing that suggests that such a strong claim is empirically true. On the other hand, however, there is no doubt that social inequalities generate great tension within populations. The lack of hope associated with poverty can drive some people to otherwise impossible violence. Again, however, one has to be very cautious when expressing this relationship.

This is a crucial time to discuss development issues because of the condition of the world today. There is an unsettling feeling about the future of international affairs, which is caused partly by the terrorism crisis. This feeling is also produced by the realizations that the end of the Cold War was not the end of history and that there are all kinds of new divides emerging because of the impact of globalization, which is contributing to the increasing economic gap between states. On the one hand, the global community is in many ways much more unified. More people have access to free information, they can travel easily. Yet, again, their well-being and welfare in terms of general economic conditions is diverging even more.

One of the frequently cited successes of globalization is the spread of foreign investment and factories from developed countries to less developed ones. Is this a positive trend, or does it prevent developing states from progressing according to their own development programs?

Foreign investment can be a very positive factor in development, and in fact many developed countries have grown thanks to large inflows of foreign investment at some point in their histories. So yes, foreign investment is one source of resources that can help the development of a country. But foreign investment has to be sensitive to a broad framework of social concerns and must be made to benefit the largest number possible, not only certain classes or interests.

I think the big problem of globalization is that so many countries fall outside of globalization's beneficial aura. Their problem is not whether foreign investment will make their lives better; it is that foreign investment does not come at all. Sometimes these countries lack investment because war or a lack of economic infrastructure makes these countries' economies less conducive to investment of any kind. And that is where you tend to find the biggest areas of poverty.

Development observers have held contradictory opinions of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Some argue that the redistributive efforts of NGOs help richer countries contribute to poorer ones, while others maintain that NGOs merely help rich countries avoid real responsibility for helping the developing world. What should the role of NGOs be?

NGOs are active in developing countries and help provide health services, education, and many other essential social services that often do not exist before countries have achieved a sufficient level of growth. So NGOs often fill a very important gap.

It is increasingly being recognized in the debate over the best approach to development that countries have to own their own development process. The catch phrase is that they have to be "in the driver's seat." The imposition of solutions from the outside or the ad hoc injections of support here and there will not add up to long-term development. As a result, many of the major partners of developing countries are now more ready to sit down with governments and representatives of civil society and attempt to design an overall strategy within which each can play its role. …

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