Magazine article Geographical

Development's End

Magazine article Geographical

Development's End

Article excerpt

DR ANDREW BROOKS is a Lecturer in Development Geography at King's College, London Here he asks what impact nationalistic politics will have on the future of international development


A CENTURY AGO the US entered the First World War. There had long been great resistance to America joining the conflict. One diplomat who had earlier attempted to avoid the outbreak of war was Colonel Edward House, President Woodrow Wilson's chief political advisor.

House was one of the first advocates of international development. In 1913, he recognised the rising power and ambition of Imperial Germany. He suggested to Wilson that German business interests should expand overseas and over lunch with the German ambassador, Count von Bernstorff, proposed that 'it would be a great thing if there was a sympathetic understanding between England, Germany, Japan, and the United States. Together I thought they would be able to wield an influence for good throughout the world. They could ensure peace and the proper development of the waste places, besides maintaining an open door and equal opportunity to every one everywhere.' A peaceful solution was not found. His proposal for overseas development to resolve Germany's expansionist urges fell on deaf ears and soon after guns thundered across Europe.

House wanted to promote globalisation through international development assistance, although it would take several decades for policy to catch up with his ideas. After the Second World War, territories that had been exploited through colonialism in Asia, South America and especially Africa, began to receive foreign aid and more commercial investment.

This started the era of international development and many countries in sub-Sharan Africa became heavily dependent on financial assistance. Some aid has alleviated pressing social needs, but money often arrives with conditions attached. One of the main impacts of development grants, loans and debt relief has been to encourage economic liberalisation by the removal of barriers to trade and investment, enabling further integration of the world economy.

International development facilitated globalisation, which has had many effects. Firstly, it has become easier for companies to invest overseas and the type of imperial ambitions that fuelled conflict in the first half of the 20th century have been tempered. Secondly, globalisation has made some places wealthy, but has also led to rising inequality. The economies of the West grew tremendously after 1945, but progress in Africa has disappointed, despite billions of dollars of aid.

China, which was poorer than Africa in 1950, has moved out of extreme poverty, and achieved phenomenal economic and social progress. …

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