Amartya Sen on Development

Amartya Sen’s concept of Development As Freedom (1999) is highly acclaimed. He argues that human development is about the expansion of citizens capabilities.

Amartya Sen

For Sen, freedom means increasing citizens access and opportunities to the things they have reason to value. Sen challenges the mainstream concept of measuring development by economic growth (Evans 2002).

Sen does acknowledge that increases in poor people’s incomes do contribute to the expansion of their freedoms. However, he recognises that increase of income alone “has at best uneven and at worst has detrimental impacts on the majority of a country’s population, and radical redistributive measures are necessary for the poor to benefit from growth” (Selwyn 2011:69).

Sen alerts the reader that poverty, unfulfilled elementary needs, the occurrence of famines, the violation of political freedoms and neglect of the agency of women remain today despite ‘unpredented opulence’ (1999). He makes it clear that previous strategies to reduce these catastrophes are erroneous. His approach focuses on human flourishing as the entry point to the problem of poverty and global inequality rather than economic growth (Reid-Henry 2012). Sen (1999) contends that all human beings are equally entitled to enjoy a life that they value.

If pursuing freedom-for-all is about expanding citizens’ capabilities, the focus should not be exclusively on making up for what people lack (Reid-Henry 2012).  “Development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency” (Sen 1999:xii). Sen defines the major factors that limit freedom as ‘poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over activity of repressive states” (Sen 1999:1). He argues for the removal of these major factors. Sen focuses on crucial instrumental freedoms: economic opportunities, political freedoms, social facilities, transparency guarantees and protective security. These, he argues, need to be interconnected. Social facilities involve institutions such as the state and the market. Sen asserts societal arrangements should be investigated “in terms of their contribution to enhancing and guaranteeing the substantive freedoms of individuals, seen as active agents of change rather than as passive recipients of dispensed benefits” (Sen 1999:xii). Social facilities should aim to provide opportunities that increase the well-being of the population.

Sen’s Contribution to Development

Sen’s work (1999) had a huge influence on the establishment of a new paradigm in the early 2000s. Development was “redefined in terms that include human rights as a constitutive part: all worthwhile processes of social change are simultaneously rights-based and economically grounded, and should be conceived of in those terms” (Uvin 2010:168). Sen’s capability approach challenges the world-view of elites. He manages to convince skeptical economists that social choice and public discussion is both possible and necessary. He contends that choices about growth strategies should be democratic (Evans 2012). “Sen has focused on the well-being of those at the bottom of society, not the efficiency of those at the top” (Longworth 1999). He influences the ideas and decisions made by other development actors. The Millennium Development Goals are guided by Sen’s ideas. The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, spoke about freedom and the rights of the poor in his report named ‘In Larger Freedom’ (2005).

“A world of interdependence cannot be safe or just unless people everywhere are freed from want and fear and are able to live in dignity. Today, as never before, the rights of the poor are as fundamental as those of the rich, and a broad understanding of them is as important to the security of the developed world as it is to that of the developing world” (Annan 2005).

When discussing the Human Development Index, Paul Streeten concludes “the approach that sees nutrition, education and health as ends in themselves… will argue for projects… that enhance these ends, even when conventionally measured rates of return on these investments turn out to be zero”( Streeten 2009:234) and this approach “leads inevitably to the call for freedom by the people” (Streeten 2009:236).

Critique of Sen’s concept

Sen’s capability approach is viewed by most development practitioners as an invaluable analytical and philosophical foundation. However it is argued that this foundation should not just be admired but built upon (Evans 2012). Selwyn argues that Sen’s view of freedom in capitalist markets is myopic as the market is an institutionalized unfreedom. He asserts that Sen complies with Adam Smith’s understanding of the market as an arena of choice and “does not propose radical, distributive, developmental policies and practices” (Selwyn 2011:75). Although Sen’s approach seems radical in many ways, in terms of markets it does not challenge the status quo, overlooking the detrimental exploitative affect that the market can have on the poor. Moreover, as Evans (2012) argues, in the current context market-based power inequalities need to be prevented, Sen overlooks this. By using both Smith and Marx to support his case, Sen’s work has many contradictions. His work on famines is at variance with his liberal conception of the capitalist markets (Selwyn 2011).

Uvin (2010) contends that Sen’s ideas on democracy and participation were not new. He quotes a Statement written five years before Sen wrote Development as Freedom. The statement is from the UN Secretary-General’s agenda for development.

“Democracy and development are linked in fundamental ways… They are linked because democracy is a fundamental human right, the advancement which is itself an important measure of development. They are linked because people’s participation in the decision making processes which affect their lives is a basic tenet of development” (United Nations 1994, para 120).

Uvin argues that we ought to ask why these ideas have not been acted on before, since they have been around along time in the development field. “This is where we encounter the limits of Amartya Sen’s major contribution to development. There is no politically grounded analysis for what stands in the way of his approach” (Uvin 2010:168). “By signing up to Sen’s vision, [agencies] remain committed to little more that improved discourse – in this case in a well-appreciated economic-sounding form” (Uvin 2010:169). Sen had a radical impact on development debates and policy but what is happening in practice? Are development actors questioning their own behaviour? The human-rights objectives “are to be implemented out there, in the Third World. Without the agencies requiring a critical look at oneself” (Uvin 2010:169).

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Annan, K. 2005. “In Larger Freedom”: Decision Time at the UN. Foreign Affairs.  Available at: Accessed         26th March 2013

Evans, P. 2002. Collective Capabilities, Culture, and Amartya Sen’s Development as        Freedom. Studies in Comparative International Development. 37:2. pp 54-60.

Longworth, R. 1999. Amartya Sen. Nobel Prize winning economist. The Chicago   Tribune. [Online] 28th March 1999. Available at:       28/news/9903280117_1_inequality-economy-amartya-sen. Accessed: 27th  March 2013

Reid-Henry, S. 2012. Amartya Sen: economist, philosopher, human development  doyen. The Guardian [Online] 22nd November 2012. Available at:   human-development-doyen. Accessed 26th March 2013

Selwyn, B. 2011. Liberty Limited? A sympathetic re-engagement with Amartya    Sen’s Development as freedom. Economic and Political weekly. XLVI:37. Sep 10

Selwyn, B. 2013. Capitalism vs. Development. Not yet published.

Sen, A. 1999. Development As Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Uvin, P. 2010. From the right to development to the rights-based approach: how human rights entered development. In Cornwall and Eade(eds). Deconstructing Development Discourse. Buzzwords and Fuzzwords. Oxford:Practical Action Publishing Ltd.


Racial Difference: South Africa in the 1800s

How did the contest between settler capitalist and humanitarian models of Empire shape British notions of racial difference in the first half of the nineteenth century?



The ‘dark continent’ description of Africa has dominated for centuries (Bates, 2012). “There is, of course, the insidious view that the problem with Africa is Africans – that culturally, mentally and physically Africans are innately different. That somehow deeply embedded in their psyche is an inability to embrace development and improve their own lot in life without foreign guidance and help” (Moyo, 2009: 31). Conversely there is the description of Africa as ‘the emerging continent’ in current newspapers such as The Economist (Bates, 2012). To understand Africa’s current affairs it is important to look at the history of colonialism as its legacies are prevalent. ‘Undeniably, racism has been, and remains an inseparable part of the Structure of South African society’ (Dubow, 1995:5). A politicised system of racial hierarchy governed in South Africa in 1948 until Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black man to be elected president (The Guardian, 2012). Mandela is internationally adored for having endured twenty seven years in prison for being an anti-apartheid activist. It took great struggle and sacrifice for a black person to gain respect from the whites and become president. Despite improvements in social norms, some racism, involving violent action, remains in South Africa today. Where did these notions of racial difference come from?

Focusing on the Cape Colony in South Africa in the first half of nineteenth century, this essay aims to explain how the beliefs of racial difference between white and black people were shaped. Firstly this essay examines the two distinctive models of empire, looking at their aims and objectives for invasion and rule in distant lands. Then the paper will address how these incentives, that were considered ‘progressive’ at the time, could so easily transform into ignorance of the value of difference (Lambert and Lester, 2004). The focus is on the Cape War of 1834-7, looking at how the colonisers used trans-national networks of communication to distribute their representations of indigenous people across the empire. In the aftermath of the war there was a sparked interest in scientific racism. This essay concludes that despite differences in initial motivations, both humanitarians and settlers were proud colonisers aspiring to expand the British Empire and both were responsible for scientific racism becoming the dominant view by the 1840s (Keegan, 1996).


Different Intentions

To the British, in the early nineteenth century, Africa was known as a wild continent, a place of superstition & ignorance (Hall, 1993). Many believed that the British were ordained by God to intervene and improve the lives of the natives (Empire, 2012). Humanitarians had no desire to throw the indigenous people off their land; rather they envisioned a society of civilized black and white Britons living along side one another in harmony. They would speak English and their attire, attitude and architecture would all be of British style (Lester, 2002). Elbourne (2002) and Keegan (1996) argue that colonisation was (and still is) driven by avaricious eurocentrics who use the banner of universalism to justify their actions. However some missionaries such as David Livingstone had a different agenda.

Livingstone, who went to South Africa in 1840 (Elbourne, 2002) had the intention of spreading the message of salvation in Christ. He sincerely believed that this would enable all humans to realise their purpose on earth, possess genuine hope and to reach their full potential (Monk and Livingstone 1858). Northcot (1973) describes Livingstone as a proud coloniser whose reason for being in Africa was to “offer the benefits of the white man’s civilization, and [displayed] no latter day beliefs in the black man’s freedom, liberation and independence”(1973:74). Although it is unmistakable that Livingstone’s Christianity, commerce and civilization was a significant factor in European Imperialism (Monk, 1858), it would be unfair to describe him as devious and scheming. His motives were not entirely for self-gain. Using trade as a favourable alternative to slavery, first and foremost his priority was to create peaceful environment for the spreading of Christianity (Empire, 2012). Although an arduous task, he believed it was an appropriate response to the gift of eternal life that he had received from God.

“The perfect freeness with which the pardon of all our guilt is offered in God’s book drew forth feelings of affectionate love to Him who bought us with His blood, and a sense of deep obligation to Him for his mercy has influenced… my conduct ever since” (Livingstone, 1858:XVI).

He resolved to make Christ known in regions where the Gospel had not yet been preached. Despite Northcot’s earlier criticism of Livingstone he admits “in his wake followed a volume of goodwill to Africa that would have surpassed all of his dreams” (1973:14). The logic of civilization and commerce as well as Christianity was to encourage Africans to use their own natural resources for trade with Europe instead of being subject to the horrifying conditions of the slave trade (Livingstone, 1858). Crais (1992) and Elbourne (2002) point out that this encouragement of free trade and the stimulation of agricultural development was exploitative. However, in the context of the time Livingstone’s understanding of ‘civilization’ meant bestowing the benefits of education, good governance and indigenous development, therefore his actions are considered by some to be genuinely altruistic (Nkomazana, 1998 and Empire, 2012). Missionaries were influenced by passages in the bible, such as,

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle and over all the earth…” (The Bible, Genesis, 1:26)

Although they did make costly errors such as subverting native cultures and excluding those who refused to ‘convert’ (Hall 1993, Elbourne, 2002 and Keegan 1996), some humanitarians believed that they were pleasing God by acting in a benevolent manner and facilitating the aggrandisement of people from other countries.

In the late nineteenth and early eighteenth century, campaigns to abolish slavery in Britain were manifest and from 1800 the humanitarian concern extended to the treatment of indigenous people on the colonial frontiers (Lester, 2002). There were however, some avaricious settlers who had no real interest in the indigenous people other than to use them for cheap labour in their harsh regimes (Empire, 2012). The settlers’ goal was to make money from imperial products such as sugar, cotton, wool, fruit, wine, tobacco, copper, fur and ivory to enrich Britain’s economy (Sandhu, 2011) and for their own profit. To settlers, humanitarians were naïve and they needed to recognise that Africans were irredeemably savage. They were furious that the humanitarians were showed support for foreign people instead of their fellow Britons (Lester, Nel and Binns, 2000). Primarily then, rather than seeing the redemption of backward people like the humanitarians, what the settlers desired was material gain.

The Cape Colony

In 1820 British settlers arrived in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. There was unrest in Grahamstown and in order to help stabilise the eastern border of the colony, the British settlers had been requested by the Cape authorities. In Britain at this time there were struggles such as food shortages and unemployment causing the government to fear revolt (Lester, Nel and Binns, 2000). The controversial yet influential Reverend Thomas Malthus (1970) had written essays such as ‘An Essay on The Principle of Population,’ which argued,

“This natural inequality of the two powers of population and of production in the earth, and that great law of our nature which must constantly keep their effects equal, form the great difficulty which to me appears insurmountable in the way to the perfectibility of society” (Malthus, 1970:71)

Malthus’s influence lead many to doubt that Britain would ever progress to a utopian society. Therefore in 1819 the British government, afraid of a revolution established an emigration scheme and in 1820 four thousand settlers arrived in The Cape Colony. The settlers were ignorant to the fact that they were alleged defense soldiers of the eastern frontier. They had been persuaded that Grahamstown was an appealing foreign town where they would acquire extremely cheap land. They saw The Cape as a place where they could enhance their standard of living (Lester, Nel and Binns, 2000).

Despite differences in motivation, both humanitarians and settlers created an English-speaking elite in Grahamstown.  Keegan (1996) says the settlers were devoted to capital accumulation, primarily concerned with territorial acquisition. Both merino-wool and wine production for export, would expand the colonys’ commercial relations establishing lucrative industries in the Eastern Cape (Ross, 1999). Settlers had capital and Britain was a remunerative market. What they didn’t have was land and cheap labour. To meet this requirement, the British expelled the native Xhosa-speaking people from their land and claimed it. The settlers,

“…called vociferously for military advance requiring generous outlays of imperial funds… in their view, neighboring African societies had to be subjugated and dismantled, and African’s reduced to a state of subservience in the interests of economic progress.” (Keegan 1996:285)

The Xhosa retaliated and this conflict between the settlers and the Xhosa provoked the war of 1834-7. This war also incited the contest of representation between the settlers and humanitarians in the Eastern Cape (Lester, 2002).

Fuelled with outrage after the loss of their land, twelve to fifteen thousand Xhosa invaded the Cape Colony in 1834. This was just three weeks after slavery had been abolished there. The British settlers were eager to fight and hoped the outcome would be possession of more land and also the use of defeated Xhosa for labour (Legassick and Ross, 2010). The superintendant of the London Missionary Society in the colony, Dr. John Philip, was committed to defending the Xhosa and represented their cause to Thomas Fowell Buxton who was leader of the antislavery movement in the House of Commons back in London (Lester, 2002). Philip and other missionaries began to use their powerful humanitarian network to persuade the British government that they should sympathize with the Xhosa rather than support the British settlers (Elbourne, 2002).

Humanitarians reported that the settlers conducted brutal behaviour towards indigenous people in the colonies. They were portrayed as cruel, insensitive and a disgrace to Britain (Lester, 2002). This provoked the settlers’ antipathy towards both the Xhosa and the humanitarians (Lester, Nel and Binns, 2000). Anxious to defend their actions, the settlers ensured that a different conception of Britishness reached other colonies and back to Britain itself (Lester, 2002). To justify their colonial practices, they asserted that Xhosa were an inferior race, and there were immutable human differences (Keegan, 1996). In order to shift public opinion in Britain and in other colonies the settlers founded newspapers to represent their version of events. The Graham’s Town Journal was launched in 1831, which “provided a public sphere for the common articulation of bourgeoisie values and aspirations, in the context of a threatening physical and social landscape” (Keegan 1996:73). The settler newspapers became a way to launch an attack on the humanitarian notion that all people were equal. The settlers included photographs and reports of Xhosa violence against Britons as propaganda. This promoted the recognition of innate racial difference. Using a trans-national network of communication, propaganda of this sort was also represented in The Times newspaper in Britain, and in other colonial settler press (Lester 2002).

In order to convince the British public that indigenous people were inferior, settlers in colonies all over the empire, began to search for scientific evidence.

“The search to establish the lower limits of humanity became especially important in the eighteenth century and in the hundred years or so before Darwin this came to be expressed in terms of “the missing link” (Dubow, 1995:21).

There was now some disillusionment among humanitarians. They had thought that the redemptive action of God did not recognise national boundaries (Keegan, 1996). However, despite efforts to civilize the indigenous people, some humanitarians began to realise that their expectations of ‘improvement’ were not being met. The Africans were not as easy to teach and mould as the Britons had hoped (Crais, 1992). By 1847 in a later war with the Xhosa, humanitarian John Fairbairn, editor of the South African Commercial Advertiser, began to echo the settlers’ Xhosa criticism (Lester, Nel and Binns, 2000). As Keegan (1996) points out, Fairbairn was Dr. John Philip’s son in law and prior to 1847 had been explicit in his humanitarian disposition. The South African Commercial Advertiser was the rival of the Graham’s Town Journal therefore Fairbairn’s abandonment of humanitarian beliefs was a strong indication of decline in the humanitarian political voice Africans began to be represented as inherently lazy by both humanitarians and settlers. It was reported that black people needed rigid control and the humanitarian view now seemed naïve and misguided (Lester, 2002). Perhaps some of missionaries were also beginning to lose the vision of the heroic pursuit of claiming souls for Christ.  Although it had invigorated them at first, perhaps it had now become problematic in reality as Xhosa rejected the missionaries’ ideals of civilisation. The humanitarians expected gratitude from Xhosa but this was not always their response (Crais, 1992).

In order to establish difference between the white and black people, anatomists such as Robert Knox began to ‘confirm’ a “physical otherness” of the Xhosa (Dubow, 1995:23). Knox had worked in the Eastern Cape as an army surgeon with one of the early nineteenth-century frontier regiments. His ideas were highly influential and many British people came to accept notions of racial determinism (Dubow, 1995). By the 1830s the British had established that Africans should not be enslaved, however it was also widely accepted that they were incapable of civilization and bound to ‘barbarism’ (Crais,1992:129). Exhibitions of native South Africans in Britain were justified in terms of acquiring scientific knowledge. They were described as,

“a little above a monkey tribe, and scarcely better than the mere brutes of the field. They are sullen, silent and savage – mere animals in propensity, and worse than animals in appearance” (Knox cited in Dubow, 1995:24).

Knox and others began releasing pseudoscientific inferences to justify the belief in the indigenous people’s racial inferiority and so the humanitarian view of equality and emancipation was overpowered (Hall, 1993).


The confident assumption that Britishness represented the norm was reinforced by scientific racism in the mid eighteenth century (Hall, 1993). The colonial project was divided at first due to differing incentives and the humanitarian disapproval of the settlers’ brutal treatment of the indigenous people.  As Lester (2002) argued, the contest was related to the idea of an emerging British civilised character. The source of disagreement between humanitarians and settlers was the treatment of the indigenous people (Lester, 2002). The analysis of the Cape War in 1834-7 highlights the conflict in the discourse and actions of the humanitarians and settlers. A number of humanitarians became disappointed when the indigenous people refused to abandon all aspects of their lives that did not accord with the humanitarian definition of civilised values (Keegan, 1996). This resulted in the racist declaration that black people were innately inferior and these notions of race were spread throughout the empire. By the end of the nineteenth century, biological determinism had become the dominant understanding in the British Empire, Western Europe and the USA. As Lambert and Lester (2004) assert, it is important to be sensitive to differences in Western agendas for change, both in history and in the present. While acknowledging that the Britons’ appalling behaviour did cause great suffering and most aspects of British Imperialism was atrocious, this paper sought to sympathise with human weakness rather than deem all colonisers evil.

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Frantz Fanon on Development

 A key thinker in international development

Development students should consider Fanon’s ethics as he was passionate about freedom, justice and human rights.  However I will argue that freedom can be achieved by the action of the oppressed, although violent struggle involving the use of weapons is not essential (Arendt 1969).

Frantz Fanon

Fanon’s definition of decolonisation

Fanon asserts “decolonization is quite simply the replacing of a certain ‘species’ of men by another ‘species’ of men” (1965:27). Decolonization is “meeting of two forces, opposed to each other by their very nature” (1965: 27,28). Jean Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy influenced Fanon greatly. Sartre declared that Man exists, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. Sartre says that man should discover that there is no pre-designed human character and man creates his own character (Gardner 2009). Sartre and Fanon radically oppose any argument that black people are inherently inferior. Building on Sartre’s argument Fanon asserts that the settlers created the distinction between themselves and the people with black skin, who were native to the land. Fanon argues that the settlers ignorantly declared that there was an evil character apparent in all native people. But this character was created and imposed on them. Fanon’s decolonization means the natives can liberate themselves from this false racist description of their character.

“Decolonization is the veritable creation of new men” (Fanon 1965: 28).

“The native can see clearly if decolonization has come to pass or no, for his minimum demands are simply that the last shall be first” (1965:35). This is ironic as this saying “the last will be first, and the first will be last” is from a parable about the grace of God’s Kingdom in the New Testament of the Christian Bible written in Matthew (chapter 20 verse 16). Fanon took a Christian principle and instead of believing that you can rely on God to bring justice, as the Christian missionaries preached, he advocated that the ‘last’ should bring about this victory for themselves. They are responsible for achieving the recognition of their own humanity (Zeilig 2012).

Is Violence Necessary for Freedom?

Fanon’s ethics are contested. Some consider him to be a dangerous preacher of violence and hatred while others declare him the voice of the poor in developing countries (Haddour, 2006). Bhaba (2004) argues that Fanon’s ethics of decolonization are scarred by his obsession with violence. Arendt (1969) condemned Fanon for encouraging hatred toward anyone in power and glorifying violence for violence’s sake. Conversely Zeilig (2012) argues that Fanon’s arguments for violence must be read considering the historical context in order for them to be understood. Reading Fanon’s work allows you to empathize with the colonized as he describes their experience.

“the native…is, let us dare to admit, the enemy of values, and in this sense the absolute evil”

“…he knows he is not an animal; and it is precisely at the moment he realizes his humanity that he begins to sharpen the weapons with which he will secure his victory.” (Fanon 1965:32,33)

Zeilig interprets Fanon’s ethics to mean that that in order to overthrow a cruel regime that has treated you as inferior, as an animal and has harmed you severely both physically and psychologically you require force. Every man who is oppressed desires freedom but in order to get it you have to resort to using violence (Zeilig 2012).

Sartre argues “no gentleness can efface the marks of violence; only violence itself can destroy them” and “the rebels weapon is the proof of his humanity.” He also writes that “the irrepressible violence is neither sound or fury, nor the resurrection of savage instincts, nor even the effect of resentment: it is man re-creating himself” (Sartre 1965: 18). Sartre suggests that violent action with weapons is the only way to redeem a man from his suffering. With a weapon he becomes a person to be noticed by his oppressor and feared. When holding a weapon he is empowered and liberated. But Arendt (1969:12) points out that Sartre seems to go much farther in his glorification of violence than Fanon himself. She sympathizes with Fanon’s ethics acknowledging that he was enraged by the hypocrisy of the cruel rulers and was motivated by his burning desire for justice. She also recognizes Fanon’s belief that violence to be only temporary, a process in order to escape. Arendt quotes Fanon saying the “total brutality [which] if not immediately combatted, invariably leads to the defeat of the movement within a few weeks” (Fanon 1965:147 in Arendt 1969:14). Haddour agrees with Arendt’s interpretation of Fanon’s ethics arguing that

“violence for Fanon is just a moment, a negative instance in the process of decolonization” (2006:xvi).

However, Arendt contends that once humans taste the power that they get from using weapons they want to use violence more. They then use ideologies to justify their violent actions. Although violence is effective in bringing grievances to public attention, empowerment can be achieved by collective non-violent action (Arendt 1969).

“The practice of violence, like all action changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world (Arendt 1969:80)”

Fanon’s Ethics in the current context

Fanon is not to be dismissed as dangerous or deluded (Haddour 2006). His ethics are still significant. He was enraged by the wealth of Europe contrasting the poverty and suffering in the developing world. His arguments about the scandalous global situation of inequality are relevant today. Those that suffer are making development happen for themselves today. Fanon’s vision for development was a regime “completely orientated towards the people as a whole and based on the principle that man is the most precious of all possessions” (Fanon 1965:175). Aung San Suu Kyi’s non-violent movement aims for a peaceful revolution in Burma where democracy and human rights can be established. Like the South African leader Nelson Mandela, she has become an international symbol of peaceful resistance in the face of oppression. Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi prove that empowerment can come from non-violent action although this requires forgiveness. One violent action with a weapon will provoke another. Hatred never ends until one side forgives the other.

“…the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes another’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice” (Mandela 1995:751).


Arendt, H. 1969. On Violence. London: The Penguin Press.

Bhaba, H. 2004. Forward: Framing Fanon in Fanon, F. The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press: New York

Fanon, F. 1965. The Wretched of the Earth. London: Macgibbon & Kee.

Gardner, S. 2009. Satre’s Being and Nothingness : A reader’s guide. London : Continuum 2009

Haddour, A. 2006. The Fanon Reader: Frantz Fanon. London: Pluto Press

Mandela, N. 1995. The Long Walk to Freedom. Abacus:London

Satre, J. 1965. in Fanon, F. 1965. The Wretched of the Earth. London: Macgibbon & Kee.

Zeilig, L. 2012. Pitfalls and Radical mutations: Frantz Fanon’s revolutionary life. International Socialism Journal: 134. Spring. Pp. 141-166.

How my views on Development have changed


Before embarking on this course I envisioned development as climbing up a staircase. Extraordinary North America was proudly sitting on the top step and Western Europe was not too far below. It seemed as though the Global North literally looked down on Southern countries. Many African, South American and Asian countries were towards the bottom of the staircase. My uneducated view was that we had a moral obligation to help those in poverty in the South climb up the stairs to join us at the top. “The idea of poverty reduction itself has a luminous obviousness to it, defying mere mortals to challenge its status as a moral imperative”(Toye, 2010:45) To me, ‘development’ was irrefutable and meant that the countries at the top of the staircase should altruistically reach down and pull the other countries up. It was all about economic growth.

I now realise  that development has an inherently political nature and this view that I had was influenced by Rostow’s modernisation theory.  People in the global north are still encouraged to show pity towards people in the global south today. We are told that ‘we’ are more advanced than ‘them’ since they’re technologically and politically ‘behind’ and the majority do not own a great amount of material possessions. This promotes the idea of binary opposites; self vs other, in constructing states identities (Said, 1978) (Campbell,1961). During this degree at Sussex University we are taught that conducting historical research allows us to dismantle accepted truths and discover strong arguments that these ‘truths’ have been constructed by the people who were/are in power.

Reading work by African scholars and activists enabled me to empathise with their frustrations. I can understand how disrespected I would feel if institutions were ‘ganging up on the people’ in my country to ‘drive through their agendas’ (Eyben,2010). This course has given me the opportunity to hear different voices and different ideas other than those dominating the media.

I am now more attentive and alert when reading development language, aware that it cannot be taken at face value. I’ve realised that many development institutions from the North use development language to restrict the boundaries of thought in the way that they shape policy and practice (Eade, 2010). Its important to recognise ‘cheap talk’ defined by Mick Moore as ‘something one can happily say in the knowledge that it’ll have no significant consequences’ (Moore,2001:323).

Northern donor agencies establish the language and concepts of international development despite the beneficiaries living in the global south (Chambers, 1997). A tiny percentage of citations in reports published by the World Bank and other UN specialised agencies include references to African research. The institutions of the North design theoretical frameworks causing scholars in the South to produce case studies that suit these frameworks. It is evident that these Northern institutions ensure that African scholars analysis buttresses the North’s formulation of policy proposals and in this way restricts their research (Eade, 2010).We must be aware that development’s “underlying purpose” is not to “ lay bare or to be unequivocal but to mediate in the interests of public consensus while at the same time allowing for the existence of several internal agendas” (Wilson, 1992:10).

Contrary to what I’d picked up from the television, I have learnt that each place and issue needs a unique approach. IDS research argues “conventional development thinking emphasises economic growth over human well-being and ignores care as a public good that sustains and reproduces society and on which markets depend for their functioning. [The] alternative is an economic system that reflects and places a value on equitable relations between women and men” (Rosalind and Fontana,2011). Aid staff should not be obsessed with results, Northern institution’s frameworks are restricting (Win,2004). Some aid staff stay distant from the realities of the countries that they’re moving between. “Different words, different contexts, different actors and different struggles call for different strategies.” (Cornwall, 2010:16) Development is about the way in which we approach making good changes to people’s lives so that they have dignity. Unfortunately, some development actors envision this in terms of money and exploitation (Rist, 2007). Lets ask the poor what they think and let their voices be heard!

Wordell  from my first blog post


Cambell, D., 1961. Writing Security. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Chambers, R., 1997. Responsible Wellbeing: A Personal Agenda for Development, World Development, Vol. 25(11) pp 1743-1754

Eade, D and Cornwall, A.eds., 2010.Deconstructing Development Discourse, Buzzwords and Fuzzwords. Warwickshire: Practical Action Publishing in association with Oxfam

Moore, M., 2001. Empowerment at last? Journal of Development 13:3 pp 321-329

Rist, G., 2007. Development, Development in Practice, 17(4-5) pp 485-491.2.

Rosalind, E and Fontanta M., 2011. Caring for Wellbeing. The Bellagio Initiative. Brighton:IDS publication.

Rosling, H. 2010. 200 Countries 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats. BBC Four. You Tube. [Online][Uploaded November 26th 2010] Available at:<; [Accessed Thursday 6th December 2012.]

Said, E., 1979. Orientalism. New York City: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Toye, J., 2010. Poverty Reduction. In Cornwall, A. and Eade, D., eds. Deconstructing Development Discourse, Buzzwords and Fuzzwords. Warwickshire: Practical Action Publishing in association with Oxfam.

Wilson, F., 1992. Faust: The Developer, CDR Working Paper 92:5 p10

Win, E., 2004. “If it doesn’t fit on the blue square it’s out!” An open letter to my donor friend, in Hinton,R and Groves,L.eds., Inclusive Aid: Changing Power and Relationships in Development. London: Earthscan.

Representation of Africa in NGOs Marketing Campaigns

“Africa needs YOU! Text, “I AM A HERO” to 3333 now and all their issues will be solved.”

In marketing campaigns for many NGOs, Africa is often represented as needy and in desperate need of our help. The photos and language used in many campaigns provoke feelings of pity. It is difficult to see past this single story of life in Africa (Adichie, 2009).

While traveling to London on the train, I noticed a poster promoting Christian Aid. It popped up everywhere that day, even when I went to the toilet it glared at me from the back of the cubicle door! I noticed an almost identical poster promoting Save the Children.

Both of these NGO marketing campaigns followed the same formula,

-Terrible problem = “Malaria kills a child every 45 seconds”.

-Simple solution = Text NET to 81400. Send a net, save a life”.

These adverts appeal to the British public to become heroic lifesavers for just three pounds. Prior to reading the advert, you almost certainly indulged in something unessential, like a cup of coffee, for the same price. The NGO sells something more honourable and glorious. They sell you the ego-boosting feeling of becoming a knight in shining armour. Their strategy is to ensure that you realise your power. You spend a tiny amount, type four letters in a text message, click send, and voila… like waving a magic wand, you just helped to save Africa. The campaign’s message is ‘we in the West have power, they in Africa do not’.

I am sure these NGOs are working zealously to reduce poverty and yearn to see people freed from oppression. I am confident that people in their marketing teams are educated and compassionate. I realise they are raising funds to support what they truly believe to be good change. However, by constantly portraying Africa as a place of corruption, catastrophes and chaos, is it not insolent towards the very people they want to see emancipated? Moreover, could it be said that this type of representation is supporting cultural imperialism? (Escobar, 1995). What does it do to us as British citizens and how does it shape our identity? Does it emphasise the differences between us (rich North vs. poor South) rather than the similarities? (Adichie,2009)

Mocking western portrayals of Africa Binyavanga Wainaina writes,

 “Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as the ‘real Africa’… Do not feel queasy about this: you are trying to help them to get aid from the West” (Wainaina, 2005).

By showing only poor women and children, aid agencies know exactly which style of discourse and photography will pierce our hearts and make us dip in to our purses,

 “Like the fly-infested and emaciated black child that is so often used by international news agencies, the bare-footed African woman Sells. Without her uttering a word, this poor woman pulls in financial resources” (Everjoice J.Win,2004, pp 61)

This attitude publicised in NGO campaigns is exploitative and dishonest. It subliminally informs the West that we are saviours who must use our power to save people in developing countries because they cannot save themselves (Cole, 2012). Conversely, in this article on Nicholas D Kristof’s blog, Bishop Taban from South Sudan says, “Too many people have died in my country, but millions more would have died if the American people and churches had not sent aid … we need continued involvement from our American brothers and sisters to ensure our nation survives its infancy.” Clearly Taban feels as though he must support and replicate Kristof’s western-style reporting of South Sudan.

By constantly representing people as poor and passive, is it not disrespectful to the agency of the people in Africa? It suggests, the world is nothing but a problem to be solved by western enthusiasts (Cole, 2012). The words and photos in these marketing campaigns reinforce Western stereotypes that African is a place of poverty and suffering (Fisher, 2012) and they persist in portraying “pernicious stereotypes and tropes that dehumanize Africans” (Seay,2012). Can these NGOs break out of their narrow moulds of advertising and start showing Africans and African countries in their fullness and complexity? (French, 2012). Can these NGO marketing teams find a way of raising funds and also raise consideration towards the dignity of African people?


Adichie, C., 2009. The danger of a single story (Available Online) Available at : <; [Accessed 12th November 2012]

Cole. T., 2012. The White Saviour Industrial Complex. The Atlantic.(Online) March 21st 2012. Available at: <;  [Accessed 12th November 2012]

Escobar, A., 1995. Encountering Development. West Sussex: Princeton University Press.

Fisher, M., 2012. How Should the Media Cover Africa? The Atlantic. (Online) July 3rd 2012 Available at: <> %5BAccessed 12th November 2012]

French, H. 2012. More on Covering Africa. A glimpse of the world (Blog) April 26th 2012. Available at: <>  %5BAccessed 12th November 2012]

Seay, L, 2012. How Not to Write About Africa. Foreign Policy (Online) April 25, 2012. Available at:<>  %5BAccessed 12th November 2012]

Wainaina, B. How to Write About Africa. Granta. (Online) 2005. Available at: <>  %5BAccessed 12th November 2012]

Win, E., 2004. Not very Poor, Powerless or Pregnant: The African Woman Forgotten By Development. IDS Bulletin Vol 35(4): 61-64


The History of Foreign Aid

“The very poorest in the world are the ones who are most in need of help. Who is going to help the poorest of the poor if organisations like DFID do not?” (Aung San Suu Kyi, 2012)


Faced with the arduous task of evaluating the highly political history of development, admittedly, the temptation arises to ignore the past and concentrate only on future ‘progress’. However, to consider the past trivial would be a dangerous mistake. If we are ill informed about the past, how do we empathise and react to today’s development dilemmas? Foreign aid is arguably not the most significant factor in development, however, in order to understand some of today’s heated debates, it is important to gain some insight in to it’s history. Has the approach to aid changed? Colonialism speaks to contemporary issues in development and I will make a simple comparison of The Colonial Development Act (1929) with DfID’s 2006 White Paper on International Development(1).

President Truman’s Inaugural address(2) on 20th January is considered, by some, to mark the beginning of foreign aid.  However, it was admitted that the term ‘development’ was added to the presidents’ speech as a ‘public-relations gimmick’ (Halle, 1964 :11) . This makes it sound as though the introduction of foreign aid was a mistake. (Easterly, 2010). Because ‘development’ created excitement in 1949, would it be accurate to assume that this is the first time in history that we discover a countries’ government giving foreign aid? This question prompts me to look back at colonial history and the British Empire.

Until the late 19th century, colonial history shows us that the British colonies were expected to look after themselves financially. The colonies could not anticipate economic assistance from the Imperial government. That arrangement would only be adjusted if there were to be a national emergency (Barder, 2005). In 1895 Joseph Chamberlain’s policy stated that for the first time the British government would now claim responsibility for the financial development of its colonies. However, this assistance was given on ‘an ad hoc basis’. Humanitarians were displeased and yearned to see a shift in the approach to social development of the indigenous and colonial people (Abbott, 1971). In 1929 the Colonial Development Act was introduced. Does the language used show that there was genuine compassion for people in other countries? No, it seems as though the only intention was to reduce the level of unemployment and to stimulate British exports (Abbott, 1971). It seems to be focussed on self-gain for Britain.

There have been some changes in policy since 1929 (3). Looking at the 2006 white paper, we see facets that were not considered development in 1929. In the paper, ‘security’ and ‘reducing violent conflict’ is discussed. Chambers and Alfini composed this characteristic sentence of the 2006 White Paper, using the top 20 words used,

“Poverty reduction requires international development efforts to help strengthen governments in developing countries (supporting poor peoples access to public services), increase international aid (Doubling G8 countries’ aid to Africa), tackle climate change, and reform international development systems such as the World Bank to better fit the needs of today’s world (Alfini and Chambers, 2007).”

‘Reducing violent conflict’, ‘security’, ‘supporting people’s access to public services’, ‘climate change’ and ‘reforming multinational development institutions’ all show major changes in aid discourse. Despite this, cynical evaluations of how aid money is spent remain. Fears such as dependency and corruption endure (Moyo, 2008), and have been the subject of many recent newspaper articles(5). Is aid still about self-gain? ‘Strengthening governments in developing countries’ could  invoke a feeling of superiority .

Foreign aid is still a complicated issue. Some argue that ‘Aid is not benign – it’s malignant’ (Moyo, 2008). Today’s aid is not as effective as one would hope. Conversely, when you look back at policy documents, we see some improvements in the language, length and detail, “reflecting the growth in knowledge” of development (Alfini and Chambers, 2008). It is vitalising that the British government sought to scrutinise aid, refine their policies and research how best to improve the wellbeing of those who suffer in other nations (4). There is evidence that aid is making a positive, sustainable difference to reducing poverty and improving livelihoods (Lovet, 2012). As Aung San Suu Kyi said, organisations like DFID must assist poor people. But the issue that is most important for ‘the bottom billion’(Collier, 2007), is the way that aid is offered, rather than how much. Shouldn’t the focus be on the poor rather than ‘the British people’?

Author of Dead Aid (1999) Dambisa Moyo


(1) After 1963 White papers were only published in the periods when Labour governments were in power (Alfini and Chambers 2008).

(2)  In 1949 President Truman said the following, , “….For the first time in history, humanity  possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the suffering of these people…we should foster capital investment in areas needing development…” (Easterly, 2010)

(3) There has been a “U-shaped curve of Northern and donor intervention (high in the colonial period, low in the 1970s, and then rising to levels in the 1990s and 2000s that would have been unthinkable two decades earlier) (Alfini and Chambers , 2008).

(4) Major changes happened under Labour in 1997. DfID was created as a separate department from the foreign office. Global poverty reduction was now declared the main priority of foreign aid and DfID introduced the concept of development policy coherence. We read this in the 1997 Labour Party manifesto,

“Labour believes that we have a clear moral responsibility to help combat global poverty. In government we will strengthen and restructure the British aid programme and bring development issues back into the mainstream of government decision-making. A Cabinet minister will lead a new department of international development.” (Labour Party Manifesto, 1997)

DfID introduced the concept of development policy coherence and they now use ICAI, which is the independent body responsible for scrutiny of UK aid. ICAI focuses on “maximising the impact and effectiveness of the UK aid budget for intended beneficiaries and the delivery of value for money for the UK taxpayer”.

(5) Recent newspaper articles criticising British Aid

Provost.C and Hughes. N.,2012. Why is so much UK aid money still going to companies based in Britain?The Guardian (Online) Available at: <; [Accessed 6th October 2012]

Gilligan. A.,2012. ‘Poverty barons’ who make a fortune from taxpayer-funded aid budget. The Telegraph(Online) Available at: [Accessed 6th October 2012]

Young. N.,2012. Justine Greening demands review of DFID’s use of contractors. Civil Society (Online) Available at: <; [Accessed 6th October 2012]

Hope. C., 2012. Lord Ashcroft tells Coalition ‘to turn off the golden taps and stop flooding the developing world with our money’.” The Telegraph (Online) Available at: <; [Accessed 6th October 2012]

Birrell. I.,2012. Snouts in the aid trough!The Daily Mail. (Online) Available at: <; [Accessed 6th October 2012]


Abbott. G.,1971. A Re-examination of the 1929 Colonial Development Act. The Economic History Review. 24(1) pp.68-81

Alfini, N and Chambers, R., 2007. Words count: taking a count of the changing language of British aid, Development in Practice, 17: 4, pp 492 — 504

Aung San Suu Kyi., 2012. Aung San Suu Kyi backs British aid. DFID. Available from: <> [date accessed: 11th October 2012]

Barder. O., 2005. Reforming Development Assistance: Lessons from the UK Experience. Center For Global Development. Available from: <> [Accessed: 6th October 2012]

Collier, P., 2007. The Bottom Billion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Halle.Louis J.,1964. On teaching International relations, The Virginia Quarterly Review, 40(1).pp 11

Department for International Development. 2011.The Future of UK Aid. Available at: << [Accessed 6th December 2012]

Easterly. W., 2010. How Foreign Aid was invented by accident. The Aid Watch Blog [Blog]. New York Universities Development Research Institute. Available at: [Accessed 6.10.12]

Halle, J.,1964. cited in Rist, G., 2007. Development, Development in Practice, 17(4-5) pp 485-491.2

Labour Party Manifesto,1997. Available at: [Accessed: 6th October 2012]

Lovet. A., 2012. Ten things you need to know about European Aid. ONE international. Available at: <’t-find-in-the-sunday-telegraph/?akid=3408.5926598.lzLw5K&rd=1&t=2&gt; [Accessed: 6th October 2012]

Moyo, D., 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.


What is Development?

Is there an unambiguous definition of development?

Is there an unambiguous definition of development?

Our world is grossly unequal. Some people have more than enough food to eat, access to education and health care and are involved and included in society. Others are marginalised, oppressed and struggling for survival. They are trapped in poverty and this is extremely unfair. To me, development means standing against this inequality and injustice to allow freedom (Sen,1999). However, the word development is equivocal. We need to question what is done in the name of development. Is it a heroic sounding term that can disguise corruption?

The word development can be deceiving, it sounds ‘obviously altruistic’. Words are powerful weapons (Solnit, 2012). Gilbert Rist suggests that we should abandon this term as, due to its positive connotations, those who are motivated by greed use it to justify their exploitative actions. He asserts that what development actually does, is exploit the poor and destroy the natural environment to create profit for rich elites. Rist’s ‘down to earth definition of development’ is the destruction of nature and society for the pursuit of wealth (Rist, 2007). For Rist, the term is heavily connected to promoting a capitalist empire. More optimistically Robert Chambers defines development as “good change”. However, it is important to consider that ideas about what is good are disputed between actors in development and adjust over time (Chambers, 1997). Rist contends that we should base our definition of development on actual social practices instead of what we would like it to mean (Rist 2007). The powerful development organisations and institutions in the global North are the ones who actually decide what this good change is (Chambers, 1997), shouldn’t we actually ask the poor people we would like to help, what change they would like to see? (Chambers, 1983). Is simply having desire to make a change enough? Is it not more important that we clarify exactly which issues frustrate the poor and assist them in their own agency?

Different actors have different visions for development. Some speak as though development means increasing consumption and economy. However, as Chang has stated, this does not satisfy us. What does fulfill us is self-realization and dignity (Chang, 2009).

“The ‘humanistic’ dimension of development… is absolutely essential in making us remember that material progress is only the means and not the end of development” (Chang, 2009).


Personally, I consider pursuing wellbeing to be good change. There are many development actors who pursue wellbeing such as The Bellagio Initiative. Their aim is to “generate discussions and stimulate innovative thinking on how philanthropies and international development organisations might find ways to move forward together to better protect and promote human wellbeing in the twenty-first century” (Bellagio Initiative, 2012). I believe that both, getting people together to exchange ideas and maintaining an attitude of humility, is significant for development.

If development does mean good change, why does it have to be only in the Global South? Rist contends “a country is [considered] more developed the more limited the number of free things that are available” (Rist, 2007:23). Considering this, the UK and countries in the Global North need to be pursuing good change also. We look overseas to help others in exotic locations but what about the injustice that people are suffering here in our own towns? What I would like to see done in the name of development is communities getting together to fight for equality.


Chambers, R., 1983. Rural Development? Putting the Last First. Harlow: Longman

Chambers, R., 1997. Responsible Well-being: A Personal Agenda for Development, World Development, Vol. 25(11) pp.1743-1754

Chang, H., 2009. Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark: How development has disappeared from today’s ‘development’ discourse, Available at: <> [Accessed: 28th September 2012]

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

Rist, G., 2007. Development, Development in Practice, 17(4-5):485-491.2.

Sen, A., 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Solnit, R., 2012. Words are the greatest weapon for political activists. The Guardian Comment Network [Online] [last updated 29th October 2012] Available at: <; [Accessed 29th November 2012]

The Bellagio Institute., 2012. Human Wellbeing in the 21st Century. Available at: <> [Accessed 26th September 2012]