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What is development?

What is development?

As whydev.org is a space for discussion on topics within international development, it is constructive to communicate our perspective of the notion of international development. We hope this will create discussion around development as a concept and encourage others to contribute to the site.

If you’re anything like any of us then at some point you’ve probably tried to describe international development, only to realise the concept cannot be compartmentalised into a neat, concise definition. Indeed, the very nature of international development has no boundaries. It can mean and include as much or as little as one desires. Despite this, we have attempted to articulate what we consider to be the core concerns of international development. It is in no way meant to limit the content of this site, nor form international development imperatives; rather it is to present an idea of the themes and content you will find here. It is our attempt to define international development.

At its core, international development is a concept and a process. As a concept it has moved beyond notions of modernisation and economic development to encompass a more humanistic view focused on individuals, human rights and quality of life. It is concerned with the capabilities of the individual, their potentiality & capacities and the obstacles to achieve what they value most; what they deem necessary. As the paradigm for the concept has shifted, so too has the process of international development and how quality of life is achieved.

As a process, international development is concerned with improving the quality of life for people all over the globe, but particularly in countries that are trapped in poverty. The causes trapping people in poverty include conflict, political repression, low income, lack of economic growth, education opportunities, and trade inequalities. However, improving the quality of life and well-being for individuals is multifaceted and permeates all aspects of life: international development can be said to also permeate all aspects of life. It is concerned with healthcare, education, aid, human rights, sustainability, economic growth, infrastructure, democracy, livelihood opportunities, environment, justice and equity. It is concerned with eliminating poverty and aid dependency. At its root, international development is about capacity building and creating opportunities that can lead to long term solutions and well-being for individuals, families, communities and governments.

When we speak of international development studies, we are talking about the critical examination of this process of change that will enable economic stability, social and political freedoms in the world and the role of all these issues identified above and how they are represented in the process of international development. International development is so complex, that despite efforts going back as far as World War II, populations in many countries continue to live in utterly devastating and life threatening environments. As much as we would like to say we have a solution, we do not. What we do have, however, is the ability to create a space for enabling the discussion and sharing of ideas with others across the world to work towards sustainable solutions. We also have the ability to create a multidisciplinary network of young people studying, volunteering and working across all sectors of international development and human rights. In searching for solutions, international development is as much about coordination and partnerships as it is about policy, programs and knowledge. We can begin to build the foundation of effective coordination and partnerships through a network that is inclusive of the next generation of development professionals.

What does development mean to you? Please respond with your view of what development means by commenting below.

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Rachel Szekely

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3 thoughts on “What is development?

  1. Abby Behrends

    I love this post 🙂

    I think it is also important to consider who has helped to create the term "international development" and for what means? When I hear this phrase I often think, in many circumstances, development of a country can also lead way into benefiting power countries, like the US, UK, European countries, as much, if not more, than the country that is doing the developing. What is being developed and why are key questions to examine in international development. If we critically look at the answers to these questions we will also hopefully work towards making sure some countries are not being exploited in the process of international development.

  2. In my opinion, International development means empowering people to develop themselves. I've been involved in some development initiatives in the Philippines and Bangladesh (after graduating from UNSW as well!), and I've now come to believe that development work needs to think of the long-term, and think and act more and more so that international development work is no longer needed at all (because locals themselves are so self-reliant that they themselves can develop). All in all, I support the idea that development should be about "Giving a hand up, not giving a hand out."

    Great post!
    Cheers,
    Matthew Alberto

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