Monthly Archives: November 2011


The following blog entrance corresponds to unit 3. It is out of chronologic order.

I’d like to submit to evaluation post from unit 3, 4, 5 and 6.

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Posted by on 14/11/2011 in Uncategorized


Promised good governance

We have started this unit with Colclough (1991) asserting that the government in a developing country should be similar to that of an industrialised one. And we ended the unit with Grindle (2004) arguing that developing countries only need so much – at a time, at least. There’s a whole evolution in between.

Structural adjustment programmes (SAP) produced dim results for the expectations they created. Leftwich (2000) argues that this happened because these were delinked from a political framework.
The neo-liberal sympathisers of the early 1990s were left without any option but to find an explanation for this failure. The justification fell on the “quality of governance” and mal-administration of public policy (booklet pp. 20-21). Both reasons marked the emergence of ‘good governance’ as a condition for donors’ aid disbursement and a means to achieve economic growth.

The orthodoxy of the moment was that democratic countries, respectful of basic human rights, did grow healthy and peacefully (Leftwich, 2000b, drawing out from Doyle, 1983; Hurd, 1990; Chalker, 1991; Short, 1997).

Leftwich (2000c) rightly summarised the expectations over democracy during the 1990s:
“Democracy therefore came to be seen as the political process that would institute and sustain good governance, hold the state and its officials accountable and demand the best and the highest standards of public service from the lot, while ensuring an improving standard of human rights”.
The author correctly concluded that this vision was “naive and simplistic”. In 2000, this author said that democracy was not enough to hold developing countries to the good “exercise of political power” (The World Bank, by Leftwich).

For Hyden, Court and Mease (2004) governance is about achieving certain goals, but also about how to achieve them. Donors believe there is a direct relation between “development performance and aid effectiveness”.
According to the same authors, donors didn’t assess effectively governance in recipient countries neither did they link aid allocations to the countries that performed better in these evaluations. Despite that fact,Moore (2001) argues that “poor governance and national poverty are connected”. Ineffective, arbitrary, despotic and unaccountable regimes – what he calls political underdevelopment – are the “major cause of poverty”.

I agree with Moore when he says that bad governance is a product of the manner that state authority was created from the interaction between developed and developing countries. But I disagree that bad governance is nothing but a result of that interaction. From my point of view the responsibility for this outcome has to be shared among Northern and Southern countries exactly why he points to be his “specific argument”: countries that perform worse in governance are those that have direct sources of finance and don’t feel the urge to bargain with their citizens. Or use aid to rule over people. From my point of view, this is an option of the recipient country. As a consequence citizens won’t hold their government authorities accountable and neither will donor states.

Grindle (2004) put some order in the good governance agenda by making a distinction between what is “essential and merely desirable”. There’s a call to evaluate “who needs to do what” and what’s the payoff for each policy area in any given developing country. She also points to the usefulness of observing what is functional in a poor country. Some institutions are working effectively, it is therefore important to find out which ones and how these got to that point. It will actually shed some light on the dynamics of the country.

Grindle’s approach to the good governance agenda didn’t emerge as a theory in itself but it is instrumental, from my point of view. It can be the basis or the starting point for any research regardless the development theory we’re approaching.


Colclough, C., 1991, Structuralism versus Neo-liberalism: An Introduction, in: States or Markets: Neo-liberalism and the Development Policy Debate, Colclough, C., Manor, J. (eds.), Clarendon Press,Oxford 

Grindle, M., 2004, Good Enough Governance: Poverty Reduction and Reform in Developing Countries, Governance, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 525-548

Hyden, G., Court, J. and Mease, K., 2004, Making Sense of Governance: Empirical Evidence from Sixteen Developing Countries, Lynne Rienner, Boulder, CO.

Leftwich, A., 2000, States of Development: On the Primacy of Politics in Development, Polity Press,Cambridge 

Moore, M., 2001, ‘Political Underdevelopment: What Causes “Bad Governance”‘, Public Management Review, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 385-418


What do they want?

Shifting from aid to development is happening right now, that seems to be a fact. Considering the many authors arguing there is a need to step up the process, aid is not leading to the achievement of the promised economic growth.
Aside the evolution that history proves to happen regular and continuously, there are some more palpable causes leading to this change.

As Tom Hewitt wrote in his presentation, the “West is no longer best, nor does the West undermine the rest”. The fact is that the West is not the centre.
Emerging countries have stepped in and completely changed the world order of interests. These are much fast-growing economies than the OECD ones, there are willing to invest a great part of their exponential GDP in countries keen to benefit from it. The most relevant example is the ‘commodities-for-infrastructure concessional financing’ model that China is practicing especially in Africa (Smith 2011) with no strings attached, as the respect for human rights or democracy (Downs 2007).

Change is happening in several lanes, but I believe we are in a somewhat indefinite time. In parallel there is a debate going on among development practitioners who defend moving on from aid as a mean of support for developing countries. On the one side, some defend long-term development policies (Barder 2010). On the other, critics argue that short to medium-term “arrangements” would give better results (Unsworth 2010 and Booth 2011).

From short to long term

Unsworth (2010b) advocates that policymakers should focus on local governance and profit from informal relationship-based activities. Developing countries have their own structure of local politics that should not be ignored. Development aid agencies should try to understand the functioning of these local structures and work with them. Notwithstanding, the respect for local institutions is a valuable idea, I believe the positive results might be limited not only in quantity but in quality. There are successful examples like the ones mentioned by the author but these are very few.
The results of this practice would be difficult to measure and evaluate, from my point of view. Furthermore the borderline between donors and recipients could become tenuous, facilitating corruption mechanisms despite the better understanding of the ground.

Booth (2011) has a similar position about donors and the need to change from a model based on economic growth to one based on local institution building, making the most of the already existing ones.
Booth (2011b) rightly defends best fit practices instead of universal best practices. But as he admits, “adapting programming to individual country contexts takes time, local knowledge and specialist skills” to know exactly what are the efficient local networks. To pursue that purpose I argue that there is a niche here for aid agencies or more to NGOs to shift from policy areas of expertise to country or regional areas of expertise as “every situation is unique”. Otherwise this theory risks achieving only random good results.

I believe that working with the informal or local network of institutions has to be instrumental for the development process but not an end in itself.
The transformation process (Barder 2010b) comes from within the country and is slowly happening in the long term. But from my point of view, it has to be anchored on both institution-building and economic growth for the virtuous cycle to start off (Graig, Hulme, and Turner 2007).

I agree that we need to look beyond aid and focus on international development as the bigger picture, like international responsibilities as Tom Hewitt said. But what do developing countries want? To my understanding this should indeed be our central question. Otherwise results of any aid, support, governance improvement or transformation will always look scarce from any of the Western world lenses.

Going back to the beginning of my post, the “West is no longer best, nor does the West undermine the rest” because emerging economies and BRICS countries have already changed the rules to the “go your own way” version (Hewit).


Barder, O., Aid versus Development Policy [][Accessed on 9/11/11]

Booth, D., 2011, Governance for Development in Africa: Building on what Works. Africa Power and Politics, Policy Brief, no. 1, April 2011 

Downs, E. S., 2007, The fact and fiction of Sino-African energy relations, China Security, Vol. 3 No. 3 Summer 2007, pp. 42, 2007 World Security Institute

Graig, A., Hulme, D. and Turner, M. (2007) Challenging global inequality: development theory and practice in the 21st century, London: Palgrave Macmillan

Smith, K. (2011), Non-DAC and Humanitarian aid: Shifting structures, changing trends, Global Humanitarian Assistance, [online] [accessed November 5th 2011]

Unsworth, S. (2010) An Upside Down View of Governance. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies


Unpredictable aid

If I had to choose a word to best characterise aid it would definitely be: unpredictable. But I think I wouldn’t be the first one to choose so. Almost every author, paper or report I have lately read had that same adjective somewhere. That was very much the common point through them all.
Unpredictable aid in terms of amounts, where it goes to, what it is used for, who benefits from it, what results it achieves, if any. In the Western world, people got used to hear the reverberation of huge sums of money flowing into Southern countries but they never get feedback on the results.

There was a striking point for me, which was the amount of aid and support that circulates among Southern countries – non-DAC states (Smith 2011 and OneWorld).
Many of these states help others in need for years, with a particular advantage that at a given moment in time they were assisted too by others. Southern countries have the particular knowledge of how the aid process actually works (Smith 2011b) in terms of inflows of money, where it should be applied and what entities could better manage it for the maximum results.

From my point of view, these countries can hold the response to preoccupations from donors and aid practitioners: they are probably in a more privileged position to put in place a worldwide set of guidelines and norms for the whole aid community to follow and make aid-related data actually comparable – what Barber (2010) calls the “rules of the game”.
Like during the Cold War, there’s a window of opportunity for developing countries to play their power. The difference here is that this power is no longer of exogenous origin but of an endogenous one, based on the actual financial capacity of these countries (Graig, Hulme and Turner 2007). I argue that southern countries have a unique chance to reverse positions and actually emerge leading the shift in the international aid scene (Smith 2011c).

I also think this discussion should occur even before the one on aid effectiveness and proliferation of donors and projects or at least at the same time, as the former will improve the later.

Disclosure of Aid Numbers

Western countries’ ODA – Official Development Assistance – supports developing ones for many reasons, ranging from altruistic to political or financial impetus. The later ones are argued by Easterly (2009) to delink aid from principles. OneWorld gives the example of Ethiopiaas the largest recipient of aid in Africa but “is routinely using access to aid as a weapon to control people and crush dissent”, according to theAfrica director of Human Rights Watch.

Easterly or Moyo argue that aid misguides governments priorities and ultimately they respond to what donors would like to see instead of what locals actually need. They say “international donor community has done more to distort poor economies than improve them” (in Graig, Hulme and Turner 2007b).
Critics state that disclosing exact numbers of aid would cut down corruption and increase transparency and ultimately lead to accountability (Killick 2004) and credibility of aid agencies. The 2005 Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action by DAC countries is an attempt to boost transparency but as well to reconcile donors and aid practitioners.
Easterly and Williamson (2011) have gone through the 2008 numbers and noticed there was a “slight improvement in transparency” but it is “still at unacceptably low levels”. The proliferation of projects and donors doesn’t certainly help in the transparency side neither does on the cooperation in good practices.

I find it very interesting to watch the ambiguity of countries that are on the front line of the defence of Millennium Development Goals (MDG), paying considerable sums to end poverty but in parallel protect their own economies with “high trade barriers against poor countries’ products” (Easterly and Graig, Hulme and Turner 2007c).
The proportion of the trade tariffs is indeed impressive. According to UNDP figures used by the same authors, OECD states placed tariffs on manufactured goods from poor countries at four times the level of those from wealthy nations.

I tend to agree with Easterly and Moyo on the role trade has to play in improving poorer countries’ capacity to make their way into the virtuous cycle.

The Millennium Project itself recommends developing countries what I understand to be the perfect strategy to leave the vicious cycle: to “actively pursue international trade opportunities, demand access to rich countries markets” and “demanding more effective aid to alleviate internal supply-side product blockages” (Graig, Hulme and Turner 2007d).

The strategy is there: progressively open up for trade on the one side and on the other, aid effectiveness. However, this does sound slightly utopian at this point in time. While this double game played both by wealthier and poorer countries lasts it is easy to anticipate thatAfricawill fail to reach the MDG.

Barber, O. (2010), Aid effectiveness after Paris, [online], [accessed November 5th 2011]

Easterly, W. (2009), How the Millennium Development Goals are Unfair to Africa, World Development. Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 26–35, 2009 [online] [accessed November 6th 2011]

Easterly, W. and Freschi L., (2009), Why Does British Foreign Aid Prefer Poor Governments Over Poor People?, Aid Watchers, [online] [accessed November 6th 2011]

Easterly, W. and Williamson, C. (2011) Best and Worst of Official Aid 2011- new release, Aid Watchers, [online] [accessed November 6th 2011]

Graig, A., Hulme, D. and Turner, M. (2007) Challenging global inequality: development theory and practice in the 21st century,London: Palgrave Macmillan

Killick, T. (2004), The case against doubling aid to Africa, ODI, [online] [accessed November 6th 2011]

OECD, Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action [online],3343,en_2649_3236398_35401554_1_1_1_1,00.html [accessed November 6th 2011]

Smith, K. (2011), Non-DAC and Humanitarian aid: Shifting structures, changing trends, Global Humanitarian Assistance, [online] [accessed November 5th 2011]

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Posted by on 09/11/2011 in Unit 5 - Aid and development



This text intends to highlight the gaps and inconsistencies of ‘posts’: post-development and post-globalisation.

I decided to start my text with the video “the Zeitgeist movement”. I decided to start my text with the video “the Zeitgeist movement” (TZM). TZM is a cultural wave that aims at changing the economic model our society lives in and from, arguing that the existing one is “obsolete”.
It advocates an economic model grounded on existing natural resources: a resource based economy.

For that, it intends to map all the resources that exist on earth and progressively adjust the population to the amount of goods earth can supply instead of trying to stretch out its possibility to provide for everyone’s living. (video. Jacque Fresco, 7’05’’ to 7’36’’)

To organise a structure based on the management of all the earth’s resources (video. Peter Joseph, 7’45’’ to 7’50’’), the cultural and social movement abolishes boundaries, eliminates the State of the political scene and shifts from economic growth as a target to resources and well being (Sachs 2010). I would thus argue that this theory could be labelled as post-globalisation.

I believe TZM’s founder, Peter Joseph, would agree with Sachs (2010b) when he says that the Euro-Atlantic model is outdated, it doesn’t respond to people’s needs and “that there will be no equity without ecology in the twenty-first century”.

Sachs (2010c) defends that we have to separate the concept of “equity” from “economic growth” one and relate the former to “community and culture based notions of well being”.
I wonder, even if we step out of the box of any Euro-Atlantic, economic growth or ‘I-know-better-than-you’ model, what is there of well being in a place in a mall place where there is nothing but dry breached dirt in sight, where there is no nearby market to go to, no seeds to plant nor any water to irrigate them.

Broadly, the connotation of “well being” is optimistic and constructive and induces us to believe there is something better to long for. Regardless the positive undertone, I argue that, for the sake of clarity, the concept of “well being” has yet to be defined by post-development theorists, in order to know what living standards they are referring to.

If they are to define such a concept, a small elite would be deciding on a pattern for everyone else to bare as a goal to attain. This would be colonization of minds too (Sachs 2010d, p. xii), only on a different issue.

Would this be the moment or the place where TZM would bring up the idea of the population adjustment to mapped resources?
In abstract terms this concept seems absurd from my point of view. How many children can we raise for the proportion of petrol barrels we have left or should we impose China’s one-child policy to achieve the optimal amount of citizens?

Not only such a theory collides with basic human rights – or absolute justice (Sachs 2010e, p. ix) – it is also based on wobbling information that we cannot precise, like the exact amount of oil reserves throughout the world – to stick to the same example. This would moreover lead this discussion to other grounds such as geopolitics of the energy.

Both theories fail to explain how they want to shift from an economic growth based economy to an environment based one, aside the basic notions that we should use local goods. An idea that I totally agree with, but don’t think it is enough to have a sustainable environment and economy.

Grand theories

I argue that grand theories are a good start, as they frame a given subject or problem. Extreme poverty “means that households cannot meet basic needs for survival.” – Sachs (2005, p.20) – and as a concept, it can definitely apply to East Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America or wherever in the world. How one can actually tackle extreme poverty is the point where we have to narrow down the object of analysis and turn to regional organisations as they have a complete knowledge of the area (Graig, Hulme and Turner, 2007).
The reason why some Latin American region can’t take off from poverty is probably not the same as in sub-Saharan Africa and we need to find out why. For that we should learn from the past and find out what works in a given region (Grindle 2004, p. 544).

I totally disagree with Sachs (2010f, p. X) when he argues that perspectives of development as “economic growth” and development as “more rights and resources” can’t be put together as they are a “recipe for confusion”. On the contrary, I consider both perspectives can complement each other and, most importantly, should build on each other, as together they pursue the ultimate objective of development which I understand to be as a continuous evolution and progression of living standards.

I do agree though that environment is part of the equation which results in development. The other variables are, in my opinion, people and economic growth. The pathway to the latest is already being revised and will result in a creative green economy (UNEP 2010).

Alternative visions do lead us to reflection, though, and hopefully to some constructive readjustment of strategy as well. They push development boundaries aside.
Post-development or TZM do manage to capture some attention to specific issues, both from the public and development theorists: the importance of ecology for the former or resources for the latest. I consider their positions exaggerated but if, because they insisted on the relevance of natural resources, more people noticed that they cannot go on wasting water – then, to my point of view, they were worth the attention they got. 

Alternative movements clear dogmas away and impede stagnation by setting new subjects and angles in train: like the gender debate.


Graig, A., Hulme, D. and Turner, M. (2007) Challenging global inequality: development theory and practice in the 21st century, London: Palgrave Macmillan

Grindle, M. (2004), Good enough governance: Poverty reduction and reform in developing countries. Governance, vol.17, p. 544

Sachs, J.D., (2005), The end of poverty: Economic possibilities for our time, New York: The Penguin Press

Sachs, W., (2010) The development dictionary, London & New York: Zed Books

The Zeitgeist Movement. Video. Cinematographer / Editor: Mark Waters, Florida and New York

United Nations Environment Programme (2011) Towards a Green economy: Pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication [online], [accessed November 5th 2011]

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Posted by on 03/11/2011 in Unit 4 - Post-development


Just enough modernisation for poorer countries

In the aftermath of the II World War there was a combination of variables that led to the emergence of poorer countries in the political and economic international scene.

Many industrialised states from the North were letting go of their presence in other continents. Countries (Nigeria, Senegal, DRC, etc) were left on their own at the beginning of the 1960’s.  

The end of colonialism propelled countries to internationalisation as it opened the way for new states to be born and created new territories to explore and be explored (Hewitt 2000). It was the time to modernise former colonies (Graig, Hulme and Turner, 2007). Along with the Latin American, these countries were of sudden interest in the wake of the Cold War.

World power was measured by the number of countries that supported one or the other country in the poles of the Cold War.

On the one hand there was the USA eager to buy one more ally by supporting the restructuring of a given country. On the other, there were the receptive states that quickly understood their peculiar power in this war (Graig, Hulme and Turner 2007b, p.101).

Northern industrialised states were financing the world economic restructuring – Bretton Woods – by modernising developing countries. This attention given to poorer countries allowed them to believe that they could be too in the path for economic growth.

In the Golden years of optimism, modernity was meant to be reached by economic growth. “If an economy could achieve a certain critical rate of growth, the rest would all follow” (Hewitt 2000b) – this optimism didn’t last long, though.

Modernisation theory was defined by Lerner (1972, p.386) in Graig, Hulme and Turner (2007c, p.73) “as the process of social change whereby less developed countries acquire characteristics common to more developed societies”. In this context, tradition was seen as an obstacle to economic growth and thus to capitalism (Graig, Hulme and Turner 2007d). Therefore modernisation imposed a certain degree of homogenisation of social and economic aspects.

Economic growth eventually materialised for a few developing countries but not all and “it was not a sufficient condition to establish sustained social and economic development” (Hewitt 2000c).

According to Hewitt, Seers (1963) was one of the first to recognise that developing countries required different policies because they were very distinct and “there were no fixed models for economic development”.

From my viewpoint this idea is valid until today. Every country has a cultural, social and economic background. Altogether, they provide for the context of a given society and offer researchers and politicians facts to understand how it works and why it is stranded in a certain point of evolution.

Former colonies did absorb main aspects of the colonising states as social and economic habits that got imbedded in southern societies over time.

Building on such a context I would argue that certain aspects of modernisation theory are not so outdated. Former colonisation states still look at ex-colonies as main partners for investment and they still set the rules in trade business.

Many years later, though, the promised economic growth from the 60’s is coming slowly to those southern countries in possession of valuable goods and raw materials. These developing countries – such as Angola, Nigeria, etc – understood they have the means to change the rules of the game. The trade and economic game. 


Graig, A., Hulme, D. and Turner, M. (2007) Challenging global inequality: development theory and practice in the 21st century, London: Palgrave Macmillan

Hewitt, T. (2000), Half a century of development, in Poverty and development into the 21st century, Allen, T., Thomas, A. (eds), Oxford University Press, Oxford