International development: big questions, small answers

From Global development | The Guardian Sun Jan 20 2013, 20:42:08

In place of the searching global conversation we need, we have an anaesthetised debate

Something is lacking in the efforts to design a new global development framework. The aim - to set goals for all mankind and the planet - ought to involve all the great questions of the age. Instead, the discussion feels small and technocratic. Despite great efforts, it has attracted derisory attention from beyond the professional development world.

The high-level panel is becoming an overused, or at least a misused, instrument. The latest on this theme, chaired by David Cameron together with the presidents of Indonesia and Liberia, has been given too many members and too little time. NGOs, when asked how to replace the millennium development goals, simply listed all the issues that kept them in business. Then there are the online forums for public engagement. Under the alluring question "what kind of world do you want?", the discussion is immediately splintered into scores of technical questions and papers. Another site simply offers a vote between such apples and oranges as "better job opportunities" or "an honest and responsive government". In place of the searching global conversation we need, we have an anaesthetised debate.

Peculiarly unable to criticise itself, the development community is proving unable to lead a debate about changing the world. Profound work has been done with aid, like slashing child mortality in Africa, and without aid, such as the UN Development Programme's reporting on the Arab world. But reduced poverty rates owe more to Deng Xiaoping than any development agency. Skewed incentives, a [view whole blog post ]

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