Planet Earth is a single system – the Earth system. It is the home for many.
According to scientists from the field of Earth system science, we are living in a new geological epoch called Anthropocene in which inequality is the main driver of climate change and loss of biodiversity on a scale that is hard to comprehend. It is an epoch of significant human impact on planet earth.
Change is needed, and it is urgent, if we want to leave a sustainable world for coming generations.
From that understanding, we need to promote a search for and implementation of other development perspectives, strategies and practices than established powerful global actors present and force on the rest of the world. This is also embraced in the sustainable development goals; Agenda 2030 – ”a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity” as it is stated in the preamble.
The neoliberal policies and practices are incompatible with sustainable global development – just as incompatible as different variants of self-centered nationalism, fascism and tribalism. These”-isms”, alongside sexism, militarism, racism and homophobia, produce violence, inequalities, environmental stress and cultures of fear, distrust and hate. We, as a collective and interdependent humanity, need efforts on every level of society that promotes peace, freedom from violence, respect for human rights, gender equality, climate justice and sustainable development.
Why then the concept of Another Development? What does it mean? What is the history behind it? How can it be understood in relation to other perspectives and theories in the field of development studies and related fields? Why do the founders of this organisation use the concept Another Development? What are the arguments and why is it relevant?
These are all relevant questions. Let us start with the historical context and then move on to the other questions.
Another development was a concept developed by many actors from south and north in the 1970´s, with an interest for disseminating mainstream thinking on development and enhancement of alternative visions for the future. The roots and meaning of another development thinking were examined and discussed in the early journals of Development Dialogue published by Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and it´s fair to say that the groups discussing development in that context sought ways forward beyond the logic of the Cold War (which affected the world in so many ways), beyond colonisation and neocolonisation and beyond unsustainable use of planetary resources. Militarism, arms race, racism and exploitation were ideologies and practices rightly criticized, but what could another perspective be that could guide development towards something different?
It is interesting to read Marc Nerfins´outline of such a perspective in Another Development: Approaches and Strategies from 1977 (p.10-11) – a publication produced in the framework of Dag Hammarskjöld Project on Development and International Cooperation. He wrote:
”Essentially, its message was that there would be no genuine development and no really new international order if certain key questions were not asked – and concretely answered. Development of what, development by whom and for whom, development how, it asked, and it went on to outline the basic features of another development, required in all societies, whether in the North or the South, centrally planned or market dominated, at high or at a low level of productivity. Another development would be:
Need-oriented, that is, being geared to the meeting of human needs, both material and non-material. It begins with the satisfaction of the basic needs of those dominated and exploited, who constitute the majority of the world´s inhabitants, and ensures at the same time the humanization of all human beings by the satisfaction of their needs for expression, creativity, equality and conviviality and to understand and master their own destiny.
Endogenous, that is, stemming from the heart of each society, which defines in sovereignty its values and the vision of its future. Since development is not a linear process, there could be no universal model, an only the plurality of development patterns can answer to the specificity of each situation.
Self-reliant, that is, implying that each society relies primarily on its own strength and resources in terms of its member´s energies and its natural and cultural environment. Self-reliance clearly needs to be exercised at national and international (collective self-reliance) levels but it acquires its full meaning only if rooted at local level, in the praxis of each community.
Ecologically sound, that is, utilizing rationally the resources of the biosphere in full awareness of the potential of local ecosystems as well as the global and local outer limits imposed on present and future generations. It implies the equitable access to resources by all as well as careful, socially relevant technologies.
Based on structural transformations; they are required, more often than not, in social relations, in economic activities and in their spatial distribution, as well as in the power structure, so as to realize the conditions of self-management and participation in decision-making by all those affected by it, from the rural or urban community to the world as a whole, without which the above goals could not be achieved.
These five points are organically linked. Taken in isolation from each other, they would not bring about the desired result. For development is seen as a whole, as an integral, cultural process, as the development of every man and woman and the whole of man and woman. Another development means liberation.”
Yes, it was some time ago when these words were put together with reference to other reports and various UN-meetings. However, the embedded meaning of another development with its implication for action is still very relevant considering contemporary challenges; the urgent need for transforming societies to sustainable places, mobilising people, communities and organisations, protecting the rights of nature and people, moving away from war, violence and corruption to peace, trust, respect for human rights and rule of law, managing planetary boundaries, sustainable development goals, migration, technological development, international relations etc.
The definition put forward by Marc Nerfin and others can of course be questioned from different point of views; not that much mentioned about human rights, the need for elaborating a lot more on for example gender equality, conflict management and peacebuilding, maybe a romanticised view on concepts such as society and community as well as being a bit too vague about what structural transformation means. Such remarks has for example been put forward by Sheila Colonel and Kunda Dixit in the article ”Setting the context. The Development debate thirty years after What Now” published 2006 in Development Dialogue no.47. However, in that note, it feels important to recommend an in-depth reading of some of the publications on another development from the 1970´s and later on due to the quality of the publications and since they contain a lot of interesting information on how different scholars understood and discussed challenges in relation to the context at that time. One such publication is for example What Now? The Dag Hammarskjöld Report – a report that Sheila Colonel and Kunda Dixit referred to, and which was prepared on the occasion of the 7th special sesson of the United Nation General Assembly 1975.
Another Development Foundation cannot turn a blind eye to the need for thinking about development in relation to contemporary challenges and contexts, but nevertheless give support to the basic analysis that Nerfin and others provided, i.e that everyone has the right to development, that ecological sustainability is necessary, that the local level and place is important since this is the level where the vast majority of the worlds people live their lives and where peace, freedom from violence, human rights, gender equality, sustainability and climate justice need to be implemented. Empowerment of people where they live (or are forced to live), and participation in decision making are of outmost importance if sustainability in its full meaning is be achieved. It is also important, and necessary, that national and international policies support local development, to avoid marginalisation, oppression and exploitation of local communities and people.
People have rights. Places are where people live their lives. The planet is the place where people live their lives.
This is how we at Another Development Foundation define our priorities. People are important. Places are important. The planet is important. Can we forget one of these when working for a sustainable world?
The same goes for peace and freedom from violence, human rights and gender equality, and sustainability (were climate justice is included). These are values and areas that are mutually interdependent and need to be tackled in coherent approaches. For example, if peace doesn´t exist, what about human rights, gender equality and sustainability? If climate change and loss of biodiversity are not managed, what about the prospect for peace, freedom from violence, human rights and gender equality?
We also want to pay attention to Early Childhood Development (ECD) as a critical challenge for humanity since this is a foundation for sustainable societies. Children has rights beyond pure survival. As stated by The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development (2015) in the work with the Post-2015 Development Agenda ”current and future global goals will only be met with a recognition that increased attention to and investment in the overall development of young children, the caregivers responsible for them, and the context in which families are living in are inextricably linked to sustainable development.”
Therefore, it is so important to place a focus on young people and coming generations, and in creating possibilities for children and young people’s perspectives, commitment and creative ideas to be integrated in the work towards a just and sustainable future.
Another Development Foundation also recognizes the need to acknowledge the fundamental contributions from scholars and practitioners from different fields; environmentalists, advocates for human rights and gender equality, peacebuilders etc. We are also well aware of the development discourse in which different approaches and perspectives have emerged; postcolonialism, feminism, structuralism, cosmopolitan democracy, critical theory and world system analysis which all provide useful entry points when discussing a world beyond violence, inequality and short sighted exploitation. There are of course also other approaches and perspectives in this discourse not focusing on a fair and global sustainable development even though they are ”marketed” as something positive for someone and for development. This is one of the reasons why Another Development Foundation has been founded – to challenge what needs to be challenged.
To summarise, another development is an approach developed in a historical context challenging power, and due to contemporary global challenges deeply and negatively felt by mostly vulnerable groups and nature itself, there is still a need to promote another development.