Development is identified with improvement and growth, thus a common goal for the whole of the human race. This blog will explore the problems of trying to define development by focusing on the way the moral obligation of humanitarian work tends to prevent people carrying out wrong doing from being held accountable and helps pursue political and financial gains.

The term development arose into the public sphere after President Truman’s 1949 Inaugural Address that largely separated developed states from the underdeveloped states of the world. The effect this had was monumental as it ‘turned the two antagonists – colonizers vs. colonized – into seemingly equal members of the same family’ (Rist, 2011, p.20). Thus created international appeal due to its focus on better lives for the underdeveloped and third world countries.

Nevertheless, there were a number of critics who questioned the term development, such as Teresa Hayter who stated ‘there was little attempt to define development. Instead, there was an unquestioned assumption that “development” whatever it was, could lead to improvement in the situation of people (Rist, 2011, cited in Hayter 2005:89). Thus any policy carried out in the name of development is seen as a moral obligation as well as one to protect national interest agaFigure 1- David Cameron discussing aid as a moral obligation and a security issue.inst terrorism, mass migration and environmental issues.

When development is defined as a moral imperative, Rist describes in Buzzwords how it can be used negatively and as a political tool. The work of Bourdieu explains this can be the origin of ‘symbolic violence’ because it avoids critique (Rist, 2011, cited in Bourdieu 1980) and allows a vacuum for governments to fulfill their agendas that quite often do not correlate with the needs of the world’s underdeveloped states. Aid is a great example of how donors have tied their needs into contracts to enforce national interests and agendas wrapped up as a package to help the world’s poor. Despite a positive influx in aid, there has been a growth in poverty levels in several regions across the world. For example between 1970 and 1998, “the poverty rate in Africa actually rose from 11 percent to a staggering 66 per cent” (Moyo, 2010) despite a massive influx of aid.

My personal meaning of development was created on my reflection of previous trips to India. As a child, seeing stark poverty not only used to sadden me, but confuse me. Why were children in India begging on the streets and children in my country were at school? Where the streets were used as playgrounds rather than space to generate money to live off. How and why was I born into a country where a police officer would ask a child caught out of education during school hours for a valid reason and millions of other children were born into slums where attending school wasn’t the law – but a major privilege?

Looking back, the most glaring example of inequality and unfairness was watching children on the beach of Goa walk along bamboo sticks they had set up for entertainment to passing tourists in order to hope of making a few rupees, whilst I was eating lunch in the comforts of a hotel.Figure 2 - Goa

Initially, my personal meaning of development focused on equality and opportunities for schooling. Nevertheless, as I learn more about poverty and related issues, my definition of what development should be has become more complex and intricate, as I have come to understand that poverty ‘a multifaceted phenomenon’ (Aneel Karnani). Whilst it has been my emotions that have drawn me towards wanting to study international development, emotional responses will not solve poverty.

Poverty I have come to understand is like an illness – it occurs when there is a lack of a fundamental agent – and aid simply acts as a plaster rather than solving the deep-rooted issues. Rather than talking in terms of plasters and medicine, the donors need to be discussing on a much more severe level such as organ transplants. Reassigning Vital-missing organs could contribute to flattening out tall hierarchies of concentrated power. Fundamentally, poverty traps will continue to spin until the current economic and political systems stop holding all the power and ultimately the freedoms of the poor.

Development for me is a re-think, a way to move away from a profit snatching mentality to a compassionate and fair way of living.


Bourdieu, P. (1980) Le Sens Pratique. Paris: Éditions de Minuit.

Moyo, D. (2010) Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa. London: Penguin Books.

Rist, G. (2011) in Cornwall, A. and Eade, D. (eds.) Deconstructing Development Discourse: Buzzwords and Fuzzwords. United Kingdom: Practical Action Publishing, .

Figure 1 – screenshot iarpoliticians (2013) David Cameron: On giving foreign aid to ‘bonga bonga’ (08Aug13). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXSNm54_vGI (Accessed: 19 August 2015).

Figure 2 – Instagram: all rights belong to the user: ivankoff


ETHICAL DISASTER   Did NGOs extend ‘Hutu power’ in the humanitarian response to the genocide in Rwanda?  

‘The humanitarian system would function better if organizations worked collectively instead of operating as competitors in a free market’. (Polman, L. and Waters, L 2010) The need for reform within the humanitarian industry has been especially apt after the ‘total ethical disaster’ (Moyo 2010, p13) during the response to the Rwandan genocide. John Borton, in an interview to the Sphere project, estimated the international community designated some US$1.4 billion and around 200 NGOs were involved (Project, S. 2014). Nevertheless, the success of the work is hugely contested. I would like to stress that it is not my intention to undermine or disregard the bravery and hard work committed by thousands of workers and volunteers but merely present an argument illustrating the need for reform within the humanitarian industry for more effective action and better results, and I will use the case study of the Rwandan genocide to exemplify these faults.

Figure 1- Remains of those who died during the genocide.

Figure 1: Remains of those who died during the genocide.

When Polman took a tour in the Goma camp with a liaison officer who was part of the international police as part of an observation project, he stated ‘Everything you see here has been stolen from Rwanda by the Hutus…. they’ve lugged just about the whole university library out of Rwanda with them…but the Tutsi children in Rwanda who survived the massacre have no books any more and no teachers either’ (Polman 2010, p.10). Not only were the Hutus therefore creating prevention of Tutsi education for younger generations, but also even more detrimentally, it appears Hutus were formulating methods of acquiring financial assets therefore setting them up for greater political control and access. Howard Adelman also believed that ‘The refugee camps supported and supplied by the international humanitarian community, were being sued as safe havens by the genocidaires to escape from justice, regroup and restart war and genocide’ (Adelman).

Figure 2- Polman speaking at TEDx

Figure 2: Polman speaking at TEDx

Due to the neutrality principles of the Red Cross, which are mainly adopted throughout the whole humanitarian industry, most of the NGOs were committed purely to relieve human suffering to the highest degree possible. However, this process resulted in well-nourished and healthier Hutu members who could be recruited to work more effectively for the Hutu government who levied a ‘tax war’ in to finance its army. Furthermore War Games estimated that according to some INGOs, militia stole over two-fifths of aid supplies distributed. Some stolen for their personal use, some used to sell back to the camps when resources were scarce. Not only was revenue created to fund the Hutu extremist sector through non-official illegal means, but also NGOs such as MSF Belguim were employing Hutu personnel in the camps. For example, it was reported that MSF Belgium employed 550 Hutu personnel and it was also reported that Hutu leaders were generating capital by collecting taxes of approximately $11,000 from just that NGO alone (Polman, 2010, p.11) This clearly illustrates how Hutu extremists found ease in making money out of the humanitarian industry.

Figure 3: Information about the Code of Conduct followed and formulated by the Red Cross

Figure 3- Information about the Code of Conduct followed and formulated by the Red Cross

Not only is it corrupt that Hutu extremists were able to take over the camps so easily and make a profit from the war they created, but it is even more disturbing when one thinks of how this aid money, initially meant for the victims of war, was manipulated to fuel more criminality. Polman described the camps in Goma as a ‘complete ethical disaster’ because the decision needed to have been made as to whether or not conventional medical ethics should be respected or whether wider responsibility for the effects of massive humanitarian help should be considered and therefore the process of relief reevaluated. I think it is a question worth us, as substantial aid donors, to ask ourselves. Are we partially responsible for funding resources to be sent to camps where desire for power and capital to fuel war is so concentrated and can easily be put into the wrong hands? Who should be accountable? According to Rwandan president, Paul Kagame the aid agencies should be blamed. He reported ‘I think we should start blaming these people’ (meaning aid agenices) ‘who actually supported these camps – spent one million dollars per day in these camps, gave support to these groups it rebuild themselves into a force. Why shouldn’t we accuse them?’(cited in Gouveritch 1997).

Today, it is believed that Rwandan Hutu militias are a central player in ‘Africa’s First world war’ where it is estimated 5 million people have been killed and it is still ongoing. Were NGOs and their donors indirectly an investor of this war? Overall, I think it is clear that the aid industry needs better control of their resources and better control over who gets the aid. I believe whilst it is the role of many NGOs to alleviate human suffering, they also have a responsibility to act thinking about the consequences of their actions – will it only cause more human suffering in the long term? In the case of the response by aid agencies in Rwanda, I believe that to a great extent, NGOs did not consider the potential later causes of their actions and thus contributed to extending Hutu power.


Gourevitch, P. (1997) ‘Continental shift: letter from Congo’, New Yorker, 9 July, p. p. A1.

Moyo, D. (2010) Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa. London: Penguin Books.

Polman, L. and Waters, L. (2010) War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times. 1st edn. London: Viking.

Project, S. (2014) The Sphere Project | 20 years after the Rwandan Genocide: The unfinished accountability revolution � An interview with John Borton | News. Available at: http://www.sphereproject.org/news/20-years-after-the-rwandan-genocide-the-unfinished-accountability-revolution-john-borton/ (Accessed: 19 August 2015).

THE USE AND ABUSE OF REFUGEES IN ZAIRE (no date) Available at: http://web.stanford.edu/~sstedman/2001.readings/Zaire.htm (Accessed: 19 August 2015).(Adelman)

Figure 1: Available at: https://www.voicesintoaction.ca/Learn/Print?u=2 (Accessed: 19 August 2015). Credit: Yuri Dojc 2014

Figure 2: TEDx Talks (2011) TEDxHamburg – Linda Polmann – ‘What’s Wrong With Humanitarian Aid? A Journalist’s Journey’. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gWdTQ84IEM (Accessed: 19 August 2015).

Figure 3: IFRC (2007) The Code of conduct. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INZuLjbHg3Q (Accessed: 19 August 2015).



It is striking that between 1970 and 1998, during the height of aid flows to Africa, “the poverty rate in Africa actually rose from 11 percent to a staggering 66 per cent” (Moyo, 2010) Thus the dilemma is that current flows of aid are not effective. Whilst I acknowledge the complex intricacies of both internal and external influences of the development industry, the dominant and fracturing aspect for me, is that the focus appears to be more about convincing potential donors that poverty exists rather than utilising the time and capital to work with the victims of poverty in a way that would be effective for their needs and desires.

Banksy art
The issue of the constant need to convey the hardships which poverty brings to the everyday person in order to accumulate a wider donor base is what I believe to be a major downfall for development. This is because from what I have studied and experienced, the way in which this transferal of poverty is channeled in the West is through the power of emotion. By gaging with the public at a deeper and sensitive level, through means of personalized accounts or even to the way it is marketed through the colours used and music played in adverts all accrues towards an emotional state has transformed the issues of real people’s lives into a form of branding and consumption – something for people to essentially buy into.

Although I believe that is it imperative to work in the development industry with humility and genuine care, I do not believe that emotionalizing poverty, for example on advertisements on the television can first of all be a solution for poverty neither does it help prevent perceptions of the poor being weak and helpless – which many poor people are not. For example, the Save The Children’s advert ‘join our First Day campaign’ represents for me, a country whereby there is minimal healthcare and helpless mothers to dying children. Whilst it may be true that healthcare is below an acceptable standard and needs to change, conveying the impression that giving £2 a month will do this does not take account for the stem rooted reasons for the circumstances.

Rather, one must look at the colonial past, conflict that may have affected infrastructure, the economic and political stability of the country and so on. Most of Canada’s healthcare workers are migrants from many sub-Saharan African countries whom choose to migrate due to better pay and a better way of life, not because they don’t exist. Today, it is possible to sponsor a child for example, which I do not disagree with, but I believe that when the focus has shifted too far in one direction to an emotionalized dimension, there must be change. My main reason for this is that by making poverty appear to be oversimplified that with only the help of your £2 per months change can be made, makes people’s lives become a product; something which customers need to keep feeling interested in. However, I believe this creates a dilemma; in order to stimulate interest of customers, it gives incentives for the poverty life cycle to continue because whilst the marketing department can display the suffering of disadvantaged people, the more easily people continue to give money.

Conversely, I believe it would be far more useful to for charities to set up a framework whereby people can track how their money was invested and have an idea of the progress that was made or not made with the money donated – this I believe would be far more useful than constant use of celebrity endorsement which much of the time can characterise poor people’s hardships and sometimes even shift the focus away from who the issue is really about to the hype of the latest celebrity’s speech and what outfit they wore giving it. Making poverty about an event or special occasion for the West I believe can often hurt the image of development by lowering it to a form of consumption. But “To progress, we have to abandon the habit of reducing the poor to cartoon characters and take the time to really understand their lives, in all their complexity and richness” (Banerjee, Duflo and Banerjee, 2012).

Save the Children Advert

In the ‘thank you for supporting Save the Children in 2014’ advert, a celebrity states “they make it exciting and that’s what its all about isn’t it”. On one hand I believe it is skilful for charities to make people passionate about issues surrounding poverty, I also believe that by making the plight of millions of lives a fun thing for people to get involved in, can be dangerous to a certain extent, because oversimplifying the easiness of reducing poverty to the point where it is fun opens the victims lives to a vulnerable position.

Overall, I believe that what is necessary of charities and organisations working towards poverty reduction – is yes partly about raising awareness and donations, but the emphasis should be on sophisticated and a deeper understanding on the lives of those affected by poverty in order to work towards a more effective solution rather than ‘charitainment’.


Banerjee, A., Duflo, E. and Banerjee, A. (2012). Poor economics. London:

Penguin Books. Moyo, D. (2010). Dead aid. London: Penguin.

Stadium Entertainment Business Model ‘Charitainment’ Embraced by Industry (no date) Available at: http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/stadium-entertainment-business-model-charitainment-embraced-by-industry-1321745.htm (Accessed: 19 August 2015). (Term ‘chairitainment’ found in this article)

Figure 1: Banksy – Banksy (2011) Available at: https://narrativeinart.wordpress.com/banksy/ (Accessed: 19 August 2015).

Figure 2: YouTube, (2015). Thank you for supporting Save the Children in 2014. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWt8L1GhGBA [Accessed 15 Jan. 2015]. YouTube, (2015). Join Our First Day Campaign. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okjaP_TW5cg [Accessed 15 Jan. 2015].




Kerala, India is opening their first carbon neutral office for Environmental sustainability to celebrate their decade of achievement after breaking through the United Nations Permanent Security Council and gaining a seat, alongside South Africa. Thus fractured the traditional power structure that existed for almost a century and opened up channels of hope.

After much rallying, India and South Africa formed an alliance after drawing many parallels in their problems and potentials to create a powerful voice to assert real change in the macro institutions to support their work in fighting HIV, the increasing population rate, poverty, slum development and environmental degradation. India and South Africa found their similar histories of colonization, war, and stark poverty to bring the leaders close together. However, I will focus on the success of India’s environmental program that South Africa is also in line to enforce.Bamboo Bridge

Both nations are full of beautiful untouched land, of course, which makes it vulnerable to powerful corporations and even nations such as China who without an alliance would have moved successfully into India to extract natural resources, like it did in many sub-Saharan African countries. India focused on utilizing Bamboo as this plant is especially useful as ‘through the mechanism of photosynthesis, bamboo turn carbon dioxide into organic carbon and store it as their structure’, helping to reduce CO2 emissions thus reducing the extent of global warming.                                                                     Construction of house from Ted Talk

India took a reformist approach thus decided to lead the way in shallow ecology. They promoted that a high degree of environmental degradation will result in a severely negative externality that will impend economic growth and prosperity. India wanted to find the balance between modernization and sustainability.

Elora Hardy’s Ted Talk in 2015 impressed the leaders of India who decided to incorporate bamboo material that can be replanted and found in abundance. ‘Bamboo is known to be one of the fastest growing plants in the world.’ (Narayanamurty, D. 1972). Although a number of schools and bridges across the country have been built with bamboo, the first working office is being opened today. Not only is this a building to be praised for its sustainabilitySustainable development goal, this is a symbol of the reformist leadership that is hoped others will be inspired by. India has already reached its sustainable development goals and will be cooperating with other partners across the world to ensure they reach theirs.

India believes in taking responsibility for the environment and act as stewards of the world rather than monsters. In India, we pride ourselves on compassion, sharing and love. There is room in our hearts not only to love our brothers and sisters of the world but also our beautiful motherland.


  Bamboo bridges Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Bamboo+bridges&espv=2&biw=1438&bih=696&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMIqtSPk8S1xwIViA8aCh1nDwBW&dpr=1#imgrc=2Gl5EkSzuoleQM%3A (Accessed: 19 August 2015).


Ben-zhi, Z., Mao-yi, F., Jin-zhong, X., Xiao-sheng, Y. and Zheng-cai, L. (2005) ‘Ecological functions of bamboo forest: Research and Application’,Journal of Forestry Research, 16(2), pp. 143–147. doi: 10.1007/bf02857909.


Blood earth (2015) Available at: http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21647954-huge-natural-resources-and-poor-governance-are-dreadful-combination-blood-earth (Accessed: 19 August 2015).


Hardy, E. (no date) Elora Hardy: Magical houses, made of bamboo | TED Talk. Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/elora_hardy_magical_houses_made_of_bamboo#t-375246 (Accessed: 19 August 2015).


Narayanamurty, D. (1972) The use of bamboo and reeds in building construction. New York: United Nations.


Open Working Group proposal for Sustainable Development Goals (no date) Available at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgsproposal (Accessed: 19 August 2015).