“It’s all Yoko Ono’s fault…” said Def Con Dos, pioneers of hip-hop in Spanish, which many of us danced when we were young. For the NGOs, Yoko Ono is not to blame, but the development model. We explain through this abstract concept, with systemic grandiosity, the causes of the deepest problems as the ultimate evil destined to be fought. Take the test, type the term into Google along with the name of your favorite NGO and you will see the high number of mentions.
It is useful for everything: context analysis, plans, strategies, projects and various initiatives. The most daring, and I confess to having sinned, even point out as part of their goals: “We will change the development model” through X or Y actions in a given period of time. It made sense a decade ago to distance oneself from greater welfare cooperation, but it’s no longer enough. More is asked of us.
Talking about the development model now is an oversimplification that cannot be sustained by more than five minutes of conversation with those who genuinely have the capacity to dictate the development doctrine, such as international organizations, development banks, foundations or governments. Without this rigor we lose credibility, it robs us of the opportunity to know if we are really contributing profoundly to change, if we are useful.
Not all help is useful, there is some that harms, that demobilizes communities, conforms them to their authorities, or divides them
There will be those who will say ‘it is better to do something than nothing’, but I believe our responsibility as development actors must go well beyond this shallow argument. Furthermore, not all help is useful, there are some that harm, that demobilize communities, conform them to their authorities, or divide them. All of us who work together understand that.
To this end, I propose to renew our reasoning on the systemic causes of poverty through four questions and their answers. Lest they get us on a curve when we talk about the development model.
First, what are we talking about when we propose a new development model?
For the conservative sectors, which now hold much power, anything that is not market economy as we understand it today is communism. This does not contribute to a peaceful debate about development models. from the alliance Wellness Economics they are years ago doing a fantastic job of proposing an alternative model within the current planetary boundaries. Iceland, Finland, Scotland or New Zealand have made it their own. Dig deeper into this Kate Raworth from Oxford University with her book The donut economy. And recently the UN Secretary-General has done the same some statements in the same direction, so the subject flies away.
Secondly, are we only talking about the economy or also about political institutions?
We NGOs don’t usually deal much with the subject of institutions, but if the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) with its programs on governance or the renowned Friedrich Ebert Foundation focus their work on this, there must be a reason.
It is the current that suggests that institutional design is at the root of many of the problems of instability in the countries of the South. In Latin America, for example, the influence of presidentialism has caused ink flows among political scientists. Must read to dig deeper John J Linz, from Yale University. A classic. With equal vehemence, other institutionalists insist on the importance of electoral systems and political parties for democracy and for the development of countries. The bosses are in it D. Nohlen from the University of Heidelberg Y Steven Levitzky from Harvard University.
Third, is neoliberalism really to blame, or did it come from before?
Going deeper into the past few decades in the countries of the South, the argument that neoliberalism is the equivalent of the seven plagues of Egypt does not hold water. Neoliberalism is at the root of many of today’s problems, most notably extreme inequality, they have been pointing out for some time Oxfam or Piketty, and more recently the IMF Also. There is agreement on that. But another part of the problems came from before.
The period before the onset of neoliberalism, the 1980s, was the most famous lost decade which choked the economies of much of the southern countries with foreign debt. Its harsh adaptations to a collapsed system were neoliberalism. Latin America’s three predecessors tried and exported an alternative model with Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI). Raul Prebisch this worked in the largest countries in the region, but not so much in the rest. It was no different than much of what we propose as an “alternative model” and have already tested.
And when you get choosy, some authors go further back. James Mahoney, from Northwestern University, shows how the type of colonization countries underwent determined their later development. Neoliberalism therefore seems too cyclical. His main argument is that the Latin American ranking of country development has remained virtually unchanged over the last century, except in the case of Venezuela. Since you started as a country, stay after that.
And fourth and last: Can we really change a development model?
One of the clearest and most influential texts analyzing the possibilities for changing the development model in the regions of the Global South was written in Latin by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil and one of the most important theorists of development and dependency theories America, Latin America is titled New Paths: Globalization in Historical Perspective. It is said that countries cannot break away from the current globalization and its rules, no matter how much they dislike it, finance capital will continue to prevail and keep the countries of the South in a position of dependency. The territories can improve, but the center-periphery model and logic do not believe.
“(…) and the ghost of Lennon coming out of his pores,” the song ends. We must dream like Lennon in his theme introduce, where he envisioned a world without property, without greed, without hunger, a brotherhood of humanity. The perfect development model… and unattainable. That the same thing doesn’t happen to us NGOs and that our speeches end up looking like a beautiful song with beautiful phrases but produce few changes.