Exploring some key ideas and values

These briefing notes have been developed as a result of development education workshop discussions and debates in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England in 2013; they have been designed to remind us of the larger, more fundamental questions that underpin specific issue discussions. Do we have duties and responsibilities in the world and to whom? Why and what might they be? What are our individual and collective responsibilities and where do governments, corporations and communities fit in? These are just a few of the questions that constantly arise in undertaking development education. For more on these issues and debates, see 80:20 Development in an Unequal World and for an extensive and challenging overview see Thomas Pogge (2008) World Poverty and Human Rights, London, Polity Press (for a summary of many of his key arguments, see this interview


Discussion and debate in international development issues all too often focuses on a huge agenda of topics and statistics – aid, trade, debt, environment, gender etc. – running the risk that the underlying values, principles and ideas get lost in the detail. Arguing the ‘pros and cons’ of an issue (does aid ‘work’, has it eliminated poverty (could it ever have done so?), should it be scrapped’ what about other priorities ‘here at home’ etc.) can often mask the underlying social, political, ethical and practical challenges the issues raise.

At its best, development education seeks to remind us of the ‘values base’ of the issues; the fundamental and intensely challenging questions facing us today in our profoundly unequal world. These brief notes offer some context, illustration, references and commentary on a number of core ideas and values; they do so by offering an initial ‘entry point’ fact or equation (ratios are very useful in development education) plus sources (including those for accessing additional information) and a brief discussion of some key sources and debates.

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