Understanding Development within the Black Power Movement

A final-seven finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin and developmenteducation.ie Development Issues series, Grace McGinnis looks at the Black Power Movement in the United States, and beyond.

The Black Power Movement, although overshadowed by its stance on gun ownership and self-defense strategies, was incredibly involved in the international community. Specifically, it was centered around the ‘Black struggle’ whether that be in the United States or abroad.

Those involved in the Civil Rights Movement and the movement for Black Power were well aware of the people facing inequality and poverty around the world. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a prominent student activist organization during the 1960s, was adamant about its members travelling to the ‘Third World’ to see the struggle that exists there.

Those involved in the Black Power movement and thus, a part of SNCC, felt that understanding the causes and effects of development efforts in these countries would help to expand their organisation. It was said that if they could have continuous contacts with many countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, then they would have a greater understanding of their own struggle in America. This idea became of pillar for the Black Power movement; they wanted to liberate all Black people and not just those living in the United States.

Many members of such organisations travelled to places like Tanzania and Cuba to experience the people and the politics. The Black Power Movement made many claims about colonialism in the continent of Africa. SNCC had an international focus and thus had strong foreign policy ideas. They opposed the Vietnam War, they stood in solidarity with Palestine, and they also supported the socialist revolution in Cuba. As said in a SNCC bulletin in 1966:

…we applaud SNCC for recognising that the enemies of deep-seated social change at home are the enemies of revolution abroad, and for acting to forge alliances with the oppressed in the Third World.

This idea of aligning with the oppressed and understanding the connection between the United States and ‘Third World’ nations were central to the movement for Black Power. Often this understanding of development and the people of the ‘Third World’ became a point of discussion within the organisations that promoted the ideas of Black Power. These organisations chose to educate people on the politics of nations such as, Guatemala and South Africa. They spoke about the involvement of the United States in the development of these nations.

SNCC also spoke very candidly about the situation in Cuba. In 1967, members of the Committee travelled to Cuba to better understand the situation there. They were going to learn about the political structure within Cuba and how it was affected the Cuban people. They were pleasantly surprised by the quality of life in Cuba and the way in which Cuba was handling health care and literacy. The members that visited Cuba decided that the racism that existed there was a residual effect of the United States involvement in the Caribbean. They concluded that American intervention hindered development and ultimately allowed for constructs like racism to flourish. SNCC said:

We were opposed to the exploitation of peoples around the world, especially people of the Third World by the United States. And just as we would be opposed to the war in Viet Nam, we would also be opposed to American intervention in the Dominican Republic, or American intervention in Bolivia, of which there is very much and in Guatemala and in many other places in Latin America.

SNCC, which was an organisation centered on racial justice and the fight for civil rights in the United States became a centre for foreign policy and revolution in the late 1960s. The people of this Committee understood the importance of development in the context of the ‘Third World’ because they felt that they could not succeed if there were people in other nations facing a similar struggle. They spoke about capitalism and imperialism which were issues that plagued their very fight against racism.

These are problems that are still prevalent and are often found in discussions about development and democracy. The Black Power movement, although over 50 years ago, addressed ideas that are still incredibly relevant and are often at the center of debate within political science.

Staying Warm

There are still large numbers of people sleeping outside, in the cold struggling to find any way to simply stay warm. Ethan Kudler, a final-seven finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin and developmenteducation.ie Development Issues series, believes ending poverty means ending poverty everywhere, both near and far.

As I walk the streets of where I go to university in Santa Cruz, California, I am bombarded by the unfortunate reality of countless people sleeping on the street, struggling to simply stay warm. Even though we all understand how essential the need for warmth truly is, our ‘developed’ society fails to be able to provide such a simple necessity for everyone. It is a need that is so vital, most of us take it for granted every single night, wrapping ourselves in our blankets, often complaining about too much warmth. However, we consistently forget and neglect the fact that there are far too many people who are forced to spend their nights alone and without any source of warmth or protection from the cruelties of the natural environment.

Ted @ Cannes Talks

According to the late world renowned physician, statistician and public speaker, Hans Rosling, the way most people compare and contrast industrialised, developed countries with developing countries typically fails to see the immense progress so many developing nation-states around the world have made already, and continue to make every year. However, while Rosling predominantly focuses on our collective potential for helping less developed countries out of severe poverty, a goal that I fully support and hope to see come to fruition, the issue of worldwide poverty that I consistently see overlooked and downplayed regards the issues of poverty that still exist within countries that are already considered ‘developed’.

Often, when we discuss global poverty issues and the countries affected, we mistakenly neglect the issues that still persist in the ‘developed’ world, precisely because we have come to think of these places as having done ‘good enough’. This leads many to believe that there is no more work to be done in these places, or that our resources are better focused in more severe areas of poverty.

Even though the issues faced by developed countries can arguably be considered less critical than those that exist in communities facing more severe forms of poverty, such as communities in sub-Saharan Africa, poverty in developed countries is still affecting people every day and night, leaving them without basic needs that we all consider essential.

If we truly do hope to end poverty everywhere in the world, and not simply in the most severe of cases, we must begin refocusing on helping those that are struggling within developed nations as well. With this in mind, one of the main aspects of poverty that still widely exists in developed countries, one that many citizens see every day, one that has essentially produced a dehumanising culture of disregard and avoidance, is the fact that there is still a large number of people who sleep outside, in the cold, struggling to find any way to simply stay warm.

While I support the projects and organisations that intend to end poverty completely within their own nations, as well as around the world, for those who do not receive the help of these types of programs and projects, they still have one basic need and that is the simple aspect of warmth throughout a cold day and night.

As a California resident, I have lived my life being fed a consistent lie, that the West is made up of developed nations, industrialised and humane people who have a political and economic system designed exquisitely to serve all citizens equally. Western nations have continuously deemed other countries as ‘less developed’ without even recognising the hypocrisy of such condescension. Yet, us ‘developed’ nations live every day seeing people sleep outside in the middle of a freezing night, and since this has become an extremely common experience, I am forced to constantly wonder what a ‘developed’ nation actually means. It can often seem unusual, and even hypocritical, then, to think of Western nations as truly developed, when we still have so many people who cannot even be guaranteed the basic need of warmth.

When we look at the world and attempt to define the idea of development, we often focus on the basics, clean water, shelter, food security, and healthcare; however, the basic need that is commonly overlooked is that of warmth. Although there are already countless nationwide programs and international non-profits, as well as incredible work coordinated by the United Nations, some people still do not receive the help that these types of organisations provide. They do not deserve to be forgotten.

Overall, we must realise that we have the resources available to focus on fixing poverty in both developing and developed nations. Once we understand this reality, we can begin to help the ones who are being forgotten, the ones who do fall through the cracks, the ones who still get stuck outside during a cold night, and the ones who still need to be kept warm.

  • Feature photo: Beneath Highway 90 bridge, Richmond, Texas 108091117BW. Photo: Patrick Feller (October 18, 2009) via Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)
  • Hans Rosling photo: TED@Cannes. Photo: TED Conference (June 21, 2010) via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Health Wealth: Inequalities in ‘well-being’ across the world

‘Health’ and ‘well-being’: does our understanding depend on if we are in a developed or developing country? A final-seven finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin and developmenteducation.ie Development Issues series, Brennan O’Toole explores inequalities in health and treatment services across the world.

Two women wake up in the morning with a hacking cough. The first pours herself a glass of water and takes some over-the-counter cough medicine before driving to her nearby doctor’s office.

After learning that the cough is from a recent sinus infection and receiving a prescription for her local pharmacy, she rests for the afternoon and returns to work the next day.

Half a world away, the second woman wakes up with a similar deep cough.

She knows that she cannot drink the unsanitary tap water in her home and the nearest doctor is miles away. Even if she could walk there, she has far too many tasks to do that day.  This woman has tuberculosis and like many other individuals with an illness living in developing countries,will likely not receive a diagnosis, let alone treatment, in the near future.

With such inequalities in health and treatment services across the world, the United Nations made Good Health and Well-being’ the third aim of its Sustainable Development Goals. However, ‘health’ and ‘well-being’ mean very different things depending on if you live in a ‘developed’ or ‘developing’ country.

Urgent health and well-being issues

On the United Nations Development Programme website, the organisation says that the main targets of its health and well-being goal are disease epidemics—HIV and AIDS, malaria, and TB—and the lack of resources that give rise to high child and maternity mortality rates. These are the most urgent health issues for developing states in certain areas of Africa, South America, and Asia and UN efforts are preventing millions of deaths each year.

However, if you ask someone from the United States or Switzerland what their biggest health concerns are, they will likely list non-communicable diseases like cancer, obesity, and depression.

Indeed, in advanced nations, mental rather than physical health has attracted most of the spotlight in wellness discussions over the last couple of years. Dozens of campaigns, such as the U.K. royal family’s ‘Heads Together‘ movement, are currently attempting to provide information and resources for numerous mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Along with these attempts to increase exposure for mental health, the US-based Center for Disease Control (CDC) has brought additional importance to the topic when reporting that, in the U.S. alone, over 50% of individuals will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Establishing equality

It is entirely likely that there are similar levels of mental health conditions in developing nations, too. After all, the CDC says that harmful life experiences, such as exposure to abuse and violence, are a primary cause of mental illness. Just as there is an inequality in physical health levels among different areas of the world, individuals in developing areas have little to no access to information or resources for potentially dangerous mental health conditions.

Of course, the emphasis on improving physical health in these areas is understandable and sensible. To this day, the UN reports that six million children around the world die each year before their fifth birthday.

Working to stop the spread of diseases and establishing an efficient treatment system should be the focus of the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, however, the widely varying definitions of ‘health’ and ‘well-being’ across developed and developing states is a testament to how far these international goals still have to go to establish true equality.

Solving one piece of the health puzzle is excellent in the short-run, but down the line there are still other layers that have yet to be addressed.

  • Featured photo: 18 5 banda project Kahawa west clinic photos 01, Kenya by SIM East Africa. May 23, 2018 via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Smart Cities Developments – impacts on democracy and why we should remain critical

What’s so smart about ‘smart cities’ and who really benefits when technology and expert private firms are building them? A final-seven finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin and developmenteducation.ie Development Issues series, George Wade explores some of the shortcomings of ‘smart cities’ and what price is paid in transparency and decision making by city dwellers.

In recent years the concept of a smart city has been a buzzword in development throughout the world. Famed for its utopian image of tackling urban problems smart cities have become a major fixture in both the west and ‘the rest’. But wait, hold on, what is a smart city?

In essence, smart cities aim to integrate technology into the built environment in order to tackle major issues facing cities such as pollution and over-population. An exciting and obvious prospect to help develop more environmentally friendly cities, right?

Graphic 1: What is a Smart City by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India (2015)

One country which has particularly looked to embrace this is India with their 100-smart city plan. According to the consultancy firm PwC, India has the potential to ‘…unleash their true potential as centres of opportunity’. Critically, this raises an integral question – who is the opportunity for in this development? Is it for the enhancement of living conditions or to enhance companies such as PwC or CISCO to exert influence over urban planning and increase their profits as a result? (see, for example Luque-Ayala and Marvin’s 2015 journal article in Urban Studies).

Democracy in decline? 

Issues raised by smart cities have been subject to work by critical scholars over the last 10 years, with many questioning the impact smart cities will have on democracy. But how will democracy decline, you may ask?

Well, it is evident from India’s ‘smart cities mission’ that consultancy firms feature heavily in their implementation. This is common practice; multiple large technology firms’ websites contain a section about how they’re creating smarter cities and the benefits they bring in tackling problems through development. Sites such as CISCO’s place emphasis not only on the benefits to people, but also to creating new revenue streams – but at what cost? By allowing greater influence from non-elected officials in the development of the cities that we reside in, citizens are likely to be dominated by these neo-liberal, technology-based structures that are not only difficult to challenge, but do not benefit everyone equally. 

Development benefits for who?

Often regarded as a utopian ideal, we need to look further. What will happen with the data generated by citizens? Who is using it and ultimately who is this data going to benefit? The data is likely to be used to influence political decisions and reduce responsibility, which further erodes the strength of democracy among public planning as algorithms and data dictate how we live (see Rob Kitchin’s 2017 journal article in Information, Communication & Society). The data generated by the public will also be used by large corporations for purposes such as targeted marketing, ultimately for capital and not human gain.

Therefore, if the smart city is understood to be a major form of development within cities and throughout the world, shouldn’t it be more focused on being able to put citizens first, providing more opportunities and allowing them to be more capable to make decisions about how to live their lives?

Instead of countries ploughing even more billions of euros into tech company’s pockets, through which New Zealand urban planner and academic Vanessa Watson calls ‘the allure of ‘smart city’ rhetoric‘ as cities further inequalities through social and economic fragmentation. Instead, policy initiatives should focus on creating bottom-up initiatives aimed at enhancing living conditions for all, not simply for the few firms tasked with controlling and implementing the ‘modern’ and ‘visionary’ infrastructure.

One of the world’s most ambitious programmes, India’s 100 smart cities plan, for example, is coming under scrutiny for failing those who most need the help of the government. The Delhi-based Housing and Land Rights Network civil society coalition’s human rights and social justice study of smart cities was blistering in its findings, stating:

“Despite recognising that a large percentage of the city population lives in under-serviced and inadequate settlements,” it says, “none of the  shortlisted cities have adopted a human rights approach to housing or included safeguards that the right to housing will not be violated during the implementation of ‘smart city’ projects.”

The idea that smart city initiatives offer a fast track utopian development strategy to jump into the 21st century and be a global leader is not looking entirely convincing.

An opportunity wasted?

Currently, smart cities lack the kind progress they have promised to achieve and whilst they offer opportunities to develop more resource efficient cities, creating positive change well needed in the 21st century.

There is still a real need to question the impact that corporations are having on urban development, and how profits are often put before making real positive impacts on people’s lives. After all, in order for development to be successful it needs to positively impact human beings (as Indian economist Amartya Sen famously wrote about in 1988), and not to reduce their agency in being involved in decision making and the level of democracy within their political surroundings.

Smart cities offer potential to have a positive impact for many people, however, there is a need to remain critical of the interaction between corporations, the state and democracy in order to ensure that the role of the citizen does not erode even further under a neo-liberal restructuring of urban spaces.

Rana Plaza, homelessness, plastic and sustainability – the top 10 blogs of 2018

The results are in for the most popular blogs of the year on developmenteducation.ie , which has been marked by the second year of a Trump presidency, a signal flare of public attention towards issues such as plastics, anniversaries such as franchise for women, marked by the centenary of increased voting rights for women in Ireland and the UK 100 years ago, and towards human rights defenders increasingly under threat where the realities of ‘development’, climate change, land rights gender and wealth inequality are challenged in practice.

Here are the top 10 blogs of the year, based on reader popularity.

#10. Launching 10 myths about world hunger: sorting facts from fiction

Tony Daly introduces a World Food Day special for October, produced in partnership with Scoilnet, Concern Worldwide, Self Help Africa and developmenteducation.ie, including the launch of a pocket-booklet 10 Myths About World Hunger as part of new series that looks to sort facts from fiction.

#9. Our World in 90 seconds

“It took just less than 90 seconds to graphically reveal the horrific underbelly of globalisation and of ‘modern’ consumerism and business.” – Colm Regan on 5th anniversary of Rana Plaza disaster in June 2013.

#8. Human development today – 5 headlines and 6 key lessons

Colm Regan dips into the key human development indices and statistics from the 2017 Human Development Report which provides an overview of the state of development across the world.

#7. How the West convinced everyone it was the only developed part of the world

“Hi! It’s me, the West! I’m here today to explain to everyone how I managed to convince nearly the whole world that I am the only developed part of the world”. Roberta Rodrigues, student blogger finalist in the Trinity College Dublin/developmenteducation.ie blog competition.

#6. Are democracy and development linked? Comparing homelessness in Damascus, Dubai and Dublin

Trinity College Dublin/developmenteducation.ie student blogger finalist Ghalya Farahat compares homelessness in Damascus, Dubai and Dublin and argues it’s time to de-link the idea that living in a democratic country is a guarantee of ‘development’.

#5. I gave up plastic for lent …could you?

Rachel Mary Dornan reflects on the challenges she experienced in giving up plastic for Lent from Scotland and wonders if plastic-free living is affordable in a rising tide of plastic use

#4. Top 15 blogs of the year in 2017

Tony Daly presents the results of the most popular blogs of 2017 across developmenteducation.ie

#3. International Women’s Day – reminding ourselves why and what it stands for

Colm Regan presents 10 resources to explore International Women’s Day, celebrated globally every year on March 8th.

#2. 7 ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle

As consumers, how can we both consume more sustainably and influence companies to produce more sustainably? A final-five finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin/developmenteducation.ie development issues series, Maebh Ni Ghuairim presents her top 7 tips.

#1. Ireland at the UN – reporting on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals – live!

Through a mix of tweets, statements, observations and civil society commentary, Tony Daly live-blogs Ireland’s first official progress report to the UN voluntary peer-review mechanism on progress towards achieving the global goals for a more sustainable, more equal, peaceful world at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York in July.

  • Featured photo: Dhaka Savar Building Collapse (May 13, 2013) by Rijans via Flickr (CC license BY-SA-2.0)

Basketball – More than Just Fun and Games

Basketball – More than Just Fun and Games. A final-seven finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin and developmenteducation.ie Development Issues series, Jane Litvin explores how some of the Sustainable Development Goals can be realised through basketball.

My host-sister, Noemia, and I share something in common; we both love basketball. We watch the NBA finals together every year, wearing our Steph Curry jerseys, staring in awe as he dribbles past Lebron and nails a three-pointer from thirty feet away. We shoot around early in the morning at the court down the street and cheer each other on from the sidelines when we play for our schools. Basketball will always be an important part of our lives, but for very different reasons.

I grew up in the small suburban town of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. I live in a global superpower of a country, one with a human development index of 10 out of 195 countries and an average life expectancy of 79 years. As a teenager in the US, basketball taught me how to listen, how to be disciplined, and how to be a strong female leader. Though my basketball career ended promptly after secondary school, the lessons it taught me continue to impact my life and my work ethic to this day.

Noemia grew up in Matola, a suburban town in Mozambique. Mozambique has a life expectancy of 55 years, a human development index of 181 out of 195 countries, and a 15% prevalence rate of HIV&AIDS among women ages 15-49 . Noemia played for her secondary school, and also for the U-16 national team. For her, basketball taught her more than just a lesson in discipline – it changed the course of her life. In Mozambique, sports are more than just recreation – they are a form of development. Various NGOs and the Ministry of Sport in Mozambique organise sports programmes which are designed to improve the quality of life of it’s citizens.

Sport as a key driver of the Sustainable Development Goals

According to the UN’s report on sports and development, ‘the fundamental elements of sport make it a viable and practical tool to support the achievement of the MDGs,’ or Millennium Development Goals, which promoted a holistic approach to development. Sport is a creative tool which can greatly contribute to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (which followed the MDGs as a key international framework for action on international development, human rights and more sustainable livelihoods), with a particular emphasis on gender equality and empowerment of women and girls (SDG 5).

Training for teams in Mozambique can encourage young women to realise they are not limited by their gender, despite the patriarchal culture that persists in their society. Basketball gives these women a way to feel physically and emotionally stronger through their work on the court and the ties they make with coaches and players. It also teaches them life skills, like discipline, a strong work ethic and the value of teamwork. This encourages more women to enter the workforce and pursue careers, not just be caretakers.

In recent years, through the help of NGOs such as Basketball Without Borders, basketball has also begun to help combat the HIV&AIDS epidemic in Mozambique, especially among young women, where the disease is rampant. Basketball practices often include life skills sessions where girls learn HIV&AIDS prevention measures from their coaches and even professional players who visit the country to help combat the epidemic. When these role models speak about the disease with young girls, they begin to normalise the conversation about safe sex and break down the stigma behind getting tested for HIV&AIDS.

This technique has been proven to be effective and according to the UN:

The groups most at risk of contracting [AIDS] – women and young people, especially girls – are known to be highly responsive to targeted sports initiatives.

UN reports also show that participating in sports helps young women take ownership of their sexuality, ultimately ‘encouraging them to delay sexual activity‘. This informs women around safe sexual practices and delaying childbirth until they are ready. The by-product of participation in sports can be life-changing, in potentially raising the life expectancy for women in Mozambique and lowering the prevalence of HIV&AIDS.

Noemia’s talent brought her to the USA, a developed country with a higher lifespan, a lower rate of HIV&AIDS, and a greater degree of gender equality. She attends a prep school that will one day send her to a division one university and hopefully to the WNBA, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream. But she wants to eventually return to Mozambique, where she can serve as a role model and a leader to a future generation of female players.

Basketball, a universally beloved sport, is taking on a new role. It’s become a vehicle by which countries can develop and the lives of its citizens can be transformed. I didn’t understand the true power of basketball until I met my host sister – now I realise it’s so much more than just fun and games.

  • Featured photo: A girl dribbles a ball during basketball practice in Mogadishu, Somalia, on June 6. Banned under the extremist group, Al Shabaab, Basketball is once again making a resurgence in Mogadishu. Today at least a dozen teams in the city already play in a league and both men and women are coming out to play the sport. Photo: AU UN IST PHOTO / TOBIN JONES, July 6, 2013 via Flickr (CCO-1.0)

Blogging for development, democracy and human rights – introducing the 5th year of the Trinity College Dublin blog series

The seven finalists, which will be published weekly from today on international Human Rights Day. Founding member of the initiative Michelle D’Arcy of Trinity College Dublin introduces the student-led blog series now entering its fifth year.

This is the fifth year that Trinity has partnered with developmenteducation.ie to run a blog competition for students taking my module on ‘Democracy and Development’. We challenge them to find a development issue that they relate to personally. The range of topics and creative means of communication used is always inspiring – from electronic waste to homelessness to how we view development.  This partnership with developmenteducation.ie enables students to get their voices heard on a wider platform and explore these issues beyond academic texts.

This year is no different. These blogs tackle tricky questions and interrogate development issues with honesty and rigour. The seven finalist touch on a wide range of human rights and international development issues, ideas and struggles.

Brennan O’Toole, in her blog Health Wealth: Inequality in ‘well being’ across the world questions why approaches to health in the developing world leave out mental health. In his blog on Smart Cities Developments – impacts on democracy and why we should remain critical George Wade looks beyond the utopian goals of smart city initiatives to probe their problematic side effects. Roksana Verahrami in her blog Prostitution is not what you think it is takes an unflinching look at the reality of prostitution and sex trafficking. In her blog Basketball – more than just fun and games Jane Litvin shares an inspiring story that shows the power of sport to bring us together and empower women.

In her blog Patagonia and the Commodification of Sustainability Rhiannon Mulligan challenges us to make sense of the ways that sustainable consumerism has now become trendy.  Grace McGinnis in her blog Understanding Development within the Black Power Movement tracks the ways in which student activism within the Black Power Movement engaged with development and linked struggles abroad to the civil rights movement in the US. In his blog Staying Warm Ethan Kudler reflects on how developed countries fail to fulfill the basic human need for warmth for many of their citizens.

Development is a lived experience and tapping into that from whatever angle is meaningful to us as individuals is a vital part of being an engaged citizen. We hope these blogs will inspire you to reflect on how development touches your life and what each of us as individuals can do to make a difference.

  • Michelle D’Arcy is assistant professor in political science at Trinity College Dublin.

Photo credit: Basketball in Sarajevo (1992). Children playing basketball in the burnt out district of Sarajevo during a break in the shelling. Copyright © Tom Stoddart

How The West Convinced Everyone It Was the Only Developed Part of the World

How did the West manage to convince most of the world that it is the only ‘developed’ part of the world? A final-five finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin and developmenteducation.ie Development Issues series, Roberta Rodrigues channels the West’s inner voice, and suggest three easy steps for others to follow.

Hi! It’s me, the West! I’m here today to explain to everyone how I managed to convince nearly the whole world that I am the only developed part of the world.

I’m going to take you through three simple steps I followed to achieve this. Before we start and I share my tactics with you, please bear in mind most of the East is underdeveloped but not as much as I like to  make you believe!

Step 1. I define development.

The United Nations, an institution which promotes my values, defines countries as ‘developed’ when they achieve high economic development, lower inequalities and give individuals autonomy over their lives. This is widely accepted as the definition of development.

See what I did?

I wrote a definition that makes me look vibrant whist I left the East looking grey and unattractive. My definition of development promotes common Western values but not so much Eastern ones, leaving little space for other cultures to be defined as ‘developed’.

Furthermore, this definition of development clearly favours a capitalist model of development which is an economic system where private entities, such as people or corporations, own the factors of production (entrepreneurship, capital goods, natural resources, and labour), and prices and incomes are determined by markets. Result: countries that follow more redistributive policy approaches to development are less likely to be defined as ‘developed’ and more likely to be labelled socialist or a welfare-state that heavily supports things like free healthcare and education.

Similarly, world renown development economist Amartya Sen claims that individual’s “functionings”, their possibility to “do” and “be” what they choose, constitutes development. Examples include “being able to move about as desired” and access to healthcare and education.

However, I defined such ‘doings’ and ‘beings’. If the ‘doings’ and ‘beings’ were defined as respecting other cultures, spreading a message of peace and love and failing to exploit other countries, most of my countries  would not be classed as developed.

Ironic and comedic signage at a tourist viewpoint overlooking the African Rift Valley, which suffers from fluoride contamination due to geogenic causes. Photo by Katya Cherukumilli, USAID (September 17, 2013) via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-2.0).

Step 2. I came up with the measures of development.

Here, flawed measures of development are going to be essential! Most measures of development also offer a strong bias to capitalist models of development, because I think capitalism is great.

Amartya Sen argued in his 1988 paper ‘The Concept of Development’, the link between the Gross National Product (a measure of development I pioneered) and living conditions isn’t always evident: this is how I trick people!

Sen explains that Kerala in India is often ranked as one of the poorest states in India despite having high education rates, low illiteracy rates and long life expectancies. There is clearly no direct correlation between GNP and quality of living. It is clearly biased towards countries following capitalist approaches to development, which promote economic development as an essential characteristic of development.

Furthermore, to calculate the GNP, countries must refer to their Gross Domestic Product (another measure of development I pioneered). GDP takes into account consumption, investment, government spending and imports/exports.

This also cunningly offers a strong bias to countries following a capitalist model of development. Similarly, the Human Development Index is biased towards capitalist countries since it offers more points to countries with higher incomes, which doesn’t always mean higher levels of development (or even sustainable development).

Step 3. I use the media to distort realities.

My last tactic to convince everyone I am the only developed part of the world is media distortion of the East. The East is rarely shown in a positive light in my news media, which often misrepresents reality.

Economically, Africa’s growth is significant, but don’t let anyone know!

Between 2000 and 2012, the continent’s annual growth rate was of 10.7%, as reported Quartz Africa. In 2014, Africa was the continent with the largest growth rate at 2.5% whilst Europe was the lowest at 0%. Although this is due to the game of catch up Africa is now forced to play, my media still chooses to overlook  its growth.

My news media’s choice and ability to ignore Eastern development is backed up by our tactical use of images. I often portray the East as a few black men in cloth dresses walking round with sticks over dry terrain with a painfully thin cow, whilst women walk around with buckets of water on their head.

Although this probably does happen, there are also developed parts of Africa that I rarely show.

I closely guard this secret but Africa has cities. Even a few global cities! Lagos is classed as a Beta Plus city, whilst Nairobi and Tunis are classed as Beta Minus cities, as are Lyon, France and Birmingham, England. Such cities are hubs for economic and cultural activities, transport and even employment. This is a reality I rarely show.

So, there you have it: how I convinced you and pretty much everyone else that development was exclusive to the West! Please note, you will not be able to accomplish this yourself following these steps, because I will crush you.

7 ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle

As consumers, how can we both consume more sustainably and influence companies to produce more sustainably? A final-five finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin and developmenteducation.ie development issues series, Maebh Ni Ghuairim presents her 7 top tips.

One of the Sustainable Development Goals that I feel is often neglected is number 12, which is ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production. We often feel helpless looking at the SDGs because, as individuals, we feel we can’t do much. However, I believe that this is one of the SDGs that every single person can make a meaningful contribution to.

As consumers we can both consume more sustainably and influence companies to produce more sustainably. Read on for some tips on how to do exactly that.

1. Start using the reusable alternative to disposable items

Photo: Photo: IMG_1014.jpg by Tom Page (March 4, 2012) via Flickr. Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Cutting down on plastic bottles, coffee cups and plastic bags seems obvious, but it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce your waste. 2.5 billion (!!!) disposable cups are used every year in the UK. By asking your local barista to make your coffee in your flask rather than a disposable cup, you help cut down number of items going to the landfill after a single use. Companies like Costa are now offering discounts to those who don’t use disposable cups – an extra incentive to cut down on your waste!

2. Start shopping at bulk stores

What are bulk stores? These are shops where you bring your own containers to buy  packaging-free dry goods like grains and pasta. Shops like Aldi and Lidl are starting to cater to the demand too, by offering nuts, fruits and veg unpackaged. This means that buying unpackaged goods doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. The rise in demand has also lead to bulk stores popping up all over Dublin – check to see if there’s one near you and try it out.

3. Start buying ugly produce

When you see a slightly bruised banana, or a misshaped apple, be sure to pick those up. Our first instinct is to avoid less-than-perfect produce, but there’s usually nothing at all wrong with it. However, our preferences are having a devastating effect on food wastage – up to 30% of vegetable crops are not even harvested because retailers have rejected them on the basis of them not looking pretty enough. Then there is more wastage in shops, as shop owners must throw away rejected produce not bought at the end of the week. By choosing “ugly” foods, you’re showing the retailer that there is still demand for all types of food, and helping reduce food waste.

4. Start repairing

Nothing is less sustainable than buying new cheaper shoes every 3 months because you’ve worn through your old ones. Try investing in one good quality pair of shoes, and bringing them to your local cobbler’s if they get damaged. You’ll be surprised how cheap it is, and how much you save when you repair instead of replace. The same concept applies to all your belongings – clothes, tech gadgets, and everyday household items. Sites like iFixIt offer free repair guides for everything you can think of. No better way to stop unnecessary consumption, and save some much needed money.

5. Start going to swap shops & using services like Nu.

Everyone knows how amazing charity shops can be, but swap shops are the new Big Thing. They’re basically pop up markets, where you can exchange your clothes for tokens, and spend your tokens on other second-hand clothes. You should also check out Nu., an online store where you can borrow and lend clothes for special occasions. You can get a whole new wardrobe regularly through these services without having to rely on cheap clothes shops. Fast fashion is disastrous for the environment, and is the second dirtiest industry in the world, after oil. By refusing to shop from these stores, you’re taking a stand against the epitome of unsustainable production.

6. Use a Menstrual Cup

To everyone that doesn’t have periods, skip to number 7. But I had to mention menstrual cups, because they’re an insanely sustainable alternative to tampons and pads. You only have to buy one, and they last you up to 10 years. Feminine care is not the type of waste we like to think about, but it really does add up. A woman uses 11,000 tampons in a lifetime, which don’t break down quickly in the landfill – imagine how much waste you could avoid with one simple change?

7. Repurpose

Use jam jars as containers for bulk store shopping. Use old pillow cases as cloth shopping bags. Use empty wine bottles as vases. The options are limitless.  As you begin to repurpose more, you buy less new things, and less old things end up in landfill.

Don’t forget to go easy on yourself

The first couple weeks and months of becoming aware of how much waste one person can produce can be hard. Trying to change that is a huge lifestyle shift, and that’s never easy. You may slip up or have to be wasteful in certain circumstances, and that’s okay. As long as you know you’re putting your actions behind your values, and helping shape a more sustainable world

More info:

For more, see the developmenteducation.ie sections on overconsumption and ethical consumption

Are democracy and ‘development’ linked? Comparing homelessness in Damascus, Dubai and Dublin

Is the status of a country’s democratic health a fair measure of human development gains? What about when we test this idea against the case of homelessness? A final-five finalist in the 2018 Trinity College Dublin and developmenteducation.ie development issues series, Ghalya Farahat argues it’s time to de-link the idea that living in a democratic country is a guarantee of ‘development’.

When discussing topics of development, to many people what often comes to mind is technological advancement, modern looking cities, and high levels of income. For an ordinary citizen who is not so concerned with what development entails, delving into all the indices and technical measurements is not what shapes their perception of development. Each anecdote of experiencing development differs from one person to the other.

There is no arguing that some aspects of development are universal and hence are not dependent on the context in which they exist. If we are to take the definition and common measurements of development at face value then Ireland and the UAE would score much higher than Syria would.  In that respect, the United Arab Emirates ranks very high in human development, sustainability and efficiency, as well as in innovation scoring highest within Arab countries as well as globally. The same applies to Ireland. My argument here is not focused on the more formal assessments of development, but one that I’ve personally witnessed.

The stark differences between Damascus, Dubai and Dublin have left me nothing less than puzzled when attempting to assess how ‘developed’ each was. While all are very different, Ireland is the only democratic state out of the three that I’ve lived in. Visiting Europe for a holiday is very different to living in it. There are things that go unnoticed and that you only become aware of once you’ve become more familiar with its streets and its lifestyle.

Photo: Homelessness 011 (January 13th, 2014) by fio.PSD comunicazione via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Reflecting on when I used to live in Damascus prior to the war, not once did I see a homeless person sleeping on the street. This is not to say that there weren’t any people living in extreme poverty, but even the poorest person in Damascus had a roof over his head and could afford three basic meals. Does that make Syria developed in the aspect of homelessness? One could argue that it does when compared to European countries that are supposedly much more developed but still suffer from large numbers of homeless people dying on the streets from the cold.

The same applies for Dubai. However, emigrating to the UAE is not so easy if you aren’t financially capable of sustaining a living or if your employer is not covering your visa and living costs. Although there is a lot of controversy around the poor working conditions that labour workers coming over from India and Pakistan have to endure, Dubai is still a city that pays construction workers much more than their home-countries would while still covering transport and house rental costs. This gives them a chance to send their money back home to their families.

On the other hand, in democratic European cities including Paris and Dublin, the amount of homeless people I’d seen was absolutely shocking in comparison to what I was once used to. Although welfare support systems and their importance is much more emphasized in developed democratic countries, the stark difference between this issue here in Dublin and back home in Damascus (pre-war times) was very eye-opening. This may not be a conventional measure of development that one would necessarily consider. However, as my running argument suggests, what we see is what we process in our minds and shape our perceptions around. When you see many homeless people living and sleeping on the streets with death reports coming in often, you can’t help but question the extent to which living in a democratic country really is directly attributed to development.

  • Featured photo: Homelessness 011 (January 13th, 2014) by fio.PSD comunicazione via Flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND)