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Five Assumptions of Dominant Thinking in International Development


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Lawrence Haddad analyzes two key global crises of the past few years: climate change and the global financial crisis. He challenges five mainstream assumptions about development thinking and assesses how they have emerged from these on-going stress tests.
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Thematic Section
Five Assumptions of Dominant Thinking
in International Development
LAWRENCE HADDAD ABSTRACT Lawrence Haddad analyzes two key global crises
of the past few years: climate change and the global financial crisis.
He challenges five mainstream assumptions about development
thinking and assesses how they have emerged from these on-going
stress tests.
KEYWORDS climate change; global financial crisis; economic
growth; international development cooperation; bottom billion
The past few years have been dominated by two of the largest global negative external-
ities ever generated: climate change and the global financial crisis
. They followed on
from other crises caused by a rapid rise in world food and fuel prices. One crisis (climate
change) is a slow burn, the other (the global financial crisis) a forest fire. They were
generated largely by the rich countries, and hit t he poorest countries hard. This article
asks what have these two crises told us about some dominant assumptions underlying
mainstream ideas about development. The article f irst asks, why reassess these assump-
tions now? The next section highlights five key assumptions and reviews the case for
reassessment. The last section concludes with some suggestions for ways forward.
Why ask whether current development thinking is fit for purpose?
So why reflect on assumptions now? Crises come and go ^ what is so different about
these two?
First, they originate in the richer countries and thus those of us who live in these
countries have an obligation to reflect and question.
Second, they are systemic in their origin. The global financial crisis is the result
of weak regulation of international and national financial systems, and climate change
is the result of rapid increases in growth and carbon emissions.
Third, they are global in their impacts. They affect more people than other crises
and they have done so very quickly. It is true that Asia was hardly affected in terms
of GDP per capita (Figure 1), but there has been considerable variation within the region
(Dolphin and Chappell,2010). The CIS countries fared the worst, then the West, and then
Africa and the Middle East. But all were affected. The changes were rapid. Global hunger
Development, 2012,55(1), (34–44)
r2012 Society for International Development 1011-6370/12
Development (2012) 55(1), 34–44. doi:10.1057/dev.2011.106
numbers had remained static for the previous dec-
ade between 800 and 900 million, but in just two
years they broke one billion and are not yet back to
pre-crisis levels (FAO, 2010). Poverty in terms of the
number of people living below US$1.25 or $2 a day
will increase by 50^120 million depending on the
cut-off and year used (Ravallion, 2009a).
Fourth, the crises will have lasting impacts.
The global financial crisis will have a generational
legacy through its impacts on infant development.
Using data collected over a 35-year period in
Guatemala, Hoddinott et al. (2010) demonstrate
that individuals stunted at age 36 months attai-
ned 3.8 fewer grades of schooling by age18, earned
62 percent lower wages as adults and were 31
percentage points more likely to live in a poor
household. Temporary impacts of the crisis
will be transmitted across decades via infant
Fifth, we did not foresee the impacts of the
crises very clearly. The British Academy, in its
to the Queen in July 2009 about the global
financial crisis, puts it well: ‘Many people did
foresee the crisis. However, the exact form that it
would take and the timing of its onset and
ferocity were foreseen by nobody’. There were
macro warnings, but the will or ability to act was
absent. The micro warnings were diffuse and
late in being picked up. For climate change, the
debate continues about whether global tempera-
tures are rising, whether they are caused by
humans, their impacts and what to do about
them. Those who advocate insurance first (act
now, even if there is a small cost to prevent the
chance of a much bigger one later on ^ essentially
the Stern Review approach) are branded as alar-
mists, and those who are worried about whether
the uncertainties are forcing too many conces-
sions to growth are branded deniers.
Sixth, it is not clear that we are any less vulner-
able to future global systemic shocks. The world
food system might be a little more resilient to oil
price-induced shocks, given the learning from
biofuels (Rosegrant, 2008); however, the popu-
lation and income increases of the next 40 years
combined with the need for agriculture to reduce
emissions means that there will be very few ways
to achieve food production that is productive,
equitable and sustainable (Godfray et al., 2010).
While the economists seem to have reached a
Figure 1: Real GDP per capita growth in emerging and developing economies (%)
Source: Dolphin and Chappell (2010)
Haddad: Dominant Thinking in International Development
consensus on what needs to be done to avert the
global financial crisis (Evans, 2010; Turner et al.,
2010), the political power of the banking industry
means that it is very uncertain that options to
increase financial resilience will be implemented
(Persaud, 2010). Against this backdrop of uncer-
tainty and volatility, Kanbur (2009) has claimed
that crise s are the ‘new normal’.
Finally, there does seem to be some political
space for discussion. The Washington Consensus
has be en pronounced dea d more time s than the fa-
mous parrot (although the fundamentals are
probably faring much better).
There is the
Sarkozy Commission (Stiglitz et al., 2009) and
others (Layard, 2010) arguing for better ways of
assessing the progress of nations. Most govern-
ments see the need to reduce the energy intensity
of growth, even if they do not accept the need to
use less energy overall. Therefore, there does seem
to be some political space for change even if it is
not too far away from current orthodoxies. Que-
stioning underlying assumptions is part of good
research and vigorous policy processes, but the
current time period ^ while new ideas jockey
for position in a relatively open field ^ makes deli-
berate reflection particularly important.
What are the assumptions underlying
dominant development thinking and
how well did they emerge from the
stress test of the past few years?
It is getting more difficult to put labels on sets of
development ideas. More countries are finding
their own meanings and ways of developing. It is
the underlying assumptions that may feed into
many ‘idea tribes’, which need to be examined.
There are many as sumptions that cou ld have been
selected for review in this article, and indeed the
Reimagining Development initiative is a multi-
sited enquiry into just what those assumptions
are across a range of contexts.
Assumption 1: Economic growth is typically a
good thing for long-term poverty reduction
When I was trainedas an economist, the view that
growth is necessary but not sufficient for long
term poverty reduction was seen as wishy-
For development, growth was sufficient.
Today, the ‘necessary but not sufficient’ position
is a mainstream economics position (even Joe
Stiglitz (2010) used it in his PowerPoints for
the 2010 Chronic Poverty Conference). Collier’s
Bottom Billion (2007) ‘growth is not a cure-all,
but lack of growth is a kill-all’ is a restatement of
that sentiment. Growth is good, or at worst a
missed opportunity. Sustained poverty reduction
cannot occur without it. Do these statements still
convey too much optimism about growth?
For Bra z il, b e t w e e n 1985 and 2004 t he r e was
little growth to talk about, but significant poverty
reduction occurred through macro stability and
social programmes (Ravallion, 2009b). Does this
invalidate the statement that ‘lack of growth is
a kill all’? Probably not. But recent research has
confirmed the highly variable nature of growth
on poverty.
First, the source of growth matters for poverty
reduction. Cross-country econometric work (Ligon
and Sadoulet, 2007) reported in the 2008 World
Development Report shows that a 1 percent gain in
GDPoriginating in agriculture generates a 6 percent
increase in overall expenditures for the poorest 10
percent of the population. This compares with a 4
percent increase in overall expenditures for the next
poorest, and 3 percent for the subsequent decile. In
stark contrast, GDP growth originating in non-agri-
culture sectors generates zero growth for the poor-
est 10 percent of the population, a 1 percent
increase in expenditures for the next 10 percent
and a 2 percent increase thereafter. For a large set
of countries within a cross-country regression fra-
mework, Loayza and Raddatz (2009) found that
growth in labour-intensive sectors was the most
poverty reducing. For India, Datt and Ravallion
(2010) found that pre 1991, rural growth was
more poverty reducing than urban growth, but for
the post-1991 period the reverse held true. Finally,
we know that increases in GDP per capita from
natural resources, if managed badly, can lead to
negative consequences for poverty (Wick and Bulte,
Second, we know that growth has a weaker
impact on poverty the more unequal a society
is. Evidence is very consistent at the country,
Development 55(1): Thematic Section
regional and global levels (Geda et al., 2009 for
Ethiopia, Fosu, 2009 for several countries in
sub-Saharan Africa and Ferreira and Ravallion,
2008 more generally).
Third, certain types of growth are more dama-
ging to the environment than others.We know en-
ergy production is the most carbon emitting
activity (Collier, 2010). And we know that a wide
range of Human Development Index (HDI) values
are observed with relatively small per capita eco-
logical footprints and that a wide range of per
capita ecological footprints are observed at high
levels of HDI (Comim, 2008), although there are
no estimates as far as I can tell about the impacts
of different types of growth on environmental
footprints.We also do not know how the poverty^
growth elasticity varies by the greenness’ of
growth (Urban, 2010).
Fourth, growth does not ne cessari ly drive down
the kinds of relative poverty that richer societies
care about and some types of growth may even
increase it. Jackson (2009) argues that the rich
countries are ‘hooked on growth’and need a pro-
sperity that can do without growth ‘and may
eventually be able to replace it’.
The good news about growth is that there are
choices we can make to shape the kind of growth
we want (Chang, 2010). For example, choices
about which goods and services are covered by
the market and which are not, who can enter
and who cannot, the conditions of trade, and the
regulation of prices.
In sum, we need to see growth’ much as we
see technology: something that can be a force for
good or a force for bad. It depends on who deve-
loped it, who assessed it, who regulates it and
who can access it. In other words, the type of
growth we get is the outcome of political choices.
Assumption 2: The West is the starting
point for thinking about international
Ideas and movements that gained traction first in
the West have been powerful forces ^ good and
bad ^ in development.
Few who work in inter-
national development hold this position (i.e. that
the West is a starting point) openly or knowingly,
but it is inevitable that the values that shape us
and the policy solutions that we see around us as
we grow and learn will try to shape our views of
how policy and practice work and should work
elsewhere (Fuchs et al.,1998).
Table 1 breaks these assumptions down by
whether they are knowing/unknowing and whe-
ther they a re explicit/implicit.
In quadrant 1, we can place assumptions about
free trade and the wisdom or otherwise of support-
ing i nfant industrie s.The West believes that ce rtain
policies work in the West and that if more countries
adopted them everyone would be better off. Chang
(2003) has shown how there must be considerable
scepticism placed on this perspective. What the
West says is ‘good for the rest’ is not necessarily the
case and does not necessarily reflect the policies
the West adopted during their own development.
In quadrant 2, there are assumptions about goals
and aspirations driven by assumptions over what
is good in the West. Is absence of conflict a good
thing? Yes, if everything else is in place, but perhaps
not if it is the absence of conflict that is the barrier
to social progress. Should health systems developed
in the West in the mid-twentieth century look
like health systems developed in the twenty-first
century in Asia, Latin America and Africa? Not
necessarily, given current combinations of know-
ledge, technology and tax revenues.
Table 1. Types of assumptions about international development
Knowing Unknowing
Explicit 1. Assumptions about policies
to pursue
2. Assumptions about goals
and aspirations
Implicit 3. Assumptions about how
things work
4. Assumptions about universal
Haddad: Dominant Thinking in International Development
In quadrant 3, we find ideas about how things
work. How markets work is a good example. Mar-
kets in the West are not how markets have to look
everywhere ^ they are the outcome of political
choices. In quadrant 4, we are into the territory
of assumptions about universal behaviours and
incentives. What is the preference for equity in a
society? For relational and material well-being?
For change and continuity? For rationalism and
religion? These will vary by culture and by the
levels o f a variety of development indicators.
Schmitz (2007) captures many of these ideas by
highlighting a strand of development thinking,
which he calls ‘find your own way’. Essentially,
this is looking for solutions from the ground up
while not forgetting the larger system. He notes
that this is not always an easy message for aid do-
nors who seek organizational coherence around
standard approaches.
Have the crises forced us to become ever more
humble i n theWest and rea lize t hat we do not have
a monopoly on solutions nor the rest of the world
a monopoly on problems (Olukoshi, 2007)? A con-
text of increasing uncertainty and an increas-
ingly multi-sited capacity to articulate ideas
make this hastening of humility inevitable.
McCulloch and Sumner (2009) conclude that
‘The global f inancial crisis may change the devel-
opment paradigm ^ but it is most likely to do so
through its impact on the attitudes of developing
country policymakers towards the prevailing pol-
icy prescriptions, rather than through major
structural changes in global economic govern-
ance’. Even the World Bank rec ognizes t he need to
democratize development economics’, noting that
a ‘multipolar g lobal economy requires multipolar
knowledge’ where the f low of knowledge is no
longer North to South, West to East, rich to poor
(Zoell ick, 2010).
But this reimagining is difficult. Some argue
that there is a ‘geography of thought’ (Nisbett,
2003) whereby geography, culture and history af-
fect how we see things and construct knowledge.
But it is increasingly important, if difficult, to re-
imagine others in more than one or two dimen-
sions in a distracting fast-paced world that in the
short term rewards simplicity even given the rise
in c omplexity (Chan, 2009).
Once we can achieve the state of openness ne-
cessary to reimagine, knowledge from the West
becomes simply one more type of local knowledge
(Olukoshi, 2007) and we can see the policy inno-
vations emerging from everywhere. Conditional
cash transfers in Latin America have now been
adopted in NewYork City; participatory budgeting
developed in Brazil and South Africa is being
considered in Europe; social accountability ideas
developed in the South should be at the heart
of emerging ideas about institutions to help
connect citizens and the state in Europe (Gaventa
and Barret t, 2010; Pi nto et al., 2010).
Assumption 3: Economics should be the
dominant discipline in the policy discourse
Economics as an analytical tool and as a generator
of evidence has a primacy in the international
development debate. This primacy has many
drivers including colonial economics (Tignor,
2005), reconstruction (the establishment of the
Bretton Woods organizations) and the economics
of the great depression (Skidelsky, 2009). This
drives and is further driven by the recruitment of
economists at major international development
research organizations. This primacy puts eco-
nomics in the spotlight when things go wrong.
Key assumptions of economics have been found
to do violence to realit y, and hence, via p oor policy
choices, violence to well-being. Core assumptions
around information asymmetries, definitions of
rationality, independence of behaviour, discount-
ing and the ability to insure against all risks
were shown wanting before 2008 (Coyle, 2007).
Krugman (2009) ‘dont mistake truth for beauty’
and Skidelsky (2009) ‘we need to acknowledge
irreducible uncertainties’ elaborate on how eco-
nomics got it wrong in the context of the global
financial crisis. The LSE letter to the Queen
describes the failure to predict the ferocity of the
crisis as a ‘failure of collective of imagination of
many bright people’, which leads me to conclude
that there are not enough checks and balances
in place to keep economics grounded in the
real world where flaws and friction are the
norm, not perfection and the absence of friction
(Krugman, 2009). Dasgupta (2005) describes
Development 55(1): Thematic Section
economic modelling as a‘strategic simplification of
complicated reality’. I would argue that the space
over which such strategic simplification is valid is
In terms of the other great crisis, global warm-
ing and natural resource mismanagement,
the use of economics gives us a very particular
perspective and one that is different from envi-
ronmental sciences. Collier (2010) shows how
economistic models can generate views about our
obligations to the future, which are profoundly
different to those generated by environmentalists.
He draws on mainstream environmental work to
suggest an alternative: the idea of custody. Unlike
preservation, custody of the natural world implies
that the current generation has to have an answer
to the future generations question: If you used
up these natural resources, did you leave us ‘man-
made’ assets of equal value? Collier argues that
if future individuals are wealthier, they will be
awash wit h ‘man-made’ asset s and wi ll value the
natural assets that we have used unsustainably
even more highly than we do.While utilitarianism
says that the richer the following generations
the fewer are our obligations to save assets for
them, the custodian principle suggests that the
increased wealth of the following generations
means that we have an even greater obligation
to answer their question from the future in a
satisfactory way.
Of course, there are plenty of counter-
views about whether economics is in trouble.
Halsey-Rogers (2010) concludes ‘the global crisis
does provide new information in key policy areas,
but it need not provoke any crisis of confidence
in the current state and direction of develop-
ment thinking ... over the longer term, the crisis
could have its biggest effects on the development
thinking of those who are not development spe-
cialists. In many cases, policy prescriptions from
policymakers and researchers from outside the
development field have relied on implicit or expli-
cit models that assume that developing-country
markets function much more like textbook models
than is actually the case. But if those outside the
development field have unrealistic expectations
about how well markets work in the developing
world, surely this raises the possibility that
those from wit hin the f ield and trai ned in the same
universities will too.
It seems to me that economists must become
much more alive to when their models and
assumptions can no longer offer a strategic
simplification of complex reality and in fact when
they begin to do violence to reality and to people’s
lives and livelihoods. This has fundamental impli-
cations for how economics is taught, the mix of
disciplines that development research organi-
zations hire and the heterogeneity of economics
schools and economic schools of thought that
they draw on.
Assumption 4: Collier’s bottom billion is
where international development
cooperation should be focused
In the past three^four years, the Collier thesis has
held s way about where inter national developme nt
cooperation should focus. Collier (2007) argues
that development cooperation should focus on
the 1 billion people living in countries that have
missed out on growth and development due to
a series of traps: conflict, being landlocked with
bad neighbours, poor governance of small states
and poor governance of natural resources. The
countries are mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and
Central Asia.
Have the crises challenged this assumption?
Perhaps. In terms of GDP per capita, South Asia
was well insulated from the global financial
crisis. But as we have seen, this preserved growth
does not seem to be that effective in reducing
poverty and undernutrition. Real per capita
income has increased by 50 percent over the
past 15 years in India. Over that time, infant
undernutrition rates have barely shifted (Deaton
and Drez e, 2009).
But GDP per capita is also the metric that
mechanistically determines whether a country
has a low- or middle-income label. Therefore, we
have a situation where growth can be good
enough to move countries from low- to middle-
income status ^ and hence out of development
cooperation territory ^ but not good enough
to reduce poverty and undernutrition. If a
massive global downturn cannot put a dent in
Haddad: Dominant Thinking in International Development
GDP per capita figures, it does not mean that
it cannot increase poverty and undernutrition.
As Figure 2 shows, poverty reduction was difficult
in India even before the global financial crisis
(Sumner, 2010). In fact, the performance of India
in ter ms of p overty reduct ion was even worse than
in low-income fragile states of the kind Collier
highlights. Has the global financial crisis shown
us the folly of relying on GDP per capita as a way
of prioritizing development cooperation? Has it
told us to focus on poor people not exclusively on
poor countries?
At current rates, India would meet its MDG1
target in 2043 (Haddad, 2009). It is not clear
whether the poor and malnourished in India are
subject to any of Collier’s traps, but they are
trapped. New ways of development cooperation
that work for this ‘other bottom billion, of people
living in poverty, need to be found.
Assumption 5: The international
development evidence base is
growing stronger
The body of data, information and knowledge on
international development is certainly growing
more rapidly than ever. Kanbur (2009) highlights
the post-1985 explosion of data. But is the body
growing stronger or just taller?
The crises cast a harsh light on the assumption
that the international development evidence
base is growing stronger. First, we could not even
measure the impact of the crisis on the level and
distribution of poverty and undernutrition. The
FAO did manage to generate rapid numbers on
hunger, but this was on the basis of national data
on food production and trade. We need to find
a middle ground where the quality of data collec-
tion is not so sensitive to crisis incidence.
Is this possible? New information technologies
are being used in many different ways ^ all at
a small scale ^ in health and nutrition service
delivery. Bhawsar (2009) lists 26 such case studies
and classifies the majority as successfu l.
Second, are we adding to the evidence base in
narrow ways? Halsey-Rogers (2010) states that
‘One salutary effect of the crisis may therefore
be a more realistic view of actual conditions ...
reinforce the trend in development thinking
toward a post-Washington Consensus that ^ while
still strongly market-oriented ^ is less ideological,
more pragmatic, and more empirically grounded’.
This emphasis is to be welcomed if it is focused
not only on what works, but also on why and
how things work. The increased emphasis on
internal validity (with randomized controlled
trials being the zenith of methods to do this) has
to be balanced with a strong focus on external
validity. Deaton (2010) notes how the proponents
of randomized controlled trials often argue for
external validity by failing to allow for the
unobservable effects that the internal validity is
so keen to control for. He concludes that ‘for an
RCT to produce ‘useful knowledge’’ beyond its
local context it must illustrate some general ten-
dency, some effect that is the result of mechanisms
that are likely to apply more broadly’.
Third, how effectively are we bringing in
non-expert knowledge? And fourth, how do we
connect more effectively with the knowledge held
by those outside the international development
Table 2 outlines the different categories of
knowledge by actor type (inside/outside deve-
lopment and expert/non-expert). Much of this
article has been about why expe rts identified with
development need to break out of their mindsets
and question assumptions. This is quadrant 1 in
the table.
Quadrant 2 stresses the need to bring in per-
spectives that are not identified with development,
210 199
low fragile middle
1988-90 2007-08
chinalow non
Figure 2: Changes in numbers in poverty1998^2007
Source: From data in Summer 2010
Development 55(1): Thematic Section
but shape the space, such as defence, business
and religion. Quadrant 3 describes new roles for
civil society associated with development. Here,
what is the role of the vast number of social
accounting mechanisms (see Joshi, forthcoming
for a wide-ranging and comprehensive review
and Pinto et al., 2010 for an in-depth review of
the potential for and of these methods in agri-
culture)? How do we incentivize responsiveness
to these kind of data and knowledge? Quadrant 4
generalizes the questions in quadrant 3 beyond
development’. Many books on development now
end with calls to collective action from‘the people’
(Stiglitz, 2006; Green, 2008; Col lier, 2010) to ‘make
globalisation work, to stop ‘plundering the planet’
to instigate a ‘new deal for a new century’. It is
hard to argue with these sentiments, but how will
this happen? How will this new collective, enabled
by the internet and mobile communications, be
catalyzed? This is an area ^ collective communi-
cative capability ^ that development experts need
to be working with civil society on to develop new
tools such as hunger reduction commitment
indices and georeferenced hunger maps to help
and pressurize policymakers.
Finally, what are the new mechanisms for glo-
bally constructed research? The Intergovernmen-
tal Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC), created
in 1988, held an iconic status as one of the few
institutions for organizing and grading research
so that it was globally constructed to guide global
action to address a global problem. But for a whole
range of reasons, some political, some technical,
some organizational, a shadow now hangs over
it. Does the IPCC model just need to have tighter
controls or is it a failed model for co-constructing
global knowledge?
More research is needed here.
This article has argued that the crises of the past
few years offer an important stress test of the key
assumptions underpi nning international develop-
ment thinking. The effects have been large, rapid
and global; they will be lasting and they were
unforeseen. There is never a bad time to test one’s
assumptions, and now, given some political space
for change, is a good time to do so. The fact that
the major perturbations began in the cradle of in-
ternational development provides an additional
imperative. The article has focused on five key
assumptions about growth,West is best, the domi-
nance of economics, the ways we prioritize devel-
opment cooperation and the strength of the
evidence base in development.
Was I thinking about some of these issues pre
crisis? Yes, the West is best and that economics is
in need of repair were two issues that I had been
focusing on. Here the crises generate additional
urgency. For the other three issues ^ growth,
development cooperation and the nature of
knowledge ^ the crises forced me to think more
about the validity of the assumptions that under-
lay them.
For growth, the article argues that we should
see it as something akin to technology: a force for
good under the right governance and a force for
bad under the wrong governance. The good news
is that the growth we get is the consequence of
choices, which are primarily political in nature.
Table 2. Different types of knowledge and expertise
Identified with development Not identified with development
Expert 1. Need to break out of old
mindsets; reimagine development;
help develop ways of integrating
different types of knowledge
2. How to engage with business;
diplomacy; defence; faiths; legal
General 3. New roles for normative civil
4. How to enhance collective
capabilities to pressure/lobby/
innovate for change?
Haddad: Dominant Thinking in International Development
For the West is best perspective, the challenge is
not so much to get away from this as an explicit
starting point ^ the numbers advocating this are
diminishing rapidly I think ^ but to devise ways
of throwing off any implicit shackles of one’s own
experience. How to reimagine outside of one’s
own context is difficult and must be done with
others from different contexts.
For economics, there need to be checks and bal-
ances so that it does not get so divorced from rea-
lity that it does bad things. It is probably no more
susceptible to this than any other discipline, but
its privileged position means that an increased fo-
cus on the governance of economics is vital. This
means incentives that promote a more diverse
economics profession and a more diverse set of
disciplines are recruited for policymaking.
On prioritiz ing development cooperation, it is
time to revisit the question of where the balance
of focus lies between the poorest countries and
the poorest people. People within middle-income
countries are trapped in poverty. India has 450
million living in poverty and they are trapped
within a narrative of prosperity that deters devel-
opment cooperation.
Finally, on the evidence base, is more always
better? Are we standing on or slipping off the
shoulders of giants? My sense is that where it is
easy to generate evidence, we are generating it.
Where it is difficult ^ credibly tracking crises in
real time, globally constructed knowledge, build-
ing knowledge that has external, as well as inter-
nal validity ^ we are not.
I want to thank Naomi Hossein and SaraWalcott for comments on an earlier draft. All errors of fact and
logic are mine.
1 This article is written as a part of a project called ‘Reimagining Development’, funded by IDS and DFID. A series
of case studies at 34 places, and spaces is available at
3 For a post-G20 London conversation with the coiner of the term Washington Consensus, JohnWilliamson, see here:
4 See, for example, this quote from one of my Professors at Stanford, Robert Lucas (1988: 3).
5 Humphrey (2007) notes the women’s movement and the green movement as positive influences. And one
can think of structural adjustment as a failed idea from the West’s emphasis on neo-liberal remedies for its own
economie s i n the 1980s.
6 Se e Hulme (2010) for an interesting dis cussion of the diff iculty of governing global knowledge mechan isms.
Bhawsar, Rahul Dev (2009) Review of PDA/Mobile Phone Approaches to Improving Health and Nutrition Systems,
Madhya Pradesh: MPTAST.
Chan, Stephen (2009) The End of Certainty, London: Zed Books.
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Development 55(1): Thematic Section
... Since the agreement of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (OECD, 2005), and in the context of significant global negative externalities such as climate change and the global financial crisis (Haddad, 2012), there has been an increased interest in understanding both how aid effectiveness is evaluated and which factors contribute to the success of aid programs and projects. As Ofir (2010) notes, there is a need for deeper understanding of the essential and Factors Affecting the Relative Success Ó 2018 The Author(s) 0957-8811 The European Journal of Development Research sufficient conditions for success, and also of the context necessary to achieve successful implementation and sustained impacts from agricultural research. ...
... As in the companion study, the results from this study suggest that there was a good convergence of assessment amongst project participants about the most important factors influencing project success, with about three-quarters of the responses relating to 13 of the identified success factors. This suggests that the majority of research project participants have a good understanding of the factors that influence the success of collaborative forestry research projects, which is consistent with the view of Haddad (2012) that the agricultural development evidence base needs to be broadened beyond the views of evaluation experts. It is encouraging that all of these 'most important' factors can be influenced by research program managers, or project leaders and researchers, during project design and implementation. ...
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The success of research for development projects is of keen interest to project funders and participating researchers, and underpins project impact. This paper reports a qualitative investigation of factors identified by project researchers as affecting relative success in ten collaborative forestry research projects in Indonesia. Interviews with 33 project participants identified 30 factors that influence project success. The most frequently identified factors were scientists’ commitment and collaboration; collaborative scoping and design; funding and equipment; effective communications and networks; implementation flexibility, monitoring and review; and skills mix and time allocations. The relative success of projects was evaluated through an analysis of project records, and examination of three projects of different relative success provided evidence of relationships between relative success and the identified success factors. As most of the success factors relate to project design or implementation, this knowledge can assist funders, research managers and project staff to improve project success.
... This shift has implications for debates on the future of aid, its allocation and purpose (see for discussion Glennie, 2011;Herbert, 2012;Kanbur and Sumner, 2012;Keeley, 2012;Koch, 2015;Lundsgaarde, 2012;Ottersen et al. 2014;Poke and Whitman, 2011) and the continued relevance of the country classification categories that are used in debate over aid allocations and more generally (see for discussion Alonso 2012;Alonso et al., 2014;Madrueño-Aguilar, 2015;Vasquez and Sumner, 2013;. More fundamentally, this paper argues there are questions about whether the shift implies a need to revisit theories of the causes of global poverty (see for related discussions Haddad, 2012Haddad, , 2014Sumner, 2010;. ...
... See for range of discussions see:Alkire et al., 2011Alkire et al., , 2015a2015b;Alonso 2012;Alonso et al., 2014;Clarke and Feeny, 2011;Carbone, 2013; Edward and Sumner, 2012;Glennie, 2011;Haddad, 2012Haddad, , 2014Herbert, 2012;Kanbur and Sumner, 2012;Keeley, 2012;Koch, 2015; Mallet and Sumner, 2013;Lundsgaarde, 2012; Madrueño-Aguilar, 2015;Ottersen et al. 2014; Poke and Whitman, 2011;Sumner, 2010Sumner, , 2012Vasquez and Sumner, 2013;.2 Thanks to Isa Baud and Laura Camfield for comments on an earlier version of this paper. ...
... If social workers are not adequately trained to work in international development, the profession will forego opportunities to influence the field of development with core humancentric values and practices -a field that is otherwise dominated by economic, neoliberal, and market-oriented values (Haddad, 2012). Incidentally, there is a call within international development circles for a diversification of disciplines to contribute to policymaking and practice, and to provide checks-and-balances for market practices that continue to direct human development policy (Haddad, 2012). ...
... If social workers are not adequately trained to work in international development, the profession will forego opportunities to influence the field of development with core humancentric values and practices -a field that is otherwise dominated by economic, neoliberal, and market-oriented values (Haddad, 2012). Incidentally, there is a call within international development circles for a diversification of disciplines to contribute to policymaking and practice, and to provide checks-and-balances for market practices that continue to direct human development policy (Haddad, 2012). There are ample opportunities for professional social workers to respond to this call. ...
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Social work students often face personal and institutional challenges prior to, during, and after international field placements. If not managed, these challenges may compromise students’ professional development and hinder their meaningful contribution to placements abroad. The latter is of particular concern when students from the Global North are placed in the Global South, where uncontested ethnocentrism may exacerbate post-colonial power dynamics. In this article, we evaluate current social work literature on international field placements and set forth challenges that students commonly encounter. We review 24 previous studies, from which four personal and five institutional challenges are identified and assessed. We then recommend five actions through which these challenges might be managed and suggest implications for schools of social work.
... 'International development' is a discursive product of the post-WWII period and was institutionalised in the second half of the twentieth century. Most of what we read and hear about development, including the SDGs, its targets and indicators, rest on the assumptions of mainstream economic thinking, outlined by Haddad (2012): economic growth leads to poverty reduction, economics is the dominant discipline in policy discourse, the West needs to drive international development, and that international development evidence base is becoming stronger. These assumptions also underpin key writing on the SDGs such as Sachs et al. (2019). ...
... This shift has implications for debates on the future of aid, its allocation, and purpose (see for discussion Glennie 2011;Herbert 2012;Kanbur and Sumner 2012;Keeley 2012;Koch 2015;Lundsgaarde 2012;Ottersen et al. 2014;Poke and Whitman 2011), and the continued relevance of the country classification categories that are used in debates over aid allocations and more generally (see for discussion Alonso 2012;Alonso et al. 2014;Madrueño-Aguilar 2016;Sumner 2013, 2015). More fundamentally, there are questions about whether the shift implies a need to revisit theories of the causes of global poverty (see for related discussions Haddad 2012Haddad , 2014Sumner 2010Sumner , 2012Sumner , 2016. ...
... Metaphors such as 'putting countries in the driver's seat' abound in policy discussions. In reality, development cooperation is often influenced by donors' own development trajectories (or 'driving skills', as the metaphor goes) which nurtures a persistent unofficial narrative of development based on progress in OECD states (Haddad 2012;Rottenburg 2009). Taking the case of security sector reform in post-conflict states, Scheye and Peake (2005) suggest that it appears paradoxical that reform initiatives need to be locally owned, yet it is the previous actions of the presupposed owners that generate the need for reform in the first place. ...
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The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 landmark report ‘Partners in Development’ by the Pearson Commission of International Development. This report first acknowledged the importance of ownership and partnership as guiding principles for international development cooperation, which since feature centrally in the international development policy debate. Current trends show that promoting ownership today remains as challenging as it was back then. During 2005-2008 strong political momentum was generated by an international aid effectiveness agenda that revolved around the principle of ownership and emphasised direct support to nationally determined plans. This ‘government ownership’ agenda has in recent years slipped to the side-lines. As a contribution to this ongoing debate in Sweden and beyond, this study assesses the continuing relevance of ownership as a guiding principle for development cooperation in today’s world. Today’s global development narrative has become more inclusive and broader in terms of subject-matter, the actors involved and the interests that drive them. Crucially, today’s agenda broadens the focus beyond national development challenges towards greater emphasis on cross-border challenges that countries may only successfully face when addressing these together. Contrary to this recognition, current geopolitical realities and the encompassing pressure on multilateral institutions lower the prospects for such cross-border challenges to be engaged with effectively. Finally, recent years show both a shrinking and changing of the space and agency of civil society that weaken prospects for broad-based ownership of development.
... 1 See for range of discussion: Alkire et al., 2011Alkire et al., , 2015aAlkire et al., , 2015bAlonso 2012;Alonso et al., 2014;Clarke and Feeny, 2011;Carbone, 2013;Edward and Sumner, 2014;Glennie, 2011;Haddad, 2012Haddad, , 2014Herbert, 2012;Kanbur and Sumner, 2012;Keeley, 2012;Koch, 2015;Sumner and Mallet, 2013;Lundsgaarde, 2012;Madrueño-Aguilar, 2015;Ottersen et al. 2014;Poke and Whitman, 2011;Sumner, 2010Sumner, , 2012Sumner, 2013, 2016. 2 For example, the 15 NPLs used for the $1.90 data date from 1997 on average, and thus, on average, means 14 years of inflation data from the world's poorest countries are required to bring the line to 2011. The oldest line in the sub-set is from 1988/9, for Mali and entailing some 22 years of consumer price index (CPI) data from Mali. ...
... ;Haddad (2012);Glazebrook (2013);Kim et al. (2000);Rahnema & Bawtree (2000). For more information on these sources, please see the reference list for the article Hewitt, K., 2013, 'Disasters in "development" contexts: Contradictions and options for a preventive approach', Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies 5(2), Art. ...
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The relations of development and disaster offer a starting point for an overview of disaster risk reduction (DRR) in African contexts. A social vulnerability approach is adopted with its goal of improving conditions for persons and places most at risk. However, this approach faces serious contradictions in both the disasters and development scenes. Disaster events and losses have grown exponentially in recent decades. So have advances in disaster-related knowledge and the institutions and material resources devoted to disaster management. Evidently, the latter have not reduced disaster incidence or over all losses. Similar contradictions appear in development. By some measures, in most developing countries the economy has grown much faster than population. Yet, indebtedness, unemployment and insecurity seem worse in many countries. Poverty, the avowed target, remains huge in urban, peri-urban and rural areas singled out by disaster losses. Problems also arise from separate treatment of development and disaster. Climate change and the global financial crises challenge some of the most basic assumptions. The promise of 'developed nations', built around massive use of fossil fuels, puts global and African economic growth on a collision course with environmental calamity. The 2008 financial crisis has undermined the safety of global majorities, as well as reliance on development assistance. The case for alternatives in development and DRR is reinforced, including the vulnerability-reducing responses highlighted in the Hyogo framework for action. However, this is being undermined by a return to a civil defence-type approach, an increasingly militarised, and for-profit, focus on emergency management.
Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that people died not because of a lack of food availability in a country but because some people lacked entitlements to that food. Is a similar situation now the case for global poverty, meaning that national resources are available but not being used to end poverty? This paper argues that approximately three-quarters of global poverty, at least at the lower poverty lines, could now be eliminated – in principle – via redistribution of nationally available resources in terms of cash transfers funded by new taxation and the reallocation of public spending. We argue that the findings provide a rationale for a stronger consideration of some national redistribution for purely instrumental reasons: to reduce or end global poverty quicker than waiting for economic growth. We find that at lower poverty lines ending global poverty may now be within the financial capacities of most national governments of developing countries either in the form of potential new taxation or reallocation of existing public finances though this is not the case at higher poverty lines. In summary, reducing global poverty at lower poverty lines is increasingly a matter of national inequality.
This article reviews the debate on the changing 'geography' or location of global poverty. Specifically, that most global poverty is concentrated in a set of populous countries that have transitioned from low income countries to middle income countries. The article argues that the shift in global poverty implies a questioning of the dominant theory of absolute poverty in all but the world's very poorest countries: that is, that poverty in developing countries is explicable at societal level by insufficient public and private resources to address absolute poverty. Instead, it is argued that a structural theory-meaning here a theory that takes account of questions of distribution-is increasingly relevant to most (but not all) of global poverty. © 2016 European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes.
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A new CEP report says that the financial system has become far more complicated than it need to be - and dangerously unstable too
The authors revisit the findings of their past research on poverty and growth in India in the light of the 14 rounds of the National Sample Survey now available for the period since economic reforms began in 1991. They find that the rate of poverty reduction has increased in the post-reform period, compared to the previous 30-year period, although it is still too early to say if this marks a new trend. In contrast to the pre-reform period, the post-reform process of urban economic growth appears to have brought significant gains to the rural poor as well as to the urban poor.
This paper reviews recent evidence on food intake and nutrition in India. It attempts to make sense of various puzzles, particularly the decline of average calorie intake during the last 25 years. This decline has occurred across the distribution of real per capita expenditure, in spite of increases in real income and no long-term increase in the relative price of food. One hypothesis is that calorie requirements have declined due to lower levels of physical activity or improvements in the health environment. If correct, this does not imply that there are no calorie deficits in the Indian population — nothing could be further from the truth. These deficits are reflected in some of the worst anthropometric indicators in the world, and the sluggish rate of improvement of these indicators is of major concern. Yet recent trends remain confused and there is an urgent need for better nutrition monitoring.
The depth and breadth of the current crisis has led many to suggest that it will fundamentally change development thinking and practice. We review four ways in which the crisis may affect the "development paradigm": changes to global economic governance; new thinking on development policy; opportunities to institutionalise social protection; and the implementation of a Green New Deal. We conclude with notes of both optimism and pessimism. The global financial crisis may change the development paradigm - but it is most likely to do so through its impact on the attitudes of developing country policymakers towards the prevailing policy prescriptions, rather than through major structural changes in global economic governance. Although the geopolitical and attitudinal changes are likely to be significant, it is likely that the development paradigm after the crisis will be rather similar to that before. Nevertheless small changes can make quite significant differences. A greater tendency for developing countries to explore new development models and to rely on their own analysis and knowledge to fashion solutions to the problems they face, could be a positive outcome of the crisis.