SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT CONCEPTS
The years after the Second World War witnessed an unprecedented and unrivalled push for social and economic development in most nations in the world. Development came to be seen as synonymous with social, political and economic changes in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean. These were the countries that were commonly labelled as either underdeveloped, developing, the third world or the South. The people inhabiting the third world are diverse but are united by the desire to develop. Critics of the third world only see the inhabitants as being common because of their reception of foreign or development aid from the developed world. These countries have formulated development policies and programs toward this end. It is, therefore, important to explain what development means. Development, in the third world understanding, is the capacity of a nation to enhance the human capacity with the intention of achieving higher production in order to satisfy the citizen’s basic needs. Thus, the nations were interested in poverty, unemployment, and inequality reduction. These are the three challenges that many third world nations are still battling to attain. Suffice to say, any increase on any of the mentioned challenges means that the concerned country has not developed.
The development in the third world has been characterized by two development theories; the dependency and, modernization theories. The modernization theory viewed development as an evolutionary process; thus, the countries had to pass through several known stages to be modern (Matunhu 2011, p. 65). The communities in the developing world were seen as backward and characterized by superstitions, and emotionally fatalistic approach to the world. One explanation that was presented to explain the under-development was the third world poor concept of time. Consequently, for these countries to develop, they had to follow the developed world. Secondly, the western world had their values but they were not enslaved by them; they were, therefore, forward looking and not fatalistic. The Third World countries were encouraged to adopt scientific tools if they were to become fully developed in a span of few decades. However, most third world countries spent the 1960s fighting for independence, coup d’états, or ethnic violence largely encouraged by the Western countries as they fought the Cold War with communism (Matunhu 2011, p. 66).
The third world had to kowtow to the influence of the developed countries which led to the weakening of their institutions and inability to develop. Some historians have observed that the developed countries significantly contributed to the underdevelopment of the Third World. History is replete with evidence on how the Western world exploited the developing nations through colonialism, neo-colonialism and merchant capitalism. Colonialism and neo-colonialism are the exploitations of the weaker nation resources by s stronger one to enrich the colonizer. Colonialism contributed to the underdevelopment through deliberate policies and programs that were meant to serve the interests of the colonizers while subjugating the colonized. Neo-colonialism is the socio-economic domination of the colonial master through the puppet governments that they kept in power. Neo-colonialism also introduced international laws that regulate trade and commerce in their favour (Matunhu 2011, p. 69). The neo-colonialists sort to standardize trade to their advantage, a practice that saw the growth of multinational corporations who operated in the third world because of cheap labour. The profit accrued was repatriated to the West leaving nothing to the host nation. There are other historians who view the underdevelopment of the third world through the dependency theory. To these historians, capitalism exploited the third world countries by incorporating the political elites into the multinationals in order to perpetuate the exploitation.
The theory of development as it is known today was unheard of before the second half of the twentieth century. The structures of colonial power and its dominance of the world in late and early twentieth century made little accommodation for social and economic advancement in what is now known as the third world or developing world. The colonial economic machinery primarily supplied imperial powers with cheap labour and raw materials to feed the imperial consumerism (Raggamby and Rubik 2012, p. 6). Although the richer countries had attained the status of progress and modernization, they exhibited little concern for social justice or equity issues even among their people. The desperation witnessed in Europe and United States of America demonstrated that the policy was not driven by the need to satisfy the majority of the people. However, with the collapse of the colonial power relations after the Second World War, perception and policy began to change and social improvement became a policymaker’s clarion call. Economic development came to occupy a central place in theory and place, including the competition during the Cold War between capitalism and communism. The perception then was that developing countries were to pass through several developmental stages from traditional to maturity with high mass consumption. Thus, the underdeveloped countries could hope to achieve the modern status of the Western countries. The theory was widely received by developmental theorists.
As development policies evolved, scholars and policymakers adopted different approaches at different times. Initially, the emphasis was on industrialization and agriculture, however, in late 1970s, the emphasis shifted to basic needs with nutrition, education, sanitation and employment occupying a central position in the economic discourses. The spirit of the economic policy saw the creation of the United Nations Development program (Alemazung 2010, p. 67). In the 1980s, the focus was on structural adjustment, which called for the liberalization of trade and overhauling exchange rates. These shifting policies were the Western World attempts at micro-managing the third world. The structural adjustments proponents were the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The two institutions were used by the neo-colonialist purportedly to correct the mistakes made by earlier regimes that had operated government-centred development policies in the developing nations (Matunhu 2011, p. 70).
After independence, the colonizers continued with what became known as development politics for the newly independent states in the third world based on the explicit intention to get the control of resources, politics and economy of the ex-colonies; consequently, the development politics, as introduced by the former colonial masters at the formation of the European Commission, was intended to continue with the destruction that started with colonization. The development aid became a mechanism to provide assistance to developing the emerging nations (Makinde 2013, p. 256). The European Commission formed the European Development Bank expressly to provide developmental funds to the ex-colonies, with a condition that development politics was expected to promote sustainable economic and social growth in the underdeveloped as well as fostering democracy and the rule of law. The Western world was also concerned that the developing nations could fall in the hands of the Soviet Union, a country that presented real political, economic and military threat to the West. Thus, the West used the development aid in the hope that the new nations would not embrace communism (Alemazung 2010, p. 69). Fifty years after independence, and the ample economic aid given to the developing world, it is still poor, and the gap between the affluent North and the poor South is widening. The failure of the developing nations to achieve development can largely be blamed on these external factors that continue to exert political influence on the developing nations’ leaders (Pieterse 2009. P. 4)
Critics of foreign aid to the developing nation argue that it is used as a bribe given to the impoverished nations by the rich Western states so that they can access the resources, labour, and market cheaply (Makinde 2013, p. 257). Thus, the bribe in the form of development aid is meant to address the interests of the rich Western countries. In line with that argument the definition of economic aid is the good intention of the Western world that, however, resulted in wanton looting of the resources with the connivance of the elites. Thus, the conditional development aid and the Cold War contribution to the economic and political development are often revealed by the negative albeit varying consequences (Alemazung 2010, p. 71). The politics of tyranny supported by the Western aid saw the collapse of the struggling young nations due to economic mismanagement and decadence. The crumbling tyrannical government turned to the international donors, and the ex-colonial masters, who through such organizations as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the European Development Bank, gave these failed leaders more monetary support. Although the colonial ties led to the transfer of funds to bad government, the introduction of conditional aid did not amount to anything positive (Makinde 2013, p. 258). The introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programs in the 1980s was meant to force the bad government to implement policies that would see improvement on the development of these countries (Matunhu 2011, p. 71). The situation only got worse. The problem was created by the patronage of Western capital. The cold war era saw the Western world give considerable aid to tyrants in the third world (Pearce et al. 2013, p. 4). The argument that the West was only interested with the democratization of the third world countries was only a smokescreen considering the support continued long after the cold war ended. It can, therefore, be argued that the West’s economic interest in the third world was detrimental to the third world people due to the exploitative character of the support (Makinde 2013, p. 259). Thus, the sustainable development concepts only perpetuate the wide divide between the rich and the poor as well as within and across nations. Over the last several decades, there have been increased concerns on rethinking development as well as a re-examination of the traditional mode of development as dictated by the logic of industrialization (Rogers et al. 2012, 12). There has been a renewed public interest on the uncertain future of renewable resources and the environment while reinforcing the focus on the issue of sustainability. Because of the environmental challenges caused by industrialization, there has emerged a considerable shift on how people view development toward the sustainable or enduring mode (Alemazung 2010, p. 72). However, the mainstream development theories which have the dominant paradigm in development thinking are indifferent toward environmental related issues and the question of sustainability. Most of the theories concern themselves with economic growth or stagnation, political stability or conflict, market competition or failure and class exploitation (Rapley 2007, p. 24). However, since early 1970s, there has been an expansion of environmental consciousness as a result of the destruction of the environment, resource depletion and human effect on the global ecosphere. Consequently, the international organizations have picked the rhetoric of environment, development, and sustainability (Andreea and Victor 2014, p. 117). The rhetoric has been aided by the movement by international bodies towards shifting the focus to the environment through global treaties and agreements. However, some scholars are of the opinion that the significance of the global events has been undermined in the developing world by the need for contemporary pro-market reforms and policies, which have been influenced by the recent ideological shift in the capitalists’ states toward market-intensive policies (Makinde 2013, p. 260). The African, Asian, and Latin American states have also adopted the market-oriented reforms. The reforms include privatization, liberalization and deregulation that came with the emergence of neo-liberal governments in the developing world (Purvis and Grainger 2013, p. 5).
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