Protect human rights, empower women, create jobs, strengthen the economy, spread democracy, save children, pipe water, grow crops…the benefits of development are a shining torch that many in the international community use to guide their foreign and domestic policy (or so at least, they would have us believe).
A few contentious issues arise when we ask ourselves in which direction we are supposed to be ‘developing’ and tensions run high when foreign powers are accused of buying political influence with aid or investment. America might be used to accusations of coca-cola imperialism from the more cynical of global analysts, but look to the rise of Chinese aid in Africa for similar examples of private and state investment that mirror both American praise and criticism. Development has become a catch-all term for promoting good governance, human security, environmental sustainability and the myriad complex factors that lay between. The purported achievements of sound development are so diverse that the Millennium Development Goals set in by the UN in 2000 ranged from halting the spread of HIV to building an open international financial system for all.
In an attempt to secure the globe, or at least whatever small part of it we happen to rule, global citizens currently strive toward the goal of Development, although what this means exactly varies according to your cultural, political and social orientations. From a human security perspective we can see clearly that access to education, sanitation and general stability are highly likely to reduce your chances of contracting HIV or any one of the myriad preventable diseases that decimate the lives of millions. But in terms of regime stability, securing your political cronies and your favored financial systems may not be so compatible with the development agenda of external powers. It might be easy to wag fingers at US or Chinese economic investment, business loans donated in the quest to end HIV, but the exportation of daytime TV drama that accompanies the newly purchased TV sets in developing countries has an equally significant role to play. Since US consumers first saw images of the Vietnam War on their brand new 1960s TV sets, populations across the world have stared first in awe then indignation at satellite images of what is happening outside their borders. The Jasmine revolution might be called a product of social networking, but social networking is a product of economic development, and the overhaul of despotic regimes is not so far away from aid donated under the remit of saving the global poor from the scourges of disease or malnutrition.