The most surprising thing I have learned in this class is that in 2016, development theories are still being tested and tweaked. It was interesting to me that despite the existence of established development careers, recognized international organizations and academic programs such as the one I am enrolled in, development and making a difference is still ‘touch and go’. At first, it was a tad disheartening or discouraging but as Dr. Kendhammer always said, if he (or someone else) “knew the answer they would share it”.
What was most useful however, was the fact that we thoroughly discussed and picked apart the existing theories, venturing off the pages of our required readings and examining them in the context of countries where they have been applied or tested. Added to that, there is of course the newfound knowledge that there really is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the problems facing developing countries. Solutions need to be contextual and there is no one fix for all problems.
One thing I believe is that the urge countries in the Global South have to “catch up” with the Global North or “close the gap” is not very realistic or smart. I have learned there are a wide array of factors that contribute to development in different contexts and I firmly believe that if countries would focus more on addressing their internal problems such as poverty, and growing without comparing to developed countries they would do a lot better in the long run. Growth, change and development should be more about the country and its citizens than about trying to get what or where others are.
With regards to poverty my perspective has definitely changed, poverty is a multi-tiered problem that ought not to be tackled at surface level. There is no one universal, single cause of poverty, as such, the best way to find effective and efficient solutions are to view poverty as the multi-tiered issue it is and tailor solutions that can address more than merely one of the contributing factors. I do not believe the “aid” approach accomplishes that.
The attempts by the Global North to address problems of poverty in the Global South has had both successes and failures. However, too often they are short term solutions to real, long term issues, also I think development and aid whether in the form of finance, projects, programs have become somewhat of a culture where they are given or done but measures are not put in place to ensure their success. Often the projects and programs themselves are sometimes not very useful in tackling the problems being faced in some countries.
Although the course left me more pessimistic about development and relations between countries, I think the knowledge gained provides a great foundation for the way forward because we know what does not work, what has not worked, that context is important and that there are layers to achieving development. In that regard, I feel better equipped to attempt to address the problem of poverty