The following was originally published October 22, 2011 at

As part of a BSc in Wildlife Conservation we were set an assignment to: Establish a personal definition of 'Development' using no more than one side of A4 paper, using referenced literature to support your definition.

Although I did not know it then this became one of the most interesting assignments I would write as part of my undergraduate degree and was an introduction into the dialectic method. The original assignment is below.

What is Development?

Since ‘development’ first emerged on the scene of international politics in the post war years, development theories have been derived from theories and models based on experiences rooted in western economic history, stressing the need to catching up with, and generally imitating, the ‘west’, creating the illusion that Europe had somehow reached the highest stage of development. (Desai & Potter, 2002; Burkey, 1993; Hettne, 1995; Carmen, 1996). In this way development followed a Marxist view that development was first of all development of capitalism, a strengthening of the material base of a state, mainly through industrialization (Hettne, 1995: 22-30). It is agreed in nearly all literature on development that whilst economic growth is necessary for development, alone it is not sufficient.
By the 1970s, many developing countries had achieved economic growth as measured by Gross National Product (GNP), but inequality between and within countries had worsened, so this ‘development’ was not shared equally amongst the population of these countries (Elliot, 1994: 10-11). Towards the late 1980s the idea of sustainable development emerged. Literally sustainable development refers to maintaining development over time (Elliot, 1994: 6), intergenerational equity; however a concrete definition remains uncertain. The most commonly recognised and used definition for sustainable development defines it as ‘development that meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (WCED, 1987: 43). This definition brings up the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the worlds poor, to which overriding priority should be given. The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries - for food, clothing, shelter, jobs - are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for improved quality of life (WCED, 1987: 43). If development is defined in terms of the poor countries an enduring problem remains in the need to measure and understand poverty. Addressing poverty requires political will, and many would maintain that this remains the real obstacle to development (Desai & Potter, 2002: 1-2). Parayil, 1996, discusses how and what variables are used in interpreting development, suggesting demographic variables - population growth rate, infant mortality, crude death rate and literacy - to be better indicators of development of economic ones such as per capita.
Concerns about environment and development in the third world have become a central feature of the rhetoric and thinking of development studies (Adams, 1990: 1). It is commonly believed that environmental degradation and rural poverty exists in the same locality, poor people live and suffer from degraded environments, and very often they create environmental degradation because their poverty forces them to do so (Ghimire & Pimbert et al, 1997: 1; Adams, 1990: 87). Those who live in rural poverty take from their surrounding natural environments to support themselves in every day life, as well providing this service an un-degraded natural environment acts as an insurance policy for those living in poverty during harder times, something unavailable for those living next degraded environments making them more vulnerable.
Participation of those in poverty in their own development has been measured as a key factor in the success of development projects. Self reliant participatory development that isn’t completely reliant on outside funding, that encourages self-confidence, pride, initiative, creativity, responsibility and corporation is paramount. Without such development within the people themselves efforts to alleviate poverty and will be more difficult (Buckey, 1993: 41-56).

To conclude, development today is a multi disciplinary concept encapsulating widespread improvements in the social as well as material well being of all society (Elliot, 1994: 12), making those in poverty priority (WCED, 1987: 43) and must be regarded as synonymous with enhancing human rights and welfare (Desai & Potter, 2002: 1-2). However, there can be no fixed and final definition of development, merely suggestions of what development should imply in particular context.(Burkey, 1993: 33). It has become clear that there is in fact no state of ‘being developed’, only continuous processes of change, and these pass as ‘development’ or ‘non-development’ depending on ones point of view (Hettne, 1995: 26).

Adams, M, W. 1990. Green Development. Routledge. London
Burkey, S. 1993. People First: A guide to self reliant participatory rural development. Zed Press. London
Carmen, R. 1996. Autonomous Development. Zed Press. London
Desai, V. & Potter, R, B. 2002. The Companion to Development Studies. Arnold. London.
Elliot, J. A. 1994. An introduction to sustainable development: The developing world. Routledge. London.
Ghimire, K, B. & Pimbert, P, P. et al. 1997. Social Change and Conservation: An overview of Issues and Concepts. Earthscan.
Hettne, B. 1995. Development theory and the three worlds, second edt. Longman scientific and technical. London
Parayil, G. 1996. The ‘Kerala model’ of development: development and sustainability in the Third World. Third World Quarterly. 17: (5) 941-957
World Commission on Environment and Developments (WCED). 1987. Our Common Future. Oxford University Press. Oxford
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