Monday, 14 November 2011

Culture and Development Issues

Culture and Development Issues

One of the round table discussions at the Creative Economy Conference is entitled Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): development, culture and the creative industries: friends or foes? This is such an interesting topic which comes at a time when Africa is battling with MDGs. I just thought it important to share with you an extract from a detailed report prepared for the INCD by Burama K. Sagnia (2005) on that issue.Below is the extract.

Until recently, most development agencies regarded cultural factors as of no concern or serious impact to social and economic development. This lack of concern has often led to failures in reaching the poor. This is what eventually created interest in the need to take cultural issues into account in development frameworks and processes. If development plans, programmes and projects cannot move forward because of the failure of taking cultural issues into account in the implementation process, it becomes imperative that the planning process take this aspect into consideration.

In any local situation, there are cultural values and institutions that can support, constrain or even completely frustrate well-meant development programmes and projects. Examples of development interventions failing to promote quality of life and overall well-being because of their incompatibility with the cultural values and institutions of the populations concerned are numerous and well-documented. The attempt here is to organise a brief discussion around some of the key development concerns and the cultural issues involved.
The international community crafted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) from the Millennium Declarations, which has set out specific and quantifiable goals for human development by the year 2015. The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is recognised by these goals as among the most central challenges before human society. For some time, the dominant view was that poverty could be addressed by raising economic standards through the “trickle down effects” of economic growth. Obviously, economic growth creates the capacity to reduce poverty and, given enough time, it may actually do so. But, experience across many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa for example (UNECA, 2005), has raised growing doubts as to whether it is feasible to attain the MDGs without mobilising more fully the under-utilised capacities of the poor, notably their culture. This makes it imperative that the issue of poverty is addressed from a broad-based and holistic perspective, taking into account the role of women, children and young people, the traditional cultural institutions and values and related problems such as environmental degradation, social stability and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Developing a clear understanding of who are the poor has often been crowded with myths and misconceptions that have come in the way of developing effective strategic responses to take advantage of their dormant and under-utilized capacities and competences. UNCTAD (2004) maintains that “poverty is associated with unexploited productive potential, inequalities within countries and in the global economy, and also non-inclusive national development processes”. As if to buttress the UNCTAD conceptual point of view, the United Nations Global Monitoring Report (2004) for the Millennium Development Goals, did admonish that in order to achieve the MDGs there is an urgent need to implement the “global bargain” whereby developing countries will seriously integrate these goals, and in particular the poverty reduction objectives, into their national development strategies, and the developed countries provide a fair and just enabling framework and the necessary resources.

The “global bargain” implies work on multiple fronts, including market access and debt relief, increased and more effective development assistance, better governance and the full and effective engagement of all stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society. While developing countries themselves have the primary responsibility for poverty reduction, there is an upper limit to how much they can achieve without appropriate international policies, development funding and the dismantling of oppressive barriers.


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