what is development?

what is development?

Are you sure that you know what  the word “Development” really means? whether your answer is yes or no please continue to read as you might see this term in a different perspective. Different people have different ideas and mind-set about what development means, as a result this makes the definition very complex with contentious definitions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRmjoF5nv6s

UNDP development  ‘leads to long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community.’ Different countries have different priorities in their development policies. But to compare their development levels, you would first have to make up your mind about what development really means to you, what it is supposed to achieve. Indicators measuring this achievement could then be used to judge countries’ relative progress in development.

Sachs’ (1992:1) contends, ‘development is much more than just a socio-economic endeavour; it is a perception which models reality, a myth which comforts societies, and a fantasy which unleashes passions. Also, the word development itself Rist (2007)has become a ‘modern shibboleth, an unavoidable password’ which comes to be used ‘to convey the idea that tomorrow things will be better, or that more is necessarily better’. Despite its widespread usage, the meaning of the term ‘development’ remains vague, tending to refer to a set of beliefs and assumptions about the nature of social progress rather than to anything more precise and as a result the actual meaning of development is still elusive, since it depends on where and by whom it is used.

‘Development’ has  been widely used as a hard drug, addiction to which, legally tolerated or encouraged, may stimulate the blissful feelings that typify artificial paradises. So it may also be legitimate to regard the word ‘development’ as toxic. This global promise of generalised happiness had immediate appeal, not only for those who expected an improvement in their living conditions, but also for those who were committed to international social justice.  In the 1960s ‘there was little attempt  to define development. Instead, there was an unquestioned assumption  that “development”, whatever it was, could lead to improvement in the situation of poor people’ (Hayter 2005 ). The “development” represents  reconciliation to  opposite sides, as it was  was mainly used as an excuse for enticing ‘developing countries’ to side with one camp or the other.

Development is

Chambers (1997), regards the eternal challenge of development is to do better and usually this is tackled by identifying  the three Ps: policies, programs and projects. But there is a crucial link that is missing in this definition which is the personal dimension, as to do better and develop we have to examine not just the normally defined agenda of development  “out there”, but ourselves  and how our ideas are formed, how we think, how we change and what we do and don’t do. As the definition of development is changing,  the meanings given to the word have evolved  from just the economic meaning used by economists to other complex definitions used by different organisations and professions.

I think that development is about progress, this is the idea that the world can become increasingly better in terms of science, technology, modernisation, liberty, democracy and quality. Also, progress  means reaching the end of human life and entering heaven Hooker (1999).  The Millennium Development Goals and the 8 targets are an example of the progress. I want you to leave a comment/feedback on what you think development means and remember there is no right or wrong definition. As development can mean different things to different people.


  1. Deconstructing development discourse, buzzword and fuzz words (2010), Cornwall. A and Eade.
  2. Gilbert Rist (2007); development as a buzzword, development in practice
  3. Robert Chambers (1997), Responsible well-being : A Personal Agenda for Development, World Development, Vol.25 (11) 1973-1754
  4. The millennium development goals, (2010) ;http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/, (accessed 2 October 2013).
  5. www.volunteeringoptions.org/VolunteeringDevelopment/WhatisDevelopment/tabid/78/Default.aspx, (2008); (accessed 1 October 2013)

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