viernes, 8 de mayo de 2009

What exactly is development and what is my role in it?

There is hope for a better future. CGE student is illuminated by the sun at the underground observatory at the Xochicalco pyramid site.

By Amina Hassen

A couple of weeks ago our class was divided into two different groups and were told to come up with an answer to the question, “What is development?” We discussed how we thought that current development is generating unbalanced outcomes between and within countries and is excluding the people who most need increased access to resources. Our conception of development is an improvement of the quality of life for individuals by increasing their ability to be independent agents, making decisions about their life trajectories. It starts with meeting basic needs of people, including adequate food, shelter, clothing, safe drinking water, sanitation, health and development. Development is a transformation of existing systems of oppression based on sex, gender, race, class, sexuality, age, ability, nationality, etc so that individuals have a wider range of choices.

To borrow from Paulo Freire, development includes whether or not a country is “being itself” in the political, economic and decision making is originating from within. I would extend that to say that development also means that a person is being his/her self and that their decision making is also originating from within.

I view that it is my responsibility to be a participant and ally to those who are carrying out responsible development. When I have the choice between a supermarket and a farmers market, I will choose the farmers market. It also means supporting democratically run organizations. So when I have the choice between Coca-Cola and Boing (a worker-owned and operated cooperative that makes very popular juices here in Mexico), I will choose Boing. And when I see that a hotel’s workers have gone on strike, I won’t patronize that hotel and I will try to prevent others from doing so as well. If I have the choice between taking my car and taking a bus/metro, I’ll take the metro, or better yet, I’ll take my bike. I will recycle all that I can, teach others around me that they can and should as well. I see it as my responsibility to change my consumption habits so that I am making more responsible choices.

However, I recognize that solely changing my consumptive patterns is not adequate and sometimes the alternatives that you would like to see simply do not exist. To really promote change in development I also need to actively advocate for this change. It is my duty as a citizen of a democracy to participate in electing officials who support responsible development and to protest if I feel that my elected officials aren’t making responsible choices. It means living out what I would like to see happen on a global scale by turning local personally, and supporting local initiatives internationally.