Humanitarian Aid Explained- Development, Part 1
Development is important. It is vital to a country in order to provide for its citizens and be competitive in the global economy. Every country is at a different level of development. If war, disaster, poor governance, poverty or corruption inhibit a country from developing, outside groups may come to assist the country in a short or long term capacity until the government or other institutions can take on the needs of the people. Unfortunately, in many countries the government is ill equipped or unwilling to care for its civilians. This discourages development and puts a heavy burden on the outside groups to carry the weight of the needs.
Development aid seeks to address underlying socioeconomic factors that most likely have led to a crisis or emergency. It responds to ongoing structural issues, particularly systemic poverty, that may hinder economic, institutional and social development within society.
Development focuses on the long-term process whereby individuals and communities sustainably improve their quality of life. Development work done right requires great participation and involvement from the local population in order to see sustainable change. Engagement of beneficiaries at all levels of work is essential to true ownership lying in the hands of those that benefit most. When it is done in cooperation with beneficiaries, it is a bottom-up effort that can lead to long term improvements.
In September 2015, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, a meeting of the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives was held to announce the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. These 17 goals were created as the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.
“We are meeting at a time of immense challenges to sustainable development. Billions of our citizens continue to live in poverty and are denied a life of dignity. There are rising inequalities within and among countries. Global health threats, more frequent and intense natural disasters, spiralling conflict, violent extremism, terrorism and related humanitarian crises and forced displacement of people threaten to reverse much of the development progress made in recent decades.”
The council went on to say that each country faces specific challenges but African countries remain as some of the most vulnerable countries in the world. In addition, those in situations of conflict and post-conflict are the most vulnerable.
“We resolve, between now and 2030, to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources. We resolve also to create conditions for sustainable, inclusive and sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and decent work for all, taking into account different levels of national development and capacities.”
These are powerful and ambitious guidelines and goals set by the member states of the United Nations. As an international organization we, along with all other organizations, are charged with doing our part to make these goals a reality. How this happens on the ground is the greatest challenge, as enactment and enforcement are keys to achieving these goals. Most complex emergencies became severe because key actors or leaders do not want to see sustainable development within their countries. They grow in wealth and power as inequalities grow, and the resulting societal conflicts allow them to consolidate more power.
These goals will not be achieved if you don’t have the end in mind. The path of least resistance will easily be taken when an organization creates plans that are top-down, without the participation of and buy-in from the beneficiaries. Independence and self sustainability are challenging concepts to bring to realization in the midst of the real-life struggles that so much of the world faces. Instead those in charge will usually be the ones that benefit in the end due to systemic issues and corruption.
One challenge of development work is that it can be expensive. Unlike relief, it is very involved, including large amounts of people over a longer period of time. This is partly why governments often choose to neglect the deep problems within their country and focus more on “low-hanging fruit” that will get them goodwill with donor countries. This is a massive disservice to vulnerable populations.
Currently in DRC we are working to develop a plan that has the long term in mind. Through agriculture and livestock projects we are able to provide jobs, which are the single greatest way to improve livelihoods and fight the inequalities that most people face. We also recognize that populations must be healthy enough to work and to produce, which is why our health focus is so important. We want to break the cycle and go against the structural issues so that generations to come will not continue to be so negatively affected by deep-rooted inequalities.
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