By Tochukwu Akunyili
One might define development as the achievement of a reasonable standard of living by the members of a society. The other might define development as the provision of the basic necessities of life by the government of a state to the citizens of that state. But the cynic might well define development as what the public policies and governance efforts of a lot of African and Asian countries have attempted to achieve with minimal success since the past sixty years.
Whilst definitions may defer, it is nonetheless the case that most human beings provided with the sufficient knowledge and experiences will know and understand development when they encounter it. Here, I attempt over the top of my head to articulate the characters of a developed society and therefore what all developing countries must strive towards:
1) Democratization and Evolution of an Endemic Form of Good Governance: democracy, since developed by the ancient Greeks is hailed as the best form of governance because it satisfies the innate long-abiding long-cherished desire of each human being to be free and to determine his or her own future. Much as this desire to determine our futures and be the lords and ladies of our lives is not yet achieved in today’s (also western-style) democracies at the ideal level of direct citizen participation in state legislation and governance, developing countries must still strive towards democratization. In this effort at democratization, the peoples of the developing nations must endeavour to evolve a system that is endemic to them. In this evolution of an endemic system, they must refrain from an unscrutinised adoption of the characteristic features of the western (which these days are usually the US American- , the British- or the French-) style democracies. This is not only because such and unchecked adoption is likely to fail but because it has been failing since the curtain dropped on colonialism. Since historical evidence has shown that the adoption of the British, French or US American systems of democratic governance was for these countries the exemplar analogy of forcing the square peg in the round hole, the system of democratic governance that will succeed in these countries must therefore answer to the particular needs of the peoples of these developing countries. This system of democratic governance must be cognizant of the dynamics of life, history and culture in these societies; must bring out the best in their local systems and must be able to cohere and possibly merge with these local systems of democratic good governance.
2) Provision of an improved quality of life: this is perhaps the first goal of all (developing?) societies for even developed and autocratic societies must have the goal of improving the quality of life of their citizens. The articulation of what the improved life consists in has been attempted by scholars from times past with varying degrees of success. With varying degrees of success because it is often the case that sometimes governments, international organizations, NGOs and academics try to limit the components of human life to a number or an indicator, say the national Average Life Expectancy or the GDP per capita. Such attempts, at best simplistic, to capture what makes the quality of human life improved or not fail because the components of human lives are multiple and qualitatively distinct such that to avail the Aristotelian fully functioning human life, states must be cognizant of the multiplicity and distinctness of human needs and endeavour to provide these. The highly lauded Human Development Report (HDR) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is a classic, and so far, perhaps, the most successful attempt at capturing the various indicators of development in and components of the fully functioning human life in an index. A scanning through pages of the 2014 HDR of the UNDP offers an idea of the several components of human life.
3) Establishment of a Welfare State Structure: any developing society must lay the foundations through which it will provide its citizens with social support. This is particularly true and cogent in African states where globalization, rapid unplanned urbanization, reduction in total fertility rate (TFR) and industrialization are changing the traditional character of statehood and society. The more proactive that developing countries are at meeting the challenges posed by these changes the more easily they can avoid a social policy lacuna that will be very detrimental to their countries in the coming decades.
4) Heightened proactivity with social protection issues: Point #3 above speaks of a plan that will take no less than 5 years but possibly a 10 year period or more of committed efforts to achieve. In the meantime, developing countries must use social protection to impact on citizens’ lives, creating programs that have a short gestation period. Some of these issues of social protection have high coverage in the radar of NGOs, civil society organizations and UN agencies like UNICEF (see for instance UNICEF Nigeria’s efforts at grassroots sensitization), UNDP, IOM, ILO, FAO amongst others. Some of the social policy issues developing countries need focus on include:
5) Accountability: developing countries must build into their development agenda institutional safeguards that ensure accountability. The citizens of these countries must of their own accord put the flashlights on their public servants. The aim is to make public office so translucent that there is no hidden aspiration lurking behind the mind of the public office aspirant other than service to his/her people. Institutions of public accountability, like civil and customary courts, must be provided and made efficient, just and effective.
These ladies and gentlemen are ideas off the top of my head on what developing countries need for further better and a more integrated- and result-oriented development.
Your ideas and comments are welcome.
Tochukwu Akunyili is a graduate student of public policy at the University of Erfurt Germany. He is interested in management and development consulting, international development, climate issues and global affairs.
*This article was originally published on his website Tochukwu Akunyili . You can read it here.
*Cover image ‘Construction ground‘ byArttu Manninen
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