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Fri. February 03, 2023
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Around the World, Across the Political Spectrum

Mainstream Development May Not Be One-Size-Fits-All

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Development is more than just a one-size-fits-all approach. The mainstream development frameworks we know of are drawn from the development experiences of developed Western communities and yield different outcomes when implemented in developing non-Western communities. Development policies that have been successful in a particular environment, a particular cultural context, and at a particular time cannot be applied to every country. Universal solutions to all issues of all societies at all times simply cannot be drawn. Many scholars believe that development frameworks are designed in a way to draw parallels between the development of the West and the development of non-Western communities. This simplification distorts the actual development experiences of non-Western societies. Development policies are often generalized and neglect different communities' plurality of cultures and historical backgrounds. They go as far as providing simplistic explanations and vague solutions to complex societal problems.

Development is contextual; if development frameworks applied in non-Western countries are instead based on their own experiences, development frameworks would create a better sense of understanding and unity and provide innovative solutions to local problems. Local knowledge of non-Western communities is, essentially, all of their accumulated skills, information, philosophies, and behaviors. Conventional Western development does not consider non-Western knowledge and its local contexts, culture, resources, adaptation, and systems. Ignoring local knowledge of non-Western communities means ignoring observations, practices, and problem-solving strategies that are holistic and culturally specific and have allowed them to progress for centuries. That being the case, incorporating local knowledge in development policies would be more appropriate and more likely to encompass the livelihood, security, and well-being of non-Western populations.

Development frameworks derived from Western knowledge and experiences may not benefit non-Western communities, particularly the developing ones. Widely used development frameworks have yet to be as productive and effective in the progress of developing non-Western societies. Adopting Western knowledge-based development strategies only offers short-term relief to developing non-Western populations' problems. They, in the long run, bring unintended negative consequences to the culture, economic growth, and development of developing non-Western people. These development strategies dilute the indigenous culture of non-Western communities, marginalize the poor, and increase health problems, inequalities, and poverty, along with commodity prices. In addition, they also suppress non-Western knowledge and damage the natural environment by increasing the risk of pollution, disrupting natural habitats, and causing forceful migrations. For example, Pakistan, despite undergoing numerous mainstream development programs, has a poverty rate of 78 percent (using the upper-middle-income poverty rate), 40 percent of households suffering from moderate to severe food insecurity, and a staggering annual inflation rate of approximately 25 percent.

One might suggest that only non-Western solutions can resolve non-Western problems; however, both societies can unite and learn from one another. Together, the developed Western knowledge and the alternative developing non-Western knowledge can be integrated to form better-suited development frameworks. Developing non-Western societies can supplement their knowledge and practices with Western ones. A productive and effective development framework interacts with non-Western ways of doing as well as Western ways. In such an integrated development framework, non-Western knowledge and experiences establish local, cultural, institutional, environmental, and social values. At the same time, the developed communities contribute with science, information, and technology that help keep up with the fast-paced world. Non-Western development discoveries can be added to practices only if the local knowledge is preserved and built upon rather than being entirely discarded. Developing communities, by themselves, are insufficient to grapple with the science and technology-driven development challenges of today's era. In underdeveloped areas, inadequate information and skills increase the risk of misuse of the transfer of technology and knowledge from developed communities. However, if knowledge from developed Western societies is diligently combined with local knowledge of developing non-Western communities, development frameworks would obtain sustainable results. The chances of negative consequences would shrink, the capabilities and skills of the people would grow, the economy would expand, and there would be an environmental balance, consequently accelerating the development process. Nonetheless, the integration process must ensure the careful evaluation of Western practices to preserve non-Western local contexts, resources, and biodiversity.

Dilek Nadeem Ghouri is a student of BS Public Administration from the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST)

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