Saturday, October 2, 2010

THE 'THIRD WORLD' LABEL

Some very thought-provoking words of Sugata Dasgupta, a Social Work Educator, on development caught my attention the other day. As a Development Support Communication (DSC) student, I felt the extent of conviction his statement reflected. He says that while development creates wealth for the entire nation, it creates poverty for some people. The number of the latter is very large in the developing countries, whereas it is limited in the developed, affluent parts of the region: but the poor are there and the fact remains that development can not help them.

That was the first part of his statement. Let’s analyze the word development before moving on towards the next part. The word, as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, means when someone or something grows or changes and becomes more advanced. DSC, focuses on the study of a group of individuals on a macro level rather one particular person. Thus, pertaining to that, development means when a community or a nation progresses or advances mostly linked with the use of modern technology. Dasgupta clearly points out that it is never a prerequisite for the level of poverty to decrease with an increase in the nation’s development. A nation could collectively develop with little or no effect on its poor.

Poverty is, in fact, mostly, grouped with lesser or no education/awareness, lesser or no resources, unemployment, deteriorating health, so on and so forth. Subsequently, a poverty stricken person can not be blamed for having minute or no techno-related knowledge at all. Moreover, a person living at such a level is obliged to be content with the status-quo or whatever he is in possession with in the current situation. Social scientists call this situation as the person being up to his neck in the water and a mere ripple would drown him completely.

Poverty can, certainly, not be reduced when some million Rupees are spent on the renovation of an assembly building. Nor it could bring our country out of the label of the Third World Nations. Surely, the label sounds quite odious. Anyways, that was the news we all came across in May 2010 in the midst of a sorry episode in our Northern Areas, Gilgit Baltistan to be precise. Sadly, it was even quoted that the purpose of doing so was to make the building the most beautiful assembly building of Asia. A country with an adult literacy rate of only a little above 50% (UNESCO’s 2008 statistics), where the vision of being polio-free is yet to be transformed into reality is hard to shine even with the best assembly building in the world.

As I moved towards the other part of Dasgupta’s statement, he continued with saying that the forecasts are that as development gathers more momentum, the number of the underdeveloped will increase. It has, in fact, been increasing all these years. Here, he refers to the increase in the developed nations paralleled with the rise of the underdeveloped ones. Rephrasing the same old cliché, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

Development Support Communication, as defined by the social scientists, means to bridge communication gaps through co-equal knowledge-sharing between beneficiaries (the technical specialists with expertise in specific areas of knowledge) and benefactors (the users who may need such knowledge and its specific applications). Putting the technicalities in a layman language, it means the articulation of strategies and developmental plans by the policy makers to the common people in their comprehensible language so that it could bring about the desired progress.

From the 1970s till late 1990s, social scientists along with the assistance of the leading economists have been busy working out strategies to bring development to the less-developed or the third-worlds. The two most dominant working models implemented for development were termed as the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach.

Working for the much lower class, the rural peasantry, the top-down model was a term derived for the one-way flow of communication in which peasants were asked to do certain things that promised progress. However, this not-so-effective approach held its failure in the assumption that the peasants are already equipped with the knowledge related to the benefits of adoption of innovations. It clearly dictated the peasants to perform certain actions, for instance, experimenting on new seeds to be sown. As discussed earlier, these people, being already up to their necks in water, are risk-averse and are reluctant to any change. Thus, gradually, this model lost its authority giving birth to the other one.

The bottom-up approach proved to be quite rational. It advocated that the people themselves, knowing their problems pretty well, should make a community within, which would discuss their major issues and work out solutions that they thought they were capable of doing. Since, the policy makers had already guided them to enter this phase, they also were ready to provide them with whatever resources they wanted (technological resources, to be precise). This was also coined as participatory approach. It proves effective only when a healthy participation from the members of the community to be developed, is seen, bringing grass-root development in which people at all levels are, at the minimum, aware about the purpose and result of their actions.

The latter is still worked upon in Pakistan. Earlier this month, the government introduced a National Maternal Newborn and Child Health Program which plans for the induction of around 12000 community midwives across the country through the program by 2012. They would be trained in this regards and would be required to reach to the door steps of communities. I assume, this won’t only improve health standards but would also, definitely, help in achieving a raise in awareness at a smaller scale. The trainees being from the same setup would help in addressing the needs of those people in a much effective way.

Pakistan direly wants such developmental initiations on part of both GOs and NGOs. In December 2009, recognizing the need for financial reinforcement of the ‘Polio Eradication Initiative’, the government of Japan lead the 2010 push for a polio-free Pakistan announcing a grant of $4.42 million (403 million yen) for the procurement of oral polio vaccine (OPV) for this year’s polio campaigns. Let’s hope for the best!

3 comments:

It is time to stop using the term "Third World" to refer to developing countries and recognize they are an essential part of a new, fast evolving, multipolar international economy, the head of the World Bank said.

I just found it that World Bank is to Retire 'Third World' Label

True, Fahad and Ali.

But the powerful ones still like refering Pakistan with the same. And, the reason is Pakistan itself! See, the efforts that Bangladesh and India are making merely to bring out their names from the 'developing' to the 'developed'. Also, googling around one of the CIA websites I found that India is expected to be referred to as 'developed' soon. What an irony for Pakistan!

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