Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It isn't the experience of today that drives men mad. It is the remorse for something that happened yesterday, and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.
- Robert Jones Burdette
“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

The various definitions of development have always emphasis a situation of positive wellbeing of the individual, group or society. For instance, Gunner Myrdal explains development as the “upward movement of the entire social systems”. Everett M. Rogers also define development as “a type of social change in which new ideas are introduced into a special system in order to produce higher per capita incomes and levels of living through more modern production methods and improved social organization”. All these definitions imply a state or an end state of positivity that influences the wellbeing of mankind and the achievement of which is development. Secondly, these definitions imply that wellbeing is subjected to an individual’s, group’s or society’s understanding of wellbeing.

Interestingly, relativity is influenced by experience overtime and what is considered appropriate is subjected to the attributes of society that have shaped people’s understanding of life and wellbeing. In this sense, development is a state of mind. To Riggs (1970), development is a state of mind, a tendency, a direction but rather than a fixed goal it is rate of change in a particular direction; which is certainly positive. Accordingly, researches have consolidated these interesting observations with theories evolving to underpin the thinking of what development is and the factors that influence a state of development from the individual to the societal level. Modernisation Theory, Basic Needs Approach, Growth with Distribution, Right Based Approach, Integrated Development, etc. are examples of theories of development. The consequences of all these approaches are to ensure a society free from poverty; a negative phenomenon of deteriorating human wellbeing and welfare manifesting in low in income levels and inadequate employment opportunities, poor access to social services including education, health, water and sanitation, housing and energy sources. All these problems increase the concerns of man when it comes to his survival abilities and capabilities.

When a society is developed, there is access to improved health status, quality education, improve and adequate housing, potable water and clean environment and reliable energy sources. The problems of man affect the peace of his existence and the society he lives. Man’s survival instinct is influenced by certain forces that drive him to attain his desire and satisfy his wants. Continuous determination without any fruition leads him to use whatever means to attain and satisfy his needs and desire. Consequently, his state of mind is distorted from peace to uncertainties, to desperation, leading to irritation and aggressiveness. The long term effects revolving from a positive to a negative effect become not only an individual problem but that of the society at large. This is because those who are affected by his aggression are also individuals of the society. Just as development emanate from the individual to a societal level, being influenced by life’s understanding of welfare, same applies to the aggression that arises from individuals inability to satisfy his needs. The aggregation of these presents what is known as a situation of underdevelopment, undevelopment or/and a state of poverty or impoverishments. Society starts exhibiting characteristics of deteriorating human wellbeing and welfare which are evidences of man’s need of peace.

The reason is that peace is not just a situation of freedom from war or violence but also a situation of calm, quiet or harmony (Hornby, 1998). Events or factors that distort the peace of an individual are not only violence but the individual’s inability to satisfy his basic needs. Imagine the development problems of individuals and societies and their consequences on their existence. People become aggrieved, irritated, depressed, emotionalised and sometimes violent in their attempt to just satisfy their needs. In this state, psychologist would evidently agree with me that they do not have a peace of mind; i.e. they lack peace and to some extent stability.

So my contentions is not just only to look at peace from only a point of view of a situation free of violence and war but also a situation where society is in harmony because they are not affected by the concerns of satisfying basic needs. Evidently across the world, these conditions that distort this harmony are manifesting in development problems of floods leading to loss of assets, poor access to healthcare resulting in premature deaths and worsening state of diseases, poor education which limits people’s opportunities and choices, hunger which reduces people’s ability to work efficiently and effectively, unemployment and low income levels also limits people’s ability to create livelihoods to manage, cope and reduce risks and shocks and the list goes on.

For instance, it is a known fact that at least 14 African nations are already facing water stress or scarcity and many more will start experiencing water and food stresses over the next decades (UN-Habitat 2008). In nine of the 54 African countries, improved water supply coverage is less than 50 percent. In terms of sanitation, 16 of the 54 African countries, coverage remains at less than 25 percent. Disaster issues are increasing both having natural and artificial causalities. Hydro-meteorological disasters, including extreme weather events such as hurricanes, flooding and mudslides have led to sudden-onset of displacement and distraction of property across the world (UNFPA 2009). Overall the number of people in poverty situation keeps on increasing. The number of poor people in Africa has actually risen since the 1990s by over 90 million, while the average income of the poor has declined, indicating worsening income distribution within the countries (Economic Commission of Africa 2005).

This situation of negativity seems a daunting task to ameliorate as currently development practitioners are even worried as to whether the international framework of development captured in terms of the Millennium Development Goals would be achieved. The implication is so great and many people are rethinking their approaches to development problems. Is it that we do not have the solutions to development problems or is it just that we seem not to identify what the problem is. The dilemma would pertain but I believe that the solutions are readily available, the problems are easily identifiable but the share lack of commitment and determination by national and local authorities to realise the essence of the individual at peace is the issue. If we all begin to realise that national security, stability and peace we so much desire and tries to maintain is being threatened by the individual without peace then the conscientiousness and commitment to development and the will to do whatever can be done to solve these development problems would be our priority.

I am certainly aware that even people with access to all these things are sometimes without peace. It is also true that before their need for peace could change the first cause of a distortion in their state of mind was material wellbeing. Therefore the first point of development must be aimed at promoting peace which must also start with the satisfaction of material wellbeing. I am not propagating or postulating a new theory of development but complementing the existing theories and approaches aimed at promoting multidimensional approach to development by satisfying the basic things that man need to promote and achieve human welfare and to be at peace. I therefore believe that the greatest threat to the stability of societies and nations is the level of peace of the individual and the society at large. I am also of the view that the one way of promoting peace is to satisfy the basic needs of people without which we cause a distortion in their state of existence, they become irritated and aggressive and the consequences is violence, conflict, and war which destabilises the peace of societies and nations.

The consequences of these distortions are evident around the world. Evidently, coup d’├ętats in the early years after independence in most African countries were initiated against the backdrop that citizens were impoverished and could not meet their basic material needs. Civil wars, conflict in mineral and oil rich regions are propagated by the straggle for wealth to satisfy basic material needs. Liberia, Serra Leone, Nigeria, and Sudan are examples victims of such incidences. Strike actions and violent demonstration in South Africa, Argentina and Brazil in the past have all been influenced by the desire to satisfy basic needs. The events of these actions distorted the peace, stability and security of these countries. Consequently, I am again right to suggest that satisfying basic needs is the first step of promoting peace which therefore has consequences on development.

In this case, I strongly believe that bragging and boasting about a country with a situation without war or conflict; although important; must stop. We must begin to redefine a peaceful country from a broader view looking at the state of poverty and impoverishment. With this the situation that we would be face with would lead us into realising that our world of peace is as unstable as the word change.

Economic Commission of Africa (2005): The Millennium Development Goals in Africa: Progress and Challenges. Documents Reproduction and Distribution Unit, Addis Ababa.

Hornby, A. S. (1998): Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. Fifth Edition. Oxford University Press

Riggs Fred W. (1970): The Context of Development Administration, in Edward Weidner, op. Cit.

UNFPA (2009): State of the World Population 2009. Facing a changing world: Women, population and climate. UNFPA, New York

UN-HABITAT (2008): The State of 2008 African Cities A framework for addressing urban challenges in Africa. London: Earthscan for UN-Habitat.

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