Development policy

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Development policy is an umbrella term for government programs that aim to improve the political, economic and social situation in developing countries.

Motivated by ethical and moral ideas, the desire to spread forms of government, to guarantee one's own security and to provide the economy with new sales markets and sources of resources, reducing the development gap between developing countries and industrialized countries became part of the political and social debate, especially after the Second World War.

The countries providing development aid, also known as donor countries, and non-governmental organizations try to fight acute poverty - to cover the elementary basic needs such as food, shelter and medical care and to permanently overcome underdevelopment - through education, infrastructural measures and the establishment of certain social structures and economic systems .

The type and intensity of aid vary due to different worldviews, belief in the effectiveness of development policy measures and the economic situation of the donors.

Since the end of the Cold War , efforts have concentrated on establishing a democracy with the most sustainable social market economy possible . In 1970 the United Nations set itself a target of 0.7% of gross national income that is used for development cooperation. The actual aids are on average far below this mark to this day.

History of development policy

Development policy emerged in the context of the Cold War. Harry S. Truman's inaugural address , with which he announced the founding of NATO on January 20, 1949 , is also considered to be the founding document of development policy:

"In addition, we will provide military advice and equipment to free nations which will cooperate with us in the maintenance of peace and security. Fourth, we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of these people. "

In the course of time the priorities of development policy changed, which are summarized in development models. A development model followed global trends, which mostly result from the constellation of forces of the internationally leading politically and economically leading countries.

Before 1960 - a foreign policy instrument

Before 1960 there was no development policy worthy of the name. The US and Europe were busy building the Europe that had been destroyed after World War II. The foreign policy supported States to by the decolonization rapidly growing number of independent developing countries for their own political gain as an ally and the Cold War. For example, the Federal Republic of Germany supported some states to prevent their recognition of the GDR . Those states that wanted to evade the East-West conflict formed the movement of the non-aligned states on an initiative of the Yugoslav President Tito , the Egyptian Head of State Nasser and the Indian Prime Minister Nehru . The organization was constituted in 1961 at its first meeting in Belgrade . Many African and Asian countries joined it. Its aim is equality between the states and positive economic development of the member states.

1960s - development through growth

Member countries of group 77

At the beginning of the 1960s the USA started with development policy as an instrument of security policy . Development policy quickly assumed a greater weight, which led to the establishment of the Agency for International Development (AID) in the USA and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in the Federal Republic of Germany .

The concept of " development through growth " that prevailed until the end of the 1960s was based on:

  • the assumption that underdevelopment is due to lack of capital and sufficient capital alone leads to growth and development;
  • the assumption that sufficient growth would result in a “ trickle-down ” of prosperity into backward regions and sectors, into lower social classes;
  • the expectation that greater involvement of developing countries in the world market would act as a growth engine and trigger greater demand from industrialized countries ;
  • the view that the developing countries have no choice but to catch up with the industrialized countries by catching up on industrialization .

In 1964, during the first World Trade Conference (UNCTAD), the Group of 77 was founded with the aim of improving the position of developing countries on the world market.

In 1969, the " Pearson Report " presented by the then World Bank President Robert McNamara and the former Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester Pearson determined the failure of the concept of "Development through Growth". The growth, when it really occurred, was very uneven regionally. Local poverty tended to widen, and the growth-promoting measures benefited the upper class in developing countries in particular .

1970s - basic needs strategy

From the analysis of the Pearson report put out Robert McNamara, the basic needs strategy that is based on the assumption that the satisfaction of basic needs growth follows.

The basic needs are divided into two categories:

Action programs based on basic needs have been started: Food for All ( FAO ), Health for All ( WHO ), Education for All ( UNESCO ), Work for All ( ILO ). In terms of content, however, little changed in these action programs compared to development through growth . In March 1980, Robert McNamara instructed Willy Brandt to head the North-South Commission on which the Brandt Report was presented.

1980s - The Lost Decade

During the 1973 and 1979/80 oil crises, large amounts of money were invested by the oil sheikhs through the banks in developing countries due to the rising oil price , since a country was considered a safe debtor. High interest rates and bad investments led to a threatening increase in foreign debt in developing countries. When in the 1980s they finally had to repay more debts and debt interest than they could afford, the first declarations of insolvency were made by countries ( Mexico , August 13, 1982).

In addition, the beginning of the 80s was marked by a severe economic crisis , after stagnation in the 1970s, growth rates fell steeply in many countries. Falling raw material prices caused the export earnings of developing countries to fall and the mountains of debt to continue to grow. Former emerging economies ( Brazil , Ivory Coast ) and oil countries ( Mexico , Venezuela , Nigeria , Algeria ) got into severe economic, social and political crises.

The 1980s were therefore a lost decade for many developing countries. Exceptions were the tiger states in the Far East ( South Korea , Taiwan , Hong Kong , Singapore ) and the People's Republic of China .

From the 1990s - sustainable development

The idea of sustainable development (sustainable development) had her breakthrough at the " Rio Conference on Environment and Development " (1992), the findings of the Brundtland report took up (1987) and a so-called " Agenda 21 set up." Sustainable development should enable the poor population to independently improve their own living conditions without measuring themselves against standards in other countries. The principle of “ helping people to help themselves ” is in the foreground, and projects are funded that

  • are labor-intensive in terms of job creation and have the effect of generating employment and independent economic activity;
  • adapted to the cultural, spatial and economic structures and
  • are sustainable and future-oriented by considering resource consumption and environmental compatibility.

At the 55th UN General Assembly (" Millennium Summit "), the United Nations drew a devastating balance sheet: at that time, over a billion people were living in absolute poverty. Every fifth person in the world has to get by on less than a dollar a day; more than 700 million people are starving and malnourished . That is why on September 8, 2000 189 member states of the United Nations passed the Millennium Declaration, a catalog of fundamental, binding objectives for all UN member states.

Development policy goals

The goals of development policy depend on the country in question. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) defines the following goals:

Poverty reduction

According to the World Bank , around 1.4 billion people, more than a fifth of humanity, lived in absolute poverty in 2005 , which means they had to get by on less than US $ 1.25 a day. Poverty is one of the greatest problems of our time, and combating it is considered the most important task of development aid.

However, this purely quantitative definition of poverty is by no means undisputed, as it says little about the actual quality of life. "'The unemployed worker in the slums of Caracas', writes Jean Chesnaux,' discovers with astonishment that he, measured in terms of gross national product , enjoys a standard of living that gives rise to envy, the fisherman on Samoa, who is doing quite well as a self-sufficient person, learns that, measured by gross national product, he is one of the poorest inhabitants in the world. "

Since poverty was defined as the gross national product per capita below a certain value, it made sense to want to fight poverty through growth. As the economy as a whole grew, it was believed that the incomes of the poor would also grow. But this is not necessarily the case.

Whether economic growth will ultimately benefit the poor is a matter of dispute. Even the supporters of a growth strategy see growth as a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for poverty reduction. In addition, there is a need for redistributions, for example in the form of free schools, efficient state administrations or legal security .

One development policy approach therefore tries to combat poverty by means of “helping people to help themselves”. One means of "helping people to help themselves" is microfinance . This approach is based on the assumption that people in developing countries are usually not lacking in ideas or the will to do something, but rather lack the financial means to make investments.

Structural reforms are also an important approach as they remove the causes, not just the manifestations of poverty. At the national level, this applies to democratization , land reforms and decentralization . At the international level, it is about solving the debt crisis ( debt relief ) and creating a fair world trading system that is also ecologically and socially sustainable.

Since labor is often the only way to earn a living for the poor in a society , combating unemployment and underemployment is of great importance. In addition, it must be ensured that workers can also secure their livelihood from their income (“ working poor ”, minimum wages).


The fight against hunger is closely related to the fight against poverty, because a lack of purchasing power often prevents the available food from reaching those who urgently need it.

Food deliveries can - especially in crisis situations - be a short-term means of fighting hunger, but in the long term, the people affected must be enabled to feed themselves. Since over 50% of the starving small farmers are, the promotion of (smallholder) agriculture is central.

The use of genetic engineering in agriculture is often propagated as a means of increasing production and thus fighting hunger. Critics object that hunger today is less a question of too little food than a problem of distribution, that genetic engineering harbors incalculable ecological risks and makes farmers dependent on international seed companies.

Other possibilities for increasing production are environmentally friendly cultivation methods, the further development of traditional seeds, measures against soil erosion , improvement of storage options, etc.

Many small farmers also suffer from hunger because they farm on poor and poor soil. 20% of the hungry are landless farm workers. In the meantime, large areas of land lie fallow or are used for the cultivation of export products instead of staple foods. Land reforms would therefore also be an important measure against hunger in many countries.

( See also agriculture in developing countries , food sovereignty )


Spread of HIV / AIDS in Africa (2011) according to the World Bank
  • over 15%
  • 5-15%
  • 2-5%
  • 1-2%
  • 0.5-1%
  • 0.1-0.5%
  • no data
  • Every year 10 million young children in the world's poorest countries die from diseases that are preventable. 500,000 women die in pregnancy and childbirth because there is insufficient medical care for them . In 2003 three million people died of AIDS and southern Africa is at the top with 25.4 million HIV-infected people ( UNAIDS , 2004), which is around 64.5 percent of all HIV-infected people. This has reduced life expectancy in southern Africa by an average of ten years. Millions of people also suffer from diseases such as tuberculosis , malaria and leprosy . In regions where basic health care is not even guaranteed for the population, hospitals are being built, doctors and medicines are made available. One of the most important activities is educating people about HIV / AIDS and how to protect oneself from it. At the same time, access to contraceptives (especially condoms ) is made easier to prevent unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortion methods . The genital mutilation of girls and women is also combated. Childbirth care reduces maternal and infant mortality. The fight against infectious diseases is another important goal of development policy , but despite great efforts by the international community, the diseases continue to spread. To achieve the Millennium Development Goal , efforts to combat disease would have to be drastically increased.

    See also: HIV / AIDS in Africa


    In the conventional understanding of development policy, education plays an extremely important role in the fight against poverty; According to this, only those who can read, write and do arithmetic can know and claim their rights, and only they have the chance to find a better paid job. Human development is not possible without education. Education is equated with schooling. Yet 862 million young people and adults worldwide can not read or write. About a fifth of all school-age children have no opportunity to go to school.

    Development policy therefore promotes education, for example by building schools, training teaching staff and procuring teaching and learning materials. At the same time one tries to overcome the different treatment of the sexes. To the parents to motivate their children to school to send and to increase the incentive for staying longer in school, services such as medical care of students or school meals offered.

    Critics of this approach (among whom Ivan Illich was arguably the first) argue that the spread of schooling in the Third World does not reduce social inequality, it increases it. Despite large financial expenditures, it is not possible in most countries to build up a comprehensive school system. Most of the children only attended school for a few years and then felt like failures or are labeled as such.

    "If you take a closer look, however, it becomes clear that this school system builds a narrow bridge over a widening social chasm. As the only legitimate way, the school system blocks all unconventional transitions and blames the underperformers for their marginality."

    Another problem is the social and cultural gap that arises between those who are successful at school and the rest of the population. The school-based elites led a western lifestyle at the expense of the majority or left the country entirely (brain drain), so that their education did not benefit the bulk of the population, which they finance with their taxes. Insofar as it alienates the trained from the cultural traditions, the school was also referred to as an "instrument of cultural defoliation". Attempts to establish alternative schools in India following Gandhi largely failed because the elites, which were shaped by the colonial, western-oriented school system, stuck to this system after independence.

    environmental Protection

    Since the Rio conference in 1992, environmental protection (protection of forests, climate protection , preservation of biodiversity ) has been a component of development policy. Without the protection and preservation of the environment, no sustainable development is possible.

    When examining the wealth of states in 2005, the World Bank applied a new measurement that included the environmental resources of a country and, for example, included the value of fish stocks, forests , mineral resources and energy resources . In doing so, she comes to the conclusion that poor countries continue to lose their wealth through overexploitation of nature.

    The consumption of resources must be curbed worldwide, especially in industrialized countries. However, this must not deprive the poorer countries of the basis for their further development. Development policy takes care of the proper management of these resources by advising the government. This will attempt, for example, to protect the soil, further spread of deserts ( desertification , prevent) through better technology to better use in the water distribution water, the salinity and contamination to prevent the soil.


    Up to a million people die each year as a result of wars and their consequences. More than ninety percent of the nearly 200 wars that have taken place since 1945 have been fought in developing and transition countries . The peacekeeping tried preemptively act. This can be done through strengthening democratic principles, fair distribution of resources, protection of minorities or mediation. In Germany, the Civil Peace Service (ZFD) was created in 1999 on the initiative of civil society organizations, a special instrument for promoting peace in the context of development cooperation. Military measures to enforce peace are generally not part of development policy - this is based on the fact that the parties involved want to maintain peace and want to work on it.

    Human rights and democracy

    Respect for human rights is just as important a prerequisite for positive development as fair trade conditions and debt relief . Gender equality and children's rights play a special role in human rights. However, there are limits to development policy in this area: it is based on the will of the government concerned to introduce a democratic system of government and to comply with human rights - the enforcement of these measures is usually not part of development policy, even if development policy is supported by financial measures ( Conditions for debt relief) puts pressure on the governments concerned.

    Well-established democracies are less involved in armed conflicts, and the democratic control of power by the people makes human rights violations and abuse of office more difficult . Essential characteristics of democracies are the rule of law , good governance , free elections , multi-party systems , an independent judicial system and freedom of the press . Development policy also tries to fight corruption in the affected countries.

    Debt relief

    A high level of debt prevents sustainable development. In 1996 the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund ( IMF ) decided on an initiative to reduce the debt burden of the most heavily indebted countries. In 1999 this debt relief initiative was further expanded by the G8 group (HIPC initiative). 36 HIPC countries ( heavily indebted poor countries ) are to be granted debt service forgiveness totaling 71 billion US dollars. The countries are on average canceled two thirds of their debts. (This also includes individual bilateral debt relief from individual creditor countries.) The debt relief is tied to various conditions: economic and socio-political reforms and the use of the funds to combat poverty. In June 2005, the finance ministers of the G8 countries decided on further debt relief, which would cancel the liabilities of the countries qualified for the HIPC initiative up to an additional 55 billion US dollars. All debts to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank can be canceled. The prerequisite for this is the fulfillment of strict criteria in the area of good governance . Eighteen countries, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa , are benefiting immediately - they have been waived $ 40 billion in debt. Nine more can still qualify in the next few months. The other ten HIPC could be added later.


    The globalization today exerts a considerable influence on the social, political and economic conditions around the world, including in developing countries. That is why globalization, its opportunities and risks and ways of shaping them play an essential role in development policy.

    Making globalization fair means improving conditions in both developing and industrialized countries and at the international level. In order for people in developing countries to benefit from the advantages of globalization, their interests must be better considered in the world trading system. Overall, fair world trade must be built that also takes social and ecological aspects into account. Export subsidies , with which the industrialized countries throw their own surplus products (especially from agriculture) at the lowest prices on the markets of the developing countries and thus ruin the local industry, must be abolished from the point of view of development policy.

    Traditionally, trade cooperation with the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific ( ACP countries ) has been a focus of European development policy ( Cotonou Agreement ).

    See also: Developing Countries and the World Economy

    Actors in development policy and cooperation




    European Union




    Five forms of criticism of development policy can be distinguished:

    • Criticism of individual projects
    • General criticism of the practical implementation of the development policy, for example regarding the effectiveness of the measures: insufficient sustainability, the campaigns being sent out after the measure has expired
    • Criticism of the goals of development policy and of the term “ development ” itself: The evolutionary perspective of development is criticized, goals such as progress and industrialization. In the eyes of the critics, “non-industrial forms of life” are devalued by development policy and their right to exist is called into question.
    • Criticism of development policy as a "neo-colonial" imperialist strategy that steadily increases the dependence of the former colonies on the rich western states.
    • According to criticism from the national camp , development policy is proceeding too generously - the money is better to be used in one's own country. The developing countries are responsible for their own situation.

    Kenyan economist James Shikwati is one of the main critics of development aid . In-kind aid such as food and clothing donations would destroy local markets, and aid would fall victim to personal gain. He advocates stopping development aid completely.

    In September 2008, an initiative group of development experts published the “Bonn Call for a Different Development Policy”, which states that the previous development policy has failed and calls for a radical reorientation. The call and its extension "Bonner Call Plus" published in March 2009 is supported by the signatories and has rekindled the debate about the possibilities and limits of development policy. Other advocates of development policy describe the views of the Bonn Appeal as partly inconsistent and unconvincing.

    See also




    Web links

    Individual evidence

    1. Understanding Poverty. ( Memento from February 22, 2005 in the web archive )
    2. ^ Serge Latouche: Standards of Living. In: Wolfgang Sachs (Ed.): The Development dictionary. Zed Books, London 1996, pp. 250–263, citation p. 257 - Latouche quotes Jean Chesneaux, La modernité monde. La Decouverte, Paris 1989, p. 64.
    3. cf. his speech in Puerto Rico, "School as a sacred cow" in: Ivan Illich: Clarifications. Pamphlets and polemics. CH Beck, Munich 1996, pp. 13-25.
    4. cf. his speech in Puerto Rico, "School as a sacred cow" in: Ivan Illich: Clarifications. Pamphlets and polemics. CH Beck, Munich 1996, p. 29.
    5. Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Cheikh Hamidou Kane, Jo-Ann Archibald, Edouard Lizop, Majid Rahnema: Education as an instrument of cultural defoliation. A multi-voice report. In: Majid Rahnema, Victoria Bawtree (Eds.): The Post-Development Reader. Zed Books, London 1997.
    6. Press release from ONE: Bonn appeal not conclusive, even improved