Despite Good Intentions: Why Development Assistance to the Third World Has Failed

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2003 - Business & Economics - 303 pages
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For more than thirty-five years, Thomas W. Dichter has worked in the field of international development, managing and evaluating projects for nongovernmental organizations, directing a Peace Corps country program, and serving as a consultant for such agencies as USAID, UNDP, and the World Bank. On the basis of this extensive and varied experience, he has become an outspoken critic of what he terms the "international poverty alleviation industry." He believes that efforts to reduce world poverty have been well-intentioned but largely ineffective. On the whole, the development industry has failed to serve the needs of the people it has sought to help.

To make his case, Dichter reviews the major trends in development assistance from the 1960s through the 1990s, illustrating his analysis with eighteen short stories based on his own experiences in the field. The analytic chapters are thus grounded in the daily life of development workers as described in the stories.

Dichter shows how development organizations have often become caught up in their own self-perpetuation and in public relations efforts designed to create an illusion of effectiveness. Tracing the evolution of the role of money (as opposed to ideas) in development assistance, he suggests how financial imperatives have reinforced the tendency to sponsor time-bound projects, creating a dependency among aid recipients. He also examines the rise of careerism and increased bureaucratization in the industry, arguing that assistance efforts have become disconnected from important lessons learned on the ground, and often lessons of world history.

In the end, Dichter calls for a more light-handed and artful approach to development assistance, with fewer agencies and experts involved. His stance is pragmatic, rather than ideological or political. What matters, he says, is what works, and the current practices of the development industry are simply not effective.

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Contents

Spare No Expense the Very Best
164
For the People By the People
175
The Mismatch of Organizational Imperatives and Money
180
Position Not Condition
197
Headless Chickens
215
The Professionalization of Development
226
Too Many Cooks
239
Rhetorical Support
246

Slidingtoward Dependency
90
Development Assistance as an Industry the Dev Biz
98
Dedication
111
TryingSimplyto Help
124
Avoiding History
128
Helper and the Helped
135
Confusing Stakes
143
The Consequences of Avoiding Certain Universals of Human Nature
152
Marketing Development
257
UnintendedConsequences
271
The Peoples Program
281
The Case for a Radical Reduction in Development Assistance
286
Epilogue
295
Bibliography
297
Index
301
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Page 286 - 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 the skill to relieve the suffering of these people.
Page 62 - Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
Page 286 - I believe that we should make available to peace-loving peoples the benefits of our store of technical knowledge in order to help them realize their aspirations for a better life.
Page 152 - The inevitable gap between conquest and dominion becomes filled with the figures of the greedy trader, the inopportune missionary, the ambitious soldier, and the lying speculator, who disquiet the minds of the conquered and excite the sordid appetites of the conquerors. And as the eye of thought rests on these sinister features, it hardly seems possible for us to believe that any fair prospect is approached by so foul a...
Page 55 - It is declared to be the policy of the United States to aid the efforts of the peoples of economically underdeveloped areas to develop their resources and improve their working and living conditions by encouraging the exchange of technical knowledge and skills and the flow of investment capital to countries which provide conditions under which such technical assistance and capital can effectively and constructively contribute to raising standards of living, creating new sources of wealth, increasing...
Page 152 - Kitchener: \\'hat enterprise that an enlightened community may attempt is more noble and more profitable than the reclamation from barbarism of fertile regions and large populations?
Page 234 - He is, in his own apprehension, a centre of unfolding impulsive activity — "teleological" activity. He is an agent seeking in every act the accomplishment of some concrete, objective, impersonal end. By force of his being such an agent he is possessed of a taste for effective work, and a distaste for futile effort. He has a sense of the merit of serviceability or efficiency and of the demerit of futility, waste, or incapacity. This aptitude or propensity may be called the instinct of workmanship...
Page 287 - The current program has run out of steam. It is increasingly questioned by voters, Congress, and expert observers. Senator Leahy reflected the views of many of his congressional colleagues when he wrote that the assistance program "... is exhausted intellectually, conceptually, and politically. It has no widely understood and agreed set of goals, it lacks coherence and vision, and there is a very real question whether parts of it actually serve broadly accepted United States national interests any...
Page 154 - We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten. We can receive anything from love, for that is a way of receiving it from ourselves ; but not from any one who assumes to bestow. We sometimes hate the meat which we eat, because there seems something of degrading dependence in living by it.
Page 49 - This disparity between the rich and the poor has been noticed. It has been noticed, most acutely and not unnaturally, by the poor. Just because they have noticed it, it won't last for long. Whatever else in the world we know survives to the year 2000, that won't. Once the trick of getting rich is known, as it now is, the world can't survive half rich and half poor. It's just not on.

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About the author (2003)

Thomas W. Dichter holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago and has taught at Tufts University, Clark University, and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School.

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