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Turning the table: empires and development concepts-II

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The world is facing a growing disillusionment with current economic and political order that was historically erected through great games and neoliberal economic agenda and development concepts by the colonial empires. These issues were deliberated upon by scholars, academics, development practitioners at a workshop held recently in Ottawa University, Canada. They debunked the neoliberal development concept and advocated pluralistic, universal and inclusive model. We had published the first part of the deliberations on this page. In the second part, we are publishing the summary of the discussions in plenary sessions on the issues and development model from the perspectives of indigenous people, Asia, Africa, Europe, Middle East, Latin America, and the North.–Editor

 

by Fayyaz Baqir

In recent years, there has been some hope among the indigenous community in Canada at the possibility of genuine reconciliation. The court gave access to land with the condition that in the event of general economic development in the national interest, the state can revoke their land rights.

According to Carolyn Laude, Senior Policy Analyst, Indigenous Services, Canada, this was a hollow reconciliation effort in which the state’s sovereignty superseded aboriginal titles.

The politics of recognition tends to advance reconciliation through a sovereign subject perspective and plans of economic development, whereas indigenous peoples look at reconciliation from a relational perspective where inherent rights flow from the creator and not government laws.

To describe this tension between the two approaches, Ms Carolyn divided her presentation into four parts:

What is indigeneity?

Explaining the history, definition of indigeneity and indigenous worldview, Ms Carolyn said: “A number of scholars have delved into the question of Indian identity. According to Maximilian Forte, there are three possible answers: first, the term Indian can mean a state of being into the world. Second, it can be understood as a noble and stable being and finally according to Forte’s perspective, Indian identity can be understood through a number which is used to track them in a way that no one else is tracked of. The indigenous community still grapples with the idea of blood quantum.

She related the experience of her own daughter who has mixed ancestry. This is problematic because once an indigenous member marries out of the community, he/she is disowned by the community. Indigenous identity in Canada has strong political undercurrents. The internalization of colonialism with indigenous people resulted in confusion at the community level.

What it is like in Canada today?

Carolyn mentioned that over the past three years, she saw several accounts of reconciliation. There is disparity among first nation communities on whether reconciliation is possible through a rights recognition model or an indigenous framework or some hybrid model of the two. The diversity in views has challenged the federal government efforts in 2018-2019. The trust issues concerning the idea that the government is continuing its old ways have led it to rethink what land titles mean from an indigenous relational perspective.

The reconciliation typology

The reconciliation typology, based on Ms Carolyn’s research work, is synthesized into four distinct types: genuine, standalone, transitional, and assimilative. Her findings indicate that reconciliation is a contested term. Genuine reconciliation involves intercultural, legal, political, and epistemological changes. It deconstructs structural cultural dichotomy. It engages in relational responsibility and dialogue and it values other worldviews. If the federal government wants to move away from the rights recognition model of reconciliation, it needs to think and act differently in its approach to indigeneity in Canada. It needs to embrace the idea of coexistence and pluri-versality. Carolyn thinks that we are still in a dominant mode of being in a country that suppresses other indigenous life modes.

Way forward?

Ms Carolyn explained that federalism is a western construct and is rooted in notions of racial privilege. The rights of the indigenous community are eroded in international treaty agreements. She concluded that Canada is imperialist in nature and the victims are the indigenous people. Reconciliation project is also inspired by liberalism protecting capital and labour. Liberal worldviews cannot be embedded in indigenous worldviews and any attempt to do so through hybridization of the two approaches would not bring any deep structural reform, she emphasized.

Federalism is a western construct rooted in notions of racial privilege…Canada is imperialist in nature and the victims are the indigenous people. Reconciliation project is also inspired by liberalism protecting capital and labour

Responding to a question about the reconciliation process when the indigenous people had to resort to state institutions that are founded on western notions and do not conform to the worldviews of the indigenous peoples, Carolyn said that the term ‘reconciliation’ is a government terminology. Most indigenous languages do not contain the word of reconciliation as such but do contain a variety of words that describe it.

She pointed out that embedding one life-world into another cannot yield good results. What is important is to respect all life-worlds equally.

Rika Mpogazi asked further as to how one can combat an institution that has been in place for more than a century while also claiming the land that one owns. Who has the ultimate say in this process? Ms Carolyn answered that indigenous people have their own legal and political systems and that political and legal pluralism has existed in Canada for a long time. It is only when there is an economic development project that the conflict becomes more obvious. Due to the lack of ethical space, unfortunately, the relationship tends to worsen.

Perspectives in and from the Middle East

Professor Nadia Abu Zahra shared her disenchantment with international aid in the context of Palestine while referring to an article that she co-authored on “Why Canadian aid won’t really help Palestinian entrepreneurs” published in The Conversation.

The term ‘developing’, ‘developed’ or ‘industrialized’ reminds us of theft and colonialism

She related her own personal experiences growing up in Palestine as a student of international development and said that she was only 17 when her disillusionment with the international aid industry and development began. This cynicism continued when she became a student of international development in Canada and remains so even to this date when she is a professor.

She suggested that it was time to rethink and transform development studies’ discipline.

She expressed her aversion to the term ‘developing’, ‘developed’ or ‘industrialized’ as it reminds her of theft and colonialism and that is one reason why she prefers to use the term ‘solidarity’ instead of development and this has been well-met by her students.

“We need to rethink the gamut of international development and harness the potential of researchers in this area,” Ms Nadia said.

The pedagogy and style of teaching also need improvement: more than half of the courses at international development are taught by faculty members who have no employment security. Quite regrettably the federal government has been contributing to this worsening trend.

At present, we do not have the pedagogical resources to devise strategies that move beyond scantrons to evaluate students.

Ms Nadia concluded with an optimistic note that despite these challenges, there are ways through which we can reform the system through conscious thinking.

Perspectives in and from Asia

Fayyaz Baqir While tracing the history of global political and economic order from the first industrial revolution onwards up until the present. He talked about three distinct periods: between the first industrial revolution and World War-I;  between WW-I and WW-II; and between WW-II and the end of the Cold War.

The first industrial revolution led to the emergence of utilitarianism and capitalism bringing in its wake, the commodification of mind, body, and spirits and an unrelenting pursuit of materialism through colonialism. The period from the industrial revolution up until WW-I was marked by the destruction and replacement of precapitalistic order by the capitalist order and the commencement of what came to be known as the “Great Game” by the European empires as a strategy to promote its economic interests globally.

The period between WW-I and WW-II was characterized by the colonization of various parts of the world by European empires. Despite the powerful resistance movements and insurrections by indigenous groups, the colonies succumbed to capitalism.

According to Mr Baqir, after WW-II, the Cold War ensued along with the expansion of capitalism to Asia and the collapse of the Soviet Union. As capitalism strengthened in Asia, it pitted the Western empire led by the US against the rising capitalist order in Asia. In this economic strife for hegemony and economic power, Mother Earth had to pay dearly in terms of climate change and the environment.

Capitalism after dominating the world for more than two centuries is now on the path of self-annihilation

All along this period, Mr Baqir argued, capitalism triumphed over other economic orders. However, after dominating the world for more than two centuries, this system is now on the path of self-annihilation, he said.

“We are in a new era. Which system will replace it, is a question of paramount importance and requires intensive thinking, discussion, and follow up work.

Mr Baqir concluded with an insightful remark that the chaos and disorder that we see outside are a reflection of our inner chaos and fear. Unless we overcome our inner fears and rely on our capacity to bring about the positive change needed, we cannot see change outside and this, according to him, should guide the teaching of development studies as a discipline.

Also read: https://thehighasia.com/development-and-games-of-empires/

Perspectives in and from Africa

Aoua Bocar Ly-Tall talked about what she calls the ‘double chaos’ that the world is facing today: one between humans and other forms of life on earth, and the other between humans themselves.

Regarding the human-nature chaos, Ms Aoua lamented the indifference of international corporate forces to a number of warnings issued by Brundtland Report in 1985, the Interparliamentary Committee on Climate (IPCC), and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Lack of attention to these warnings has resulted in us facing ecological disasters causing destruction and suffering across the world, particularly the drought-ridden Sahelian Africa.

The destruction, according to Ms Aoua, is as deep as at the environmental level. The aboriginal peoples of Australia and America, Acadians, Jews, Middle East, and French Canadians, all have been the victims of divisions constituted by the Western empires

The aboriginal peoples have been the victims of divisions constituted by the Western empires

As for Africans, they suffered the barbarism of slavery and terrorism of colonization, she lamented.

Ms Aoua concluded by underscoring the need to reverse this trend by searching for answers and outlining future courses of action for sustainable international development.

Perspectives in and on Europe

Costanza Musu talked about how Europe shaped its political identity after WW-II, particularly focusing on the developments in the last ten years.

The theory of international development is predominantly the intellectual product of European political thinkers and theorists so the way we look at the world is primarily through the Western-centric notions of statehood and liberalism

She started off by emphasizing that the theory of international development taught today is predominantly the intellectual product of European political thinkers and theorists so the way we look at the world is primarily through the Western-centric notions of statehood and liberalism. The ideal political system according to this notion is based on the sovereignty of states with political borders and an economic system — essentially capitalistic in nature – that generates positive economic growth. But this liberal political and economic order only worked for Europe or more broadly to the Commonwealth region in isolation with the rest of the world.

After WW-II and the destruction caused by it, Europe moved towards a more secure community through the establishment and expansion of European Union and facilitating free movement of people by eliminating internal borders. But this came at the expense of building a fortress Europe, Ms Constanza argued.

Currently, Europe is at a point where it does not know where to place its economic and political power apart from its natural alliance with the US which is now increasingly being challenged. What Europe has to offer to the rest of the world apart from pure economic deals is an open question.

In response to a question from Jai Sen about Europe’s traditional ideals of liberalism and the issue of refugees and migrants approaching Europe and facing a fortress, Ms Constanza replied that European countries are not unique to this phenomenon that has been growing everywhere else around the globe.

The flow of migrants affected by economic deprivation, inequality, violence, and oppression highlights the failure of the global international order

The flow of migrants affected by economic deprivation, inequality, violence, and oppression highlights the failure of the global international order and the ‘Fortress’ is not able to protect even if it is built around the ocean, Ms Costanza remarked.

The paradox that Europe is facing at the moment is that political forces that are open towards refugees are being attacked by the opposing political forces.

Another participant from the audience asked Ms Constanza to share her insights on why European welfare states and its social democracy – that has kept capitalism in check — has not been affected by the present chaotic situation? Ms Constanza replied that the source of much of the tension that we see today in Europe is the outcome of a significant portion of economic growth generated outside Europe through international corporations that do not have the institutions of social protection. This economic growth benefits a few elite groups thereby creating economic inequality and vulnerability for the common people.

Perspectives in and on North

Syed Sajjadur Rahman delineated his perspective on the North and explained that if the decades of ’80s and ’90s were marked by the retreat of the state in the South in response to market liberalization and globalization, the current decade is the era marked by the retreat of the North from globalization.

The current global hegemonic system is the victim of its own created processes like liberalization and globalization of international trade

Mr Rahman emphasized two key points: First, the current global hegemonic system — that is in the state of crisis at the moment — is the victim of its own created processes like liberalization and globalization of international trade. The emergence of competing powers like China, India, and Brazil are the outcomes of this system that were created by the North to maintain its global hegemony.

The Bretton Woods institutions, created after WW-II, extended the pre-war colonialism on the notion of western superiority in managing global order. The US led the process of hegemonic order. Now the North is retreating from this hegemony and is becoming more closed due to fears of large sections of its population whose jobs are being threatened by globalization and immigration.

Second, with the emergence of new global powers like China that is exercising and expanding its influence all over the world, the question is would South need North in the future. Over the past ten years, new donors have emerged.

The financial support of the North for NGOs and civil society organizations has diminished but since these organizations in the South have matured

At present, there are three groups of international donors: The OECD, BRICS, and the Arab World. The development processes and the targets are now being set and owned by the developing countries themselves. This is in contrast to the hierarchical relationship that used to prevail in the development partnership earlier. Aid has now turned more into a leveraging financial instrument rather than a development instrument. The financial support of the North for NGOs and civil society organizations has diminished but since these organizations in the South have matured, they no longer need the North.

Mr Rehman mentioned the question about the need for a global code of conduct for globalization. The present code of conduct followed by MNCs is market-based and the question is whether this is a good solution from a social welfare perspective. Is there any way to de-commodify the financial flows to the South?

A participant from the audience asked if there were new hegemonic constructs being created in the South — given its rise and the diminishing role of the North — and if yes, how do we ensure that they do not lead to unequal structures of power to which Mr Rahman agreed and provided example of China that is buying land in Africa and Asia for agricultural and construction projects.

He also compared the North and South’s style of funding which is more transactional in nature where, for instance, an infrastructure project is promised on the basis of access to land for growing crops. This is different from the type of conditionalities that the North demanded to comply with — in terms of governance, gender equality, and human rights — in exchange for foreign aid.

Perspectives in and on Latin America

Susan Spronk talked about the future of Development Studies and gave her closing remarks emphasizing the need to consider the present crisis as an opportunity to think about the future and define a new era.

Susan explained that Cuba provides a classic example of what happens when human life and economic sustainability is prioritized instead of mass consumerism that has primarily been the development goal since most of the 20th Century.

Latin America has some peculiarities, Susan noted. For instance, it is the region that has had the greatest number of revolutions in the world in the 20th century and this could be related to the fact that the region achieved independence from European powers earlier than the rest of the regions. It is the region with some of the most advanced historical civilizations. It was the first to be colonized by the Europeans. It is the region with great racial diversity resulting in tumultuous politics in terms of legacies of racism and colonialism. It is a region with one of the highest income inequalities in the world and finally, it is a region characterized by the return of leftist political experiments and as such has been able to reduce social inequality.

While presenting her perspective on development studies as a discipline, Ms Susan mentioned that it is one of the most radical disciplines that go beyond projects and foreign aid. It is multidisciplinary and does not have one specific form. While expressing her optimism about the future of this discipline, Ms Susan pointed out that the number one journal in development studies is a left-leaning journal related to Peasant Studies and has a higher impact factor than World Development which is a mainstream policy journal that publishes articles mostly written by economists.

The global capitalistic structure with its unrelenting quest for economic growth, that has resulted in the human and ecological crises unfolding before us, is in the state of crisis

While providing her closing remarks, Ms Susan emphasized that we are witnessing the contradictions of the model that has been dominant for 25-30 years. The global capitalistic structure with its unrelenting quest for economic growth that has resulted in the human and ecological crisis unfolding before us is in the state of crisis and we need to look for alternatives and think about ways of dismantling the Master’s house.

To Ms Susan, what offers hope and promise is the involvement of youth that now represents more than 40 percent of the global population.

Rika Mpogazi, of the Development Student Association, said the difference between the colonial and indigenous perspectives on land and that how we associate ourselves with land and territory was a social construct. The diversity and heterogeneity of regions and the people living in those regions are also crucial to know for an in-depth understanding of international development.

also see: https://thehighasia.com/poverty/

According to Ms Rika the idea of development and progress built around the neoliberal notion and ignoring the social expectation is again a social construct and all cultures may not appreciate it. Ms Rika said that aid continues to exert its role in international development with different actors and hierarchical relationships. ‘Development’ according to Ms Rika may be a derogatory term for some people if it involves meeting expectations that they themselves do not ascribe to and are set for them by someone else.

Regarding the educational reforms and pedagogy in international development, she agreed that students learn better if they can visualize what they are learning and apply their knowledge to careers that are sustainable. Evaluation of the knowledge through multiple-choice exams that are graded by a scantron machine has definitely limited scope to achieve the kind of learning outcomes that Rika thought would land students in sustainable careers in international development.


Fayyaz Baqir is a visiting Professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies (SIDGS) at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He served as Senior Advisor on civil society at the United Nations, and CEO of Trust for Voluntary Organizations. He received top contributors’ awards from UNDP’s Global Poverty Reduction Network.

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