As with everything in this world, there are influences that can impact what is happening and the outcome; and development politics is no different! If anything, the influences are more effectual and have greater repercussions, especially when it comes down to development outcomes. Influences can help to give us an idea of why a certain political system is not working, even though it may have all the correct mechanisms in place to succeed. What is more, each individual context will have its own distinct set of influences which can affect development politics even further and make it more complex to enable momentous sustainable change. I had been waiting for the topic of corruption to arise within this module as I think it is an unavoidable and unfortunately inevitable part of politics, possibly even more so in a development context where rules and regulations are seemingly less robust… I had also been anticipating for the topic surrounding religious influences in development context, especially that of development politics as I do believe it makes a huge difference to developmental outcomes (possibly slightly controversial?).
The start and largest part of the module is understandably around corruption, it was interesting to hear perspectives around why corruption is sometimes necessary and not always a bad thing, I think the majority of political systems must learn to dance with some elements of corruption as it is simply inevitable. Even so, although it may be inevitable, the level and type of corruption should determine whether it is to be overlooked or if it is something that needs addressing and stamping out within that particular system. This I guess addresses Nic’s questions of how much is too much? The lines of what is deemed corruption are blurred and different in each scenario… As Alina Rocha Menocal puts it, “It is a symptom of broader dynamics, interactions, weaknesses and potential opportunities, rather than an innate pathology. This is what makes it so entrenched and so difficult to address.”
One theme around corruption that really angers me, is the media’s negative projection of it and UK Aid, and how much it is blown out of proportion. It is commonly thought that a lot of aid is lost and wasted to corrupt governments, and that is enough of a reason to not give. This view is completely wrong, UK aid is one of the best. I work for Save the Children UK and a colleague wrote an interesting blog around this subject here…
Anyway! In his video lecture, Nic discussed two main types of corruption: clientelism and patronage, both hugely influenced by history and lineage. It was thought-provoking listening about how societal norms in some parts of the world make it easy for corruption to take place, made even harder to deter by the view held locally, that what is happening is completely legitimate. Although there are many ideas around what is thought ‘acceptable’ when it comes to corruption, I think the single thing that can be agreed on is the barrier corruption creates for political development.
Or can corruption be a good thing?…
This seems like a strange question, and almost a catch 22. Morally, I have a very black and white outlook on things. However I have learnt that the world is not so black and white, and sometimes certain situations offer a whole spectrum of colours in between! Nic highlighted some interesting points of where corruption may not be such a bad thing, if it is helping to sustain public services, or kick-start economic activity through developmental patrimonialism. Alina also made an interesting comment in her blog that in some cases, corruption allows for strategic allocation of benefits which can play a crucial role in helping to limit violence and promote stability in developing countries overcoming conflict.
I think corruption is unavoidable in all societies, even the developed. And that where development politics in concerned, a deep understanding must be had of corruption and the influence it can have on development, but also learning how to use the influence to an advantage.
Now I am going to discuss religion. I have often had quite controversial views about religion and development, probably due to be being a strong atheist. Controversially I do believe religion has far too much of an influence in development contexts and is often used as a justification for unjustifiable actions. However, I have no objections to others being religious and have many friends from all faiths, but I do believe religion strongly prevents development and would even go as far as saying that the majority of under developed countries have large religious followings. I do believe there are correlations between how ‘religious’ a country is and how quickly it is able to develop… I saw this highlighted in a blog and thought it was particularly relevant:
In looking at the 2008 Human Development Index, Sierra Leone, Congo and Malawi which top the world’s religiosity list are among the world’s 20 least developed countries. At the same time, Norway, Sweden, Japan, France and Denmark are among the world’s 20 most developed countries, yet feature in the 11 least religious countries.
I do not believe religion to be the cause of underdevelopment, but I believe it to be a contributing factor to underdevelopment. In the context of development politics, the role religion can have with the state can influence development and politics outcomes. I suppose I hold the former view rather than the latter of Carole Rakodi’s assertion that:
“Religion is either an obstacle to the achievement of development aims or as a missing ingredient which, if understood and harnessed, will help to increase the effectiveness of development efforts”.
Although I hold the view that religion hinders development, I still understand its importance is most societies and that it can’t be forgotten or erased just because I am not a believer myself…Especially where foreign intervention is concerned, a sound understanding and respect for the religion in a particular region is crucial if development organisations are to be welcomed into an area willingly to provide support where necessary and not encounter resistance. Rakodi says the lack of explicit consideration of religion can hinder development if “development organisations are not only unfamiliar with the beliefs, histories, organisational structures, and variations within the array of faith traditions, they were also ill-informed about the long history of interactions between religious bodies and states, which have left legacies as commonly characterised by resentment and suspicion as by collaboration”…