What Development Is and What It Could Be

I stood on the dock with a beer.

“Development must be shaped by the people. Poverty cannot be eradicated only by people not affected by it — people must also fight their own poverty.”

IAP started this initiative to show that those who face development are the ones who can in turn improve it. Surely those who have seen how development changes their lives — for better or for worse — are best placed to advise on improvements. We recruited a team of eight amazing people from eight countries to conduct local research and present policy proposals to change how development is done. Sek Sokunroth and his family were forcibly evicted from their home near that same lake area community in Phnom Penh after living there for 25 years. Mela Chiponda has seen the harm caused by diamond mining in Zimbabwe. Moon Nay Li from Burma has seen the government in Burma force communities, including her own, from their land.

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IAP’s Global Advocacy Team (l to r): Sek Sokunroth, Jessica Amon, Mohamed Abdl Azim, Sukhgerel Dugersuren, Mela Chiponda, Jamil Junejo, Moon Nay Li, Bernardino Morales Tera.

“Instead, imagine for a moment what if development were designed and lived by the same people?”

What if those designing and funding development actually lived in the communities nearest to the project? What if they and their families had to benefit or suffer personally — how would their work be different?

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The IAP and Global Advocacy Team report title asks for a return to the idea that development should always improve lives and never cause harm. Instead of being devoted to the end products, development should focus first on realizing community-led plans and priorities. The image of the compass calls us to return with a clean page to the drawing board — and ask whose inspiration should be followed before drawing the first line.

International Accountability Project works to defend the rights, land and livelihoods of people threatened by destructive development projects.

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