4. Concepts from recent years

In recent years the discussion on development policy has not remained uninfluenced by the economic problems and the decline in the social consensus at our end. On the one hand, disappointment at the results and, indeed, bitterness over the still prevailing conditions can be ascertained. On the other hand, the industrial countries' own interests are again given more priority and the effects of international relations on the employment situation are underlined. Appeals to donate, e. g., for Africa, meet with great resonance (as if one could buy oneself off). However, if a developing country succeeds in achieving a break-through in the production of consumer goods, industrial countries concerned call for import restrictions and ..voluntary" limitations of the export quota.

The most important features of the discussion in the last years have been its induration and polarization:

  • “Alternative" groups demand the concentration of development aid on satisfying the poor people's basic needs. The concept of self-help and auto-responsibility is strongly emphasized, ..development from below" is advocated. Rural development should be based on traditional agriculture, give up agrarian exports to a large extent, and take into account the energy and ecological aspects.
  • Other circles doubt the creditability of development aid, at least in its effectiveness, as long as fundamental structural changes do not take place in international relations. They point out the problems of international trade, the influence exercised by multinational companies, the indebtedness of many developing countries, the ambiguity of food aid and the increasing imbalance in the distribution of commodities of every kind in the world.
  • Others, in contrast, pass to the agenda and, undeterred by all failures, attacks and doubts, try to do whatever seems possible and whatever can be implemented politically. They feel that it is important that more help is provided to the poor people by taking small steps in the right direction than by making long speeches.

Various groups maintain that they know the truth, and there is a bit of it in all the arguments. However, no analysis includes the totality of the problems. This results from the fact that no general development theory nor universal concepts exist which are conclusive and undisputed. The most important insight of the recent years is perhaps that the co-existence of poverty and surplus in the world is to be understood as a moral problem.