Interim Report

01 August 2011

Our International Development Working Group (IDWG) has patiently explored and researched aid development and poverty alleviation problems during the past year and has also learned much from the experiences and input from our own panel of UNA experts. We have also started to firm up our conviction that the structured top down development approach of successive UK and other National Development Agencies has failed to make the intended difference and generally speaking, results have often been sadly futile. Their traditionally structured approach has failed to address the ongoing and worsening polarisation of living standards within developing countries.

We now better recognise the threefold challenge of global human despair which are ‘deepening poverty’, ‘social disintegration’ and ‘environmental destruction’ and the successive failure of this structured Institutional aid to address such worsening crises.

Decades of aid packages have failed to address the fundamental problem of extremely unequal access to assets and resources within developing nations. Consequently, these failures have failed to resolve the root causes of poverty and have sadly resulted in the delivery of ineffective responses. Successive programmes have endeavoured to apply well-intentioned yet misdirected traditional and customary development methodology through programmes ranging from Eastern Europe, to Africa and Asia – alas to no significant
avail. Development funding has failed to understand that the distribution of ‘access to’ and ‘control over’ assets and resources within developing countries is in most cases the primary source of poverty. This has manifested
itself by creating decades of failure. The rollout of these traditional development processes has simply created or exacerbated unequal social relations.

UNA Edinburgh IDWG feels strongly that a change of tack (or at worst a change of emphasis) is vital to deliver better poverty alleviation. We are strongly convinced that funding should be ‘bottom up’ and specifically directed
towards individual projects. It should also be enterprise led and sustainable. Projects must deliver project longevity and be recognised as effective winners. By so doing, projects will also enable and engender diasporic support from each development nation’s emigrants, wherever they now find themselves, throughout the globe.

Aid funding must deliver effective assistance to the most needy and be far superior in achieving successful delivery in comparison to the previously misdirected and non-achieving trickle down process of governments, NGOs and similar institutions. This traditional trickle down process is also be-devilled by iniquitous overhead deductions, corruption, inefficiencies and systematic and often abject failures in reaching where the assistance was intended.

It is hoped that within a year, our IDWG will have helped explore the construction of a series of prototype examples in the fields of Agroforestry, Health, Education and the provision of pilot Vocational Colleges to teach trades which would help address the ongoing deficiencies and best reflect our emergent thinking. Our prototypes will all involve the harnessing and empowerment of communities and community based enterprises which will feature sustainable business development initiatives. Our intention is to use our prototypes to more effectively help the ‘poorest of the poor’ and enable them to take direct control over their lives and become the agents of their own development. These new prototypes must have this enterprise element which creates employment and which provides and delivers income, hope, self-esteem and aspirational visions for families. This factor is vital as we now fully understand and recognise that underdeveloped peoples detest the structuralised, tired and traditional methods of aid disbursement through trickle down packages which reflect and infer welfare handouts etc. We have been well appraised that recipients emphatically detest such unspecified ‘aid’ and openly loathe the loose usage of the word. They see such ‘aid’ as de-motivating and demeaning as it also encourages idleness and lethargy. Such assistance is also more than often transient; it can be withdrawn at any time. Potential community recipients better relate to our preferred method of delivering direct project funding which creates employment and which is underpinned by educational or vocational training which stimulates self-improvement and delivers conditions for sustainability and enhanced well-being.

To delivery viability and continuity, we intend our projects to embrace and feature a diaspora support element.  For example, UK diasporic residents (from such developing nations) can associate themselves with our innovative approach to projects and thereby encourage them to sign up to pledging funds to support the ongoing servicing of successful projects and help the successful longevity of completed initiatives. The recognition of such diaspora linked projects, enables focus and initiates support which builds a growing atmosphere of mutual satisfaction and pride. The diasporic representatives in the UK (or elsewhere globally) can therefore involve themselves with completed projects and subject to their individual expertise, even join the respective management Boards of such prototypes.

The UNA Edinburgh IDWG, working with our team of experts and through our network of contacts, is currently exploring avenues of research and funding to enable the delivery of our planned prototypes. We are indeed extremely fortunate to enjoy the vast experience of our own stable of expert ID members who have deservedly earned such global respect and renown. Our idea of creating ‘prototypes’ provides the first step towards creating effective alternative solutions. We are also approaching this from a UNA-Scotland and hopefully in the future, also from a Study Centre platform. This embryonic initiative is very much a ‘work in progress’ but if we are successful then we will be in a strong position to encourage other interested parties to adopt similarly directed projects.

Ken Stewart
Chair, IDWG
UNA Edinburgh