The UK General Elections on May the 7th will decide who will be part of the government that introduces a new set of international development policies – the global Sustainable Development Goals. As such, international development should be a critical issue in the General Elections debate. Luckily, many of the main political party manifestos recognise the need for UK support to people living in extreme poverty in developing countries. However, sadly, the international development debate remains limitedly focused on global and national security, and on commercial opportunities. The narrative is also based on superficial grounds, on ensuring the basic necessities of life for every human being, rather than tackling the structures that deprive the marginalised.
The issue of international development during this General Election campaign should not be merely about promoting economic growth and safety. It should rather be about tackling inequalities and furthering inclusion. As social inequalities hinder those processes that empower people in developing countries, international development should shift its focus to those inclusive processes of social justice that enable people in developing countries to decide how they want to pursue these goals.
According to the UNDP report (2013), Humanity Divided: Confronting Inequality in Developing Countries, inequality is highly linked to limited democratic participation, as the poorest are excluded from participation in the common institutions of society. As such, they are more likely to be denied their capabilities and agency. This is also exactly why international development matters. On a programmatic level international development can reduce disparities in education, health and nutrition, ensure inclusion by promoting access of women and girls to these public services. On a governance level, the international development sector can support fairer policy-making processes where the excluded can increase participation in decision-making forums and decide about matters that affect their lives.
I believe that international development has the potential to restructure power concentration by enhancing a broader-based democratic engagement. As such, what we advise all parties to adopt is a more inclusive agenda of international development that takes into account those inequalities that obscure further poverty reduction.
By Voula Kyprianou, Youth Ambassador for the ONE campaign and part of the action/2015 youth network.
For more information on the action/2015 campaign and youth click here. The action/2015 Youth Panel is co-facilitated by British Youth Council, BOND, Islamic Relief, Progressio and Restless Development and Y Care International.