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Mohamed A. Salih
Professor Politics of Development at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and the Department of Political Science at the University of Leiden.
The Netherlands, 03-03-2015

From the Hazards of “International Development “Charity” to Inclusive Development

Conventional  development practice which  represents a  form of charity  is hazardous and no longer suited to the demands of inclusive development. Only through a paradigm shift from “international development as charity” to supporting growth through trade not aid to generate  employment,  productive safety nets and increase agricultural productivity and market access that the poor can be INCLUDED. As the Netherlands development experience in Ethiopia demonstrates, mobilizing and supporting the Dutch private sector to  work together with the private and public sectors in the developing countries will lift more people out of poverty than the outdated “International Development as Charity” paradigm.

The title of this opinion expresses a criticisable contention not at least because development aid alludes to conventional development being dominantly informed by a set of activities of a charitable nature. Although it has done some good, it has produced problems that in the long-term made it a hazardous pursuit. “International Development as charity” is suitable for abating crises and emergencies that require urgency and immediacy by saving life, resuscitating the dying and assisting in reclaiming shattered livelihoods.

However, extending “development as charity” to social development sectors (which are the responsibility of the state) is not sustainable because it creates dependency and undermines the state’s legitimacy. This contention should not be misconstrued for advocating a “hands off” policy, but rather to use donor support strategically or as a catalyst to leveraging inclusive growth. There are three implications emanating from this:

  1. Scrap “International development as charity” in the form of development programmes (education, health, water and other social amenities) as we know them. History has     shown that donor successes and impacts in these field are meagre, not-sustainable, reinforce dependency and in most cases are not inclusive. Where necessary, support such programmes only within national strategies for structural transformation.
  2. Shift “International development as charity” from national governments to multilateral organizations specialized in the activities mentioned above as part of the global public goods or for the prevention of the spread of epidemics and endemics at a global-scale.
  3.  Leverage development policies and interventions capable of translating growth into inclusive and sustainable development. This point makes the bulk of my opinion as expressed below, using the Netherlands current policies and interventions in Ethiopia as a case in point.

Best practices

In my opinion the Netherlands development programmes in Ethiopia fall well within point three with interventions and policy mix in the following sectors:

  1. From aid to trade: with 100 Dutch companies active in agribusiness subsectors (flowers-, vegetables- and fruit sector, sesame and dairy production) bringing Dutch expertise, upgrading technology and local production techniques and creating productive employment for an estimated 50,000 Ethiopians.
  2. Increase agricultural productivity and market access in surplus producing areas as part of the Agricultural Growth Program (AGP), and improve service providers and farmer organizations’ capacity to scale up best practices in production and processing, with special attention for women and youth.
  3. Productive safety net programmes (PSNPs), implemented by the government of Ethiopia, which lifted over 7 million Ethiopians out of poverty through engagement in public works activities (reforestation and soil and water conservation) that contribute environmental sustainability, asset building and increased market access.

These policies and interventions can be supplemented with Dutch private sector partnership with developing countries private or public sector in critical mega development intervention sectors, particularly energy and infrastructure. More than International development as charity, as incentives for creating productive employment, improving market access and integrating farmers and livestock keepers to the market – with immediate impact on (1) and (2) above.

From charity to empowerment

In sum, lessons of experience learned from the Netherlands international development policies interventions and interventions in Ethiopia shows that there is a great potential in shifting international development away from “international development as charity” to a new empowering paradigm. It should privilege the nexus between aid and trade, productive employment and sustainable and inclusive growth.

The private sector in the developing countries is interested in profit making and less in pro-poor interventions. The best way it can contribute to development is to make it adhere to corporate social responsibility by paying taxes as the greatest contribution to domestic resource mobilization.


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Promoting inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda on trade and international cooperation

This contribution is part of a consultation for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on how to promote inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda on trade and international cooperation.
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