Conference explores “a new paradigm” in international development

Conference explores “a new paradigm” in international development

We need a bolder vision of development that emphasizes our moral and ethical commitments to all humanity.

That message was the outcome of a two-day conference held in Ottawa at which participants were encouraged to ”think outside the box” about the development framework that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs) in 2015. Hosted in Ottawa 21-22 September 2012 by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation and the Canadian Association for Studies in International Development, the conference brought together organizations from Canadian civil society, academics and government officials.

The eight MDGs are focused on addressing global poverty. These goals were derived from the values of the Millennium Declaration, a document signed by world leaders in 2000 that expressed such fundamental ideals as freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility. The MDGs will expire in 2015. Efforts are now underway to deliberate on the priorities for a new global development framework.

The conference began with a keynote address by Paul Gérin-Lajoie, the president of the Canadian International Development Agency from 1970 to 1977. Mr. Gérin-Lajoie underlined the connection between education and development: “The motor of development is the capacity of men and women to act,” he said. “If they do not have the right to learn and to participate, there cannot be any sustainable and equitable development.”

Amitabh Behar, the co-chair of the Global Coalition Against Poverty, called for a closer relationship between development and justice. He urged the audience, post-2015, to “have large dreams – dreams rooted in justice and dignity,” and to remember “the ethical dimension of development.”

Barbara Adams, a member of the Civil Society Reflection Group on Global Development Perspectives, observed that a side-effect of the MDGs was that they narrowed development to a prioritized hierarchy of needs. She recalled the vision and principles of the Millennium Declaration, and urged that human rights and universality be at the heart of a new development framework.

Diana Alarcón, from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations, noted that the world has changed since the MDGs were formulated. Inequality between countries, environmental degradation, changing population dynamics, and emerging security issues all require global action. She asked how the post-2015 agenda would provide guiding principles for a global compact to address these issues.

Conference participants explored in small workshops what the achievements and gaps of the MDGs have been, and the new dimensions of development that ought to be prioritized in a new framework.

In one workshop, a participant said that “our model of global partnership is based on those who give and those who lack – we need a new model of partnership based on equality.”

Geoffrey Cameron, the principal researcher with the Baha’i Community of Canada, served as a resource person for a workshop on inclusive social development. Participants in this workshop deliberated over the meaning of “social inclusion,” and how a new paradigm of development could assist individuals and communities to become protagonists in their own processes of development.

In the closing session of the conference, Karen Hamilton, the secretary-general of the Canadian Council of Churches, challenged the audience to consider the role of religion in a new development framework. She said that any development initiative must take into account the role of religion in people’s lives and communities. She also noted that the values and principles of religion can help to reinvigorate the moral and ethical commitments of international development.