Dom Helder Camara used to say: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

In Canada, our government has cut funding to several international development organizations. Why? Because they spoke out on behalf of women, people affected by mining, or Palestinians who struggle against the Israeli military occupation. Or they asked questions about the impact of free trade on workers and human rights.

In recent years, a dozen or more progressive political parties have won power in Latin America (where I do a lot of my work). But different visions of development are in conflict. What do we mean by development? How can development be about culture and identity, and not just about economics? How do grassroots or popular movements hold governments to their promises? Given climate change, can we even talk anymore about responsible oil production? What do social movements say? What do ordinary people say?

In these pages, I want to shed some light on debates about development. What does development mean? What are we trying to accomplish? What are the issues? What vision can bring us together? What does a “development” plan for the waterfront of Toronto have to do with it concepts like “sustainable development” or “human development?’

I’m a journalist who has spent most of my career working within or alongside social movements, international development organizations and churches. I can tell you about diverse threads of debates in Latin America and point to what we might learn in northern countries to strengthen movements for social change.

I’m not neutral in the debates in Canada. I am close to two of the groups that lost their funding from the Canadian International Development Agency: I was a member of several KAIROS committees and I co-chair a working group of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation. But while I work for The United Church of Canada and have responsibility for its partner relations in South America and the Caribbean, nothing I say here should necessarily be understood as policy of the United Church.


2 Responses to Development Debates

  1. […] about the future of this country’s development assistance programs is what pushed me to start writing about development these recent […]

  2. […] in the Canadian government’s approach to aid and development pushed me to begin Unwrapping Development back in August, but I think there are three other shifts to note. These come from within the […]


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