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World Social Forum

Francine Mestrum

Development, poverty and security: treacherous concepts and alternatives (January 25, 2006)

During the 1990s, the development agenda has progressively changed into a poverty agenda that perfectly fits within the neoliberal project. More recently, this poverty agenda is merging with a security agenda that holds a risk of militarizing and recolonizing the third world. In this seminar, we want to analyze different concepts that play a role in this “development” and look for alternatives.

(Forget who did the intro; was that Teivo or Thomas?): Questions and criticisms of development–some say that we should abandon project of development, and others say we should reinvent concept. The challenge is that every time we rethink the debate, the World Bank, etc. appropriates discourse and incorporates it into their neoliberal/security discourse.

Francine Mestrum (ATTAC Belgium). There is a merging development and security discourse. There has always been a link between the two, as seen in the ILO and UN. We need to underline what and why this is happening. This involves redefining security. Beginning in the 1960s & 1970s, the UN wants to get rid of poverty, but the discourse is compatible with neoliberalism and these policies lead to neoliberalsim. More intro-state conflict rather than inter-state. Security discourse is interfering in development discourse. Need a new kind that avoids military approach.

Katrien De Muynck. Examines the case of Cuba. Lower production than other Latin American countries. No access to cheap loans, pays 15% more. 45% are below poverty line (?), but six times lower infant mortality rate than the Latin America average. No child labor, more Olympic medals. Who is true security and who threatens security? Conclusions: 1) development discourse has ideological aspects designed to advance neoliberalism. Need to rethink model. 2) Cuba has weak development basis, but demonstrates that struggle is political and requires distribution of wealth and power. Chile is among the most unequal distributions of wealth in Latin America. Shows that economic growth does not mean development and the end of poverty.

Virginia Vargas. From de-politicization of poverty to politicization of (?). Requires redistribution of wealth. The struggle is for development and anti-capitalism.

Thomas Ponniah. WSF provides alternatives to US model. For example, participatory budgeting models from Porto Alegre. Autonomous models, especially the Zapatistas, show not control over the state but autonomous control over an area. Belief in democratic revolution.

Teivo Teivainen. Challenge concepts of developed and underdeveloped countries. This is part of the pedagogy of power–these concepts impede the struggle. We should not use these concepts, because it reproduces concepts of inequality (as in adult-child relations). Reject these concepts to change the world. Need concept of equality to gain a “democratic security.”

Thomas Ponniah. Questions for panel: 1) how do we deal with the failure of development that has lead to an increase in inequality? 2) In 40 years, the World Bank, etc. has incorporated NGOs into neoliberal discourse; what to do about this?

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