Top positive review
review of Mrs. Black's No Nonsense Guide
Reviewed in the United States on February 9, 2014
Although there are many good books out there on economic development, 'The No Nonsense Guide to International Development,' is a good place to start. Comprehensible for a lay person, "The No Nonsense Guide," documents the main ideas in the International development process as well as providing a critique of it.
The author, Mrs. Black starts with an overview of the history of development; beginning with the end of World War II and the independence of new countries in a post-colonial world. President Truman dreamed of modeling International Development after the Marshall plan which was currently rebuilding Europe. However, the cold war quickly escalated and the emphasis of development became the containment of communism as well as the spread of a U.S. Sphere of influence among developing nations. With the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990's globalization was emphasized; a process dominated by Transnational corporations whose main motive was for profit.
Transnational companies, government agencies of developed countries and the United Nations have spearheaded most development efforts. Non-governmental (N.G.O.) agencies have also become involved and have the best track record in development. However, the record for development has not been positive. Much of the International aid does not reach those who need it the most; illustrating that large infrastructure projects and trickle-down theories to development need to be re-thought. Furthermore, International loans have also exacerbated problems, indebting many developing nations. Meanwhile, the world is becoming increasingly aware of the limits to growth and the impact of human pollution; creating new tensions between developed and developing nations as well as highlighting development that is sustainable.
Mrs. Black ends on a positive note. Although she advances powerful critiques of development, she doesn't call for its end. Instead, she encourages developers to reconsider their strategies and goals to prioritize development that is bottom up, local, and centered on the needs of those who need it the most. Furthermore, she urges that developer and developing countries become equal partners in the development process. Summarizing, this quote is pertinent:
'.... true development is about people, and social beings do not function mechanistically. There is no common prescription. To be of genuine use to people, development has to grow organically, building on existing knowledge and systems, and engaging empathetically with different ideas......'
Many of the ideas that Mrs. Black proposes are not new. Yet, what she does in 'The No Nonsense guide to development,' is provide a valuable overview of key themes in the development field. Furthermore, I liked the emphasis she places on local, bottom up development. It is for these reasons that I encourage others to pick up this book.