I'm relishing Mussoorie today where Himalayan winter air- dry, clear and chilled- sparkles like champagne. It’s good to be home. Last week in Brussels I was facilitating a workshop on Outcome Mapping, a development philosophy and methodology I really like. (See my description of OM here ) For me OM, focusing on the behaviour, attitudes, relationships and policies of the people in a project's development space, puts development in the right place. It takes our eyes off easily seen but barely significant immediate outputs and makes us look at outcomes, which live in people. An aphorism of mine is “Inputs is resources, output is things, outcomes is about people and impacts is about the context”. Development has to be about people. That’s why I love OM.
To step out of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport after two weeks in Europe was to step out of the marble-smooth developed world and emerge into chaos, polluted air, honking taxis, litter on the streets and inequality in the shape of a poor woman with a child asking for money outside Delhi railway station. All so different to well developed Brussels where I boarded my flight.…. or maybe not.
Lets apply an OM lens. Take the smog and litter so visible in Delhi in winter. By that output Belgium, Sweden or New Zealand (my other home when not in India) are visibly so much better. But at the level of behaviour attitudes relationships and policies is that still true? On the way from airport to station I saw early-morning shopkeepers tossing rubbish out behind their shops, the same shopkeepers who'll keep their shop fronts religiously clean during the day. Ugly! But the world's most dangerous pollutants today, colourless, odourless and deadly, are greenhouse gasses. Belgium, Sweden’s and New Zealand's per capita carbon footprints dwarf India’s http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC The same Europeans who keep their cities litter free carelessly toss carbon dioxide into the world's atmosphere. Filthy! And Western countries, notably highly developed USA, struggle to create carbon limiting policies. The form is different but the underlying behaviour attitudes and relationships shaping Belgium New Zealand and India are not dissimilar: we all keep our patches clean and (hopefully unseen) shovel filth into common pools.
OK on pollution but what about insidious inequality? There were a few beggars in Brussels, but not on the scale or the abject need of their Indian counterparts. Nor do New Zealand and Sweden have a caste system. Somehow these societies look after and include their weakest members better than India, right? Wrong! Rich societies don't look after their weakest members better, just exploit them more cleverly while keeping them beyond their borders. Belgian society, via the global economy, has Indonesian women making its running shoes, African men mining diamonds for Antwerp jewellers and Saudi Arabians supplying its gas stations with oil. Every Western society has. Though benefitting from this dispersed and underpaid labour force Western nations rather than look after them as human beings keep them as an excluded caste scattered across the poor world. They are kept cleverly chained into the global economy but outside the rich world's borders. Capital and resources flow freely through these borders and greenhouse gasses flow out, but they very effectively separate workers and responsibility for human beings. That's sophistication! This all creates international disparities even more grotesque than India's home grown ones. Do Belgians differ in attitudes to equality or behaviour from the Indian who is totally concerned for his family but not for the woman of a different caste and social status outside his door? Not discernibly.
And so I went through all the dimensions on which developed Belgium and underdeveloped India might differ- conservation,violence, social relationships, governance… There are obvious differences at output level, but not at outcome level. The difference is in scale. Indians throw small (not globally significant) amounts of rubbish in their streets, Westerners toss huge amounts of carbon dioxide into everyones atmosphere. India ravages the last vestiges of its forests, the West imports expensive tropical hardwoods then pays developing countries to grow rubber and cashews and coffee where that hardwood once grew. India has caste violence and at national scale tension between religious groups, the West launches international wars based on ideology and resources. Iraq stands out. ‘Primitive’ people used stones clubs or bows, today the most developed countries have billion dollar weapons industries churning out beautifully engineered, obscenely sophisticated, killing machine. Sure India and Brazil tolerate the shadows of high rise luxury across their favelas and bustees, but the Western model is a horrific, deliberately built international economic caste system whose shadows are much blacker. And as development charges on, so does inequality. See: .http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/an-economy-for-the-1-how-privilege-and-power-in-the-economy-drive-extreme-inequ-592643
Where are the differences in behaviour attitudes relationships and policy? Hmmm…..
Today’s reverie leaves me wondering whether development actually only increases the scale and reach of humanity, without really touching the deep drivers within us. Are ‘developed’ human societies just more powerful, bigger but not better. As someone who says “outputs are about things, outcomes about people” my question is: How do we develop people, not just places? Answers on a postcard to....