Words of Wisdom

  • The nationality question... cannot be settled by the use of some vague cliche, even such a fine-sounding formula as 'the right of all nations to self-determination'. For such a formula expresses either absolutely nothing, so that it is an empty, noncommittal phrase, or else it expresses the unconditional duty of socialists to support all national aspirations, in which case it is simply false.
  • – Rosa Luxemburg

The Connexions Annual:
Introduction to Development, International

In recent years, we have become increasingly aware that there is only one earth. For better or worse, we share this planet with other people, and with all other living species. If the rainforests disappear, the greenhouse effect will have devastating effects on us all. If other countries are in crisis, if they are ravaged by economic catastrophes, repression, or civil war, their refugees will appear on our doorsteps. If they douse the food they export to us with dangerous chemicals, we and they will both develop the resulting cancers.

Yet there are enormous pressures dividing us and pitting us against each other — nation against nation, ethnic group against ethnic group, religion against religion.

The international nature of the world’s economy, dominated as it is by multinational corporations, is itself an enormous source of division and conflict. The system sets up intense competition to attract economic activity, leading to pressure to keep unions out and wages low, slash taxes and social programmes, ignore environmental dangers. Local economies are warped to meet the demands of production for the international market.

Our hope of turning this around is to join together across international borders and other dividing lines to work together and support each other in evolving non-exploitative forms of sustainable development.

We in the ‘developed’ world have a special responsibility to stand by the Third World, which, already desperately poor, is being plunged into further misery and environmental devastation by massive debt payments to first world banks and by irrational economic policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund, the multinational corporations, and the local elites they enrich.

We owe the peoples of the Third World a debt of solidarity, but beyond that we must realize that the issues of world peace and the global environment which concern us here in the West cannot be solved unless the issues of poverty, women’s liberation, land reform, and sustainable economic development are dealt with in the Third World.

Many of the groups in this section are concerned with promoting alternative forms of sustainable development — development as distinct from growth. Such approaches tend to the small-scale and the local, and are concerned with getting resources to those who need them most and will put them to the best use. Perhaps most importantly, such initiatives necessarily require empowering local people and communities (and especially the women who are often the key to rural economies), helping them to plan and implement projects which meet their needs and which they can control. It is a fundamental fact that a development project will only work if local people feel that it is theirs.

Other groups concentrate on education, a key component in development, and equally important in our own country to create support for appropriate forms of development.

Yet other organizations are concerned with issues in particular countries or regions, such as South Africa, Chile, or the Middle East.

All of them grow out of the belief that the principle of ‘Thinking Globally, Acting Locally’ can and must also be extended to acting locally on behalf of and in solidarity with those in other parts of this globe.

Ulli Diemer

Contact information for Ulli Diemer:

Aussi disponible en français: L’Annuel Connexions: Introduction au Développement International

Other Overview Articles from the Connexions Annual:
Introduction to the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Arts, Media, Culture section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Community, Urban, Housing section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Economy, Poverty, Work section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Education, Children section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Environment, Land Use, Rural section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Health section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Human Rights, Civil Liberties section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Lesbians, Gays section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Native Peoples section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Peace section of the Connexions Annual
Introduction to the Women section of the Connexions Annual