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Report of the Commission on International Development

"Pearson Report"

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Part of: International Organizations and the Generation of the Will to Change (UAI Study Papers INF/5, 1970)


The Report is based on the efforts of a team of experts to study the effect of aid over the past twenty years and to propose strategies that could lead to more rapid progress in the future.

The major points criticized in the Jackson Report find their equivalent here, namely.

And yet the Report makes the context oriented point: "Who can ask where his country will be in a few decades, without asking where the world will be?"

The first chapter of the Report has the interesting title "A Question of Will". This is not taken up in the text however, which, whilst apparently recognizing the problem of persuading public opinion and ensuring the creation of political will (which the Secretary General of UNCTAD has stressed as being of the highest priority "in order to avoid a second Development Decade of even deeper frustration than the first" (TD/96)), merely goes on to suggest as a strategy for the future that the following are required: improved exchange facilities, foreign capital, evaluation of effectiveness, increase in aid, solution to the problem of increasing debt, improved aid administration, improved quality of technical assistance, reduction in population increase, increased aid to education and research, and increased multilateral aid. Presumably the question of "will', is whether the governments will want to do this.

The problem of how to overcome the increasing lack of interest in development aid, noted by the CESI Report (next section), is not touched upon. The possibility that the solution to this problem night in fact influence the strategy chosen -- as would be the case in the operations of a business faced with a similar problem -- is not considered. Once again, we are faced with a partial approach to a problem.

One chapter in the Report is entitled "Partners in Development" (also the title of the English version of the Report). The partners are the governments supplying financial aid and the governments receiving such aid. No other bodies would appear to be considered as partners in the development process.

In a chapter concerned with more effective aid, there is however a section on private and benevolent aid which (freely translated back from the French) runs as follows:

"Only too often it is forgotten that private non-profit or benevolent organizations make a very appreciable contribution to development aid. Here again, problems of effectiveness are taking on increasing importance and present many points in common with those that we have examined in the public sector. According to DAC estimates, the total resources of ("dons disposent") non-profit organizations equal more than 1000 million dollars per year, of which 700 million dollars at least come private funds....The results of this financial effort are multiplied by the tasks accomplished by a multitude of workers who offer their services free or whose remuneration is purely symbolic...Thus in 1963, some 25,000 citizens of the rich countries worked unpaid in low income countries. This figure has quintupled in six years and represents today more than a quarter of the total technical assistance personnel working in foreign countries on official programmes. These figures, of course, give no indication of the efforts made by the non-profit organizations and by the volunteers in their own countries to sensitize political circles to the importance of government aid programmes. [This point is also made by a past Minister of Overseas Development of Great Britain (Reg Prentice, MP. More priority for overseas aid. International Affairs, 46, January 1970, p.4, but also: "A most impressive development has been the growth of Third World First in the universities -- a movement in which students sign bankers' orders committing one per cent, two per cent or even three per cent of their grants to the aid of the charity of their choice. Throughout Britain, growing numbers of people are recognizing that the fight against poverty is one of the biggest issues of our time. But...they are not taken seriously enough by those in positions of power..."]. In the last analysis, it is the feeling of individuals that they have an obligation towards a world community in the process of development which, expressed in words and acts, has been the motor for the effort accomplished in the domain of public aid." (Emphasis added)

Now non-profit bodies do not, generally, and in many cases it is so stated in their constitutions, accumulate funds. The income is balanced by the aid dispensed. From this and the quote, one may conclude that:

(a) non-profit bodies have similar problems to public sector bodies, (b) the $ 1000 million channeled yearly through non-profit, non-governmental bodies is in fact greater than the total average annual multilateral government aid over the period 1964-1967 to developing regions, namely $ 784 million (Table 28). This last figure represents 14% of the total of multilateral and bilateral (from the Development Assistance Committee member countries) aid. The non-profit figure can also be compared with that for the financial aid supplied by multilateral institutions to developing countries (calculated on a different basis), namely: World Bank group, $ 851 million; Regional development banks, $ 386 million, and UN Specialized Agencies, $ 300 million (Table 25). (In what direction the $ 1000 million per year flows, the Report does not say. As a potential source of development aid, it is quite obviously highly important. (+)) (c) there is a multiplier effect on the value of the financial aid due to the number of voluntary workers, and this is increasing, (d) members of non-profit bodies and volunteers are a key factor in increasing government aid.

The implications of this conclusion have certainly not affected the Capacity Study team. From the context they have apparently not affected the Pearson team. The quote is not from a section that forms part of the main argument concerning future strategy, but from one on aid effectiveness. Despite the figure for aid from private sources, these sources are not discussed elsewhere in the report or the tables. Nor is there any suggestion that they should be discussed.

As mentioned earlier, the problem raised in the first chapter was that of "will". The key to this problem has apparently been recognized in the quote above. No comment is made on how to obtain a will to develop, given this recognition. The Report states a goal and a strategy with no idea of how that strategy should be implemented. We are back to a position of "If only the rich nations would..."

Consider this extract from a review of the Report by a development economist writing under a pseudonym:

" a whole it is far from original. Nor does it attempt to go beyond the boundaries of the concepts of the international aid establishment.....
There are two ways to assess the Pearson Report. According to one, it may be admitted that nearly all practical measures have already been explored, and that little new can be added to the old demands and recommendations....On that basis one may accept that it was more prudent, and perhaps even more productive, for the Report to remain within acceptable boundaries, even if this involved playing with tired formulae bordering on discredited platitudes.

The other way to assess the Report would be less tolerant. It would find inadmissible the manifest lack of deeper analysis of social, political and mental structures, and would consider that lack as a failure to explore those new dimensions of the North-South problem -- an examination which alone could help to shape prevailing apathy or point towards a really new approach." (Monroe, M. A lost opportunity; a comment on the Pearson Report. International Affairs, 46, January 1970, p.31-34, emphasis added).

And consider the following views:

"...a strategy is not an economist's ten year global plan but essentially a political instrument, a call to action..." (Martin, Edwin M. The strategy for the Second Development Decade: a challenge to donors. An address to the Vienna Institute for Development, 1969). "To be real such action must be backed by "political will". Speeches at the United Nations citing the need for the mobilization of public opinion have become almost routine. For several years we have heard the need for political will stated by many people...stressing the absolute necessity for public understanding of the inter-relatedness of our world and thereby supporting government policies which reflect this reality".. In exploring a role for interest and pressure groups we need both realistic assessment and an attitude which recognizes the high stake in the game of development.
Before assessing the usefulness of NGOs in developing public support, let us examine briefly what we mean by "the necessary political will". To put it simply, there must be enough people -- constituencies -- who feel they have a personal stake, a self-interest, in the development of the world as a viable unit. These people must be of sufficient number and influence to generate the necessary forces to create change. It is only by feeling the pressure of these forces, whether from latent constituencies or organized groups, that political leadership can respond and move the machinery of government.....We are asking people not only to make a radical change in their basic conception of the world but also their relationship to other people".. We are asking people to re-identify their interests. People will not re-identify their interests unless they feel something new and compelling".

My plea, therefore, is to approach the challenge of aid weariness by treating the problem of public opinion as a political problem.... Good public information is critical, but the primary need is for political analysis...

People are undoubtedly influenced by the written word and audio-visual communication. In complex Western industrialized countries, however, it is through groups that most people identify their interests. Using organized groups (non-governmental organizations) can be a major tool in this identification process. Certainly these groups are already organized in every conceivable expression of human interest Can we take advantage of them?" (Roosevelt, Curtis. The politics of development: a role for interest and pressure groups. Paper presented to an SID Conference, New Delhi, 1969, emphasis added.)

How does the Pearson Report handle this possibility? Recognizing the importance of volunteers, and ignoring the structures they themselves have built up, it recommends (in agreement with ECOSOC) that an international volunteer corps should be created. It is not clear whether this is supposed to be governmental, but it seems quite clear that the other non-governmental structures are considered de trop.

This approach of course ignores all the "non-volunteer" non-governmental bodies and their functions that a political scientist (see above) or a sociologist would consider vital. One can see here the consequences of a study by economists. The volunteers represent manpower -- therefore they must be brought under the UN development aegis. The non-governmental structures have no significance in economic terms -- therefore they may be ignored. This attitude recalls some of the early disasters of development aid, when it was thought that Western man could fix any developing country by pouring in money and techniques and ignoring the social structure and customs. The important constraint could only be detected with another discipline -- which was then considered to be irrelevant in that context. Only time and lack of success could bring the point home.

How does a UN Agency determine whether a topic is being, evaluated in the light of all the relevant discipline perspectives? [A technique for systematizing the determination of relevant disciplines under such circumstances forms part of a project proposed by Clark, Jere W. and Judge, A.J.N. Development of transdisciplinary conceptual aids; simple techniques for education, research, pre-crisis management, and program administration highlighting patterns of information transaction and sub-system interdependence, New Haven, Southern Connecticut State College, 1970]. How often do sociologists check the recommendations of economists, etc.? Does the World Bank have non-economists on its staff?

Why are high-powered teams set up on such important matters with only the insights of a single discipline to guide them? Some requirements of an integrated approach to the control, management or understanding of change are illustrated by the following:

"Although political scientists, economists, and sociologists have concerned themselves with organizational structure, there is as yet no organized body of theory or doctrine of practice on which a unified disciplinary or interdisciplinary applied-research activity can be based..... In most problems involving...(such) each of the disciplines we have mentioned might make a significant improvement in the operations. But as systems analysts know, few of the problems that arise can adequately be handled within any one discipline. Such disciplines are not fundamentally...biological, psychological, social, economic, political, or ethical. These are merely different ways of looking at such systems."

And each "way" highlights different features that are significant and critical.

"Complete understanding of such systems requires an integration of these perspectives. By integration I do not mean a synthesis of results obtained by independently conducted unidisciplinary studies, but rather results obtained from studies in the process of which disciplinary perspectives have been synthesized. The integration must come during not after, the performance of the research." (Ackoff, R.L. Systems, organizations, and interdisciplinary research. General Systems Yearbook (Society for General Systems Research), 5, 1960, , pp. 1-8)

This approach also saves a great deal of confusion, time and resources. Because if strategies recommended as a result of the perspective of one discipline, ignore certain critical factors (and constraints) which can only be detected by another, then the inadequate strategy can be eliminated at an early stage of strategy formulation. Without this, the corrective can only be brought to bear through the lengthy and muddled process of report and counter-report. But only if representatives of other disciplines consider the original unidisciplinary report worth criticizing (for, by definition, none is equipped to detect the significance of another). And only if administrative structures are so arranged that all the other relevant disciplines are brought to bear on the problem (+).

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