Another development gimmick in the making

Development Policy26 Sep 2011Claudio Schuftan

According to Claudio Shuftan, the changes needed in the current economic climate are so drastic that mega philanthropies and their sponsors will never accept them.

I am writing this blog in a bit of a sour mood, but in a friendly, collegial tone although maybe using a sarcastic style. I wish I were wrong about what follows, but I am afraid I am not: I see the Bellagio Initiative as a defensive move by mega foundations to counter the growing movement of those of us who want to dismantle the current flawed capitalist system that has brought us to the current mess. I fear that by hosting this blog for the Bellagio Initiative, The Broker, the Institute of Development Studies and the Resource Alliance are being used by the powers behind big philanthropy to legitimize this “human wellbeing” concept which is yet another addition to our lexicon. I also fear this will be followed by a whole new construct that (of course) we never had thought of before. The Initiative’s call to “pursue human wellbeing” comes so late that it is almost laughable. I ask you, until now, we were pursuing what, then? Additionally, the concept of “inclusive economics” is yet another example of how the “haves” are champions at creating new fashions in development economics, while all of us know that many similar gimmicks have preceded and have failed.

My preceding blog on the topic sketches my perspective on what philanthropies should and should not be doing. Philanthropies are penetrating decision making everywhere, e.g. in the World Health Organisation (WHO) they represent over 50% of the budget with contributions that are earmarked to externally preferred areas. This means that they are not open contributions to the WHO overall budget. What is worse, the philanthropies are now being invited to take a seat at the decision-making table—a place they think they deserve since they are footing so much of the bill.

Since philanthropies are not the progressive forces that many contend they are, I already further fear what patched-up roadmap will emerge from the summit conference as part of this initiative. What else to expect since mostly the already converted will be present in this by-invitation-only event.

The truth is that the changes needed in the current economic climate are so drastic that mega philanthropies and their sponsors will never accept them. The global economy is not inclusive (as the invitation to this blog space insinuates), it is rather segregating so that our collective wellbeing is a mess, and deteriorating fast! Hence, mere “encouragement for development agencies and philanthropic trusts to let go of orthodox development models and embrace the human wellbeing model instead”—with a band-aid here and a band-aid there—will not do: this game is a power struggle and will remain a power struggle in whatever new “human wellbeing” model emerging from Bellagio will entail.

In closing, let me say that I am not reading too much betweeeconon (and in) the lines of what was sent to us about this summit. To me, it is very obvious, quite black and white. Please convince me that I am wrong.