“Development” has become a scary word for many communities. They know first-hand or through the experience of others, that development can mean forced evictions, separation of family, communal, and religious ties and a loss of home, livelihood and identity. Many carry a history of false promises and corruption by government officials and businesses as well as ongoing discrimination and abuse.
However, many communities have the desire and expertise to determine their own development priorities, but in today’s development, these decisions are regularly made without them. Excluded or with limited roles in the process established by their governments, corporations and development finance institutions, these communities may lack the information, resources and broader solidarity to confront the economic and political forces misaligned to their needs and desires.
For national and local governments, the promise of substantial international funding and short-term political and economic gains for those facilitating a project, forces implementation often at any cost – even if human and environmental abuses are likely to occur. The primary obstacle standing in the way of project implementation is a well-organized resistance by those who stand to be impacted negatively. While it may already be difficult for people to organize purely for local and national political reasons, in development, the added involvement of businesses and banks – whether national or foreign – significantly compounds this pressure. In the last few years, as more and more governments tighten restrictions on the ability of people and civil society to assemble and access information, it is increasingly challenging for communities to meet, discuss and organize around development.