Development literally means growth or enlargement. When we talk about development in the global context, we are speaking of developing nations. That is the improvement of human conditions in the countries of the world. I have been studying the concept of development for almost three years now. I know the scholarly ideas and definitions, but what is development actually? Economic development as O’Brien and Williams (2013) describe has gained the status of a fundamental right of deprived people all over the world. According to Dickson (1997), it is a process of social, political and economic change.

Slim (1995) suggests that although development is the progression of human condition across social, economic and political spheres; it also has to encourage cultural and individual diversity. This simply means that development is not something that can be cooked using a previously successful recipe, i.e. the industrial pattern of Western Europe. Indeed many ‘developmental projects’ fail as a result of being remote from local realities. After all those who criticise the World Bank for its artificial rhetoric of ‘participation’ and ‘ownership’ are not entirely wrong (Cammack, 2004). Even IMF and WB lead structural adjustments created deep and unquantifiable issues within the Third World countries due to policies such as decreasing public spending in health and education sectors (Sadasivam, 1997), policies that simply could not work.

The Human Development Report published by the UN in 1990 argued that development was about people. According to the report the purpose of development is the creation of an environment where people can fulfil their potential (Human Development Report, 1990).  Going beyond the traditional definitions of what it means to be developed, the Human Development Index takes into account numerous factors such as life expectancy and literacy rate. However, it still does not account for inequality or empowerment (, 2013). Perhaps, the biggest plight of our academia is to ignore the phenomenon that cannot be quantified. I guess we have not yet entered an era where we would be able to measure factors which are truly a matter of global concern. Perhaps as a citizen of this world I can only hope that one day we might be able to understand development as equality, freedom and justice.

 By: Mariam Khawar


Cammack, P. (2004). ‘What the World Bank Means by Poverty Reduction and Why it Matters’. New Political Economy, 9 (2), pp. 189-211.

Dickson, A. K. (1997). Development and International Relations. Cambridge: Polity., (2013). Human Development Index (HDI) | Human Development Reports. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Dec. 2014].

Human Development Report. (1990). 1st ed. [eBook] New York: Oxford University Pres. Available at: [Accessed 6 Dec. 2014].

O’Brien, R., and Williams, M. (2013). “Economic Development” in Global Political Economy: Evolution and Dynamics. 4th edition. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sadasivam, B. (1997) The Impact of Structural Adjustment on Women: A Governance and Human Rights Agenda, Human Rights Quarterly, 19 (3), pp. 630-665

Slim, H. (1995). “What Is Development?”, Development in Practice, 5 (2), pp. 143-148.


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