For whom are we actually "developing"?

By Laura TomassiniGilles Kayser Switch to German for original article

Development aid is intended to contribute in a sustainable way to help countries with less stable economies and precarious living conditions for their inhabitants towards a better future. However, there is also a flip side to the coin, which is repeatedly denounced by activists.

"What is development? Who defines this term and is development, as we understand it, really equally desirable for all?" With her questions, Sandrine Gashonga immediately strikes at the heart of the topic addressed. Development aid – a mechanism that has existed in Europe since the 1960s in a state-organised way towards so-called developing countries – is praised by some as a laudable lifeline against hunger, poverty and child mortality, but condemned by others as a colonial legacy.

Gashonga belongs to the latter group, as the activist and trainer is herself of African descent and points to the still existing consequences of European colonialism. "It is pretended that there is only one definition of development and it stems from colonial thought, which wants to impose its own standards on everyone in the world", says the former president and current socio-cultural coordinator of Lëtz Rise Up. Development aid, even if today it is preferably called development cooperation, is part of a global strategy of European politics – which itself only became what it is today as a result of colonial times.

Remnants from the colonial era

"Power relations were created back then that still exist today and these also influence the way development aid is conceived", says Gashonga. One should not forget that on May 9, 1950, when the Schuman Declaration was signed by the current member states of the European Union, a large part of the countries of the North still had colonies in the South. For example, France in Mali, Cameroon and Togo (until 1960), Great Britain in Ghana (until 1957) or Belgium in the Congo (also until 1960) – to name but a few. Although Luxembourg itself was never considered a colonial power, Luxembourgian mercenaries and soldiers helped to conquer the colonies of their neighbouring countries and, among other things, colonial service in the Belgian Congo was actively recruited in the Grand Duchy.

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