Re-thinking development in conflict : lessons and impressions from the African great lakes : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University
Based on a review of contemporary development literature and substantial experience in relief work in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa, this thesis asserts the need to 're-think' development and relief work in conflict situations. Recent 'development' has been a process of prescriptive global modernisation based on models created following World War II when periods of conflict and resolution were well-defined. Western ideas became institutionalised into the form that many international development agencies remain in today. Much development in practice is not only inappropriate, but also increases the vulnerability of poor communities and adds to the likelihood of conflict. Colonial powers imposed western systems upon traditional orders, distorting and exploiting issues of kinship and ethnicity for short-term economic gain. With a focus on the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaïre), and recent events in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa, links between power, poverty and conflict are discussed and social and economic consequences examined. Contemporary humanitarian emergencies are complex, caused by and resulting in a multitude of social, political and economic issues. Conflict permeates society, exacts a high toll on civilian population and further impoverishes vulnerable communities. Such emergencies require comprehensive solutions. Poverty and conflict, and accordingly relief and development work, are inextricably linked. Localised long-term 'vulnerabilities', rather than short-term 'emergency needs', should be the focus of relief assistance. Peace is essential for true sustainable development, but the international community does not act as a cohesive whole for the elimination of global conflict and poverty. Some political leaders also promote conflict to their own ends. Therefore, continued conflict is a likelihood and appropriate interim interventions to safeguard community welfare must be continued. NGOs and individuals have a crucial role and must remain committed and open-minded in order to promote truly beneficial development in a local context. Individual recognition of the historical, social and cultural dimensions of contemporary crises and understanding of the root causes of conflict are crucial for the effectiveness of international relief and development work towards long-term peace and local prosperity.