26 Mar
  • By Brian Cassidy

International Development: Why and How.

Have you ever noticed how much simpler, how much quicker, destruction and harm are, when compared to creation and repair? It could take a tree 80 years to grow to its full height, and a chainsaw will have it down and ready for the lumber yard in as many minutes, or less. A house might take 5 years to be finished properly, the builders crafting every aspect of their project, from the foundations to the light fixtures, with meticulous care and precision, only for an earthquake, or a hurricane, or even an artillery shell, to obliterate their work in seconds. Creation is difficult, often exhausting, and frequently underappreciated, but is integral to every aspect of life. In areas of the world which face challenges, such as poverty, war, and disease, the ability to improve conditions, and to provide the tools by which people can improve their own lives is often done by an international organisation or a state, and is termed International Development.

International Development is a relatively new concept, only taking on a form we would recognise today following widespread international devastation in the early 20th century. Nations across the globe had endured mass deaths and destruction during the World Wars, and even the victorious Allies realised that the defeated Axis powers would need to be able to contribute to the international economy, or else risk a fall in international trade and revenue with disastrous repercussions for their own countries. With this in mind, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and several other states in a position to help began projects to repair infrastructure, provide food, and build up economies in nations that they had spent years fighting. Europe was their main focus, with many traditionally powerful states battered by years of bombings and bloodshed, and quickly recovered thanks to their aid.


Paired with this was the creation of the United Nations, and the rise of the concept of shared human rights, as can be seen with the publishing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For the first time, the idea that every human being was deserving of certain immutable rights was at least nominally accepted by virtually every state on Earth. The rise of International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) like the Red Cross (as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was known at the time), allowed the spread of international development across the world, into regions that were in desperate need of aid, but were of comparatively little interest to the Western powers. The number of INGOs and NGOs blossomed with the unveiling of a myriad of global humanitarian issues, and the new understanding that civilians, ordinary people, could aid other communities around the world, either by working directly in development themselves or by donating money in order to allow others to help. Today, there are roughly 40,000 INGOs in operation, dealing with a daunting list of issues.

Very loosely, international development can be divided under two headings: disaster relief and long-term development projects. Disaster relief focuses on short-term survival goals in areas that have suffered a catastrophe, such as hurricane-struck Puerto Rico, and war-torn Syria. The priority is to bring in as much food, medicine and shelter as possible, as soon as possible, to ensure as many people survive the initial post-disaster phase as possible. It is not meant to be an overall solution to the area’s issues, just a temporary stopgap until the groundwork for the long-term development projects has been established. These are incredibly important because they enable the region in question to help themselves, without relying on international donations for their daily survival. Concern’s work in Somalia is an excellent example of a long-term project as, amongst other efforts, they are training farmers in water conservation techniques and modern farming practices in order to promote their livelihood in the future.

It’s important to appreciate that international development is a fairly new idea, and has been instrumental in shaping the world as we know it today, to the general good. Ensuring the survival and success of other people has helped improve the world’s economy, maintain a certain level of global peace, and provided support to millions of people alive today. People might argue that hand-outs are demeaning, costly to the donor, and a long-term negative to the receiver, but these are usually people who have never tripped and needed a helping hand up themselves.


Brian Cassidy holds a BA in World Religions and Theology, and an LLM in International Humanitarian Law, Peace Operations, and Conflict. He is dedicated to raising awareness about International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) and the International Refugee Crisis, along with a few other topics, through writing and discussion.