‘Good will’: a tale of two countries
By Alexander Borda-Rodriguez
“There is 'good will’” uttered one of my key informants who was talking about the need to promote co-operatives in Malawi. The last time I heard the same was in Bolivia where a leader of a farm association told me that there was ‘good will’ on the side of government and aid agencies to promote farmers’ associations. Can ‘good will’ be translated into effective development for those who really need it? The answer to this question is likely to evoke a large number of debates on the struggle for development and poverty reduction. Bolivia and Malawi have different historical and political backgrounds and yet they share very similar challenges.
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America and Malawi has one of the lowest human development indexes in the world, ranking 171 out of 187 countries. Both countries suffer from severe poverty levels and one can safely assume that ‘development’ is a must. Both countries rank highly on the list of countries targeted by multi and bilateral development agencies. The efforts of their development aid have not gone unnoticed and yet ‘good will’ has not really moved development efforts much further in the fight against poverty. In fact not long ago an officer from a development agency told me “let’s forget about the poor and concentrate on what works”. He was understandably frustrated.
Despite the differences between these two countries, one can easily identify the similarities between both; severe donor dependency, weak institutions and lack of resources. These are the factors that make up the ground upon which ‘good will’ is uttered. The will for change is genuine and real, but when ‘good will’ emerges in such conditions then way forward will require commitment and a self-critical introspection of what went wrong.
Alexander Borda-Rodriguez is author of ‘Knowledge for development? : reflections from consultants and advisors in Bolivia’ (PhD thesis, Open University, 2008).