This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A Critical Look at 'Participation', 'Empowerment' and 'Poverty Reduction' Author(s): Andrea Cornwall and Karen Brock Source: Third World Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 7 (2005), pp. 1043-1060 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4017803 Accessed: 25/03/2010 20:42
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=taylorfrancis. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact email@example.com.
Taylor & Francis, Ltd. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Third World Quarterly.
The past 10 years have witnessed a remarkable apparent confluence of positions in the international development arena. we contend. 26. Harnessed in the service of 'poverty reduction' and decorated with the clamours of 'civil society' and 'the voices of the poor'. Email: a. they speak of an agenda for transformation that combines no-nonsense pragmatism with almost unimpeachable moral authority. This new consensus is captured in a seductive mix of buzzwords. Today's development orthodoxies are captured in a seductive mix of such words. their use in developmentpolicy may offer little hope of the worldfree of poverty that they are used to evoke. spun into an apoliticisedform that everyone can agree with. 'Participation' and 'empowerment'. promise an entirely different way of doing business.uk. Karen Brock is an independent consultant.1080/01436590500235603 1043 .com. 7. Universityof Sussex. international institutions are working together for the good. It is easy enough to get caught up in the emotive calls for action. This paper takes a critical look at how these three terms have come to be used in international development policy. As such.cornwall@ids.East Sussex BNI 9RE. Andrea Cornwallis at the Institute of DevelopmentStudies.ac. We show how words that once spoke of politics andpower have come to be reconfiguredin the service of today's onesize-fits-all developmentrecipes. in the midst of all the uncertainties of the day.brocka in4action. and that they have now got the story right and are really going to make a difference. No. among which 'participation'.Third World Quarterly. Barely any development actor could take serious issue with the way the objectives of development are currently framed.empowerment'and 'poverty reduction' take a prominent place. exploring how different configurations of words frame and justify particular kinds of development interventions. buzzwordsplay an important part in framing solutions. the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPS) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS). words that are 'warmly persuasive' and fulsomely positive. It analyses their use in the context of two contemporary developmentpolicy instruments. . ISSN 0143-6597 print/155N 1360-2241 online/05/071043-18 ? 2005 Third World Quarterly DOI: 10. pp 1043-1060. UK. 'empowerment' and 'poverty reduction' ANDREA ABSTRACT for critical CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK In the fast-moving world of developmentpolicy. to feel that. Email: k. 2005 R &Francis Taylor Group Routiedge What do Buzzwords do Development Policy? A look at 'participation'. Brighton. Vol.
Three words-'participation'. empowerment and poverty reduction. Paying attention to the ways in which particular development buzzwords have come to be used. helps problematise dominantparadigmsand open the way for alternative discourses.for to revealwhat at first sight appearsto be objectiverealityas a construct. Open the newspaper and the first few pages often report enough violent death.4 The fine-sounding words that are used in development policies do more than provide a sense of direction: they lend the legitimacy that development actors need to justify their interventions. 'empowerment' and 'poverty reduction'have recently gained considerable purchase in the language of mainstream development. another tack is to enquire into what these words. cautions that comparing statements of intent with what actually happens is to misunderstand their purpose. They evoke a world where everyone gets a chance to take part in making the decisions that affect their lives. controllable world in which policies offer a neat route-map for implementation.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK Today's development policies capture this sense of purposefulness and resound with a decisive ring of optimism. What difference has all this made? Has it led to any meaningful change in the policies pursued by mainstream development? One way to approach this would be a comprehensive look at what is actually being done in the name of participation. This is an important task. where no one goes hungry or is discriminated against.3 Sorel.5 This paper is intended in this vein. regulable. writing in 1908. But their presence in the language of the most influential development agencies appears. the trappings of the development industry are part of a world that is ever more removed from the world in which poor people live their everyday lives. to represent a considerable shift in approach. and where opportunities exist for all to thrive: a governable. sheds interesting light on the normative project that is development. a caveat is called for. as well as considerable normative power. How policies work in organisations depends on a host of factors. Gardner and Lewis argue. inequity. From the delicate tinkle of the fountain in the atrium at the World Bank's H-Street (Washington) headquarters and the soft-carpeted corridors of the hotels favoured by the development elite on mission. from 1044 . deprivation and misery to make one feel the world we live in is hardly a place where a 'world without poverty' could ever come to exist. these words have not completely permeated the terrain of development policy. we suggest here. as words. then. do for development policy.the productof particular historicaland politicalcontexts. at first sight. 'The task of deconstructing particular aspects of development discourse'.2 But. to the sublime confidence that permeates the marketing of solutions by the army of consultants and advisors which occupies these spaces. Before we begin. Carrying the allure of optimism and purpose. one that several researchers have turned their attention to in recent years. and to ask questions about the extent to which this represents real differences in practice or is simply the appropriation of nice-sounding words to dress up 'business as usual'. can have a directlypracticaland politicaloutcome.
. we investigate the form and function of development buzzwords. Each word has a distinctive history.8 Mainstream meanings wed poverty reduction to the cause of economic growth. Without privileging words over actions. 'Poverty reduction' may be the euphemism for the contemporary development consensus. mainstreamed across international development agencies.It surelyis not.and words It are increasingly loaded with ideologicalsymbolismand politicalcorrectness.. with empowerment as an implicit adjunct. 1045 . Here. and is not going to go away. a warm and reassuring consensus. Discourses and dissonances Nobody trying to be influential can afford to neglect the fine art of . privatisation and liberalisation are the assumptions on which the consensus finds its foundation. The technical prescriptions for attaining this growth macroeconomic stability. even if a host of other factors also affect what actually happens on the ground. Second. poverty reduction and empowerment epitomise this feel-good character: they connote warm and nice things. First. Many of the familiar terms of recent years evoke a comforting mutuality.6 but may neither represent nor even resonate with the perspectives of those charged with their implementation. Every development organisation is a complex agent. and each has been. to a greater or lesser extent. the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRsPs) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS). buzzwords Imagesconveyedby simpletermsare taken as reality. The published policies of development agencies may be products of successful discourse coalitions. Our analysis proceeds in three steps.. ringing with the satisfaction of everyone pulling together to pursue a set of common goals for the well-being of all. may seeminnocuous.. poverty reduction and participation come together. Today's development language is quite at odds with the hard-edged linearity of the dominant tropes in development thinking. but the term poverty is bound up with the very notion of development and has a long history. not just an actor whose views and positions can be personified and treated as singular. focusing on two frames of reference for development intervention that have gained currency in recent years. exploring their performative effects as well as their semantic qualities. conferring on their users that goodness and rightness that development agencies need to assert the legitimacy to intervene in the lives of others. we suggest here that discursive framings are important in shaping development practice. Our third step is to situate the shifting configurations of the three buzzwords against a wider backdrop of reflections on the place of such terms in development policy. Participation.WHAT DO BUZZWORDS DO FOR DEVELOPMENT POLICY? organisational culture to the nature of existing bureaucratic fiefdoms. we situate the use of these buzzwords. The linguisticcrisisis real. Why make a fuss?The reasonis that the termswe use help to share the policy agenda.
'4 Empowerment has a more curious history. as the philosopher Gallie put it. on the contrary. which continue to be contested as they are put to use. situational and relational meanings. another discoursethat runs counter to it.l' for neutralising political opposition" and for taxing the poorest12 -ends tried and tested in the colonial era well before being deployed in the service of neoliberalism. competing ideologies coexist within the same discourse. The term 'discourse' has become so overused in development studies that it is often taken as monolithic. 'participation' has historically been used both to enable ordinary people to gain political agency and as a means of maintaining relations of rule. Buzzwords such as these are an ever-present part of the worlds that are made and sustained by development agencies. and with the struggle for citizenship rights and voice.there can exist differentand even contradictory discourseswithin the same strategy.20 Making sense of what they do for development calls for closer attention to the discourses of which they form part. including feminist scholarship. and categories through which meaning is given to phenomena'. and where contestations over meaning take place.they can. They facilitate a multiplicity of contingent.'5 Empowerment retains a prominent place in agencies' policies concerning gender. having gained the most expansive semantic range of all. we suggest. although in the past decade they have been taken up more widely in attempts to shape the way in which development is done. neutralising its original emphasis on building personal and collective power in the struggle for a more just and equitable world.'9 They are.'6 Its recent rise in the World Bank is a story embedded in the harnessing of a range of relational buzzwords by a particular actor network to create bureaucratic and policy space.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK Participation has long associations with social movements. circulatewithoutchangingtheir form from one strategyto another. is far from the casecertainly not in the work of Foucault. New Age self-help manuals and business management. with meanings pouring into development from an enormous diversity of sources. This.'8 Ironically. Discoursesare tactical elementsor blocks operatingin the field of force relations. but often appears in a diluted form. the Christian right. concepts. totalising impossible to change.22 Within and among development agencies. we mean the 'ensemble of ideas. on the one side.opposing strategy.9 Politically ambivalent and definitionally vague. a discourseof power and opposite it. despite the apparent uniformity of today's 1046 . These competing currents continue to course through discursive representations and practices of participation.'7 and indeed to 'strike a positive chord with those "progressive" groups on whom the very existence of international aid agencies and programmes increasingly depends'. whose argument for the strategic reversibility of discourse is central to ours here. As he suggests: There is not.'3 Ideas about its benefits have been part of mainstream development discourse since the early 1970s. By discourse. the feminist emphasis on the politics of the personal has been only too readily taken up in the service of individualism. 'essentially contested concepts'.
in this respect. and come to carry. governance. speeches and mission statements create versions of the world that fit particular frames of reference. the World Bank and War on Want. rings with measurability. and to talk of eradication. ownership. the terms that form today's development jargon are reduced to monochrome. 'Discourses frame certain problems' by distinguishing 'some aspects of a situation rather than others'. more dissonant. specifically who and what is actually included. 'A statement is true and a description or representation right'. 'for a world it fits'. different actors invest key terms like poverty reduction. The term poverty reduction. Policies. they define paths of action.25 'Crucial in all policy practice'. poverty reduction and empowerment have been brought have included a range of other buzzwords-partnership.23 In doing so. a makingbetter rather than making-less.26In Ways of Worldmakingthe philosopher Nelson Goodman argues that how we interpret the world depends on the frame of reference that we use. their appearance as consensus neutralises dissonant elements. for example. he argues. as the UN so fulsomely did some years ago. produces a different set of possibilities than would be the case if governance were to be replaced with 'social protection'. The more words that become part of the chain.24 Buzzwords are. empowerment and participation with a range of different meanings. the slogan 'For a World Free of Poverty'. policies combine buzzwords into what Laclau calls 'chains of equivalence': strings of words that work together to evoke a particular set of meanings. 'is framing. what Williams called 'keywords': words that evoke. and who and what is ignored and excluded'. for example. Seen through the frames of reference that are the approaches each of these organisations take to development. Configuring participation and empowerment with 'governance'. while they may be filled with other meanings when deployed in other contexts. by other actors.28 As a word comes to be included in a chain of equivalence.WHAT DO BUZZWORDS DO FOR DEVELOPMENT POLICY? development consensus. and harks to the rationality of policies that can bring poverty into check. for example.27Applying Goodman's insights to development is instructive. and can produce very different views of what is true or right. the cultural and political values of the time. Take. Poverty alleviation carries quite a different set of meanings. Different 'ways of worldmaking' use different frames of reference. is to evoke another world altogether. transparency and so on. But these frames of reference may be so utterly different that a statement that is true for one way of worldmaking may make no sense for another. before being swept up in the discourse of poverty reduction once more. which is shared by ActionAid. the more that meaning resides in the connections between them. Pared down to the elements that would permit coherence. As ways of worldmaking. those meanings that are consistent with other words in the chain come to take precedence over other. In recent years the chains of equivalence into which participation. Laclau argues. accountability. containing in their problem-statements certain kinds of solutions. Gasper and Apthorpe argue. 1047 . three distinctively different possible worlds come into view. Hajer argues. meanings.
multidimensionality-have filled out the chains of equivalence surrounding participation and poverty reduction. And we have the makingsof just such a new partnership before us. as befitting their pivotal role in the consensus 1048 . giving priorityto investingin theirpeople.in government and in communities. The PRSPS and MDGS are examples of this framing.It is recognition that opportunity and empowerment not charity-can benefitus all. These are now firmly and explicitly embedded in mainstream development practice. a master of the art of feel-good rhetoric: What is this new partnership? is an understandingthat leaders of the It developingand developedworld are unitedby a global responsibility based on ethics.They are doing it in the privatesector. But while the narratives of poverty reduction. poverty reduction. empowerment and participation put forward by PRSPS and MDGS are complementary. Occupying central positions in supranational governance discourse about what needs to be done.31 Redolent with purpose. 'recognition' and 'acknowledgment' with together-words-'united'. participation and empowerment are invoked in defining both means and ends. A new generationof leadersis takingresponsibility developingcountries. In them our three buzzwords come together in the service of the consensus. the following excerpt from a speech delivered at the plenary meeting of the first. puttingin place good governance. Operationalising the new consensus: the MDGS and PRSPS The buzzwords associated with different policy eras good governance. and how to go about it. and that the increased rhetorical and operational coherence between international development actors is evident. It is an acknowledgement that we will not createlong-termpeace and stabilityuntil we acknowledge that we are a common humanitywith a common destiny. 'common humanity with a common destiny'. The framing of the problem and the solution have become inextricably linked. One outcome of harnessing participation to poverty reduction is the emergence of development policy solutions in the shape of universalising models which provide blueprints for invited participation. scaling-up. experienceand self-interest.Many of in these leadersare tacklingcorruption.Our futuresare indivisible. partnership. the PRSPS and MDGS encode the declared consensus in linear logic. his speech couples terms like 'understanding'. But because they know it is right. and establishing investmentclimateto an attractprivatecapital. 'our futures'-to stake out a normative position as consensus. it is made familiar enough to feel comfortable with elements that work to 'anchor'29as well as to assuage.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK The world that appears through the frame of the international consensus consists of similar objects to previous versions. for example. They are doing it not because they have been told to. 'us all'. Take.30 The framing of the MDGS and PRSPS in mainstream development discourse does precisely this. UN-hosted Financing for Development conference in Monterrey in 2002. by James Wolfensohn.in civil society.
. Differing in form. long-term strategies-chimes with the narrative of the MDG consensus that international development is a measurable moral goal that the governments of all countries should strive towards.POLICY? DO WHATDO BUZZWORDS FOR DEVELOPMENT narrative. which caught the imagination of a global development audience and saw the citizens of Northern countries participating around development issues to a previously unprecedented degree. Both are championed by supranational institutions. partnership and result-oriented. which has always rested on some combination of the two. styled out of pragmatism and backed with economic power. they concern the configurations of actors associated with each discourse. these two frames-an instrument and a statement of aspirations-are familiar objects in the landscape of development.there are two majordimensionsto that partnership: is concerned with 'moneychanginghands' the other with 'ideaschangingminds'. can be seen as part of a broader consensus with an extraordinarily diverse buy-in. The contrasts between them are echoes of the dissonance submerged by consensus. debt relief or citizen participation-into the storyline. their imperatives and agency. and agendas for greater coherence between the international financial institutions (IFIs) and donors. The MDGS provided a response to several ongoing debates. and the reformulation of the International Development Targets (IDTS)33 into the MDGS. the MDGS were also a response to the moral authority and effectiveness of the Jubilee 2000 campaign. Despite their differences. Their narrative is one of measuring change already in motion. there are also essential contrasts between them.32 While PRSPS are a development instrument. Actors across a broad spectrum have been able to fit their own understandingswhether of the need for a multidimensional approach to poverty. and the operational elements of the policy and advocacy instruments associated with the PRSPSand the MDGS. As Vandermoortele notes: The partnershipbetween rich and poor countries takes many forms. not one of analysis 1049 .. In one essence. effective aid. Designed not only to meet challenges about aid effectiveness. MDGS are a normative framework backed with a moral imperative. structural financial reforms. comprehensive. the use of similar anchoring buzzwords means that the narrative of the PRSP consensus-that poverty reduction can only be achieved through country-driven. Although progress toward the MDGS can be monitored at different levels and scales. modes of leverage and tactics. instruments and plans. but institutions that contrast significantly in function. The MDGS: targets out of buzzwords The adoption of the Millennium Declaration by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2000.34 their primary nature is one of composite measurability. The MDGS and PRSPS thus become the medium through which diverse understandings of development are translated into targets.
uses the MDGs to advocate debt cancellation. the lowest common denominators of legitimate change. necessary policy change. Why are the promisesnot beingkept?Why are hundredsof millionsof people strugglingto overcomethe daily grindof hunger.stronger partnership.36 Meanwhile. What meaning do such recommendations have when they are applied to a particular place. while apparently feasible.diseaseand ignorancewhen the global economy is experiencing unprecedented prosperity?. from within the UN. unless debt is 100% cancelled. and deeperparticipationby the poor can bring the world back on track towards the MDGS. As a set of time-bound.extra money.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK of the forces producing poverty. With the mantle of moral credibility that they lend.. .and to extend them beyond 'their narrow role of "social watchdog"'.3 Civil society actors are not alone in asking why progress on the MDGS. numerical targets. the MDGS imply. Advocacy largely focuses on the behaviour of Northern governments.35 In doing so. While the UNDP seeks to strengthen cso capacity in monitoring both MDGS and PRSPS. While reference to the MDGS in many policy documents tends to be decorative. In a sense they are the ultimate in compromise. including in bilateral donors' own backyards. the price of international coherence and co-operation. In another sense they can be used as tools for changing minds.While the MDGSremainunfulfilled. A juxtaposition of two analyses from different sources reveals how some of the implicit assumptions of the MDG narrative play out. is not 'on track'. As identifiable discourse markers emerging from a supranational space. suggests a way forward.37 the possibility remains of reinforcing experiences of the pseudo-participation so prominent in many countries. The first. the MDGS stimulate new conversations about why they might not be met. (i) in and (ii) public action that frequentlyfails to take advantageof cross-sectoral synergies.they also remainfeasible and affordable. for example. however. and for holding accountable the powerful. and has continued both through established networks and constituencies and through the UN system itself. and the realities of changed practices of Southern governance implied by the very notion of 'being on track'. rather than direct. and what can be done. Two reasons stand out in virtuallyall countries: under-investment basic social services. in many advocacy documents they are used to suggest paths of change. Jubilee Research.. There is a tension between changing minds and winning hearts with advocacy. goals and targets at the global level represent the next step of displacement from the specificities of context..Committed leadership. As participation and empowerment have become normalised and bureaucratisedthrough exercises in mainstreaming. paths for Southern civil society organisation (cso) advocacy around the MDGs are less clear. a particular context? This is the subject of the second 1050 . the MDGS represent a way of world making that lacks any sense of place. noting that increased aid flows will prove ineffectual in heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCS). they are both symbol and product of the new consensus. including stronger partnership and deeper participation.
The Strategyprivilegesallocationsto social sector spendingat the expenseof the longer-termstructuralissues like factor productivity. the bonds between the parties to the partnershipand contributes to the loweringof the transactioncosts of aid management.. through implementation. transformation concert with the removalof bureaucratic in obstaclesto new credits is likely to deepen Tanzania's already crippling long-term aid dependency. development-oriented csos. Read side by side. involving agents of decentralised government. service delivery csos. which discusses the meanings that emerge when buzzwords like partnership and participation are applied to an existing context.. As both a product and a tool of a supranational arena of governance. but also facilitates new debt being taken on. 'Poverty reduction' and 'participation' are refracted by the PRSP model at national levels into 'ownership' and 'partnership'. the viabilityof smallholderagriculture and agro-industrial linkages. these At arrangements streamline negotiationand disbursement new lending also the of fromthe International FinancialInstitutions. implicit in the MDGS. Beyond this is a third level. and (ostensibly at least) the poor. where the projected model is transformed anew. So the idea of stronger partnership to put the world 'back on track towards the MDGS'. the same time.there is a serious risk that the of streamlining new creditswill lead to the rapidaccumulation new debt for of social sector investments In sum.42 PRSPS: PRSPS new policy practices out of buzzwords? represent a policy model that originates in the supranational policy spaces but which is projected towards existing national policy processes. citizens. consensual meanings from the centre of the discourse are refracted again and again. the pair are entirely co-dependent. The meanings of buzzwords are transformed by the actor networks which traverse these different domains. these two extracts show a worrying set of consequences that are not part of the explicit intentions of the MDG narrative. Assumptions about the benign intentions of the IFIS to create equitable change. translates into a process that may lower transaction costs.The Government's responsibility for promoting economic transformation is largely restrictedto budgetaryinstrumentsfor the managementof aid-sponsored public expenditure The trend of co-ordinationand harmonisationcements .WHAT DO BUZZWORDS DO FOR DEVELOPMENT POLICY? extract. These involve a diverse set of actors some from supranational level. the lack of a strategy for economic . from an empirical study of the domestic politics of the Tanzanian PRSP. In this instance.Sincedemocratic publicoversight of foreign lending is virtually non-existent.. the MDGS encapsulate considerable assumptions about how change happens in different arenas.employment. but also agents of national governments.41 as might the efficacy of PRSPS as the principal route for achieving them. international NGOS and bilaterals. Gould and Ojanen's study of the Tanzanian PRSP 1051 . may be challenged by this process.. The sanitised.
46 can 'reinforce status and widen the gap between expert and novice'. Further. The master buzzwords of the PRsP-ownership and partnershipmay create an overarching embrace. Country ownership. Processes of establishing joint meanings for a united goal require negotiation. income. but the new vocabularies that arise from them as they are operationalised create patterns of exclusion. the meanings of ownership.47 the dynamics of who is allowed to participate in that negotiation determine how the model is transformed into practice. aid into Underthe termsof this partnership.recipient/partner are governments required to commit themselvesto a multi-tethered programof state reform.50 The participatory roles of csos within PRSPS are not necessarily congruent with their existing form or function and present considerable contradictions.In return.43 Examined in context.52 Many commentators note that PRSPS seldom vary. the poverty analysis presented in PRSPS is not structural.For the electedleadership. and often run on timetables that disregard the rhythm of the domestic policy process. creating an inner circle of people who share a common language.45The new vocabularies of this model.48 They have usually offered limited spaces for engagement to invited csos. for example. it has also demonstrated what partnership and ownership do not mean.44 among whom the policy model has become so deeply ingrained that 'they are no longer capable of imagining other kinds of policy approaches'. donor community the promisesAfricangovernments greater'ownership' theirsocialpolicies. rather than in the displaced world of the consensus. if they are expressed at all.49 Craig and Porter label this phenomenon 'surrogate political participation'. whose views beyond the consensus.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK discusses the meanings of ownership and partnership that emerge from implementation: the internationalaid agencieshave convincedstate representatives remake to theirmultilateral relationships a new breedof 'partnership'. neither the international nor national-level distribution of resources. seldom find their way into final documents. The nature of ownership actually created through PRSP partnership inheres. partnership and harmonisation circumscribe the legitimate terrains of agency for a range of different actors in government. among a small group of actors. In PRSP implementation the consultative processes designed to create social ownership have conceptualised participation narrowly. The dynamics of ownership in this inner circle are at odds with the PRSP narrative. social ownership should be created through participation. at least initially. has seldom meant the participation of democratically elected actors in a PRSP process. usually prescribing the three or four basic prongs that mirror 1052 .5' In both the bureaucracy and the polity the implementation of the PRSP model has infused the partnership and ownership binary with meaning. civil society and the donor community. suggests Kakande. main of the that the (partial)reliefof perkwas the increased leewayfor politicalmanouevre foreigndebt can provide. in doing so. human capital and power is analysed or understood. which suggests that broad.
writing key points on flipcharts in writing so small it cannot possibly be legible from the second row of the audience. The district planner proudly tells us that this is a 'participatory. It is supposed to contribute to a locally owned development plan. but through lived experiencesof local planning and the structures of the state. These experiences are often at odds not only with the world of the national PRSP. have been invited to attend the meeting. bottom-up planning process'. let alone the back. The presentation is hardly audible from the front row. whileremaining silentaboutpowerissues.and local politicalrealities. PRSPS The sub-county administration is holding a four-day planning meeting as part of its planning process. 'Situation analyses' of the water and health sectors are made from the platform. Elected councillors from village. not the local language. even if the audience were literate.PRSPS heighten critics'fearsthatthey serveas an instrument hegemonic of economicinterests. 1053 . secured by the government through the elaboration of a PRSP. He observes that 'the community has to express their demands by making (continued overleaf) some contribution'. based on fieldnotes made by one of the authors. along with representatives of civil society. one of the civil servants notes that 'there is a part the community is supposed to play mobilised community participation-contributing labour and materials to government programmes'.53 Craig and silencein the face of risingconcernabout the pervasiveness unequal of marketpower.WHAT DO BUZZWORDS DO FOR DEVELOPMENT POLICY? the World Development Report Porter note: PRSPS' (WDR) 2000/1 framework. and it is in English.has fuelledcritics. which will dictate how resources from debt relief.55illustratessome of the disjuncturesof meaning to which the disconnection between worlds gives rise.. One of the meeting facilitators informs us that the purpose of the gathering is 'to tell the sub-county representatives what government policies are so that they can correct their sub-county plans according to these guidelines'. parish and sub-county. will be spent on poverty reduction. Attending the meeting are about 120 people.restricted migration accessto and rich economies. They sit in classroom-like rows facing a raised platform on which several officials all men-are seated.A snapshot image of a sub-county planning meeting in Uganda.Promotinguniversalglobalintegration. the relevant civil servant from the district stands on the platform and addresses the audience. of whom perhaps 10 are women. For each sector. . existing meanings of participation and poverty reduction have been constructed not only through exposure to international development discourses. where the PRSP iS little more than another policy of a distant central government. During the presentation.consolidating corporate power. but also with the positive visions of ownership and partnershipencapsulated by the supranationalconsensus narrative. Here.54 are also notably silent on the subject of implementation at the level of decentralisedgovernance.
In response. administration. He is unable to reply to this. he is asked abruptly and aggressively. Someone attempts another question from the audience. or about how much was available. PRSPS and the consensus narrative they represent are. language of moral imperative. decontextualised world of the consensus narrative. The civil servanttells us that he has not been told by the districtabout any sources of funding.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK At the end of the water sector presentation questions are invited.' While a snapshot such as this obscures the complexity of local political dynamics. seductive. The 'demands' that drive local development are made in the form of material contributions. 'poverty alleviation' and 'ownership' are all invested with meanings that differ radically from the imagined. He is going to present the sub-county plan. Each sectoral plan is in the form of a flipchart. 'demand-driven'. Only the health sector plan has anything written in the 'source of funding' column. which is the product of the planning meeting we attended. but is ignored by those on the platform. After owning it. The objective of the production sector is 'poverty alleviation and improved livelihood of the local population'. production. 'is to own these problems. he says. strategy. 'Have you made any contribution? Do you really want this water?'. and are told what to do. This handwritten plan is organised by sector health.' Some weeks after the meeting we meet a civil servant from the subcounty. yet foreign. but they are also profoundly decontextualised from the kind of scenario described in the snapshot. you ask yourself why. and an illegible rendering of solutions. They focus the gaze of development's civic audience on the centre of the state. away not only from spaces of decentralised governance. In closing the meeting the planner addresses the audience. This has several consequences. as we argue above. and sits down again. and so on. It diverts and directs our attention within a single country. activity and source of funding. where the PRSP consultation circus is being enacted in the services of a benign set of goals. Watching this showspeculating on what the PRSPSmight offer development via their intended and unintended consequences-helps us forget the street outside the theatre. How do we share the responsibilities? Who should do it? How do you get that person to do it? Exposing ourselves arouses our answers. waiting for a bus to go to the district capital. 'The main purpose of us being here'. the world outside and the action backstage. firmly framed in an assimilated. with columns for problems. 'Not all secrets can be revealed to us down here. it does serve to illustrate the refractions of meaning discussed above. 'Participatory'. and one man stands up to enquire about the status of two boreholes in his village that are in disrepair and what the sub-county might be able to do about this situation. but also from non-consultative spaces at the centre where important decisions 1054 . 'Ownership' is created through witnessing an inaudible rendition of problems. objectives. education. A 'participatory' process is one in which participants cannot ask questions.
they compel people to listen because they themselves are the main protagonists of the story.. have now come to symbolise the legitimacy to pursue today's generation of development blueprints. In the texts of mainstream development agencies. they work because they do more than convey a good argument. but is secondary to something that is of quite a different order: a feeling of rightness. under the rubric of poverty reduction. They seek to call us to action. Sorel argues. overlapping networks of advocates and activists in civil society organisations have sought to gain 1055 . but where mass poverty and inequality are issues with a different political resonance.57 Development myths work through emotional identification. policy coherence and a series of embedded assumptions about the doing of development that place entrenched ideas and practices undergirding the development industry entirely beyond question. The utopias that are shored up by development myths and bolstered by buzzwords are profoundly ideological constructions. backed by the creation of normative instruments. Efforts to promote particular concepts within these institutions have produced partial victories. and make us into agents of the possible. but they have not necessarily swallowed them whole. in Sorel's sense: more than an exercise in intellectual construction. this triad of 'good things' is used to purvey a storyline that situates them as guardians of rightness and champions of progress.56 Myths safeguard utopias. words that speak of the laudable aim of enabling poor people to have voice and choice.59 International development organisations may appear to have appropriated concepts once used by radical alternative movements. But buzzwords are more than pep-words. name what we can do. It comes imbued with powerful myths about the desirability of donor co-ordination. Sorel contends: myths are not descriptionsof things. A myth cannot be refuted since it is. identical with the convictionsof a group. of a visionary goal towards which to strive. Second.58they build and sustain the feeling of conviction that people need in order to be able to act. beyond national borders it takes our attention away from countries and regions of the world that are less dependent on the aid industry. Like all successful ideologies. which serve an almost ceremonial function in bolstering a feeling of togetherness and purposefulness. This storyline is more than utopian. The statements of intent that constitute the policies of international development agencies gain the qualities of myth precisely because they are born of convictions. like the MDGS. at bottom. Revisiting declarations of intent We argue in this paper that participation and empowerment. Actor networks linked to broader. not through rationality. but expressionsof a determinationto act. Their use in development discourse is not just to promote a we-can-do-it boost. Good argument has its place here..WHAT DO BUZZWORDS DO FOR DEVELOPMENT POLICY? and negotiations take place.
Their propensity to shelter multiple meanings makes them politically expedient. after all. left for erstwhile radicals to reminisce about and replaced with a sexy. struggles over meaning are not just about semantics: they gain a very real material dimension.Hegemony is dissolving into mere ideology. Reckoning with the paradox that the words that work in projects of worldmaking are those that lend themselves most to being filled with multiple meanings. threaded into a chain of equivalence with social capital and opportunity.in Gramsci's terms. If words make worlds. The downside of all this is discursive closure: it becomes more difficult to disagree with the use of words like empowerment than with the way of worldmaking of particularinstitutions.61To have that appeal. And yet giving up on participation and empowerment as irrevocably contaminated by their mainstreaming would be 1056 .it needs to speak to those who work in developmentand speak about their preoccupations.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK room for manoeuvre within their own institutions. But what is to stop the next new word sharing the fate of the buzzwords we have discussed here? The World Bank has such propensity to appropriate and rework terms that it is possible to imagine even stubborn old words like 'class' being filled with new. And these policies. what makes a concept valuable is precisely that which gives it broad-based appeal. urgent. But if-as some would charge our three buzzwords have become implacably emptied of meaning. and put to work. The way words are combined allows certain meanings to flourish. is to move beyond contests over meaning to unquestioned acceptance. Participation and empowerment might be abandoned to the dust of history. we suggest that it is in fact high time more attention was paid to language in development. what can be done? One option is to invent new words. and others to become barely possible to think with. new term. To become hegemonic. selfreferential meanings. there for the taking. their values. They acquire meaning as they are put to use in policies.60To talk of terms being co-opted is to assume that buzzwords have singular meanings. Nice-sounding words are. in turn. and the nicerthey sound. large parts of which may remain entirely unresponsive to new ideas. influence how those who work in development think about what they are doing. or to pilfer from other vocabularies. the more useful they are for those seeking to establish their moral authority. their hopes.62 What is perhaps most interesting about the 'linguistic crisis' is that more and more people are coming to regard words that were once taken for granted as something about which to be a little more circumspect. As Sen argues. shielding those who use them from attack by lending the possibility of common meaning to extremely disparate actors. and with it the different ideological underpinnings that constitute differentways of worldmaking come into closer view. Conclusion What are the implications of all this for the real world challenges of addressing poverty? What has language got to do with development? Our argument here has been that the terms we use are never neutral. But buzzwords are useful in policy statements because they are fuzz-words.
to whom the futurebelongs.we have a collectiveresponsibility uphold the principlesof human dignity. But. remains to be done? Participation.63What. In configuration with words like social justice. rights and social justice. not only be giving up the battle but also losing the war. As leaders we have a duty therefore to all the world's people. childrenof the world. The terrain on which they could do so is a universal moral debate about progress. Dissident meanings are stripped away to ensure coherence. empowerment and poverty reduction. as it helps us to recognise that alternative ways of worldmaking can take shape even out of the most apparently closed discursive spaces. respect for nature and shared responsibility. Nor is there a place for development solutions that fail to recognise how embedded richer countries are in the fortunes of others.64 By locating the world's leadersas duty-holders. the MDGS have an unparalleled potential to galvanise concerted action to tackle the causes as well as symptoms of poverty.the MDD situates the commitment they made within a frame of reference set some 14 years before with the declaration of the Right to Development. these terms can be as easily manipulated as any other:think. Contrast Wolfensohn's 'global responsibility based on ethics. a right emerging from the successful mobilisation of countries in the global South and long sidelined by Northern governments. accountability. equality. harnessing the good intentions of the MDD to urge departures from the business-as-usual policy solutions peddled from 1057 . put together in a chain of equivalence. global targets represent attempts to tackle poverty as a global phenomenon. as Sen puts it. for example. in the particular. of the fate of 'freedom' in the hands of US President George W Bush. there is little place for talk about participation involving users as consumers. experience and self-interest' with what the Millennium Development Declaration (MDD) has to say: We recognisethat.65 The MDD goes on to name a series of fundamental values: freedom. As such. tolerance. redistribution and solidarity. they could serve as a moral underpinningfor the MDGS that would give them the bite they currentlylack. Let us turn back to the PRSPS and the MDGS and look at what alternative framings might have to offer. in additionto our separateresponsibilities our individual to to societies. Used alone.WHAT DO BUZZWORDS DO FOR DEVELOPMENT POLICY? to lose concepts that have been critical for decades in animating struggles for equality. But some of these meanings might be recuperated through a similar strategy of using chains of equivalence that link these terms with other words to reassert the meanings that have gone into abeyance. one in which every nation is implicated. Recognising the strategic reversibility of discourse is important. come together in mainstream development discourse in a chain of equivalence with ownership. They could provide a significant counterbalance to the narrow focus of the PRSPS. While PRSPS are notionally 'country owned'. nor about poor people being empowered through the marketisation of services that were once their basic right. solidarity. then. It would. equality and equity at the global level. we argue here. governance and partnership to make the world that the neoliberal model would have us all inhabit. especially the most vulnerableand.
Acknowledgements We are indebted to Jo Doezema and Keith Bezanson for leading us to the work of Georges Sorel. We would also like to thank Jenny Edwards. London: Pluto Press. does violence to the very hope of a world without poverty. which proved so fruitful for our analysis. Whose Development?An Ethnographyof Aid. Notes 1 R Williams. empowerment and poverty reduction with other development buzzwords. 1997. Thanks go to Katja Jassey. 2004. 1996. 4 G Sorel. something which consensus thinking calls on us to pretend to ignore. Consider how differently the MDGS would sound if they were animated not with targets but with some of the language of the Millennium Declaration. such as R Apthorpe & D Gasper (eds). Donors might have latched onto targets. Rosalind Eyben. 'Dominant paradigms overturned or "business as usual"? Development discourse and the White Paper on International Development'. and are more amenable to the reductionism evident in the one-size-fits-all solutions we see emerging from PRSPS. Such a move would make visible the different frames of reference that coexist within the fuzz -of current development rhetoric. It would allow us to recognise that there are many possible worlds to be made with these words. But the statement of principle they signed up to with the MDD promises something else altogether. respectively. we take our cues from the important recent work on discourses of development. It goes without saying that all errors of interpretation are. 1058 . as well as how much more vital and relevant they would become to the struggles pursued by advocates and activists. Critiqueof Anthropology. 1941. politics. Keywords. London: Picador. it would underscore the lesson of history that development actors ignore at their peril: that any way of worldmaking that gives us one-size-fits-all development recipes stripped of any engagement with context or culture.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK Washington. Georgina Blanco-Mancilla and Aaron deGrassi for locating some of the materials we refer to here. Oxford: Berg. Arguing Development Policy: Frames and Discourses. and D Mosse. Most of all. New York: Peter Smith. Cultivating Development: An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice. and naming the differences between the ways these terms can be understood. Mick Moore and Ian Scoones for their insightful comments on earlier versions. of course. 2000. entirely ours. 20 (1). E Crewe & E Harrison. Discourses of Development: Anthropological Perspectives. 2 See. forms that fit more neatly into the linearity of development planning. London: Pluto. 3 In doing so. London: Frank Cass. Anthropology and Development: The Postmodern Challenge. 1976. power or difference. for example. and R Grillo & R Stirrat. 1999. London: Zed Books. To do so would require taking apart the existing chain that connects participation. and expose the different ways of worldmaking they imply. pp 15-29. 1996. 5 K Gardner & D Lewis. Think of what uses they might then be put to. Reflections on Violence. via that of Ernesto Laclau and Albert Hirschmann. K Gardner & D Lewis. by progressive governments contending in the international arena with foot-draggers.
pp 1. and A Cornwall & G Pratt.102. Social Representations. 2003. in B Cooke & U Kothari (eds). at www.worldbank. 27 N Goodman. empowerment as secular subjection'.focusweb. pp 322. 19 See.pdf. 'On the death and rebirth of ideology'. 40 (5).1 1. 'The phenomenon of social representations'. 1974. 2004. p 132. Targeting Development. Mexico. pp 101. WorldDevelopment. 28 E Laclau. which contained 7 IDTS that aimed to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015. 1978. 20 (3). 'Empowerment at last?'. 'Discourse coalitions and the institutionalisation of practice'. Structure and Functions of Rural Workers'Organisation: Participation of the Rural Poor in Development. Beneficiary. 16 J Rowlands. 20 WB Gallie.. EncounteringDevelopment: The Making and Unmakingof the Third World. 1984. emphasis added. in R Black & H White (eds). 32 J Vandemoortele. on 'participation' in Sida. NC: Duke University Press. pp 321-329. 25 Williams. London: Penguin. and H Henkel & R Stirrat. participation and accountability'. 1991. at http://www. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. 29 S Moscovici.323. Citizen: Perspectives on Participationfor Poverty Reduction. p 45. 21 Hajer. 'Participation without representation: chiefs. 'Are the Millennium Development Goals feasible?'. 'Discourse coalitions and the institutionalisation of practice'. Consumer. p 2. councils and forestry law in the West African Sahel'. 'Participation's place in rural development: seeking clarity through specificity'. The History of Development: From Western Origins to Global Faith. Geneva: ILO. 23 Hajer. 15 M Moore. 11 R Vengroff. p 13. London: Zed Books. Oxford: Oxfam.org/pdf/MDG-2003. 'Discourse coalitions and the institutionalisation of practice'. 12 G Salole. World Development. and G Rist. 'Introduction: exploring citizenship. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2001. 8. and Rist. NJ: Princeton University Press. 'Are the Millennium Development Goals feasible?'. ILO. S Guggenheim. pp 287-300. 7 G Standing. 1991. 1997. accessed 19 May 2004.Journal of Social Development in Africa. 2004. 14 A Cornwall. 'Participation as spiritual duty. 10 J Cohen & N Uphoff. Sida Studies 2. 33 In 1996 the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published Shaping the 21st Century: The Contribution of Development Co-operation. in Focus on the Global South (ed). 22 M Foucault. Lessons for Change Series 12. Bangkok: Focus on the Global South. 1996. Keywords. The History of Sexuality: Part I. 3 (1). 2001. pp 167-169. 35 Asia Pacific Civil Society Forum. 'The Millennium Development Goals and the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger'. 31 JD Wolfensohn. Durham. 2002. 2000. mimeo. 'Remarks to the Plenary Meeting'. 1979. 2001. 1999. London: Routledge. 18-22 March 2002. pp 459-465. p 45. 'Participatory development: the taxation of the beneficiary?'. 'Exploring social capital debates at the World Bank' on this subject. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies. 8 A Escobar. Human Organisation.org. pp 40-44. People's SelfDevelopment: Perspectives on Participatory Action Research. 1980. 13 J Ribot. for example. 30 E Roe. Geneva. The Argumentative Turn in Policy Analysis and Planning. Journal of International Development. 6 (2). pp 33-64. 17 A Bebbington. Questioning Empowerment: Working with Women in Honduras. E Olson & M Woolcock. 26 Gasper & Apthorpe. 33 (3). pp 303-309. 56. Stockholm: Sida. 1993. 9 Cf International Labour Organisation (ILO). accessed 30 January 2005. Journal of Development Studies. 162. 13 (3). 'Essentially contested concepts'. pp 213-235. 33 (2). speech at the International Conference on Financing for Development. 1978. Princeton.WHAT DO BUZZWORDS DO FOR DEVELOPMENT POLICY? 6 M Hajer. 18 M Moore. or making the best of blueprint development'. Bebbington et al. 1996. pp 201-220.Indianapolis. London: Zed Books. in F Fischer & J Forester (eds). in RM Farr & S Moscovici (eds). 1997. International Social Science Journal. 1995. 'Development narratives. Cultural Survival Quarterly. 34 Vandemoortele. 'Popular participation and the administration of rural development: the case of Botswana'. 'Globalisation: the eight crises of social protection'. pp 449-461. 1995. 'Empowerment at last?'. p 6. The Tyranny of Participation. 24 E 0yen. The History of Development. Ways of Worldmaking. IDS Bulletin. Ideals in Practice: An Enquiry into Participation in Sida. 'The politics of poverty reduction'. 1059 . MA Rahman. Monterrey. 19 (4). London: Zed Books. 'Exploring social capital debates at the World Bank'. and J Gaventa. 1956. Anti-Poverty or Anti-Poor? The Millennium Development Goals and the Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger. Arguing Development Policy. Journal of Political Ideologies. IN: Hackett.
What Are the Chances of Meeting the Millennium Development Goals? Jubilee Research. UNRISD. IDS Bulletin. (iii) enhancing security-by investing in health and education. 55 Karen Brock. 21 (1). 2003. It needs to be borne in mind that these struggles are only ever partially over meaning: they are also over turf. Merging in the Circle. Reflections on Violence. 62 A Gramsci. UNRISD. 42 N Bullard. and F Stewart & M Wang. as by moral and intellectual conviction. paper presented at the conference on 'Social Knowledge and International Policy Making: Exploring the Linkages'. or by rivalry. 44 R Eyben. Geneva. 39 Vandemoortele. 46 M Kakande. 2002. Sustaining Poverty. p 16. ambition and a desire for personal power. "we are committed to making the right to development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want". 'Are the Millennium Development Goals feasible?'. London: New Left Books. 41 N Alexander & T Kessler. 47 R Hinton. 2003. 'The donor . with G Craig. Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly 55/2 (United Nations Millennium Declaration) A/RES/55/2. Ideals in Practice.. 'Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers'. pp 53-69. 54 Craig & Porter. 49 A Whitehead. D Warburton & M Wilkinson. 58 Laclau. accessed 1 March 2004. 2003. these are: (i) promoting opportunity (as broad-based growth). background paper to UNRISD Report on Gender and Development to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women. 31 (1). 2003.org/. 52 Whitehead. 53 For Craig & Porter (2003). Inclusive Aid: Changing Power and Relationships in International Development. The History of Development. 'The Millennium Development Goals and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper: two wrongs don't make a right'. 59 Cf Rist. 18 September 2000. 'On the death and rebirth of ideology'. 61 G Sen. Development Policy Review. 38 M Taylor. 37 Vandemoortele. London: Christian Aid. 'Conclusion: enabling inclusive aid'. 'Design contradictions in the "new architecture of aid"? Reflections from Uganda on the roles of civil society organisations'. MD: Citizens' Network on Essential Services. Or Is It the Other Way Round?QEH Working Paper No 108. (ii) facilitating empowerment-by promoting good governance. Failing Women. especially anti-corruption. London: Lawrence and Wishart. p 30. Sustaining Poverty: Gender in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. T Parkes. S Monro. and may be driven as much by bureaucratic convenience and organisational imperative. 20-21 April 2004. 1971. 45 See Eyben. Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. pp 7-8. 35 (2). London: Earthscan. Why international development policy chose Copenhagen over Beijing and the implications for Bolivia'. 'The road not taken' on the Bolivian PRSP from a bilateral donor perspective.ANDREA CORNWALL & KAREN BROCK 36 R Greenhill. Oxford: Queen Elizabeth House. Ibid. Report for -the UK Gender and Development Network. Inclusive Aid. 40 J Gould & J Ojanen. pp 93-106. 'Are the Millennium Development Goals feasible?'. Geneva. The Politics of Tanzania's Poverty Reduction Strategy. Do PRSPS Empower Poor Countriesand Disempower the WorldBank. pp 67-75. 2002. Failing Women. Silver Spring. 57 L Althusser. para 2. 'The relationship of research to activism in the making of policy: lessons from gender and development'. 'Exploring social capital debates at the World Bank'. Merging in the Circle. 55th Session. 50 D Craig & D Porter. 'A sea-change or a swamp? New spaces for voluntary sector engagement in governance in the UK'. Agenda item 60 (b). 63 Sen. 65 Indeed the MDD declares. University of Helsinki. in Focus on the Global South. Institute of Development Studies Policy Paper 2003/2. 48 I Knoke & P Morazan. 'The relationship of research to activism in the making of policy'. 'Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers: a new convergence'.government. 2004. 'The road not taken. Anti-Poverty or Anti-Poor? 43 Gould & Ojanen. 56 Sorel. The MillenniumDevelopment Goals in an UnaccountableGlobal Order. PRsP: Beyond the Theory-Practical Experiences and Positions of Involved Civil Society Organisations.citizen frame as seen by a government participant' in L Groves & R Hinton (eds). Selections from the Prison Notebooks. 2003. WorldDevelopment. 60 A Bebbington et al. Berlin: Brot fuirdie Welt. para 11. at http://wwwjubilee2000uk. in Groves & Hinton. Merging in the Circle. and Cornwall & Pratt. 64 United Nations. 1971. 1060 . p 33. and Gould & Ojanen. 2004. Comment made in discussions of this paper at the conference. 51 S Lister & W Nyamugasira. p 2.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.