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Published in The News on Sunday, Political Economy, 12 July, 2009

Culture and development are intimately linked together in an increasingly globalised world, where development or its lack, is seen both as cause and solution of domestic social and cultural problems of global proportions. The strategic deployment of development and reconstruction plans in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, to break the fundamentalist's hold on cultural productions and regional economy, offers one of more dramatic illustrations of this relationship. A textbook example of relationship between culture and development is the relative success of Aga Khan Rural Support Program, a non-sectarian development project in Northern Pakistan, especially in Ismaili dominated regions, attributed largely to a mutual fit between development agenda and the cultural and religious organisations. Irrespective of the geo politics of development, common to both cases is the emphasis placed on culture as a means of human growth and empowerment and the recognition that in order to achieve sustainable development, and international peace, economic, financial and social reforms have to be addressed from a cultural perspective. The consensus on the cultural dimensions of development in the international development sector has been slow to emerge, largely out of experience of administering development in the Third World as well as with interactions between development practitioners and academicians in the field of anthropology, economics and sociology. Central to the culture in development approach is the emphasis placed on culture as a means of human growth and empowerment and the recognition that in order to achieve a sustainable development, and international peace, economic, financial and social reforms have to be addressed from

a cultural perspective. Culture and development are linked in a number of different ways, and the connections relate both to the ends and the means of development. In the current global policy thinking, culture is not merely a means of promoting material progress but constitutes as the very basis of human development. Understood, as comprising of norms, tradition and values of a society, culture plays a critical role in economic performance and business behavior. Weberian analysis of the role of values in the emergence of capitalism is of considerable interest in the contemporary world, particularly in the light of the recent success of market economies in non-Protestant and even non-Christian societies. While culture is regarded as the means and instrument of development, the notion of development, following Amrata Sen, is based on substantive expansion of freedom. It is not only the growth of GNP, but the enhancement of freedom and well being of people in a broad, holistic sense to include universal, physical, mental and social growth. Appended to this approach is the idea that fostering respect for diversity and cultural pluralism is of crucial importance in the context of global and national culture, as the rapid spread of mass culture and its hegemonic tendencies are threatening the survival of traditional values and the interests of minorities. The need for respect for all cultures is particularly urgent at a time in which the uneasy acceptance of global culture and reactions against the alienating effects of large-scale modern technologies are reflected in the fast spread of religious fundamentalism and social intolerance. Although the connections between cultural values and economic performance have been made in cultural theory as well as development economics, it remains debatable which set of values

would work under what conditions. As in case of countries like Japan, China and India with fast economic growth, the relative merits of Confucian, Buddhist and Hindu values in shaping economic behavior are being debated. Unfortunately, we lack informed debates on mainstreaming culture in development programmes and investments in the government and the non-government sector in Pakistan. The development sector in Pakistan is fairly cognizant of the importance of culture in development planning, yet the awareness of linkages remains at a level of project intervention in select areas rather than providing an overarching framework to restructure the development discourses. Organisation like UNESCO, which have from its very inception stressed the connection between culture and development have invested only in limited range of cultural arenas such as cultural tourism in Pakistan where as much more needs to be done to make cultural factors the focal point of all strategies for development.