Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Conference – first session, 26 Nov 2009

Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Conference – first session, 26 Nov 2009

27.11.2009 - Posted by Michael Bain
Eric Campbell (ABC journalist) discussed his observations on development based on many years of reporting on international events for the ABC, which has taken him to many countries including third world and conflict areas. His conclusion is that large scale development efforts have almost always achieved little and may have even brought some harm. He cited experiences and insights in Afghanistan and the Congo where development funds are channelled via the entrenched criminal groups that are in power. Small scale development initiatives, e.g. installing a water well for a village, can have a significant impact on local communities but, unless multiplied across the country, have little overall impact on national development. Aid funds that are not tied to good governance on the part of the authorities in the recipient country can simply entrench a policy of irresponsibility on the part of those powers.

Eric’s address was seen as cynical by much of the audience, but I considered that it was quite pragmatic. Those who want to be involved in third world development need to be aware of the way the game is played in many of those countries. With all the best intentions, the enthusiasm and idealism frequently ends with disillusionment when little lasting outcome is achieved. Knowing the hazards helps in identifying the opportunities that will have a genuine chance of achieving positive change in circumstances for people who really need it.

For information on the conference, click here.