Exploring the links between economics, social protection and democratisation will allow for long-term development impacts
What are the strengths and shortcomings of contemporary approaches to development? Can single solutions aimed at tackling a problem such as increasing gross domestic product (GDP) growth, be sufficient to ensure long-term socio-economic progress?
I believe that despite significant improvements, only little attention is paid to the vital synergies that exist, and must be strengthened, between development economics, social protection and democratisation. If international organisations and development professionals continue to deal with these elements individually, their efforts to increase peace and stability in transition and developing countries are doomed to be unsuccessful.
So far, most of international organisations (like the UNDP, Unicef, USAid and World Bank) have preferred to implement an institutionalised approach to development. While this approach to development has succeeded to obtain significant short-term results, it has not achieved long-term goals such as economic growth, individual well-being, community-based solidarities, interpersonal trust and political representation.
The lesson I draw attention to in my book is 'please keep the global picture in mind!', which is to help citizens to live in a place where they can access basic infrastructure and facilities (roads, hospitals, schools), get employment, are not segregated or face discrimination and have a voice in the political system through voting rights.
Economic development is crucial in this case because it provides the basis for technological advancement and innovation, which, subsequently, leads to better access to jobs and improvement in standard of living.
However, clientelism and corruption still need to be tackled when financing a project.
International organisations and development professionals should also push for reforming social protection systems to make them more inclusive and ensure equal access. Not surprisingly, the affection of citizens to their governments is often proportional to the benefits that these institutions are able to deliver in practical terms. As several surveys have constantly shown democracy remains a system to be pursued, but only if it is able to offer what the citizens really need in material terms
In the resource rich countries of sub-Saharan Africa, such as Angola, Côte d'Ivoire, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and South Africa, missing the link between development economics, social protection and democratisation has led to a competition among political elites for natural resources that has often favoured one group of the society at the expenses of others. This results in anger and resentment, often leading to civil tensions and armed conflicts.
Similarly, in resource scarce countries such as Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Togo and Uganda, missing the link has resulted in a clientelistic acquisition of state-assets by political elites. This has increased tensions and nurtured armed conflicts among the different constituencies of the society.
In Middle East and North Africa, the increase in global food prices in 2008 and in 2010, followed by an unprecedented drought, has led to a dramatic food crisis. The governments there haven't been able to respond through the usual means of price subsidies. Interestingly, while for most international observers the Arab Spring has opened, at least initially, the door to a new wave of democratisation, its future developments are still uncertain. Missing the link can, in this case, not only destroy the citizens' requests for freedom and for more distributive justice, but it can also lead to new and worst forms of authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism and terrorist affiliation.
Alfio Cerami has held appointments at European and non-European universities, and was an international consultant for Unicef. He is the author of Permanent emergency welfare regimes in sub-Saharan Africa: the exclusive origins of dictatorship and democracy