For decades we have been told a story: that development is working, that poverty is a natural phenomenon and will be eradicated through aid by 2030. But just because it is a comforting tale doesn’t make it true. Poor countries are poor because they are integrated into the global economic system on unequal terms, and aid only helps to hide this.
There are many books that deal critically with development aid. But the book by the lecturer at the London School of Economics stands out among them. For two reasons:
Hickel comes from Swaziland, studied in New York and then went to India and Swaziland as a development aid worker for World Vision. He himself felt, as he writes, the "kick of development aid" – and after some time began to ask himself: Why didn’t it work out in the end?
Hickel then broadened his perspective: from individual projects to the whole way in which we as industrialised countries deal with Africa. He exposes the underlying assumption of development aid as a myth according to which the countries of the southern hemisphere need our help because they simply have not yet developed.
Hickel writes at the beginning of his book: In the course of my research "I learned that what has been told about rich and poor countries is not the whole truth. Actually, the explanations we are familiar with are almost the exact opposite of reality. Out there, there’s a whole different story, if we’re only willing to hear it. It will completely change our view of the world. It will change our opinion about the causes of poverty. It will change how we think about progress. It will even change how we think about our own civilization, about our everyday lifestyle and about what the world should look like in the future."
At the end of reading his book you know: Hickel didn’t promise too much.
The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions (Englisch) 2018
by Jason Hicke
Publisher: Windmill Books (17 May 2018)
Language: Englisch (also available in other languages)