Monday, March 11, 2013

New Review Posted For Context-Sensitive Development

Dr. Mustaghis-ur-Rahman
Faculty of Management and Social Sciences
SZABIST, Karachi.

"International NGOs (INGOs) have experienced tremendous growth in recent decades with a rise from 16,000 to more than 63,000 organizations around the world till 2005. They are channelizing fairly big amount of money ($120 billion as per 2009/10’s statistics) from north to south for achieving the goal of sustainable development with no matching results. Many development projects, especially in the developing countries, could not bear fruit as they were largely designed on the generalized assumptions about the people, their needs and level of acceptability of those projects.


Researches reveal that the projects too frequently fail to achieve their goals due to a number of challenges that could be termed “cultural”, “managerial” and “organizational” resulting in project delays, cost overruns, coordination failure, etc. The World Bank's private arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has discovered that only half of its African projects succeed. An independent rating, confirmed that 39% of World Bank projects were unsuccessful in 2010. The failure of the World Bank’s Social Action Program (SAP) from 1992 to 2002 in Pakistan is also a glaring example of the poor contextualization of projects in the Pakistani socio-economic and cultural realties. For INGOs, contextualization of the development philosophy and practice in a particular society has always been a challenging task in the pursuit of their agenda as complexities and uniqueness are the two common features of the development issues.


Government-INGO relations in the region revolve on several factors including the fitness of the government, the political system, and the type and location of particular NGO projects. The best relation between the two occurs where a confident and capable government with popular policies greets an INGO that wishes to pursue mainstream development programs in the country. Contrarily, the worst relations occur where authoritarian government meets an INGO that seeks to promote community mobilization in the societies’ heart land. Such governments in developing countries find non-controversial projects desirable, such as; child immunization or clean water programs, but may not warmly welcome INGOs working in such areas as basic human rights. The book Context-Sensitive Development deals with such issues in the context of Myanmar which is plagued by authoritarian rule, international isolation and internal conflict.


The book presents an analysis of sociopolitical milieu for “Burmese days” and “Myanmar times” from historical perspectives and it highlights the topics of context sensitivity; while working with communities and dealing with stakeholders. But the real thrust of this book is the working style of INGOs in Myanmar which has a complex though not a unique operating environment for aid agencies. Such socio-political environment is found in many African and Asian countries. However, working in Myanmar is dancing with the devil without holding hands as the skeptical eyes of authoritarian regime cannot be ignored while designing the development projects there. Though, the book covers the case of Myanmar, due to its grounding in theoretical base of context’s sensitivity, it serves as a resource for understanding impacts of contextualization on the effectiveness of development projects in  Myanmar and beyond.

In my opinion, rareness of the subject, coherency of topics, going deep into the real time issue and research based deliberations make Context-Sensitive Development worth reading. The book has beneficial mass and contents for the volunteers, development professionals, state functionaries and indigenous philanthropists. Last but not the least; Anthony Ware has very aptly supplemented his ethnographical research by strong literature review from the development."

Context-Sensitive Development is available for purchase through Kumarian Press. To request review and/or exam copies, please contact Marketing Associate Jennifer Kern at

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