Department of Social & Policy Sciences

Dr Sarah White featured in UNA-UK 'Global Development Goals' publication

Thu Sep 25 11:47:00 BST 2014

Wellbeing in international development, by Dr Sarah White, University of Bath

 
Provate Property sign

- In Chiawa the alienation of customary land for agribusiness or safari lodges has undermined local livelihoods, removing access to water, grasslands and firewood.

 

'Development – we need it, but the development which is coming in this area is a development which is consuming our land bit by bit. Bit by bit, our land is being consumed. It means the community... eventually the community will have very little place to live, so that’s why it is a hazard.' - Villager, Chiawa, Zambia, 2012

Getting it right post-2015 means putting people’s wellbeing at the Centre of development. Recent research in Chiawa, Zambia by the University of Bath shows what this means.

In Chiawa the alienation of customary land for agribusiness or safari lodges has undermined local livelihoods, removing access to water, grasslands and firewood. Wild animals such as elephants frequently destroy crops and present a constant threat of physical injury or even death. Social trust is low, people fear losing their land, feel excluded from decision- making and are afraid to speak up against those in power.

By contrast, local understandings of wellbeing emphasise an ethic of taking care of others. Uniting material, moral and relational dimensions, it is a model of power well used.

This research suggests that land rights for the poor must be at the heart of the post-2015 agenda. Chiawa is just one example of a worldwide dispossession that is taking place in the name of development. Land rights must be complemented by environmental protection and promotion, since human wellbeing is grounded in a broader ecology with earth, air, water and the other animals. The third principle is accountability. Robust mechanisms are needed to ensure local women and men can debate priorities and participate effectively in shaping any development that does take place.

This research belongs within a wide portfolio of work on wellbeing in international development at the University of Bath, including a dedicated MSc programme, doctoral research, and research on the capability approach.

  • The Politics of Wellbeing, Conservation and Development in Chiawa, Zambia. 2013, www.wellbeingpathways.org
  • Wellbeing and Quality of Life Assessment: A Practical Guide. Ed. Sarah C. White with Asha Abeyasekera. Practical Action Publishing. 2014.
  • Wellbeing, Justice and Development Ethics. Séverine Deneulin, Routledge. 2014

This article appears in the UNA-UK publication 'Global Development Goals'.

The United Nations Association - UK (UNA-UK) is the UK’s leading source of independent analysis on the UN and a vibrant grassroots movement campaigning for a safer, fairer and more sustainable world.