Speech by Prince Constantijn at the opening of the renovated ECDPM-building

30 juni 2011

Maastricht, 30 June 2011

Changes in the world economy, and particularly in the position of the developing countries, have never before succeeded one another as rapidly as in recent years.

On the one hand, we have seen a number of crises, such as the debt crisis, the food crisis and the decline in the prices of commodities and, recently, the great instability of capital markets.

On the other hand, these changes imply mobility and provide the opportunity for countries to participate in the world economy in a way which was not previously possible. As Development… is strongly determined by the concepts of internationalization  and interdependence. …Markets are becoming increasingly accessible and volume of international economic traffic….is constantly expanding.  Internationalisation of factors of productivity are becoming increasingly mobile. This is true particularly of capital, management and technology. 

…this interdependence is becoming ever more significant. We are living in a world that is shrinking, a world that is getting smaller in spite of all its inherent tensions.

For both North and South are developed and developing. …In our time, we are experiencing the blurring of the dividing line [between them], and we in the North must prepare ourselves for its total disappearance.

… we shall have to look beyond the period of development cooperation, to look for and determine anew our Northern position in … a polycentric and yet unifying world. [in which] the  South … is diversifying ever more clearly. We should act in anticipation of these developments. Ethnocentrism will have to be curbed and we shall have to learn how to get on with other cultures as a mental and conceptual adjustment to the new emergent structures.

Reviewing the integration processes which are currently underway in the world, it strikes me therefore that the choice between isolation and openness is a vital one… Protectionism in the rich countries does more harm than the good which development aid - even under the most favourable conditions can do. Thus, an international macro-economic policy aimed at improving the terms of trade of developing countries would be more valuable than any amount of development aid.   

Development cooperation

This also raises the question of the relevance of Development policy. How should we judge the progress to date? 

Seen from the South development aid seems often more linked to strategic or commercial interests of the donor countries, than intended to truly support their development. The conditionality is associated more with ideology and paternalism then with pragmatic approaches to solving their problems. From their side donor countries observe that funds are wasted by politicians who are more concerned with personal interest than increasing the purchasing power of the poor. …They ask themselves if the problems will ever be solved?

So, is development policy still worth while? Could it be part of the problem, contribution to keeping corrupt regimes in power?

These questions raise real issue that need serious assessment. We from the North must refrain from the temptation to use a so called 'realistic' review of the results as a shield behind which we can cynically hide for our responsibilities.

If we notice that some forms of aid are not effective this does not prove that continuation of development policy is not worth it. Also in our countries projects fail. The existence of disease for which there is no cure is not an excuse to leave the patient suffering. 

Notwithstanding many failures… In most parts of the developing world a generation is growing up with more chances to good health, better education, and a higher income than their parents, even if we are aware that this is not the case everywhere. …valuable results have been achieved in areas like agriculture, health care, combating disease, education and dissemination of technological knowledge.

Allow me to make a few remarks to this last point.

Technical change

[Opportunity of]  technical change …as a potent source of social and cultural transformation - we see that today in … the impact of modern information technology…. Modern technology is a liberating force … and a disruptive force, rendering old ways obsolescent and imposing on the individual and the small community the requirement of the mass society.

Within the industrial societies … we have some experience in handling technical change, even if we have not fully solved the problems of social disruption resulting from rapid innovation. Transfer and acceptance of technology is never culturally neutral. …it must be evident that for developing societies, technical change poses even greater cultural and social problems.

I do not wish to imply by these comments that technical change is bad and that brakes should be put on the transfer of technology. Far from it. Problems of poverty and hunger can only be solved by the application of technology. Moreover, cultural change is both necessary to generate development and its inevitable outcome. But we should be alert …that development is essentially a cultural process. It is not a question of material goods but of human resources. [as such] we are still far too fixated on input …whilst Sustainability in sociological, economic and ecological terms should be the paramount criterion of success.

In development cooperation, economic and cultural development need each other. Attempts to increase the speed of economic development above what can be absorbed culturally, can at best lead to creating or strengthening an elite with partially western values which conflict with the rest of the population, to the detriment of both groups.

The objective of 'development cooperation' is to help the recipient countries to achieve greater independence, in particular economic independence…political independence alone means very little. It is impossible to develop another person or country from the outside, people develop themselves, so do countries. For this an awareness of one's own cultural identity is a fundamental condition, [and it] is impossible without some form of democracy…'by the people for the people', [in which] freedom of speech is essential. 

Conclusion

Even though, it is extremely difficult for still fragile, developing economies to conquer a position in a situation of worldwide stagnation and inflexibility. Where there is change there is … opportunity.  And if the opportunities presented by the structural changes currently in progress in the world economy are exploited, the opportunities to combat poverty will also increase. We must all be vigilant and alert. It is the weak who will suffer if we are negligent.

Closing

Some of you might find my remarks a little quaint. Some may have found them all too familiar. Some may have smiled in recognition. In fact none of what I said were my words. I borrowed them from the name bearer of this new hall. Most are over 25 years old, and even then Prince Claus complained he was repeating himself; and that the gatherings he was invited to speak did little to make a difference (SID Rome quote).

Incredible changes took place in these last 25 years. Rise of China and it's quest for resources, the internet and its transformative powers on government and the economy, international terrorism, were all unknown factors at the time. The Cold War was still ongoing, the Wall and Iron Curtain were still up, Europe was split and Apartheid was still the rule in SA.

In reading back his many speeches is struck me that what is truly human remains current. A deep concern and respect for our fellow man and his culture transcends even the big geo-political and economic shifts of our time as a guidance for our development cooperation policies.  Let that be a lesson to us all.