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Arne Haselbach (1978)

The Unicef/EADI Workshop.
On Basic-Needs-Oriented Development Strategies and Services

The holding of the UNICEF/EADI Workshop at the Vienna Institute for Development on 4-8 December 1977 represented a first collective attempt to develop active cooperation between the UNICEF Office for Europe and the European academic community engaged specifically in studying new development concepts and strategies.

UNICEF's relationship to research and training institutes

To ensure the efficacy of its planning and programming for children, women and youth in national development, UNICEF has often called upon research and development institutes in the Third World to carry out research, evaluations and project preparations. Knowledge networks have been set up within the organization to disseminate and exchange findings and technical information. Workshops, technical meetings, and conferences with scholars and practitioners in developing countries have been organized as an integral part of UNICEF's assistance policy.

In Europe, UNICEF has had individual contacts with development institutes, as they continue to be largely involved in development studies, own a large body of knowledge in this field, and are frequently called upon to give advice on development issues by governments of both industrialized and developing countries, as by international organizations. For example, UNICEF has held senior staff training seminars at the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex, the Institute of Social Studies at The Hague, the German Development Institute in Berlin, the School of Public Health in Zagreb, and the International Children's Center in Paris.

Background of the UNICEF/EADI Workshop

To strengthen these links, UNICEF decided to be present in Linz when the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) was founded in September 1975, Its objective is, through information networks and research groups, to increase the exchange of knowledge and to foster cooperation among European institutes as well as with sister associations in the African, Asian, Latin American and Arab regions.

A few months later, the first steps were taken by Gordon Carter, UNICEF's Director for Europe, to organize a workshop on fields of common interest.

New concepts in development theory and policy have emerged over the past few years, with a growing concern over meeting basic human needs, which for the majority of the world population will not be satisfied through the ongoing implementation of conventional development policies. UNICEF, On the basis of its field experience, has developed the concept of basic services, which was formally endorsed as a policy by the General Assembly of the United Nations in a Resolution adopted on 21 December 1976.

The UNICEF/EADI Workshop therefore addressed itself to the dual issue of global basic-needs-oriented development strategies and UNICEF)s basic services approach, as reflecting two different approaches to the same problem: how to satisfy the unmet needs of the people ?

The participants

The meeting was convened by Dr. Arne Haselbach, Executive Secretary of EADI and Director of the Vienna Institute for Development, on behalf of EADI and the UNICEF Office for Europe. There were 39 participants of whom 25 were from Development Research and Training Institutes in Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Switzerland and the UK, and nine were UNICEF staff members (two from the Office for Europe, four from Headquarters and three from the field, one each from Africa, Asia and Latin America) .

In addition, the UN Division of Social Affairs in Geneva, WHO, the OECD Development Center, and ILO were invited and sent a representative. All participants were carefully selected on the basis of their field and theoretical knowledge on the issues under discussion. Most of them had personal field experience in basic needs and basic-service-oriented activities in the Third World .

Method of work and organization of the Workshop

Prior to the Workshop, two publications were circulated to all participants, to serve as working documents : UNICEF's A strategy for basic services, 1977, and ILO's Employment, growth and basic needs, a one-world problem, 1976. Further documentation consisted of a series of policy papers and case studies on basic services in various fields, which had appeared in Assignment Children.

The importance of the Workshop to UNICEF was underlined at the opening ceremony by Louis Nègre, Director of Research and Analysis, who expressed UNICEF'S interest in continuously expanding its own perspectives, and opening the door to new concepts and new ways of thinking through a dialogue with theoreticians and researchers within the academic community. In addition, UNICEF shares with EADI an interest in exchanging innovative experiences in meeting the needs of populations of the Third World, as they are both involved in research and training programmes.

The focus for the Workshop's discussions was established by two keynote addresses: one by Louis Emmerij, Rector of the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, on the basic needs concept, and the second by Gordon Carter, UNICEF's Director for Europe, on the implications of the basic services strategy.

The Workshop then functioned in two series of discussion groups. The first series, composed of four groups, was aimed at pooling innovative experiences by sectors (health and education) and by population target groups (the urban poor and rural underprivileged).

During the second day, the participants were redivided into a second series of three groups, concerned with the fundamental issues of participation and planning.

Most participants had prepared papers ranging from notes and lists of stimulating questions to full-fledged research documents. These were distributed and were often referred to in the working groups. In the closing plenary session, the seven rapporteurs presented a summary of the groups' discussions.

It is impossible to render full justice to the probing discussions and wealth of information to which the Workshop gave rise during these three days. We have nevertheless endeavoured to highlight the main issues, drawing heavily on the draft reports of the rapporteurs of the seven working groups. We would like to especially thank Peter Kuenstler of the UN Division of Social Affairs, rapporteur for the group on "Governments' response to expressed needs", for his valuable assistance in editing the reports of other working groups as well.

New focus on basic needs

The central theme of the address by Louis Emmerij -- formerly with the ILO, where he was responsible for the 1976 World Employment Conference which adopted the basic needs approach -- was that there is a growing concern for the needs of the poor, which is reflected in many documents and conferences. The basic needs concept, which is not only concerned with material needs, but also with human rights, participation and self-reliance, puts these needs at the core of development planning and policies. It is not an ad hoc project, but purports to present an overall development approach covering all sectors of the economy and of society. The concept's implementation therefore requires a structural transformation involving a radical redistribution of assets and income and of political power.

A second theme concerned the misconceptions which have spread with the diffusion of the concept. Some of the fallacies which stand in the way of a more committed acceptance of the basic needs approach are: its assumed conflict with economic growth, the primacy of the population problem, identification of the basic needs concept with the needs of the bottom 20 or 30% of the population only, a concern that the modern sector may be neglected, a suspicion that it perpetuates dependence on industrialized countries and is a means of attaching new strings to development cooperation, and scepticism that the necessary radical structural changes will not be brought about. However, Emmerij expressed optimism that governments will realize the necessity of adopting this strategy in order to obtain their people's political support. For conventional development policies, with their almost exclusive emphasis on the modern sector and only ad hoc projects in other sectors, may eventually meet the basic needs of the entire population, but only in three or four generations. When an alternative is available, to accept a transition period requiring such a sacrifice seems humanly unacceptable and politically irresponsible.

During the discussions which followed, some of these points were taken up again. One participant criticized the concept of basic needs itself and the distinction between material and non-material needs. Furthermore, he felt that one of the reasons for the interest in the concept is the present low demand in developing countries at the precise time when there is a surplus capacity in the industrial countries, which therefore need new export markets.

Other participants, on the contrary, doubted that the radical structural changes required could come about without revolutionary change in political power. Louis Emmerij supported his optimism with examples of countries in which he felt such changes had taken place without revolutionary political changes, as leaders realize that it is necessary for them to respond to popular pressure.

Issues in implementing basic services

Gordon Carter, UNICEF's Director for Europe, with a very wide field experience in Asia, Africa and Latin America, outlined the implications of the basic services strategy advocated by UNICEF.

The top-heavy conventional approach has not produced very significant results for the vast majority of the population in developing countries. This state of affairs calls for something else, which UNICEF calls basic services. This strategy, whether implemented in the village or in the urban neighbourhood, is based on popular participation. The community chooses from among its members those who are to become "community workers". These, and others chosen from nearby villages or neighbourhoods, follow a brief, simple, specialized training course organized in the area. They then return to their communities to provide basic services as well as basic information on ways the people can improve their living conditions -- information on how to increase and upgrade their crops, on the use of local foods for better child nutrition, on the importance of potable water and environmental hygiene, on how to dig a well or latrine, on the application of simple measures for the prevention and treatment of diseases common to the area.

Gordon Carter addressed himself to some of the major implications of this strategy at the local, governmental and external aid levels.

The implementation of a basic services strategy is founded on the recognition of local initiatives, the support of genuine popular participation, the decentralization of administrative and technical services, and especially the reallocation of existing resources to remote rural areas and to slums and shanty-towns. This requires a political will to truly improve the lives of the entire population. Obstacles range from the inhibiting effect of caste and local power systems to desk-bound administrations and the qualms of local politicians. In addition, the basic services strategy is less amenable to superficial donor satisfaction. For UNICEF, the wide-scale support of basic services implies greater delegation to field offices, more complicated logistics, and more calculated risks; at the same time, UNICEF must continue to support existing programmes.

The participants felt that the strategy was a valuable and a feasible alternative to existing development policies which benefit only the few. The interest in this approach was also reflected in the papers which dealt with the methodology of participatory research, the training of village workers, community self-reliance, women's needs, and education for self-awareness.

One UNICEF participant drew attention to the fact that the basic services strategy could easily create two classes of citizens :

the urban affluent who benefit from municipality-provided services, and the rural poor, who will have to work and pay to create services for themselves. Others felt that the basic services approach was hardly a comprehensive anti-poverty approach since it does not seek to understand the structures that create and perpetuate poverty. However, it can attempt to make life a little more bearable for the poor. Furthermore, dying children cannot wait for a total revolutionary transformation of society.

Herman Stein, UNICEF Special Consultant, summarized the discussions in a plenary session at the end of the Workshop, drawing some parallels between the two strategies.

The basic needs approach is intended to be a global development strategy based on macro-economics, affecting all sectors of the society and aiming at a redistribution of assets and income and of power. The basic services strategy, while it has certain similarities, was presented as an approach heavily tied to the local level and relying more on innovation and improvisation.

What they both have in common is a strong emphasis on the participation of the populations involved, a strong orientation towards the elimination of poverty, and a heavy dependence on international inputs.

Arne Haselbach
EADI Executive Secretary
Coordinator and host for the Workshop
Director, Vienna Institute for Development

Pierre-E. Mandl
UNICEF Coordinator for the Workshop
Editor, Assignment Children