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
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 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
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
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
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
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
EADI Executive Secretary
Coordinator and host for the Workshop
Director, Vienna Institute for Development
UNICEF Coordinator for the Workshop
Editor, Assignment Children