Since its inception, the editorial policy of Development in Practice has been guided by three principles. First, that any contribution that is clearly argued, authentic, and practice-relevant transcends the specificities of context sufficiently to resonate with a diverse international audience. Second, that some of the most creative thinking on the real-world issues of development and humanitarian practice takes place not in Northern universities or the Aid Industry, but in the daily struggles of ordinary people. I well recall a group of subsistence farmers who, at the height of the war in El Salvador, corrected the aid-agency assumption that their priorities stopped at meeting their basic needs, and that they would regard debates on human rights as a luxury. Quite the reverse! It was these non-literate peasants who said, decades before the 'invention' of Rights-Based Approaches: 'You can't talk about basic needs while our human rights are systematically abused: we have to stop the violations and secure peace with justice before we can do anything else.' The third principle is that of editorial independence - not merely in the restricted sense of peer review, but through an active commitment to fostering and giving space to the encounter between practices and ideas from whatever source, and however critical of established orthodoxies and mainstream opinions.
The combination of these principles underpins our acceptance of submissions in French, Portuguese, and Spanish as well as English, and the provision of assistance for those who are writing in a second or even third language - on which score I am pleased to announce that we have resumed our earlier practice of including abstracts in these languages in the print journal, as well as on our multilingual website (developmentinpractice.org). In the words of Jenny Pearce, a long-standing Editorial Adviser: 'Development in Practice provides a place of encounter in the realm of the written word, which empowers the practitioner at the same time as it exposes him and her to the ideas of others. In a world where we do not have solutions to poverty and powerlessness, we have to communicate and talk to each other' (email communication, 18 November 2008). Hence the journal's strap-line: 'Stimulating Thought for Action'.
With this issue of Development in Practice, the first in our twentieth anniversary volume, I have opted for a geographical focus, pulling together a range of articles on South and East Asia which illustrate concerns that are both specific to these regions and relevant to readers whose own background or area of interest lies elsewhere. The contributions to this collection weave around issues of political violence and armed conflict, livelihoods, migration, environment, gender equity, rights, and aid-mediated relationships - concerns that are common the world over. However, while the Aid Industry casts a long shadow over Development, we know that development and humanitarian action can and largely do take place without it.
Two articles focus on Sri Lanka. Judith Shaw examines the experiences of young women who migrate to work as housemaids, and whose remittances are vital to the livelihoods of the recipient households. Unless their earnings are reliable and sufficient, however, the household may ultimately be worse off: there is a delicate balance here between economic and cultural survival, once the emotional and financial costs of migration are taken into account. Neavis Morais and Mokbul Morshed Ahmad examine the multiple factors that keep households in poverty in the areas of the country most affected by armed conflict, over and above the fact of being endangered by the war as such. They contend that the ways in which aid programmes such as microfinance are managed in the war zones are often based on an assumption of the victims' helplessness and thus, paradoxically, render them more vulnerable and less resilient than they might otherwise have been.
Another pair of articles describes efforts to improve the earnings of very poor and marginalised workers. In her contribution, Bipasha Baruah examines the situation of women in the Indian construction industry, arguing that while they undeniably benefit from the training and certification provided by the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), these benefits will be sustainable only with simultaneous efforts to change social prejudices and labour policy on women's employment in non-traditional occupations, alongside an awareness of the links between local and global forces shaping the building sector. Subhojit Bannerjee turns his attention to rickshaw pullers who, with some organisational assistance from university students, were encouraged to carry packs of small retail items - toiletries, stationery, etc. - to sell to their passengers as a means of diversifying their income. The goods were bought centrally, and the more successful rickshaw pullers became familiar with the kinds of product that their clients were likely to purchase. The basic model can also be adapted to include advertising, or handcrafts such as bamboo fans manufactured in the rickshaw pullers' home regions - especially relevant for those who are seasonal migrant workers.
The sheer scale of the 2004 Asian tsunami, and of the subsequent outpouring of assistance, has shaped ideas across much of the affected region about what today constitutes a secure and sustainable way of life. Jin Sato asks why, despite the huge influx of financial and material aid following the 2004 tsunami, and notwithstanding the best intentions of the aid agencies, communities in south Thailand complained that goods had been misappropriated, or that distribution was not equitable. He argues that the introduction of free goods will almost invariably reinforce differences in power and influence that are sometimes deeply rooted in histories and social relations that will not be immediately apparent to anyone without profound local knowledge. As he says, 'the secondary effects of relief efforts on resources and human identities endure for generations'. The onus is therefore on aid agencies to 'pay careful attention to the voices of victims in order to understand what people affected by disasters wish to defend, rather than blindly providing what we think they wish to obtain'.
Kathleen O'Reilly describes the perverse outcomes of latrine-building projects in the Indian state of Rajasthan which were intended to empower women in a social context that dictates even the most intimate aspects of women's lives, including when and where they may attend to their personal hygiene needs. The project managers assumed that domestic latrines would provide women with the convenience and privacy they required, while those blessed with this facility would then spontaneously overcome the social mores governing where they may go, to whom they may talk, and what they may talk about, to extol to other village women the many virtues of having a household latrine. Not only did this not happen, but the conventions regarding women's personal hygiene meant that possessing a latrine conferred status on the household by increasing female seclusion. At the same time, however, the positioning of the latrines in the courtyard, used mainly by male household members and guests, made it impossible for women to use the toilet as and when they needed. The author's conclusion underlines once again that 'technical interventions will not work to resolve gendered relations of unequal power'; rather the power relations need to be understood and addressed before bringing in the resources. Jyotirmaya Tripathy argues that in focusing on the cultural construction of gender, the Gender and Development discourse tends to exaggerate the different interests of men and women in ways that emphasise women's victimhood rather than their agency; furthermore, that it tends to perpetuate exclusion rather than integration, and conflict rather than collaboration. He calls for a greater recognition that gender identities are not fixed entities, but are constantly adapting and redefined in response to shifting priorities.
Notwithstanding their economic recovery, many parts of East Asia still carry the social scars of war and colonialism. John R. Owen uses the example of Lao-based national and international NGOs to explore how internalised assumptions of Western expertise are reinforced by the fact that most senior posts in aid agencies are held by expatriates, many of whom display little knowledge of Lao society. For many foreign aid workers, whose salaries are often way off the local scale, the international development community is where they feel at home and can socialise freely. While local staff may appear deferential, this apparent compliance can serve to mask their resentment at being assigned the inferior role of 'implementer', while the decision-making authority 'naturally' resides with the expatriate 'manager'. The quality of relationships is also of concern to Mneesha Gellman, whose article examines how externally driven peace-building initiatives play out in contemporary Cambodia. A central question concerns the definition of peace: whose definitions and priorities prevail when outsiders and insiders have different cultural values, or when local elites capture the neo-liberal international peace-building agenda to the exclusion of the majority? And what power dynamics do insiders internalise when they are in effect used to give local legitimacy to interventions whose cultural roots lie elsewhere?
Three shorter pieces round off this issue. Irene I. Hadiprayitno argues that the right to adequate food means that food security needs to be at the heart of government policy. In the context of Indonesia, however, she finds serious shortcomings in the fulfilment of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. To focus on food security at the national level and to use it as a tool to stabilise domestic unrest is in practice privileging food production over universal access to adequate food on a sustainable basis. In his review essay, Shambhu Ghatak examines what the 2008 World Development Report (WDR) can contribute to agricultural policy in India, whose economy it defines as 'transforming' rather than agriculture-based. Although the WDR is found to make some valid observations, it tends to gloss over the monopolies and price rises associated with the rapid expansion of supermarkets as food outlets; and it is silent on the tragedy of the growing incidence of farmer suicides because of indebtedness. Mochamad Indrawan reports on the 2008 World Conservation Congress of the IUCN, which focused on the need to 'green' development, both conceptually and in the policies and initiatives that emanate from it. There is a pressing need to align conservation and the reduction of poverty, all too often cast as pulling in opposite directions. Actively engaging local communities in both shaping and supporting conservation initiatives is therefore paramount.
Farewell and welcome
With the publication of this issue, we extend our warm thanks to those Editorial Advisers who stood down at the end of 2009, some of whom had served for many more than the three years for which they initially signed up, and all of whom have shared with us their wisdom, humour, and goodwill. Wiseman Chijere Chirwa, Jaime Joseph, Elizabeth Lira, Warren Nyamugasira, and Issa Shivji also contributed articles; Rebecca Neaera Abers, Kumi Naidoo, Naomi Okada, Daniel Selener, Johan Saravanamuttu, and Fiona Wilson all helped with refereeing and in other ways; Haleh Afshar was a guest editor, and Maria Teresa Diokno Pascual and Miloon Kothari introduced our books Development and Advocacy and Development and Social Action respectively.
Finally, we extend our welcome to the following new Advisers: Charles Buxton, Yaliwe Clarke, Kate Critchley, Sumi Dhanarajan, Jon Hellin, Islah Jad, Okello Okuli, Alina Rocha Menocal, Ricardo Wilson-Grau, Tina Wallace, and Sarah White.