Editorial (22.2)

Development in Practice prides itself in being one of the most international of development journals, based on both authorship and readership. To reinforce our commitment to this international participation we are pleased to announce that our editorial team will now be strengthened by a group of regionally based contributing editors, who will provide a perspective on the key development issues, authors, and publications from those regions. Susan Holcombe from North America brings her academic perspective from Brandeis University as well as her previous experience with Oxfam America; Rajesh Tandon of the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) will strengthen our understanding and contacts in South Asia; while Chiku Malunga from Malawi and Alan Fowler from South Africa will similarly advise on African perspectives. The contributing editors will complement the support and guidance provided by the existing editorial advisory group.

In the current issue we cover several key areas, and include a number of valuable reflections on the practice of development. Monique Henninck et al. plunge into the perspectives of empowerment of international development organisations, through an analysis of the policies of 49 organisations. They come up with a framework consisting of six mechanisms, five domains and three levels, and conclude that the interdependence between them is essential if empowerment is to be understood within a specific context or development programme.

The empowerment theme is taken up by Davíð Bjarnason, Valgerður Stefánsdóttir, and Lizette Beukes through an analysis of a programme to improve and extend the use of sign language in Namibia and its empowering effects on deaf people – improving educational opportunities and life chances.

Gender and other issues which inhibit the success of development programmes are identified in both the articles by Lori Hanson et al. and Maria Torri. Hanson and her colleagues look at how disaggregating the impact of fair trade by gender and the use of the social determinates of health as a criteria might help better understand and illustrate the effects of fair trade; the Torri article looks at the importance of medicinal plants for poor people in rural India and how cultural and gender factors reduce the impact of programmes designed to encourage the growing of medicinal plants.

The tension between innovative ideas and wider policies is explored by Payal Arora, who was engaged in piloting computerised medical diagnostic tools in isolated areas of rural India, and came to the realisation that what appeared to be a purely technical test required high-level changes in policy and legal frameworks before the pilot could go ahead.

Jan Servaes and Patchanee Malikhao explore the complex world of advocacy and communication for peace-building and conflict reduction, bringing together different international experiences.

We also have three articles which touch on the role of the individual development worker. The first, by Nicki Wrighton and John Overton, looks at the pressure on government officials in the micro state of Tuvalu to engage with visiting aid officials or to attend global meetings. The article also concludes that processes such as the Paris Declaration have done little to lessen this burden; indeed it could be argued to have increased the time-consuming processes of aid. The second, from Deborah Nguyen et al. , looks at humanitarian workers and summarises some lessons from the experiences of individuals engaged in front-line humanitarian work which affected their motivation and performance. Finally, we have an important review of NGO fieldworkers in Pakistan from Muhammad Siddique and Mokbul Ahmad. This survey shows the problems fieldworkers face in both basic employment conditions as well as working in a difficult political and cultural setting. It provides a very different picture from the assumption that all NGO workers are well paid, well trained and enjoy a privileged position in many societies.

As well as Nguyen et al, the current issue contains another Practical Note, where Matthew Seib, Katherine Arnold and Blair Orr show how a simple technology, originally for use in research into water and sanitation purity, unexpectedly became a useful teaching tool in rural Mali.

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