Here are five points arising from the reading. You might well have come up with others.
* For anyone with some knowledge of debate about international development in more recent years, it is striking that the focus is on aid, that is, on direct provision of funds and services by rich countries to poor countries. Several other issues are not on the agenda yet, notably poor countries’ debt, whether trade rules are just, disease (such as AIDS and Ebola), impacts of climate change, and corruption. This observation is not a criticism of MM, but a reflection of the way that the agenda in international development has extended over the past 50 years.
* That said, there is a clear distinction between emergency aid, required in response to famine or natural disaster, and the kind of provision that will enable long term economic development (#163).
* In assisting developing nations, “[T]he more advanced communities must recognize and respect [the] individuality” of the developing nations they assist – their specific characteristics and “time-honoured traditions and customs” (##169-70). This is a striking warning against cultural imperialism, against wealthy countries “forcing [others] into their own national mold” (#170).
* Going beyond this, there is a clear rejection of any form of aid that is given in order to gain control over the recipient country (##171-174). This stance needs to be seen in the context, not only of the end of colonialism (which the text mentions), but of the Cold War which lasted from 1946 to 1989. During this the United States and the Soviet Union were, with their allies, constantly competing to maintain and extend their own influence across the world. It was very easy for governments to see aid to particular countries as contributing towards this goal. Pope John XXIII’s rejection of that established unambiguously where CST stands on this issue.
* MM insists that, while “scientific and economic goals” are important, development must not be premised on seeing “material wellbeing [as] the be-all and the end-all of life” (##175-176). Doing this actually poses a threat to poor countries “which often have preserved… an acute and vital awareness of the more important human values” (#176). This brief warning against a narrowly economic conception of development can be seen as consistent with CST’s earlier critique of both laissez-faire liberalism and Marxist socialism for reducing human persons to parts in an economic mechanism. It was also a sign of things to come in later CST statements on development, as we shall soon see when studying Populorum Progressio.
End of Response to Exercise