Development Issues

Critical Thinking about the World’s Development

Participation is a necessary condition for poverty alleviation

Participation is a necessary condition for poverty alleviation


The Hague, 15/Dec/2005 | By Rui Mesquita Cordeiro |



Development has been usually addressed towards “poor” people and not to people in general; as a result, it generates top-down pro-development strategies, which are designed by those who do not identify themselves as “poor” but do categorise others as such. The result is that such approaches generate unequal growth-centred vertical relations, and consequently no sustainable development. Alternatively, there are some people-centred and bottom-up approaches that are more focused in horizontal relations. These are usually using participation and empowerment as the strongest means to generate sustainable development from within. By stressing that, I state my agreement to the topic and move forward defining these concepts.


“Different interpretations of reality translate into different poverty measures”[1]. Through this statement, Laderchi, Saith and Stewart try to stress that poverty has no single meaning, and either it has no single approach. They try to define poverty through four different approaches: the monetary approach, the capability approach, the social exclusion approach, and the participatory approach.


Firstly, the monetary approach “identifies poverty with a shortfall in consumption (or income) from some poverty line” (ibid.). Secondly, the capability approach says that “development should be seen as the expansion of human capabilities, not the maximisation of utility, or its proxy, money income” (Sen 1985; Sen 1999: ibid. Laderchi, Saith and Stewart), drawing “attention to a much wider range of causes of poverty and options for policies than the monetary approach”. Thirdly, the social exclusion approaches describes “the processes of marginalisation and deprivation that can arise even within rich countries with comprehensive welfare provisions” (ibid.), being “the only one that focuses intrinsically, rather than as an add-on, on the processes and dynamics which allow deprivation to arise and persist” (ibid.). Finally, the participatory approach is meant by Laderchi, Saith and Stewart as the one that counterpart the three previous approaches, because the three of them are “externally imposed and not taking into account the views of poor people themselves”.


In addiction to those approaches and concepts on poverty, the concept of participation itself is equally important. Kingsbury says that “development is meant to be about improving the lives of people so it is logical that development should start with people”[2]. As previously said, that means that development starts from within, from empowering and strengthening people to bust their own development, in bottom-up processes of decision making. Ultimately, this is participation. Participation ideas were formulated by a selection of many ideological and theoretical roots[3], such as the Theology of Liberation by Paulo Freire (identification of the oppressors) and the Alternative Development by Escobar Korten (justice, sustainability and inclusiveness), among others.


Overall, I agree that participation is not only a necessary condition for poverty alleviation, but it is an essential one. Furthermore, it becomes especially important to achieve a sustainable level of development, where people become creators and owners of their own progress.



[1] Ruggeri Laderchi, C.; Saith, R.; & Stewart, F. (2003). Does it matter that we don’t agree on the definition of poverty? A comparison of four approaches. Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford.

[2] Kingsbury, D. (2005). Community Development: In Kingsbury, D. et al., Key Issues in Development. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

[3] Class notes from course 2101 (Development Theories and Strategies) – session 10, at the Institute of Social Studies, in 06 December 2005, on Participation and Development, by Marlène Buchy.

15 December, 2005 - Posted by | Development

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