Development and Ethics Education

There seems to be disagreement in the ways development is defined and measured. Governments and development agencies might have different conceptualizations than NGOs, academic institutions and individuals. Some might prioritize economic development while others might emphasize the importance of human development and human rights. However, we could say that there is a general agreement on the assumption that development should aim at improving the life of people and societies. But the understanding of well being and the ways of achieving this so called ‘development’ is something that raises a lot of debates, from the type of indicators used, the strategies needed, and who “does” development or for whom. Hence, these understandings have an impact on our goal to improve people’s lives and societies.

I often question myself why do people mostly understand development as a synonym of ‘aid’, ‘poverty eradication’, ‘international cooperation’ and so on? Fighting poverty may have a direct impact on development, but poverty eradication will not necessarily improve the societal development processes, as well as a focus on development will not necessarily lead to poverty eradication. Why? Because as far as I am aware of, poverty is not a top priority in the agenda of economic and political institutions that constantly deal with development and because these institutions approach the topic of development from a single angle without considering a holistic approach that encompasses not only the political and economical aspects but also the social one. In the same vein a focus on poverty may be valid but does it consider the economic, political and social angles, or only one of those?

I believe that these misinterpretations distance us from the awareness that we are all actors of development. And this is where Ethics Education (EE) has a role to play. How can we as individuals, and particularly as young people, understand our role as responsible citizens in society? Development is not something happening out there. We are all part of it regardless of our age, profession, cultural background, etc. By the simple fact of consuming food and electricity, using any type of transport, participating in civil society activities and so forth, we are impacting the development processes occurring worldwide. Then, the question arising is how can we ensure that our daily actions will have a positive effect on development?

EE opens up the possibility of challenging ourselves and reflect on our actions. It goes beyond awareness creation. By guiding us in a self-reflection process, EE confronts us to our individual and collective responsibilities as citizens of our societies. In a peaceful way, EE has the power of creating self-challenging mechanisms, which will empower us to translate our theoretical ideals into practice.

It is comfortable to believe that changes must solely happen at the political level. But societies are composed of individuals which are the motor of development. It is up to us to make a change. It can start from a simple smile to our neighbors and then continue by acting as ethical consumers. Examples are numerous and just waiting for action…

What can we do as young people living in multicultural and interconnected societies to support development processes at the local, national and international levels?

Given that the economy is a major motor of development, what can we do as youth to ensure that our participation in the economy will promote sustainable development?

Nicolas Meslaoui is a Master student in Development and International Relations at Aalborg University, Denmark. He is currently doing an internship at the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development in Bangkok. Apart from his studies, Nicolas has been actively involved in the activities of the GNRC Europe as well as participating in several workshops and events organized by Arigatou International. He graduated with a Bachelor degree in Social Communications in 2011 and worked as an international relations officer for the Corporación Infancia y Desarrollo (Colombia), between 2011 and 2012, before starting his master studies.

 Archived Comments

Tiago de campos ( 17/11/2013 11:11:58 )

Great text! Congratulations Nicolas.

When we read this text we stop to think about the holistic development and we come to a final conclusion, the governments, communities and the society in general don’t think this way. How Nicolas told, we think development like a economic improvement of households and the erradication of the poverty. But where stays the culture, the identity, the city, the mobility, the education? People need more spaces to express their identity and know how to value this. When I started to work with the city and her direct “sentimental connections” with our lifes, I noticed that the relationships that we do with the space where we live sometimes is more complex than we imagine, the city is our identity over the centuries, and the real development pass by this. We must take ownership of the space where we live and make all that we can to improve his situation. I think, the real development is this: the people live happy their lifes. The governments must to encourage the people to make difference, encourage social pacific moviments to intervene in the communities and show to people that they could be the change that they want! And, of corse, the society and the governments must to reduce the social inequality, the poverty and the hungry, charging more taxes from rich, reducing interest rates from the small businesses, encouraging the cooperativism, improve the educational system, those things which are responsability of the State.

And then these things and more ethical actions of human being, could realy make an holistic development.

Clara Mduma ( 10/11/2013 12:12:02 )

Great word from Nicola
I believe that everyone can create its own path towards development, there comes a point of sustainable development, and there come the role of youth to fight against poverty, fight against violence, economy and climate injustice,

There are many platforms for youth to bring changes to the society but are we ready to become the changes ourselves in our own society? This question will be different in different area but speaking of my society, many youth will say why should I be the one to do this?, we forget that the world today is suffering not because of the violence of the bad people but because of the silence of good people.

It’s true as Nicolas said Ethics education opens up the possibility of challenging ourselves and reflect on our own actions. That’s why ethics education play a great role to nature us youth leaders in bringing the positive impact, we should also see the importance of provide education that youth will not only wait for employment but we will be able to design and create their own projects for self-employment,

As we can see now unemployment has become great challenge to all nations around the world, but do our education system prepare youth to the self-employment? The answer will definitely be no to my society, we don’t have to wait government to change our education system it’s for us to act now

As us youth we can be part of the policy making, and budget preparation since all these are prepared from the local level, also we can lob and advocacy for important issues that we want our governments to do, we have that power and ability to bring a positive impact, and these can be done without violence or striking, I believe we can all be changes we want to see.

Asta ( 05/11/2013 09:09:33 )

Thank you for your great piece, Nicolas!

As a youth, I was for quite some time let to believe that we were the “golden”, “spoilt” generation that had nothing to complain about but also nothing to offer. You can imagine how depressing such a thought could be. But, I came to the realization, after just opening my eyes and seeing beyond what was given me to see, what harsh realities are out there. More than just wars, and general insecurities the world is nowadays facing, I think the most dangerous one is disinformation leading to deep rooted ignorance.

When talking about development, one should not only think about “going green” but also and mostly put himself under the spot, using the French philosopher Descartes’ method of reasoning by carefully examining our thoughts and beliefs. Because it is only then, once we are absolutely convinced of the true and solid foundation of our thoughts that our actions are more driven and can have more impact. And it is this reflection time that we are severely deprived of, living a fast paced life and poorly made choices.

Take action, yes, but take the time for reflection before!


Frank Mwasalukwa ( 02/11/2013 12:12:19 )

Education – this is very important to any society that seek any kind of Development, but not just education, but the right education that can be implementable to a particular society, here I mean (Practical Education). For instance, education system in my Country does not upkeep any primary or secondary school graduated student to engage him/herself in income generation activities because the education they get does not enable them to do so.
Our education should help us understand one another, how to live together since the world is now like a single village and societies are inter-connected.
As youth we should come-up with a movement that the policy makers and Education authorities can change the curriculums (esp. of those in developing countries.

Political – We as enthusiastic youth, we have a lot to contribute to the community, our contribution as youth is need since we have matters that concerns us directly, such as Un-employment, Health(HIV/AIDS), un-bounded when it comes to loans etc. So youth should without no fear engage themselves into politics whether by becoming politicians of right voters.

Volunteerism – Youth, we are the most powerful Group on Earth, in most societies, Youth lead in big number than any other group. If we volunteer to work for the betterment of our communities, we’ll prosper.

Sustainable Development – one must be crazy to talk about this, because sustainable development is when the societies grows and develop their current situation for present and future generation purposes. To talk about this, we should as well talk about Climate change, industrial development and Socio-economy Justice.
Countries with high development in industries, produces almost 80% of the pollution gases to the air which lead to the greenhouse effect hence Global warming and climate change as whole, most of the forests in Africa are cut down and transported to developed industrial countries, those forests were supposed to help in cleaning the Carbon-dioxide in the air. Now European Union established a project to save the Earth by giving funds to individuals in Africa will plant trees which purifies the air, the more one plants many trees the more he/she gets more funds, now what’s bad about this, while other think of food security and other developments, we Africans are told to stop cultivating in our natural fertile land and plant so called trees, and they will soon start to give us food as AID/GRANTS

Nicolas Meslaoui ( 09/11/2013 03:03:16 )

Dear Frank,

Thank you for your comment and for sharing with us your thoughts on the topic of development.

I fully agree with you on the important role played by youths. Although in the last years youths have been given much more space in the civil society arena, there is still an ‘understanding’ gap on the real power that youths have and their real impact on the society. I believe that this ‘ignorance’ does not only come from the outside, but also from the youths themselves. Indeed, many of our fellows believe that they can have a great impact on the different development processes occurring in the society only once they become adults. This is a major danger as youths become adults and often forget their ‘ideals’ during this transition. Youths are often considered as ‘idealist’, ‘dreamers’, ‘unrealistic’, etc. when reflecting about the alternative development models that could be implemented or created. Therefore we need to empower ourselves to find ways to materialize our ideals which, in my opinion, are not always unrealistic but well challenging.

I totally agree with your inputs on the importance of acting at the political and education level. However, I would add that there is a need to understand the society from a multi-level perspective where both ‘high levels’ actions (political, educational institutions, etc.) and ‘low levels’ actions (daily positive actions, ethical habits and consumerism, etc.) need to be undertaken simultaneously.

Thank you Frank and I look forward to hearing from your opinion on these points.


Maria Lucia ( 02/11/2013 01:01:12 )

Thank you, Nicolas, for your thoughts and reflections. It has been very relevant for me to read your thoughts about the links between development and poverty, the lack of a consistent and holistic agenda for development, and about the disconnect people have with the topic of development. I had not thought before how explicit ethics education could be in supporting development, and your comments are eye-opening and help visualizing a range of opportunities to bring ethics education to the education systems and to the development agenda. I like that you challenged the idea that development is in charge of economic and political institutions and that you see it as a responsibility of everyone!

I am not a youth but I would like to contribute my two cents to your questions with a few ideas on what could be done generally and in the economy:

  • Buy local production and bio products.
  • Promote equitable relationships between local people and immigrants/refugee communities that challenge discrimination and therefore marginalization of communities that leads to poverty.
  • Stand up for the rights of those who are marginalized and whose rights are violated
  • Be informed about how production of goods is done and support those that use fair, sustainable and ethical practices
  • Be critical about political decisions and laws that exclude people, create divisions in society and opress groups; be critical about what media encourages us to buy or use; and reflect how our own beliefs encourage or discourage us to be responsible citizens and take non-violent action.

Thanks for this thought-provoking piece and I look forward to hearing from more young people and from adults as well.

Maria Lucia

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