Today in Professor Ed Laurance’s discussion on the effect that development has on conflict, I thought a lot about how much of development has to do with using Western theories as the ‘right’ way in which development is done, and as the base for what defines development globally. We examined the sustainable development goals of the UN, and while I agree with each of the goals set, I do not think they will be reached if many organizations do not recognize the importance of using the knowledge of a local culture to implement these development goals. (This is not to discredit the organizations and programs that do use this knowledge, but to acknowledge that there are many organizations and programs that could do better.) We also discussed a case study of the use of text message reminders for Malaria treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa and what drawbacks we saw in the program, in reviewing its description. My group came up with the dependency that comes with having a reminder sent to you in order to take the drugs and how once the study is done, so is the effectiveness of that reminder. There is also the problem of relying on a cell phone that can easily die or lose service and the privilege that allows one to have constant access to a cellphone. There are other drawbacks such as the fact that the study did not include very young children, who are often affected by the disease, and focused on those in the private health sector since they are the ones who were privileged to the study.
However, what came to my mind as one of the most interesting drawbacks was when one of the others in the discussion brought up the hesitancy many people have to the drugs in the Western pharmaceutical industry and it got me thinking about what I have heard from people about their experience with Western medicine, especially in Jamaica. What I have found is that many times when Western medical techniques are brought to countries where their own holistic methods exist, the Western doctors almost force these ideas of medicine upon many people, bashing their cultural practices. This is not to say that many Western drugs, including the malaria drug do not have their countless benefits, but it is to criticize the approach with which many of these drugs and medicinal practices are presented. I find that whenever Western medicine is presented as superior or more chemically trusted, that many local peoples tend to trust it less because the way the drug and way of ‘medicinal development’ is presented is in a way that takes away from their own cultural practices, so, of course they reject it. It, therefore creates this idea that these medicinal tactics cannot be trusted and are not necessarily proven to work.
This does not only happen only in the medical field of development, but almost every other part of development. I think in order to have the sustainable development that the UN is striving for is to, not only, consider the current cultural practices or local ways of development that exist in many countries, but to be able to share those practices with those that are being suggested to come to a cohesive solution and development goal that benefits both parties. It is really important to have this conversation before exporting ideas that one considers to be the only way to develop and maintain a peaceful society.