My major in school is International Studies. Typically, it's a liberal arts major that introduces you to the various institutions and workings of the international scene. Each student is required to take basic courses in politics, government, economics, Western and non-Western cultural traditions and various fields within International Relations. Within the major, students (at my university at least) also typically choose an area of the world to focus on and a field to specialize in. My areas (obviously) are Latin America and Africa and my field is International Development.
OK, Katie, you may ask. What is International Development?
It's a hard field to define in one post, but here's my definition. International Development is the field that studies progress and prosperity within nations and helps them to achieve both qualities. It is a multifaceted field that focuses not only on economics and poverty eradication, but on issues of governance, human rights, inequality and environmental sustainability. Finally, development must encompass the choice of the people it affects.
Why all these other issues? Throughout my research and study, I have come to find that issues of poverty are tied into poor governance and inequality. When nations are unable to access capital and trade markets, due to their lack of status, that limits their chances of prosperity. When government leaders extort their people through bribes and abuse foreign aid dollars, it limits a people's ability to choose their destiny. When rule of law is weak and problems such as slavery and theft are common, it further limits a people's chances to produce and provide for future generations. When lack of resources forces a people to destroy their forests and soil, it prevents a people from leaving something for future generations. And, when corporations and other entities pollute local water supplies and neglect the health of their laborers and communities, it further weakens a people's ability to choose their own methods of progress.
How do these relate to Kenya? Kenya, while it enjoys a reputation for growing prosperity, also faces issues such as extreme poverty. Corruption is rampant within their government, as seen in recent scandals involving U.S. foreign assistance dollars. While Kenya has a growing conservation movement (Green Belt Movement and other organizations) and houses the UN Environmental Program, it still faces issues such as desertification and deforestation. Political tensions are high, due to the 2007 election crisis (with both opponents struggling, even in the midst of a coalition government). The country of Kenya, while growing in remarkable ways, still faces many of these setbacks on its path to development.
At least, that's what I've been reading. This is what I've found in the news, from the State Department, and in various reports from organizations such as UNEP, Kenya's Ministry for the Environment, and in various texts I read for at least two of my courses.
I want to go and see if this is true. I want to see how my definition of development changes. I hope and pray I can make this happen.