Monday 16 June 2014

World Development Movement: what's in a name?

In the UK we have the rather shifty idea that changing the name of an organisation will  either eradicate the memory of past mishaps or breathe new life and zeal into it.  The classic example of the firmer is our Windscale Nuclear reactor, which after a  disastrous fire which subjected the surrounding area to nuclear contamination, had its name change to Sellafiled.  (Happily other nations haven't caught on, and Chernobyl remains Chernobyl, Fukushima Fukishima and Bhopal Bophal)

Of the latter the the most widespread example is in schools, where perfectly respectable former primary and secondary schools, of which the name tells you  all you need to know,  now disguise themselves  as Free School, Academies, Business and Enterprise Colleges and Lord only knows what.  Of course it is far easier for governors and "senior management teams" (formerly heads and deputies) to spend weeks haggling over names that to tackle the much more difficult but pertinent issues  of how to improve attendance, learning and behaviour.

Sadly this name changing disease has infected the voluntary sector. The World Development Movement was set up half a century ago to raise awareness of poverty in less developed countries and to highlight the issues which help to keep poor countries poor and rich countries rich. I have been proud to be a member and to campaign on its behalf almost from the beginning. and we've had some notable successes, most famously the Pergau Dam judgement,which highlighted the illegality of the Thatcher governments use of Britain's  aid budget to build a dam of questionable value in order to secure an arms deal.

Now, after fifty years of developing a highly respected and recognised  brand name  some whiz kids currently at the top of the organisation feel we should change it to Global Justice Now.  I have written to protest, and received a long explanation from the Director explaining why it's really a good idea, because some people think "Development" implies a wicked capitalist organisation out to exploit the weak.

 Our "subtitle, "Justice for the World's Poor," which is added to our logo (I would include that here to prove my point, but can't persuade my computer to copy it) makes it quite clear what we are about, and the possibility of confusion with an exploitiative multinational is negligilbe.  If there is confusion than it wouldn't take two minutes to point to our sub-title and explain what we are really about.

As for the proposed name, it is even more subject to misinterpretation.  "Justice" for many will imply judges, courts, imprisonment without trial, etc (all, of course already covered by Amnesty) and, even if it is recognised that we mean Economic Justice the addition of "Now" makes it a nonsense.  There is no way  that economic justice can be achieved "now", if ever.  With the best will in the world it will take years.

As with schools it is easier to haggle over names than to get on with the job for which WDM was created, and which remains as urgent as ever. I hope some WDM members will read this and put a stop to this silly waste of time and enegy. 

PS.  For a different dimension on the World Cup see:

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. Development is about building a better system, as opposed to just criticizing the injustices.