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The World Development Report: concepts, content and a Chapter 12


  • Robert Chambers

    (Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton, BNI 9RE, UK)


The World Development Report (WDR) process set new standards for openness and consultation. Its concepts and content are a major advance on its 1990 predecessor. The intention that its concepts and content should be influenced by voices of the poor was partly fulfilled. Conceptually, the VOP findings support the multidimensional view of poverty as 'pronounced deprivation of wellbeing', and the use of income-poverty to describe what is only one dimension of poverty (though this welcome usage is not consistent throughout in the WDR). Two concepts or analytical orientations were not adopted: powerlessness and disadvantage seen as a multidimensional interlinked web; and livelihoods. On content, three areas where the influence fell short were: how the police persecute and impoverish poor people; the diversity of the poorest people; and the significance of the body as the main but vulnerable and indivisible asset of many poor people. A weakness of the WDR is its lack of critical self-awareness. Chapter 11 is self-serving for the International Financial Institutions: it lumps loans with grants as concessional finance; it makes liberal use of the term donor, but never lender; and it does not consider debt avoidance as a strategy. The Report ends abruptly, a body without a head. Its multidimensional view of poverty is not matched by a multidimensional view of power and responsibility. A Chapter 12 is crying out to be written. This would confront issues of professional, institutional and personal commitment and change. It would stress critical reflection as a professional norm, disempowerment for democratic diversity as institutional practice, and personal values, attitudes and courageous behaviour as primary and crucial if development is to be change that is good for poor people. A new conclusion is suggested for the WDR, and a title for the World Development Report 2010. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Chambers, 2001. "The World Development Report: concepts, content and a Chapter 12," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 299-306.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jintdv:v:13:y:2001:i:3:p:299-306 DOI: 10.1002/jid.784

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrew Shepherd, 2001. "Consolidating the lessons of 50 years of 'development'," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 315-320.
    2. Mick Moore, 2001. "Empowerment at last?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 321-329.
    3. Hazel Johnson, 2001. "Voices of the poor. Can anyone hear us?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 377-379.
    4. Howard White, 2001. "National and international redistribution as tools for poverty reduction," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 343-351.
    5. Caroline Moser, 2001. "Insecurity and social protection-has the World Bank got it right?," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 361-368.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maia Green, 2006. "Reresenting Poverty and Attacking Representations: Some Anthroplogical Perspectives on Poverty in Development," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-009, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    2. White, Sarah & Pettit, Jethro, 2004. "Participatory Approaches and the Measurement of Human Well-being," WIDER Working Paper Series 057, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    3. Maia Green, 2006. "Representing poverty and attacking representations: Perspectives on poverty from social anthropology," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(7), pages 1108-1129.

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