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Democracy and Development : a Crosswise Look

(Démocratie et développement: un regard transversal)

03 / 1993

"Approche" (Association de Professionnels et de Chercheurs du Tiers Monde = Association of Third World Professionals and Researchers)in Louvain-la-Neuve, has always been striving to contribute to the setting of a dialogue area between Southern bred searchers, the universitary world and the international cooperation circles. In 1991, the Association organized three round tables which successively analysed the relations between democracy and development throughout current events in Africa, America and Asia. The text by Raul Gonzalez Meyer which is the subject of this card and the complete title of which is : "A crosswise look at Democracy and Development : between factual non-concordance and a mutual reinforcing project, what reference models ? ", strikes the balance and provides the synthesis of those three round tables.

Democratisation, under way, "just starting", or for a near future, forms in all areas considered the political panorama of these last years. The contemporary sismic shocks in the East not only helped this happen, at least in some cases (mostly in Africa), but also and mainly brought to light what the guiding lighthouse of these processes was bound to be : the reference is in the West.

Yet for the sake of untouchable universalness, nothing can elude our necessary exactingness as regards democracies. In Southern countries, with no results whatever in the socio-economic field, they run the risk of appearing as airy constructions, as constitutionalists’ debates, as points of law or pompous words, without any concrete meaning for human welfare ...

But democracy does not ensure by itself economic development, neither in Asia, nor in Africa, nor in Latin America. It cannot guarantee what has always been taken as the main post of its strength. Aren’t we then confronted with some impossible democracy ? Is it possible to build a democracy upon poverty ?

This pessimistic reasoning seems to be confirmed in a historical phenomenon : the western economic stability was erected on the pedestal of a long period of economic growth, accompanied by strong political exclusions. A tremendous "original sin" was at the base of its present legitimation.

It is at the time when the western democratic system poses itself as a reference that the actual exercise of citizenship seems to be menaced, or even choked to death by agents or power structures on which society has little control. Among these, economic factors have a choice place. Economy seems to be "tearing apart" from politics and the latter seem to be tearing apart from society. The result is mutilated citizenship.

In the midst of the fog we meet when looking forward under the angle of democracy and development, one route however seems to be open : that of the civil society, Consultable : ary, if not of excessive confidence, of some expectations, a source of hopeful fantasy against so many barriers.

With respect to democracy, this notion fils in the huge gap which separates the decentralising State from some alienated and atomized citizenship. With respect to development, it acts as a "third party" between democratic planning and the segregating market. The civil society has been understood as an agent of democracy and development, not simply to eliminate the necessity of the other agents beside it, but to orientate it anew as a function of actual individuals and collectivities.

Some isolated statements, though common to a number of countries, allow to nourish such convictions or feelings : extension of a valueing of democracy for enlarged civil layers of population, in particular from a sensitization to human rights ; extension of popular economic initiatives and strategies, which eventually account for survival in critical days.


exclusion politique, pauvreté, droit, démocratie, citoyenneté, société civile



There is no concluding to well-defined relations between democracy and development. All we can state is a difficult and open longing to conciliate the two factors in our present and future histories.


Original card in French in Dph data base. The ’title/sub-title’ field corresponds to the ’translated title’ field in the French card.


Compte rendu de colloque, conférence, séminaire,…

GONZALEZ MEYER, Raúl, Un regard transversal sur démocratie et développement: entre non-concordance de fait et projet de renforcement mutuel, APPROCHE, 1991/11 (Belgium)

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