Where is the “local” in development?

Zleikha and I had an interesting talk on development.

Often, development “experts” from the West would impose their goodwill on the locals, telling what their needs are, and how to implement projects from an “enlightened” Westerner’s perspective.

I was caught playing the role of the (misguided) Westerner savior during one of my meetings with Zleikha. I explained how we should emphasize “cultural and religious diversity” in our programming and volunteers, and publicize the heck out of that. I did not realize how North American-centric this value was, nor did I think about the local context that we were operating in.

To “emphasize cultural and religious diversity” in our programming would certainly raise a lot of eyebrows in this area. For one, it could be interpreted by locals that our work seeks to:

  • appease local authorities and international partners
  • normalize relations with the Israeli settlers

That is not to say that we won’t strive for an intercultural/interfaith exchanges. Hardly that. Our core group of volunteers come from all parts of the globe.

But we have to always keep in mind the local context that we are working in.

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