A number of theories and strategies have been advanced as the best approach to development. For example, development was for a long time interpreted as economic growth, meaning increases in per capita incomes or Gross National Product (GNP) with or without equity considerations. After many international development efforts failing to have serious impact on poverty, emphasis was put on human development and sustainable development. International development policy has tended to shift, sometimes frequently, along with the concepts on development. While it is commendable to have policy changes especially after learning from past mistakes, some shifts in development policy are largely experimental and can lead to undesirable outcomes. Such shifts may at times lead to failure to meet original development objectives, resulting in exclusion of sections of society from benefits of international development efforts towards poverty reduction.
A typical example of a project, which suffered effects of shifts in international development policy, was a water project in Uganda, conceived on the basis of a community-based approach and implemented in multi-donor supported sector. The intended beneficiaries were meant to participate in the project, be sensitised about the advantages of using improved water supplies and be connected to the public water system free of charge. Thus costs to this effect were planned for and built in the project investment costs. During the planning stage, ideas emphasising private sector participation (PSP) were brought in and it was decided that this project be used as a pilot project of PSP approach under which the community would be encouraged to manage the water network. This would give results to be used in the water sector reform, which was being planned by the Government of Uganda. The sector reform emphasised improved delivery of services with cost-recovery. The requirements for achieving cost-recovery and increased PSP conflicted with original objectives of attracting the community to use improved water supply by first and foremost making it affordable for everyone to get connected to the system. Consequently it was decided that every household pays an equivalent of about $200, which, according to earlier assessment, many people could not afford. Eventually a large section of the community did not benefit from the project as earlier envisaged, partly as a result of shifts in development policy.
Shifts in International Development Policy and Social Exclusion: Experience from the Water Sector in Uganda presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 25 pp.