Empowering communities or creating dependencies : people's experience of a development project in Sri Lanka

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Sangapala Arachchige Don Dissanayake, Pradeep Dissanayake
Perera, Nihal
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Thesis (M.U.R.P.)
Department of Urban Planning
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Since the late-1940s, “development” has been one of the most influential and dominant concepts in global political and economic discourses. As “developed” nations such as the USA and Western Europe bragged about their achievements, the so-called “developing” nations struggled to match them. After sixty years of development, one wonders whether developing nations were able to achieve their targets. In order to examine this issue, this study focuses on a particular development project carried out by the renowned NGO, World Vision in two rural areas in Sri Lanka: Mahakumbukkadawala and Nawagattegama. As a developing country, it has no lack of projects conducted by international organizations and NGOs in the name of development. This study investigates the development discourse and its hegemonic representations driven by international organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF. In particular, the study examines the notion of development as adopted by World Vision and how the above project has affected the lives of their “target population” in the mentioned areas. In order to examine how people shape their lives and empower themselves in the absence of external assistance, this research project investigates a neighboring village, Sankadayagama as a place which had overcome development depreciations through the persistence of the community itself. Further, the thesis demonstrates that development is unique to the place and the people; hence, it is impossible to import, but needs to grow from within. The study is based on living in the area for two months to collect data and stories, and a return visit in May-June 2014.