The role of storytellers in development policy

Generally the aid policy has been based on donor’s conditions and interest through decades. Though all evidence show that the domination of donor countries perspectives in aids policies is a huge obstacle that still has to be overcome in order to provide a solid foundation for sustainable development.

The Swedish newspaper, Götebors Posten, published an important debate written by a few researchers from Gothenburg University, Professor Fredrik Söderbaum et al, on June 29th 2016.  In this debate they emphasized one of the major issues on aid policy within the framework of development policies:

“Policy framework fails to adequately take into account the poor people’s ability and power to themselves create the development they want for themselves, their families and their countries. Research on the driving forces behind development emphasizes people and their organizations and institutions – from trade unions to religious organizations and cooperatives to local history societies and diaspora groups – are the most important development resource and thus the main driving force for social change.”


This important issue has already been discussed internationally by many scholars during the last decades and are relevant to Sweden’s aid policy as well as other countries. Although the successful actions for change on this major issue have not yet been taken, there is further need to improve the next step of critical approach to the aid policy. Further critical approach on aid policy is needed to provide a profound and comprehensive knowledge on the power relations of the recipient countries. For instance one of the key issues regarding power relations in recipient countries are: whose voices are heard and whose voices are unheard in shaping in recipient countries? What are the diverse narratives or stories among the people?

The fact that there are greater socio-economic gaps and social injustice within the developing’s world compare to the rich world, should be taken into considerations by donors countries. Due to the great gap in socio-economic, social status and power relations in recipient countries, the voices being heard are often the strongest voices.


Thus, the constant question that should be asked in analysis framework and action planning should assume: whether or not the donors reach out to the civil society’s real representative? Have the donors reached all the storytellers and strengthen all the voices?  How could the donors reach the divers storytellers in order to include different part of the civil society in problem analysis, needs assessment and action plan?

Including marginalized and vulnerable is crucial for sustainable development

The concept of sustainable development was first introduced in response to environmental concerns. However it has been defined primarily by the mainstream tradition of economic analysis, which tends to marginalize the issue of ecological and social sustainability itself. But recently, many scholars have advanced different critical perspectives to the analysis of sustainable development. The separation of environment, society and economy often leads to a narrow approach.

Thus the issues related to society are challenging the present socio-economic structure, in particular the sustainability of communities and the maintenance of cultural diversity. Furthermore a competent approach to sustainable development requires combining insights from various critical approaches and perspectives. For instance the main issues in this respect are lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution. And the keyword is Community participation’ and ‘strengthening civil society’ that refers to the support to mobilize individual and community potential to take effective action based on need is critical to reach the goal.

“Sustainable Development Goals, 17 goals to transform the world” was adopted by United Nation in 2015. “Partnership for the goals” is one of these 17 goals. Nevertheless enhancing and achieving this goal is essential for achieving the other 16 Sustainable Development Goals. It is also important to emphasize that civil society has a crucial role in “Partnership for the goals.

Swedish international development agency (Sida) explains its objective in partnership with civil society in developing countries as follow: ”The overall objective of Sida’s cooperation with civil society is a vibrant and pluralistic civil society in developing countries that can effectively contribute to poverty reduction in all its dimensions. The work will be conducted with a human rights perspective, to strengthen the individual’s own right to influence their own lives and development.”

On the other hand, strengthening civil society to respond to local needs requires the leaders of grassroots on all level. Furthermore, including women and marginalized population as active leaders and decision makers remains as the main challenges.  According to all evidence, positive and sustainable change and development must proceed from those who are supposed to benefit from the changes. Thus one of the main challenges of sustainable development is the bottom-up approach and the inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable populations and especially women. This means critical, but minimal support needs to mobilize individual and community potential to take effective action based on need.

/Manijeh Mehdiyar

Member of the Regional Council, 1.e. vice president in Gothenburg board of healthcare

PhD at Inst. of Biomedicine, Sahlgrenska Academy

Active member of the Swedish Green party in Gothenburg 


Presentation Manijeh Mehdiyar

I am East and West, citizen and refugee. Sociologist and PhD candidate at the University of Gothenburg.

A member of the Green Party in Gothenburg. My political duties: member of the Regional Council in Region Västra Götaland, First Deputy Chairman at the Health Care Committee in Gothenburg.  Member of the board for social issues in the Gothenburg region.

I dream of a world where all people have equal opportunities for a decent life, free from oppression and injustice. A world where people are not counted as numbers and quality of life and happiness is measured beyond the material values, a sustainable world for all and for our next generations.

My column is my voice on human rights, environmental justice, social cohesion Peace building, intersectional feminism, anti-militarism, anti-racism.

/Manijeh Mehdiyar