The Development Group for Alternative Policies was founded in 1976 to assist in the promotion of economic justice across the South, or Third World, by helping to maximize control by poor communities and sectors over their own development in the face of impositions from the North. It was founded on the principle of the right to self-determination and on the belief that local knowledge is indispensable to the shaping of sound development policies, programs and projects relevant to local needs and conditions.
The Development GAP’s focus both on the active participation of organized civil society in economic programming and on the accountability of U.S. and global institutions is predicated on the recognition of the existence of powerful interests, many of them Northern, that undermine local development processes. The exigencies of foreign policy, global corporations and external ‘expertise’ have shaped aid, trade, investment and debt policies, as well as economic-policy measures prescribed by the international financial institutions, that have largely ignored local-level needs, priorities and capacity. It is for that reason that we address these policy instruments in our work in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Central Europe.
Our efforts in this regard emanate from the belief that true democracy must extend to key decisionmaking in the economic sphere and to all levels of policymaking, including the global, where policies affecting local and national development are increasingly formulated. It is therefore necessary to build and to strengthen organized forces for economic justice both within and among countries so as to open space for autonomous and participatory development.
Hence, with one foot among forces for democratic change and equitable and sustainable development in the South and the other in policy centers in the North, The Development GAP seeks to close the gap that exists between the perspectives, objectives and operations of these two worlds. To this end, our work is organized to provide access for those in the South to Northern policymakers and opinionshapers and to expose Northern officials, media, and, to the extent possible, the general public to local realities abroad. More specifically, we endeavor primarily to:
-support Southern participatory endeavors and civil-society analytical and organizational capacity building through South/North partnerships and collaborative engagements;
-help build and coordinate global, regional and U.S. civil-society policy platforms, campaigns, coalitions, networks and movements for the development and promotion of concrete economic-justice agenda and initiatives and direct challenges to Northern interventions;
-engage Northern policymakers and Southern civil-society representatives in joint, participatory policy and program assessments and formulation; and
-develop and demonstrate participatory programmatic options and policy alternatives within Northern institutions.
The Development GAP also seeks to apply the same values that govern its work to its internal operations. We are committed to maintaining staff participation in decisionmaking and modesty and equity in salaries. At the same time, we make every effort to avoid the pursuit of institutional imperatives, so as to be responsive to the priorities of our Southern colleagues and to be open to risk taking commensurate with theirs. Overall, we attempt to build working relationships built on mutual respect, trust and accountability.