Gordon Brown: Without democracy, development is likely to go wrong

From a speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), delivered in London

So the political empowerment we seek is, in effect, a new commitment to democracy, founded on participation and accountability, and underpinned by transparency – a strategy for development and thus empowerment that ensures that people can have more control over their own lives.

This is a million miles from the school of development thinking in the '60s, '70s and '80s, which argued that what mattered was not so much deep structures of democratic accountability – of people owning their own future – but strong, often autocratic leadership and externally imposed conditionality, cast as enlightened and modernising.

Without a deep commitment to a participatory democracy – as Condoleezza Rice made clear in the Middle East only last week – development is likely to go wrong. And a participatory democracy is best underpinned by a simple requirement: trans-parency. This is a call to rich and poor countries alike, as well as to foreign companies and investors, to open our books, be fully transparent and for each of us to account for our actions for all to see; a new honesty about the effects of our trade protectionism and the tying of aid.

But this is also a call for new openness and transparency in developing countries: people able to see where their money is going, who is doing what, and why – the way to root out corruption; and more fundamentally, people and communities empowered to take more control of the decisions that affect their lives and to hold their own governments to account.

In this way, we can move from the old conditionality imposed on developing countries by donors to a new accountability of developing countries to their own people.

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