Management of errors and development cooperation

Did the arsenic disaster in Bangladesh lead to consequences?

by Helmut Jaeger
curare – Journal of Medical Anthropology, 40(2017)4

10 pp. 132 kB

The precautionary principle is widely accepted in international law to guide decisions about proposed interventions. The principle is therefore relevant for interventions promoted as part of development cooperation. Disasters such the arsenic problem in Bangladesh and elsewhere in South and Southeast Asia demonstrate that development interventions are not always guided by the precautionary principle. In Bangladesh, well-intentioned efforts to address a specific problem ended up creating a new problem, i.e., the worst mass poisoning in human history. The arsenic problem in Bangladesh is an example of failures to appreciate and manage complex systems. Concentrating on rapid problem solving can be highly effective on the short run, but reliable sustainability depends on understanding the dynamics of complex and interrelated systems.

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