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Does the world really aspire to the West?

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Oh, if it were only just that simple.While I fully support the need for more infrastructure investment in poor countries, and condemn the present western donor policy swing in favour of 'softer', less visible interventions at the expense of capital investment, I cannot agree that the rest of the world aspires to the 'western model of development'.

To me the word 'appropriate' is the missing factor in Ceri Dingle's article 'Summit for Nothing' (AJ 5.9.02). I have spent 15 years working as an architect in developing countries, trying to use local knowledge to encourage appropriate technical solutions. All too often I find myself attempting to adapt to local conditions some well-meaning piece of western design and technology, which has become a nightmare to manage and maintain due to user ignorance, understandable misuse through lack of education, and no thought of sustainability by the western benefactor.

Grass-roots NGO educational awareness campaigns and new infrastructure investment should be in partnership and both have roles to play. Most poor countries are many decades away from being able to support and maintain, never mind sustain serious engineering projects. Remember, the backyard privy, common in the UK not so long ago, is still unimaginable and unaffordable technology for many rural countries in the world.

We need to support local communities to achieve their own technical solutions, albeit with western investment and technical assistance, but not necessarily 'designed in the West'.

Robert Fielding, Lausanne, Switzerland

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