Stefan de Vylders seminarie

Presentation by Stefan de Vylder, FUF at FRU seminar March 24, 2007

My name is Stefan de Vylder. I am an economist, and vice president of the Swedish Development Forum or, as it is known in Swedish, FUF, Föreningen för Utvecklingsfrågor

I am very pleased to be here today, and I have listened with great interest to the presentations of the important work you are carrying out in different parts of the world. Representing FUF, it is also with great pleasure that I can inform you that last year’s winners of the so-called “FUF Price”, i.e. the annual award being given by FUF for outstanding achievements in development work, was awarded two veterans working with the CBR methodology, namely David Henley and Henrik Pelling, for their internationally recognised work with the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Thanks to the efforts of David and Henrik and their Palestine colleagues, thousands of Palestinian children in extremely difficult circumstances have been supported.

I would also like to say a few words about the CBR methodology from the perspective of a development economist. To begin with, it is important to stress that CBR is based on a rights approach. It is about efforts to safeguard every individual’s basic human rights. From a moral perspective, this is the basic strength of the philosophy underlying CBR. And I must admit that I, although I am an economist, am quite happy that the approach has not been designed by economists using cost-benefit analysis to assess how much a human being is worth, and how much money efforts to enhance the dignity of people with physical or mental disabilities are allowed to cost.

Having said this, however, I would also like to add that providing assistance to people in difficult circumstances is extremely important from the point of view of poverty reduction. People benefiting from CBR interventions tend to belong to the poorest and most marginalised groups of society, and the empowerment of these girls and boy and men and women is a powerful means to alleviate poverty. There need not be a contradiction between the rights approach and a development and poverty reduction approach.

Today, modern development theory takes the human being as the point of departure. To overall goal of development is not to increase per capita income – although that can certainly help – but to enable people to make better use of their potential. Or, with the words of the respected Indian economist Amartya Sen, to “enhance human capabilitites”. Or, to use another key phase borrowed from Amartya Sen, “to increase the range of human choice.” This is exactly what CBR is about. Indeed, one could say that CBR is development: the enhancement of human capabilities.

Modern theories of development also emphasise the role of human capital to achieve economic development. It is people, not natural resources or something else, who create sustainable development.

And key to CBR is the social context. We talk about “community-based rehabilitation”. This aspect is also crucial for poverty reduction. Along with human capital, social capital – which is basically an indicator of the level of trust, confidence and cooperation in a given society – is highlighted as an important factor behind economic development. To create trust, and involve communities in the rehabilitation of individuals, is good in itself, but it is also good for economic development.

To summarise: the concept, and your successful practice, of community-based rehabilitation direct our attention to two fundamentals in economic and social development: the role of human capital – people – and social capital – communities and trust.

In short: the work you are carrying out is extremely important. Thank you for your attention, and I do wish you good luck!

Stefan de Vylder