An analysis of the conceptualisations of well-being in development work aimed at indigenous peoples in the Andes. What does the concept well-being mean in different cultural and religious contexts?

Drange, Live Danbolt (2014). 'An analysis of the conceptualisations of well-being in development work aimed at indigenous peoples in the Andes. What does the concept well-being mean in different cultural and religious contexts?' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

At the international level there has been a debate about more comprehensive understandings of well-being where Amartya Sen has been a central actor. He sees development 'as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy' (Sen, 1999: 3).In line with this the late Mahbub Ul Haq opened the first Human Development Report of UNDP in 1990 stating: 'The real wealth of a nation is its people. And the purpose of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives'(Human development report  1990). The Report introduces a new measuring instrument, measuring well-being by an indicator (HDI) based on three distinct components: indicators of longevity, education and income per head as an alternative measure of development, an instrument to measure human well-being. Sen's capability approach is primarily an approach to human development: 'If our attention is shifted from an exclusive concentration on income poverty to the more inclusive idea of capability deprivation, we can better understand the poverty of human lives and freedoms…. The role of income and wealth—important as it is along with other influences—has to be integrated into a broader and fuller picture of success and deprivation' (Sen 1999).

In development assistance there is usually an intercultural meeting with actors that are based in different cultures and value systems (Dahl 2013). In this context well-being is not a neutral concept, how one understands well-being is based on the value system of the donor and the recipient respectively. Western development workers go to the global south with values based in Western worldview and meet indigenous peoples with worldviews and cultures that are quite different and with an unlike understanding of what well-being means in their context (Jøssang 2012).

In the paper I will look into how the concept well-being is understood in varying traditions and contexts that meet in development work: by the Human Development and Capability approach, HDCA, that has influenced development work considerably the last decades, by development workers in the Norwegian Santal Mission (Normisjon from 2001), based in an evangelical, Lutheran tradition and by the Kichwas in the Andean region. My research question is whether the different actors, the donors and the recipients understand well-being in the same way? And what effect may it have on the development work if they understand the concept differently?

I will first present major tenets in Andean religiosity and worldview, what the Andean peoples today call Sumak kawsay, 'Vivir bien', 'the good living altogether' or 'right livelihood' (Acosta 2009). In Sumak kawsay harmonious living in society is in focus. It highlights a collective capability, a way of well-being that conceive relationships between human beings and nature in holistic, relational, and harmonic terms, considering community as the fundamental axis of reproduction of life. One does not see development as a lineal process that establishes an earlier or later stage. On the contrary, social improvement is a category in permanent construction and reproduction (Acosta 2010, 11).

In HDCA human well-being and agency is the goal of development and well-being is evaluated in terms of what capabilities, or freedoms, individual people have to achieve valuable or valued. To experience human well-being, people must have the freedom to choose what one wish or are called to become and also have the means to get there. The poor themselves should be agents that 'acts and brings about change, and whose achievements can be judged in terms of her own objectives, whether or not we assess them in terms of some external criterion as well'(Sen 1999, 19). From an evangelical Christian point of view well-being is related to the relation one has to God and to one's neighbor. The ultimate well-being one achieves in the state of being blessed (Holy Bible: TNIV  2005, Matthew. 5:1-12). By the missionary work one is obeying the biblical commands to love one's neighbour and to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers (Holy Bible: TNIV  2005, Luke 10:26). The wellbeing dimension is in focus and has to do with human flourishing on earth with the life of Jesus Christ himself as an example. As Deneulin states:

The development activities of religious communities (such as advocacy, participation in political debate, or delivery of social services) are not 'add ons' that came with the development age; they are profound links between worship and development activities (Deneulin and Bano 2009, 73).

The history of the Norwegian Santal Mission shows that diakonia and education always have been a part of the evangelistic work as 'diakonia is a call to action, as a response to challenges of human suffering, injustice and care for creation' (Nordstokke 2013, 8). Thus evangelical missionaries also work for human well-being.

The paper is based on qualitative research which includes personal experiences from missionary work in the area, interviews made during longer and shorter subsequent fieldworks, missionary records, interviews and conversations with former missionaries and articles about the work in the mission-organization's magazine. To define the concept well-being I will use literature about Andean worldview and Buen vivir, selected literature in HDCA, basically by Amartya Sen and literature about mission work and diakonia based on the Bible.

Acosta, A. 2010. El Buen Vivir en el camino del post-desarrollo. Una lectura desde la Constitución de Montecristi. Ecuador: Fundación Friedrich Ebert, FES-ILDIS.

Acosta, A. y E. Martinez, (ed.). 2009. El Buen Vivir. Una vía para el desarrollo. 1era. ed. Quito, Ecuador: Ediciones Abya-Yala.

Dahl, Ø. 2013. Møter mellom mennesker: innføring i interkulturell kommunikasjon. Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.

Deneulin, S,, and M. Bano. 2009. Religion in development: rewriting the secular script. London: Zed Books.

Holy Bible: TNIV. 2005. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Human development report. 1990. New York: Oxford university press.

Jøssang, A. F. 2012. 'Moder jord i Bolivia: om forholdet mellom religion og utvikling.' In Religionens rolle i bistand og utvikling, edited by A, F. Jøssang and A. O. Øyhus, 111-122. Kristiansand: Portal.

Nordstokke, K.. 2013. 'Diakonia in context: transformation, reconciliation and empowerment.' In, s. 112-125. Edinburgh: Regnum Books.

Sen, A. 1999. Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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