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Guide to Development Speak


Absolute poverty

A level of income below that required to obtain a basket of minimum food (2124 kilocalories per person per day) or other non-food essentials such as clothing and shelter. 10 million people currently live in absolute poverty. (UNDP definition)


Easy to approach, enter, operate, or participate in.


The ability to account for one's actions. The term is often used to refer to the responsibility that organisations, institutions or governments, or individuals within these, have to inform stakeholders of their decisions or actions.


Support for or arguing in favour of a cause, idea, or policy. Advocacy groups are those who seek to increase public awareness of a particular issue or set of issues.


The transfer of capital (money), usually in the form of loans or grants from governments, international agencies and institutions, from the rich countries of the developed world to the developing world.

Aids or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

The medical diagnosis given when someone with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has developed illnesses recognised as associated with HIV infection.

Tuberculosis (TB), pneumonia and thrush are common. In most cases, without treatment, these illnesses lead to death following a sustained period of illness. People living with Aids often have infections of the lungs, brain, eyes, and other organs. They frequently suffer debilitating weight loss, diarrhoea, and a type of cancer called Kaposi's Sarcoma.

Antiretroviral drugs

A combination of drugs often prescribed to people who are HIV positive, which restrain the HIV virus at different stages in its life cycle. The drugs are given in various combinations of three or four drugs, known as Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy or HAART. These prevent HIV from mutating into forms that are resistant to the antiretroviral drugs.


A valuable item such as property, land, capital, money, a share in ownership, or a claim on others for future payment, such as a bond or a bank deposit.


A policy of national self-sufficiency and non reliance on imports or economic aid.

Balance of trade

A situation where the value of a country’s exports and the value of its imports of visible items are equal. Where imports are more than its exports, a country is said to have a balance of trade deficit.

Basic needs

The basic goods and services, such as food, shelter, clothing, sanitation and education, necessary for a minimum standard of living (ILO definition).

Bilateral assistance

The international transfer of public funds in the form of loans or grants directly from one government to another.


The variety of life forms occurring in both land and aquatic ecosystems. Diversity is the key to ensuring the continuance of life on Earth. It is also a fundamental requirement for adaptation and survival and continued evolution of species.


The manipulation of living organisms by scientific or industrial processes to produce food, drugs or other products.

Birth rate, crude

Number of children born alive each year, per thousand of population. A crude birth rate of 20 per 1000 is the same as a 2 percent increase.

Black market or informal economy

The buying and selling of goods and services illegally, at prices above or below a legal price. A black market often occurs in products that are banned in a country, or where there is a shortage of the goods concerned and/or because there is strong demand for the goods outside the established price.

Brain drain

The migration of highly educated and skilled professional and technical people from the developing to the developed world.

Bretton Woods institutions

The World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Both were originally created in 1944, at Bretton Woods in the United States, to finance the reconstruction of war-torn Europe. They have now become the leading financiers to developing countries.
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