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Guide to Development Speak



The maximum or optimum amount that can be produced.

Capacity building

The development of an organisation’s core skills, such as leadership, management and fundraising.

Cash crops

Crops produced entirely for the market - usually for export - rather than for the local community. These include commodities such as coffee, tea, cocoa, cotton and rubber.

Civil society

The institutions, organisations and voluntary participants outside of the state, the business world and the family. Specifically, civil society includes voluntary and non-profit organisations of many different kinds, philanthropic institutions, social and political movements and other forms of social involvement.

Civil society organisation (CSO)

An organisation not part of the governmental sector and that is not operated for profit. If any profits are earned, they are not and cannot be distributed as such. (See also non-profit organisation and non-governmental organisation).

Closed economy

An economy in which there are no foreign trade transactions or any other form of economic contacts with the rest of the world.

Common market

A form of economic integration between states. Both people and money are able to move freely between the partner states; there is also free trade between them. The European Union is one example.

Community Based Organisations (CBOs)

Small, local, non-profit organisations that address community needs. Typically they have first hand knowledge of the problems they are addressing and a personal stake in the success of their solutions.

Comparative advantage

The theory that everyone gains if each nation specialises in the production of goods that it can produce relatively cheaply and efficiently and imports those goods that other countries produce more cheaply and efficiently. This theory supports free trade arguments.


The management of the natural world and its resources. Conservationist aim for sustainable benefit without inflicting damage to the environment.

Concessional loan

Credit granted in terms more favourable to the borrower than are available on the money markets.


Conditionality usually refers to the requirements imposed by the IMF and World Bank on countries seeking loans or debt relief from them. The state in question must undertake fiscal, monetary and other policy reforms as a condition of receiving the loan. In 1976, conditionality was imposed on the UK after it sought help from the IMF.

Cost benefit analysis

A basic economic theory which weighs the actual and potential costs (both private and social) of various economic decisions against actual and potential private and social benefits. Those decisions or projects yielding the highest benefit/cost ratio are usually thought to be most desirable.
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