What is an Ideologically Sensitive situation?

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An Ideologically Sensitive situation is one in which some ideology exercises extraordinary influence over a people, region, or country so that any proposed program of literacy or development may be difficult to implement.


Obviously, the question of ideological sensitivity is somewhat a matter of “belongingness,” perspective, or group orientation. What is a problematic situation for one person or organization will not be for another which holds to the same ideological perspective. No situation is absolutely problematic for everyone or every organization. Conversely, almost every situation will be problematic for someone and some organization or agency.


Ideologically sensitive situations pose, for many, ethical and tactical questions of whether it is appropriate or acceptable to commit resources to trying to carry out a project in the ideologically sensitive context.


This module cannot answer these questions for you. It can only alert you to some of the issues involved.

Indicating conditions

Here are some indicators of an Ideologically Sensitive situation:

  • There is a dominant religious system in place which vigorously opposes the presence of other religious points of view.
  • It is difficult or impossible to get a visa to work in the country.
  • It is physically dangerous for outsiders to be in a given situation or area.
  • There is open conflict of some sort.
  • There is strong official resistance to any kind of change.
  • There is a radical political ideology in place which would compromise a possible program.

Here are some implications of an Ideologically Sensitive situation:

  • Someone must decide if the risk is worth the result or reward of undertaking a program in such a context.
  • A project carried out in such a context may need to be small and nearly invisible to be acceptable.
  • In some cases, a program can be carried out through proxies who are acceptable in the situation and are able to carry out the project without great risk.
  • Programs carried out in an Ideologically Sensitive situation are highly vulnerable to sudden change or cancellation.
  • Sometimes a program can be carried out in such a context by making short and low profile visits to the area.
  • In many cases a development-based strategy is acceptable in such a situation.
  • Sometimes a program can be successful in such a context if it delivers, in addition to literacy, some other service which is highly desirable to the local people or officials.
See also

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Page content last modified: 27 July 1999

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