Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Shifting the Aid/ Development Paradigm - HRI Life saving Congress in Monrovia

With the corpse of 1millionshirts still cooling off on the battlefield, where the strategy to “bring it on like a man” apparently did not work out to well for them, the ashes are slowly settling over another epic battle in the world of online “aid & development”, until the next sucker touches another nerve and we can all awaken again and lynch some teenager trying to impress chicks with a cheesy sounding idea on his facebook, the sort that Angelina would approve of (fact: chicks dig givers).

Speaking of which, am i the only one who, during the hottest moments of this “debate” was wondering: What would Angelina have done? Which side would they have Bono taken?

Regardless, it’s all over now and it is time for all of us to get back to our life-saving work. For me that means preparing my keynote speech at the upcoming African Aid Workers Congress, to take place in Monrovia later this month, where I have been invited on the panel along with other reputable African aid experts from Atlanta, Georgia, Washington, DC and one bloke from Geneva, name to be confirmed.

Liberia is an excellent place for aid meetings, rivaled in west Africa only by neighboring Sierra Leone as a "country of contrasts" that has gone a long way from civil war and destruction to being a stable democracy where one can have a well organized extracurricular topic on any development event agenda that would include friendly matches between amputee football teams - the sort of stuff that replaces the usual “cultural show” with a mix of actually going to the beach, a bit of feel-good factor, an opportunity for grave reminiscing and a feeling that one witnesses something better, in a very "african" landscape that conveniently confirms one's expectation of palm trees and chaotic driving. A very good (photo) opportunity as well for future smugness, constructive or not, and many a tale about suffering told in the future, always with the same changes in tone of one’s voice.

During the congress itself, I am looking forward to fascinating discussions about what differentiates “aid” from “development” – solving this thorny issue once and for all, by means of a list of action points developed by subcommittees, will greatly help the HRI coalition of affiliates on the ground make another significant step towards becoming a regional leader in achieving MDG no. 8 – “develop a global partnership for development”.

Further life-saving topics of discussions will doubtlessly include construing relevant standards on the difference between very vulnerable people and the merely vulnerable (a crucial debate in which, as some of you may remember, I have previously been involved during another life-saving activity). Perhaps discussions in the subcommittees will even address the complex issue of how to interpret the definition of “extreme poverty” as reflected by the baseline 2004 Millennium Development Goals Report (MDGR) for Liberia and apply it to today’s realities (also a good opportunity for mentioning blood diamonds and their “disempowering effects in the vicious circle of poverty”).

Nathan the intern will come along as the organizers can use some help with logistics – he will even get to practice his public speaking as he will address the plenary regularly with updates on tea breaks and “process checks”. In expectation of this trip he has just used our regular diplomatic pouch in Moroni to ship in three or four new lenses for his DSLR from back home. Indeed, Nathan the intern is a photography enthusiast, already planning a exposition on “Africa” upon his return in his local coffee shop. Meanwhile he also gets to practice his photo & layout skills with finalizing the congress report – another small favour that we’ll do on behalf of the coalition, for a very modest fee.

You may think it is unusual that HRI would invest in letting an intern attend such a conference, but who knows I say, perhaps with more exposure like this Nathan the intern will become the African Aid expert of the future.


  1. I just love Nathan the intern. Can he pls start his own HRI-spin-off blog?

  2. long time listener, first time callerMay 4, 2010 at 3:44 PM


    /Sceptical Secondo

  3. Mon Cher Dr. Kurtz,

    Ou est tu? Excuse mon silence- it has been a terribly interesting past couple of months. I am working on an account of my experiences as a Director of Diversity, please bear with me.

    The blog continues to be fantastic- oh, what a gentle roasting of Bill Easterly. They say that if you put the frog in the pot long before the water boils and bring the temperature up slowly... :) chauffez, chauffez.

    I wonder if you have heard about the World Economic Forum on AFrica being held by your wanna-be colonial... I mean 'liberating' state of Tanzania. Dar es Salaam in fact. Are you in town? I would be more than glad to trade snark over too many Kempinski martinis.

  4. Cher N:

    j'ai choisi de ne pas participer en personne for reasons that you will understand - the weather in Dar this time of year is unreasonable. Besides HRI will be well represented by heads of affiliates from 28 countries.

    In spite of what they may tell you, my conspicuous absence has nothing to do with HRIs proposal to the organizers to hold the WEF in Zanzibar being turned down - we really bought their argument that there are not enough suitable hotels and conference rooms there.

    But here is the clever part: when all is said and done there will be some unconstructive voices inevitably criticizing the whole event as another talking shop and opportunity for gratuitous back-slapping. My absence, conspicuous as it is, can be usefully applied in mobilizing resources from circles that side with this school of thought. We’ll emphasize our local nature and the fact that limited resources, combined with full plates made it very difficult for me to be there.

    Meanwhile, the numerous HRI affiliates present will succeed in mobilizing funding from the believers in this process and there you have it, another win-win.

    Which reminds me: why don’t you use the opportunity to wear that tasteful HRI pin while you are there? An associate of mine will bring around invitations to some sessions where I would like you to interject, pose questions, etc. Don’t worry about what you are saying, as long as you put up your West African accent and make a point of repeatedly mentioning that “you represent the leadership of HRI and you have a question…”

    Then, later in the year we shall see how we make the best out of that other upcoming life-saving HIV/ AIDS meeting in July which i intend to attend (On me dit que a Viene, en ete, les soirs sont etouffants).

  5. Mon Cher Dr. Kurtz-

    Vienne en ete? Plus HIV/AIDS? Masterful. Peut etre nous pourrions (sp?) prendre un 'ti verre (ou deux, ou six) de bierre blonde et du saucisson avec de la musique classique? There is so much to talk about, if I can work my Southern African disguise and passport. The West African one is a bit of a liability in Europe this year, but you know how these things go.

    I must sadly agree with you that the weather in Dar es Salaam was rather untoward during the WEF and I wish I had had your foresight- it was simply not worth the trip. All those investor types, so inured to a diverse civil society perspective! I just don't know what the world is coming to. Money, I guess. Filthy, gorgeous lucre.

    Thank you for the HRI pin by the way- I wore it proudly, but must admit that I was a too busy 'networking' in the Kempinski bar to actually make it to any sessions. I believe I drank 23 out of your 28 affilliates under the table. And then danced on it for good measure, while watching them drool on their iPhones. You really must select some sturdier livers.

    Skipping those boring recycled sessions (development, Africa, blah blah blah) was a good thing as it turns out- I understand that some of those unconstructive voices managed to get themselves deported. From Tanzania of all places! Wonderful PR.

    Still, you really must run a workshop for the Birkenstock wearers. I worry about them. I suspect that all that vegetarian food is interfering with their ability to discern between a lucrative opportunity and a disastrous addiction to principle. If only they would at least eat fish. Or chicken. Only freaks don't eat chicken.

    Warm and tipsy regards,
    La Negresse.