Monday, April 4, 2011

Same Same but Different

After a mildly satisfying mid-morning round on the estate's 19 holes I have retired to the presidential suite where I am currently washing down a complementary ferrero rocher with a glass of new-world bubbly, chilled to the right temperature.

Which is just as well with the scorching heat out there.

The view from the stately terrace is pleasant: generous streams of pulverized water intended to keep the golf course proper allow a rainbow to form over the fake dunes towards the pyramids, a vista almost apt to bring a tear or two to yours truly hardened eyes.

The soundtrack is Lionel Ritchie, straight off an ear-worm acquired during the trip from the airport out of the tin speakers of my driver's cellphone.

The roads were quieter than usual but should you be concerned, I am happy to report that the well publicized changes have not much affected the trim of the golf course and neither have they affected the life-saving work HRI is doing here in the area of capacity building.

Quite to the contrary.

Of course HRI has never struggled to get funded around here - what with the special relationship between Egypt and a certain mythical place south of Canada - but things are getting better by the day, reader, in case you thought they wouldn't. The game is changing naturally. It is the dawn of a new era folks but even new eras need adequate capacity (or was it capacities, plural?) and they need gestures from countries south of Canada that reassures them and keeps everyone sweet.

Mubarak who? Oh, that old crook? That's all from the days of realpolitik, people, the fly-by-night days of gang-ho “middle east politics”. These days it's all about democracy, the poor, the vulnerable and those in desperate need of capacity.

The not-yet-capacitated billion, The People in the Names of...

I am reminded by a hospitality card in the hotel that recently we have marked the International Water Day (where "marked" is an euphemism for "organized dignified functions where discerning individuals of my persuasion pat each-other's back over fingerfood"*). The fine hotel here has done its part by ensuring that the ice-cold water brought by colonial-era dressed staff to the guests on the golf course is bottled in reusable containers and that discerning visitors have an opportunity to leave their spare change in an HRI branded envelope, complete with “award-winning” pictures of starving children taken by star-photographers somewhere in a nasty country not-so-near you and, for your box-ticking pleasure, a practical list of worthy causes your spare change might be used for – an enterprise that surely must be recognized as a cutting edge example of public-private-partnership, another area where HRI excels.

You might have guessed: I am in Egypt to relaunch one of HRI's flagship programs in the region, aimed at “enhancing” the capacity of Egypt's civil society and to “empower” communities to take a “gender-mainstreamed”, “rights-based” approach to development.

As it happens, a funding mechanism has been in place between HRI and a country South of Canada in Egypt for the last three years, and what better way to channel new money, “change money” to the needy masses than this existing mechanism? When lives are at stake and speed of deployment is of essence competing for funds would be an unrealistic, unnecessary distraction. Besides, when funding capacity you want to work with reliable, known entities. The ones that have proven themselves over decades of successes everywhere where aid is needed.

Welcome friends, to a new era.

* In case you wonder, I spent my World Water Day at a dignified function just outside Cape-Town, hosted on a tasteful wine estate, 10 minutes or so from the eye-sore of Khayelitsha, a depressing, miserable, WASH-less place that could very likely be visible from space but not so from the hills nearby, as it has been thankfully fenced off by the authorities, lest the squalor would spread to the dignified suburbs, magically close and yet so far away. At the end of the day, like the city itself, someone's gotta be working for you.

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