Tuesday, April 12, 2011

10 Remarkable Individuals in Aid

  1. That guy who, having been an incompetent bureaucrat his whole career, has become an efficient, result-oriented employee after having attended a HRI management training;
  2. The guy who changed his domestic ways to become a loving, caring husband after having been exposed once at a road-crossing to a billboard that said: "Stop GBV Now! (HRI with support from Country South of Canada)";
  3. The underpaid employee of a community-based HRI affiliate who felt a sudden commitment-inducing calling after a brief meeting with a HRI consultant who spoke to him about HRIs "Vision and Mission Statement" during a short field-trip;
  4. The Donor representative who, every month, reads every one of the 76 reports they receive from relevant HRI affiliates and therefore has a very clear idea of what each affiliate is doing and where they need most support;
  5. The refugee-camp dweller whose quality of life has suddenly improved after her camp was visited briefly by Angelina, who successfully "declared" an "end to violence now";   
  6. The inhabitant of the village in "Africa" whose life has changed to the better once she received a slightly used pair of shoes from a mythical place South of Canada;
  7. The owner of a yogurt-business in Baltimore who succeeded to "give something back" during his one-month trip to the Philippines, when he gave a free lecture abut yogurt to a group of local entrepreneurs, facilitated by his local church back home;   
  8. The government employee who has successfully made the transition from a cynical, underpaid, mis-qualified relative-of-someone-important to a dynamic, modern element of change in the government, after having interacted with a HRI "Technical Advisor" during a capacity building workshop;
  9. The guy who returned part of his per-diem after a trip to Nairobi, claiming that the three meals and tea offered during the training were quite sufficient for his subsistence; 
  10. The "social media enthusiast" who learns something from the daily platitudes posted on the HRI official twitter account ("HRI Executive Director mentions importance of right-based approach in speech given at meeting with African Delegates") 
Here's to all these remarkable people. The world of aid would just not be the same without you.

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.