Friday, January 28, 2011

NGO Jargon

The Economist has a nice little article on how the language of aid has already crept its way into the vocabulary of South Sudan.

All the favourite words of NGO-speak are now aired in the makeshift corridors and canteens of Juba, the fledgling capital. Top of the list are “empowerment”, “capacity-building” and “stakeholder” (not someone actually carrying a stake). “Governance”, “civil society”, “facilitators” and “disadvantaged” follow fast behind. British NGOs have a fondness for “focal groups”. Americans like anything that leads to “inclusion”, especially of the “excluded”.
Its funny because its true. When interacting with the local population you can't help but notice the proficiency that the most seemingly uneducated individual has in the processes of aid and development.

Its sad because its true. The problem (if it is in fact a problem) is that they view the aid industry as a profit making machine, and so to familiarise oneself with how the system works translates into knowing how to benefit the most from it. Whether its through gaining employment or straight up just receiving free shit, one needs to know the language to be able to understand when opportunities arise and how to benefit.

Now I don't have the numbers to be able to determine how much the aid industry actually indirectly sustains the population here (i.e. not through the actual provision of aid), but it feels like it would be quite significant. Cue Roving Bandit to tell us all about how it would be far more efficient and simple to just hand out cash.

Still, nothing like seeing the joy in an old ladies face as she tells you about how she has been the beneficiary of all sorts of interventions and now has mad capacity......

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oppositions in Revolutions (photo update)

With the Tunisians taking back their country from their once dictator, Ben Ali, commentators are now predicting a ripple effect where the people under the same form of dictatorship will be inspired to also mutiny in the streets in hopes of achieving the same revolutionary results. We are already seeing this happen in Egypt (Yemen, Saudi Arabia), where the government is typically very swift in their reaction to quell any dissent. I mean these guys are extremely organised in their anti-riot procedures.

I was caught in a demonstration in Al-Azhar mosque during Israel's invasion of Gaza and when I eventually got outside, the generals had set up a nice little couch outside and had guys dressed in French waiter's outfits to serve them tea as they watched their soldiers beat on the protesters (click photo to enlarge).

I digress…..

Now what - I believe - makes the Tunisian revolution (if you please) so inspiring and replicable is the fact that it was the people, and only the people that rose up against the government. Not some opposition party with its own agendas and struggle for power. Explanation you ask?

Well an opposition led uprising can quiet easily be made to look like an insurgency/coup and will therefore receive less sympathy from the public as a whole as well as the international community.

An opposition party led revolution is limited by its supporters because the changes they are pushing for will be based on their own agenda, one that may not be in line with public as a whole. On the other hand, when the agenda is a clear and simple "removal of the current power", it becomes much easier for everyone who has suffered under that authority to become a stakeholder in the movement without fear of what may replace it. Obviously, not knowing what may fill that power vacuum can be apprehensive, but its less apprehensive and more focusing than having to worry about supporting a movement that will put someone that you are suspicious of in power. Therefore, to get the massive public support, you don't want to cloud their thoughts with negative thoughts of the potentially dismal future, rather, you want to keep the focus on the liberation of the people from tyranny.

That’s why I think the Muslim Brotherhood made an excellent decision to not involve itself in the ongoing movement in Egypt. It is also probably why ElBaradei is merely joining protests and not leading them. (So much for that - they are still playing it cool and not hijacking the whole thing though)

Over in Sudan (the bit in the north), there have been minor scale protests, not so much against the leadership but rather the ending of subsidies on food and fuel. The coalition of opposition parties has naturally used this to bring forward threats that a similar situation as that in Tunisia could be repeated here/there (Where am I?). However, Bashir, whilst seemingly sinister to the international community, actually has quite the support base locally. Also, since the opposition parties are many and not really in line with each other, it’s really hard for the public to get behind them and execute a concerted revolt. Instead, the smooth war criminal can confidently say stuff like:

"The day we feel that the people reject us we will go out to them in the streets so that they can throw stones on us…. We will not go outside Sudan [if a revolution breaks out] but we will be buried here".

He was also confident and cheeky enough to state that the Sudanese people had disappointed the opposition parties by not going out in full to protest the recent increases in food prices.

The Satellite Sentinel Striptease

Are you bored of only being able to only indulge in outdated conflict porn? Are you like me and only enjoy the youngest and freshest of conflicts? Because the fact of the matter is that its not really voyeurism if its not live…..

Well then put away those photos of blown up little children from the 2003 Iraq War, because now, thanks to the Satellite Sentinel Project, you can get the latest in human carnage. Satellite Sentinel Project brings you up to date satellite images of the latest in bloody conflict.

Sounds promising right? Well, just like any other type of porn, the marketing is always a great exaggeration of the the product.

This is what you get:

I find the tire tracks of light armoured vehicles as sexy as the next guy would, but seriously? What a cock-tease……..

Friday, January 21, 2011

And the results are out

Well.....maybe not officially. So save your celebrations and/or violence for February 14th after all appeals have been dealt with.....or 7th of February if there are no appeals.

South Sudan Referendum Results 2011

It was a close call with that 1.82% voting for Unity. Note the unproportionately (that's apparently not a word) high number of invalid and blank votes in the 2 capitals, Juba and Khartoum*. Prize goes to the best/funniest/ most elaborate explanation.

*Obviously Im assuming a large number of these votes are coming from the capital city, based on the assumption that a majority of Southerners in CE and "the North" can be found in the capital cities

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Are good intentions necessary?

Over at Practical Wisdom, Kenneth Sharpe and Barry Schwartz discuss, using the example of microfinance, how bad intentions can destroy good ideas.

What could be better than the spreading of a good idea? But not so fast. What has spread to these profit-centered, public companies is the technique of microcredit, but not the intention behind it. Compelled to satisfy shareholders, these new microcredit institutions have been charging interest rates that are as usurious as the ones that Grameen Bank replaced. The form may be the same, but the underlying intention, the telos, is completely different. And the result is that individuals are being driven into bankruptcy, and villages driven back into poverty, as they try to keep up with their loan payments.

"These institutions are using quite coercive methods to collect," said V. Vasant Kumar, a minister for rural development. "They aren't looking at sustainability or ensuring the money is going to income-generating activities. They are just making money."

As Yunus himself pointed out in an op-ed in the New York Times on January 14, commercialization has been a terrible wrong turn for microcredit. The volatility of the financial markets from which the commercial companies get their funds, together with the demand from shareholders for ever-increasing profits, ends up transferring financial risks to the poor-those who can least afford to assume them.

So, is a good idea all we need for good results? What about the current Behavioural Economics trend being adopted by governments (e.g. the UK's 'Nudge Unit')? Is it enough to simply condition people to behave in a desirable way or should we be encouraging actual changes in intentions?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Referendum Party

Once the voting is complete, everyone's gonna be pretty ready to are your instructions:

☆ ★ ☆ ★ ☆ ★ REFERENDUM PARTY ★ ☆ ★ ☆ ★

p.s. How clever is that picture?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Psychology of Persuasion

PsyBlog has completed its excellent long running series on the psychology of persuasion.

Now you can use these tips to go forth and spread terribly conceptualised policies, convince your donors that more money will solve that failing project or maybe even convince the local community that your way, is always the right. Whatever ails you, these tools will help. Because at the end of the day, no matter the discourse, you ARE always right. So why not use these wonderful tips to ensure that your peers and the world 'realise' this.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Get a room Kiir and Bashir

(I love this photo)

“This is a historic credit to President Bashir and the NCP and I further urge him to continue working hand in hand with us to consolidate peace and prosperity for all irrespective of what the referendum holds in store for Sudan,” Salva Kiir

"The ball is in your court and the decision is yours. If you say unity, welcome. And if you say secession, also welcome, and welcome to a new brotherly state...We are going to cooperate and integrate in all areas because what is between us is more than what is between any other countries" Omar Al Bashir

It seems that gone are the days of blaming each other for stirring trouble. And with only a week left to go before the referendum, this is impeccable timing.

Now some may argue that this rhetoric is some devious propaganda strategy to set a baseline image of themselves as being the 'good guy', but I like to be naive and take it as good grace and a promising sign of peace. I guess both sides have come to terms with the strategic importance and benefits of cooperation.

“We will call and work for creating relations based on cooperation and promotion of common interests, and to present a role model in maintaining joint security and exchanging interests as well as looking after social relations and ties of blood, kinship and history,” Bashir

The beauty of it all makes me want to throw up......but I love it.

“We will call and work for creating relations based on cooperation and promotion of common interests, and to present a role model in maintaining joint security and exchanging interests as well as looking after social relations and ties of blood, kinship and history,” Bashir