Monday, November 10, 2008

Blog Spotlight: Blood and Milk

Lots of blogs to choose what's the best?? (photo source: Annie Mole)

I regularly read several blogs on my feed (thank god for Google Reader!). Not all are good or even remotely interesting...most are just noise...but it takes time to determine this. It can be overwhelming!

As I come across really good and relevant blogs particularly with regards to global development, I'll highlight them here. I hope that you will do the same for me.

One of the blogs that I've stumbled across and greatly enjoy, is this extremely well-written blog called Blood and Milk. Written and maintained by Alanna Shaikh, an experienced international aid worker, it provides a perspective on field work, and examines ideas and practices that work in the field of international aid. I particularly like how honest and analytical she is (both rare traits in this field) and how she is trying to open up the often glamorized, and secretive world of aid and disaster relief to the public.

Here is a sample of one of her posts, titled Ethics and International Development. It highlights issues that have personally frustrated me, and few others realize...
On the surface, relief and development seems like the simplest, most ethical work in the world. Helping people in need looks easy. Like most work worth doing, though, it’s extraordinarily complicated.

These are just a few, representative, ethical dilemmas:
1. Giving stuff instead of training and capacity building creates a culture of dependency. People rely on what you are giving them instead of finding a way to get it themselves. They get in the habit of looking outside their communities for positive change. And when you stop providing aid, they’ll have lost the skill of providing for themselves. Providing training and technical assistance requires huge amounts of money to be paid to outside experts, while leaving immediate needs unmet.

2. Hiring your staff locally and paying them well distorts the local labor market and pulls local talent away from government, local NGOs, and other domestic institutions. Paying market average salaries makes it hard to recruit and retain staff. It leaves your staff struggling to survive, and guarantees resentment of expatriate employees. Programs based on expat labor don’t help the local economy, and they cost a fortune.

3. Following host government policy will often require you to move so slowly that people suffer, waiting for your programs to get going. You may be forced to use outdated models for your programs. Ignoring host government policy erodes local capacity and weakens the government, which can lead to mass suffering if the government loses control of the country.

4. Paying bribes to get things done promotes a culture of corruption and is illegal under US law. Refusing to pay bribes will get you kicked out of the country, abandoning your partner communities.
[read more...]

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