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"Smarter Aid, not more Aid!"

Development at all costs? The Areng Valley, too much dogma?

 Kielder Water, Northumberland

Development at all costs? The Areng Valley, too much dogma?

Kielder Water in Northumberland is a fantastic man-made but still natural resource. Not only has it fulfilled its original aim of guaranteeing water supplies to people, but it is now a treasured recreational facility and with the Kielder Forest, an abundant supply of sustainable timber.  I do remember though that there was controversy before it was approved for construction.  I went to see what would eventually be the new shore-line, as trees were felled. I have asked the Research Unit if they can remind me of the consultation processes that allowed the project to proceed. Today, I do not think there are many dissenters about its value and acceptability. (Even the humble salmon would agree.)
I wonder if that could be the case with the proposed dam for hydro-electricity power in the Areng Valley, Cambodia, in one of the few last pristine tropical forests.

Chong and Phor ethnic minorities, sometimes called Khmer Daeum, are affected and so far simply oppose the plan, or are advised to do that.

Alnwickdotes: No 1 “The Dartford Warbler”

Quite often I tell stories about the lighter things that happen in overseas development work.  One about the “Dartford Warbler” two weeks ago produced the same response from the listener as many before him.  “You should write it up!”  So this is the idea for this series of anecdotes.

The Pantomime of Human Rights

Readers unfamiliar with British theatre and the background to this blog, will need an explanation.  My theme in all postings is to relate earlier experiences in Northumbrian life to contemporary Cambodia, and/or to developing countries generally, for lessons to be shared.  The Theatre Royal in Newcastle dates back to 1788, and the present fine building to 1837.  Nobody today would deny that the UK in those days was enlightened when it comes to human rights, but very important reforms were begun, for example in relation to employment and children in 1833.  

Care(less) in the Community

Our Cambodian Children Dancers proving that "we can do"  and that it is not their disability but their ability that matters.  They were taught to peform publicly by our great partners Epic Arts.

The biggest disappointment I have is the slow and non-existent progress in areas of development, where it is clearly needed and perfectly possible to make.  Social protection and services is but one, not just in Cambodia but in other countries where I have worked.  Sometimes it is simply misguided if well-intentioned projects that have not worked.  Most often, it is because of a real lack of will in top leadership to make things happen.  In Cambodia, a lack of compassion for poor; vulnerable and disabled people is often dismissed as “due punishment this life for sins in a past life”.

At the borders of Northumberland for many years, to emulate Shakespeare’s or Thomas Hardy’s country, we used to have “Welcome to Catherine Cookson” signs.

A blessed and charmed childhood

 Dunstanborough Castle

Dunstanborough Castle formed the northerly point of our childhood coastal playground in the 1950/60s.  We wandered freely up and down the coast, from Alnmouth or Amble, all the way past Boulmer, around Howick; up to Craster and beyond. Bamburgh, occasionally Holy Island, was as far as our little legs on our bikes would take us. During school holidays we would camp out, away from home for days on end. We were relatively care-free and safe. For today’s children, life is more restricted.  Holidays, as I blogged last year, are when a child is most at-risk.  In Cambodia that risk is increasingly from holiday-makers. This is why I co-ordinate and join colleagues in campaigning for more responsible tourism. (If you are interested in spreading the word, please follow us on social media or e-mail me.

Now I do want to make a very important distinction. 

"Smarter Aid, not more Aid!"

Photo: flettrek.wordpress.com
Built to Last.  Robert Stephenson’s 28 Arch English/Scottish Border Bridge has lasted since 1850. 

January 2019: Latest Blog on Foreign Aid: The Unlikely Foreign Aid Worker

In most professions like doctors, lawyers, and teachers, practitioners maintain direct or close contact with clients even after attaining leadership positions.  In Foreign Aid almost all top professionals are as far removed as possible from clients in all respects. Some may once have been practitioners in the field, but the system and culture soon elevates them away, to seniority in capitals in developing countries, with the most successful back to home countries and aid agency HQs.  Does this disconnect between professionals and their clients in #foreignaid help to explain its ineffectiveness?

Main Blog

Why is longevity elusive to aid and development professionals? 

Whenever I am in Northumberland and watching TV, I keep seeing numerous advertisements from charities.  They follow the same style.  They depict pictures of hardship to evoke pity and ask you to hand over cash.  If you do not feel guilty when not doing so, you may take comfort in that your tax has helped the UK Government to meet its over-generous commitment to devote 0.7% of GDP to overseas aid, and thus claim moral leadership among the world’s rich nations.

They are misguided.

Some celebrity donors around the world learned the hard way.