Welcome to JP Melville's review, experience, and statement on foreign aid and the international development industry. A conservative faith in family. A love affair riding the riotous tensions between money, personal freedom, the majestic travesty of our specie's ecological footprint, and economic politics. Selected writing of both prose and poetry, anecdotal travel log to rhetorical essay, dating back from the 1980's to the present. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Understanding International Aid - The Psychosis of a Courtier in Development

I am, or have been, what is called an international development professional.  What is a development professional?  In short, we work in or provide services to international institutions.  These purportedly aim at reducing social and economic disparity, minimizing poverty if you wish, between nations and peoples on this planet.  Some of these institutions are government agencies of wealthy nations.  Many are called non-government organizations, popularly known as NGOs, and they are funded at least in part by the private sector.  Other institutions are multi-lateral, funded by more than one government, like the World Bank and the United Nations.  There are hundreds of these institutions.  And certainly thousands of us.  International development is big business.

Here, in these pages, I am attempting to come to terms with what I have experienced on a personal level.  If it were a professional account, the book would be littered with footnotes and references and language that would often be inaccessible to the ordinary reader.  As an example:

Here we refer specifically to the matrix form used in the Logical Framework Approach called the Logical Framework Analysis, logical framework, logframe, or LFA.  (The LFA) is a key building block during project planning helping to focus discussion on the expected results, beneficiaries (target groups), the performance indicators and potential risks.[1]

One wonders just what an LFA is, if it is an approach, an analysis, a framework, or a frame.  But such wondering is not what I am at.  Nor am I fixed on dates or precisely who did what, the journalist’s approach.  Clarification of obtuse language and the provision of facts are not my strong point, which, in part probably make me not a very good professional.  Professionals are full of clarity, facts, and certainty.  That’s what they get paid for.  They get paid for truth.  And I just cannot seem to get my hands gripping so easily onto truth.

However, I once did.  Over ten years ago when parts of this blog began to appear out of nowhere, I had a faith in liberal humanism, as though such philosophical thought was true, in the sense of truth.  Truth, it seemed to me then, was easy to see.  And only short discussion and a few pokes at clearly fatuous thought, would turn anyone into a liberal minded humanist.  Obviously, they would also then dive gloriously into democracy.  Soon enough we would figure out whatever we had to figure out together because we would be clearly on the same enlightened path.  We would be conscious, ethical, pleasantly disturbed with complexity and our resulting uncertainty and doubt.  Mindful of criticism, we would always seek a way to cooperate and to adjust not only our public lives but also our personal lives. 

Well, ten years plus have passed.  I remain a liberal thinking humanist.  But my faith has evaporated and I expect very little from anyone else.

I think the kicker has been this charade in Afghanistan, the Middle East and, of course, in Washington and on Wall Street.  Out here in the wild world of international development professionals, we are only getting more and more jobs and, of course, richer in the process.  In the meantime, while the sales of armaments are escalating, we are aware of an increasing rate and degree of human disparity that is mind boggling all while the planet is diving headlong into a new and unimaginable, systemic alteration of ecology.  In theory, as professionals we consider ourselves responsible for these issues.  What gets me is that my and my professional pals’ feet never quite touch this turf.  I mean, we head into Iraq after the bombs fall and into famine after people starve; but none of us would suggest that our jobs depend on bombs and famine rather than averting them.  It is as though we live in a new strata of the planet’s biosphere: present, but whisking away invisibly when scrutinized under any microscope, curving in time and space such that we are never quite where we thought or think we are, as though our gravitational pull is toward a society with tremendous psychological density, yet no mass.  The geographers and the physicists will have to figure this one out.

So, I have wondered what to call this blog entry.  I mean, what do you call an entry, or an entire blog if at its root it is about something no one knows? 

My father, once upon a long time ago a psychiatrist, would help me with a title.  I can hear him telling me, simply: psychosis.  Delusions of reality. I am adding two key words: courtier and utopia.  An Alice in Wonderland world.  Many thanks to my literary friends, most of whom I have never met, who have given me a sense of the horror that the combination of these terms imply.

JP Melville
An Idea Conceived in Bamako, Mali

[1] Of course, I must footnote this quote.  From : Overview of the Bilateral Project Cycle.  Asia Branch, Americas Branch, Africa & Middle East Branch, Canadian International Development Agency.  February 1999.

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