Saturday, 16 November 2013

Disasterjunkie DJ's emergency ipod - Top 20 chart run down.

ipod touch case
Hello popsters! 

Are back-to-back emergencies getting you down? No time to grab a moment to yourself? Team-housemates getting on your nerves? 

Disasterjunkie DJ is back with a top 20 chart run down to banish those blues, so kick back, plug in and enjoy!

20. "I ain't got no home", a timeless Woody Guthrie song sung by Billy Bragg, should strike a chord with many a nomadic humanitarian. Give it up for the Braggster!

19. "Passengers" by Elton John, or rather the specific lyric "deny the passengers who want to get on..." will bring back memories of interminable waits in foreign domestic airports, while the video reminds us of the fashions still available in local markets up the road from said airports. 

18. "Just like a woman" by Bob Dylan, a true classic and is dedicated to all those people, colleagues or otherwise, who still struggle to understand what gender mainstreaming is all about. 

17. "Where did all the good people go" by Jack Johnson laments the harsh reality when experienced humanitarians are rotated on to the next emergency leaving hard-to-fill shoes behind or the collective sigh under the breath when colleagues belonging to other organs from the higher echelons of humanitarian architecture are promoted to a higher level of incompetence.

16. "Eight days a week" by The Beatles is as fresh today as it was when it was first released and will resonate with all of you who cry with laughter when reading the hours written in to your contract, which you and I both know, is a work of fiction.

15. "Our house" by Madness gives a warm, fuzzy glow to the most extreme team-abode, whether it is a collective tent, a cluster of tukuls, or concrete box of a house with the outdoor pit latrine, electric fence, sleeping guards and so on and madness it surely is...

14. "I've gotta get a message to you" by The Bee Gees is dedicated to all of the humanitarians around the world, who were in the field before the advent of facebook and twitter and tried their utmost to send letters home by donkey, moped, boat, small plane, large plane, 4 by 4 and via the multi-pocketed jacket or waistcoat of fellow aidworkers on their way to R&R with the promise of a cool beer "if you could post this for me when you reach <insert city>".

13. "A little less conversation" by Elvis Presley remixed by JXL, or specifically the line "A little less conversation a little more action please" will sound familiar when waiting on a decision from HQ or cluster coordination meeting (sorry did I just use 'decision' and 'cluster' in the same sentence? ...mea culpa)

12. "Express yourself" by Labrinth celebrates the individuality (or perceived individuality) of aidworkers the world over who proudly wear ethnic jewelry, henna tattoos, hair braids, loud African or Indonesian print trousers, desert boots, teva sandals, RayBans and various bags made out of recycled WFP food sacks.

11. "Love is a battlefield" by Pat Benatar is an ode to humanitarian lovers everywhere, who met on mission...but did your love make it? Only you can decide...

10. "I need a dollar" by Aloe Blacc heralds that uncomfortable feeling when working round the clock to submit yet another funding proposal or when your R&R budget didn't quite stretch to cover a visit to the local spa.

9. "A whiter shade of pale" by Procol Harum aptly describes the appearance of British humanitarians arriving in the field for the first time, or when they experience their first ever tropical intestinal parasite or the morning-after-the-night-before heavy, all-night NGO party.

8. "Under pressure" by Queen rings alarm bells for those of you who know only too well what it feels like when your HQ insists that you magic a multi-sectoral emergency relief programme out of virtually nothing under the glare of media spotlight while rivals proudly display the merits of unrestricted rapid emergency response funding.

7. "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, will tug at the heartstrings of the most hardcore of aidworkers, when packing and unpacking rucksacks for the umpteenth time.

6. "Young, wild and free" by Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa ft. Bruno Mars tips a nod to the youthfulness of humanitarians who still feel 17 years (or the age when they first went on mission) inside because "conflict zones make you feel so alive you know" and the unwritten motto "work hard, play even harder".

5. "One day/reckoning song" by Asaf Avidan could refer to upward and downward accountability but the lyric "one day baby we'll be old..." is a dead giveaway exposing the illusion of number 6.

4. "Pumped up kicks" by Foster the People is dedicated to all of us who feel that adrenalin rush whether we like it or not during know what I'm talking about.

3. "Roar" by Katy Perry is a ferocious take on those 'straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back moments' when aid cargo is stuck at customs, visas are refused, security incidents prevent movement, team members are playing up, there are more needs than resources, there's an idiot in charge of inter-agency coordination, CNN is in your face, flag-waving territory-grabbing newbie aid organisations get up your nose and one of your ex's turns up in a position of influence...yep, "You're gonna hear me roar" alright!

2. "Blurred lines" by Robin Thicke ft. T.I and Pharrell will resonate with those who have experienced awkward civil-military relations. Let's give it up for humanitarian space, the final frontier!

1. "One thing" by One Direction might seem an odd choice for number one but its kind of all encompassing and all consuming, which emergency situations themselves often are. You see there will always be one thing you will forget to do on your never-ending to do list, always one thing more that the people you have come to serve will want or need, which you can't meet and  always one thing that unites us  humanitarians wherever we are - the love of humanity itself. Give yourselves a pat on the back. All that is asked of you is to do your best and not one thing more. 

Peace and love to all... xxx

Announcing the Blonde Bombshell in Crises facebook page!

Hello readers, 

Not content to stay tucked away on this corner of the worldwide blogosphere the Blonde Bombshell in Crises has branched out and launched her very own facebook page. 

See it here. Like it if you dare!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The DaO of UNDAF

"One love, one blood
One life, you got to do what you should
One life, with each other
Sisters, brothers
One life but we're not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other


- U2

The term 'dao' may refer to a Chinese philosophical concept meaning 'The Way'

or alternatively a Chinese type of sword used for slashing and chopping. In UN-speak it is an acronym for Delivering as One. The purpose of the Delivering as One initiative is to make the United Nations system more coherent, efficient and therefore effective and focusses on four key principles namely one leader, one budget, one programme and one office. DaO could be construed as 'The Way' forward to slashing budgets and chopping off unnecessary bureaucratic bits.

It came out of a High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in 2006 and was piloted in eight countries - Albania, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uruguay and Viet Nam. Subsquently, the UN adopted the approach in several 'self-starter' countries and is gradually creeping across the globe.

How noble and novel a notion it is to imagine that the UN system could deliver on its humanitarian, development and environment objectives in harmony as though it is one entity. Afterall the very name 'United Nations' conjures up the illusion that nations are in agreement and forging ahead towards global oneness, working tirelessly together to achieve joint goals, underpinned by core values and principles. In reality, the work is carried out by a plethora of UN departments, entities and organisations, which have mushroomed over the years to include numerous committees and commissions, 21 departments and offices, 11 programmes and funds, 6 research institutions, 15 specialised agencies and a handful of other entities and related organisations. In reality, dare I suggest that the UN system could be the largest and most dysfunctional family in the world? Shhhh...did I say that out loud? (No, you must have imagined it...time for some R&R).

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for humanitarian agencies and their like working together, sharing resources and expertise to achieve common goals. It makes pragmatic sense. However, having spent a brief period seconded into UN agencies in two UN Country Teams that recently wandered down the DaO yellow brick road, I offer up a couple of reflections into the humanitarian ether.

My first reflection concerns the UNDAF (UN Development Assistance Framework), a strategic programme document between a UN Country Team and a national government that guides collective actions of the United Nations in pursuit of national development priorities. I observed a stage in the UNDAF drafting process, which was very illuminating. Judging by the speed of progress through the various stages of consultation, drafting, re-drafting and validation I estimate that it could take up to two years to actually complete a UNDAF document, which is nearly half of the period of time an actual UNDAF strategy covers. I wonder if the UN has hired any consultants to study the impact of the UNDAF drafting process itself has on delivering ongoing development programmes?  

Talking of external consultants, the UNCT concerned, employed one to write the country situational analysis offshore, with one or two actual visits thrown in to finish off. Now, I don't mean to be funny (oh but I do cries my alter ego, because that is the sole purpose of this blog...) but wouldn't you have thought it more expedient and practical to have in country personnel to draft the SitAn, especially staff who have been there for a while and have picked up knowledge about the socio, political and economic situation, who have built up good working relationships with fellow agencies and Government Counterparts? Not surprisingly the SitAn had to be re-drafted by a small editorial committee drawn from, yes you guessed it, in country UN personnel.

Part of the UNDAF document describes the UN System's comparative advantage in delivering development outcomes. Now, you'd think that if the UN had been present in a country for about 20 years or so, it would be able to articulate its comparative advantage fairly easily but not necessarily. This was an especially painful part of the process not dissimilar from extracting haemoglobin out of a hard piece of the earth's surface. Do I hear the distant, shrill vibrations of alarm bells? I pose the question if the UN cannot articulate its comparative advantage clearly, succinctly and expediently in a given situation, then why is it there? Might it have outstayed its welcome I gingerly suggested as diplomatically as I could manage, in one of the many in house consultative meetings? Going on to dig and even deeper hole for myself, I alluded to the importance of having an exit strategy and suffered the incredulous glares of one or two international career civil servants, whose gast was completely flabbered.

My second reflection, from DaO in a different country, which shall remain nameless, concerns aid architecture. No, I don't mean designs for transitional shelter or avant-garde plans for constructing a UN House but organisational structures that are supposed to help us get the business of aid done. In this particular country the UNCT had set up at least 16 committees to create an enabling environment for the UNCT to work with National Government Counterparts to implement the UNDAF. It occurred to me that this could even be a greater number than the total of UN entities present in country. Of these 16, 10 were task teams on particular themes. As you can well imagine a number of UN staff and their respective counterparts would be required to participate in more than one task team...and so the meetings add up. In contrast few or, in some cases, no implementing partners e.g. NGOs were invited to the task team meetings and invariably there would be additional meetings laid on to engage with civil society. On top of these, 5 humanitarian cluster groups were formed to be 'on standby' in parallel to the existing Government national disaster coordination mechanism, which was already in place at national, regional and district levels.  How daft one might say, the whole caboodle has the makings of one gigantic clusterf*@?k doesn't it? 

Delivering as one charlie foxtrot could never be easier...

Time to join the UNDAFT instead. 

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Things to do at airports 3

We humanitarians carry a LOT of baggage, when going to or returning from our assignments don't we? 

I'm sure you'll agree that it can be a real bummer waiting and waiting at that luggage carousel, like weary twitchers anxiously peering through the crowds for a glimpse of a rare endangered species of the winged variety. Well if you are looking for a way to pass the time at baggage reclaim then take note of this tutorial and let yourself go...

Things to do at airports 2

Are those airport queues getting you down? Are you at the end of your rope and do you long to break free? Well take a tip from Maltesers and try out this diversion activity...

Sunday, 1 September 2013

UNPC - joke of the day

Q: OK so if Apple invented a virtual torture instrument, what would it be called?

A: an i-rack

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Disasterjunkie's Decision Tree

Hello readers!

In the spirit of sharing learning and best practice, here is a handy problem-solving decision tree for those tricky-little trouble-shooting kind of days...and we've all had plenty of those! I would be grateful for your feedback on the effectiveness of this tool.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Washing in Wilderness 3

Are household chores getting you down when you are in the field? Is your laundry lacklustre? Do your safari shirts and branded T-shirts lie in a sorry, saggy heap in the corner of your tukul or tent, feeling neglected while you are out and about on yet another adrenaline-rush-emergency-response? Did you think 'steam iron' referred to a particular golf club used in sweaty, tropical climes in order to reach the 19th hole in time for a nifty G&T sundowner?

Well all that could be about to change. Why not take up that very well known adventure sport, extreme ironing?

Base pressing
Imagine that, wash days will never be the same again. Come rain or shine...

I like my trousers on the rocks, shaken not stirred could travel to some of the most remote, dangerous and inhospitable terrain on the planet...

Would you like your suit dry cleaned Sir? reach that ultimate pinnacle of achievement - a neatly pressed shirt!

Is that a weapon of mass distortion?

Disasterjunkie DJ's emergency ipod - groove on the move

You gotta love the Rolling Stones. They just keep rolling and gather no moss, it seems, as they did not attend Kate Moss's wedding to Jamie Hince  in 2011 as she would have wished but, undeterred, Kate still walked down the aisle to one of their hits, appropriately titled "You can't always get what you want" (aha! a tune to accompany the tricky task of organising targeted relief distributions...).

Anyway, I digress, where was I? Oh yes the Rolling Stones celebrated 50 years in the music business in 2012 by releasing a new album and going on tour, throughout which they embodied a fine example of Active Ageing i.e. "the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age".  Must be all the sex, drugs and rock and roll. I'd like to see the WHO put those on the essential medicines list!

Take Keith Richards for example, what a remarkable feat of resilience, bouncing back from disaster after falling from a coconut tree in Fiji onto his head and going on to actually remember enough of his life to write his autobiography and then become a pirate in the he didn't parley with a palm tree out there!

Oh do excuse me, sidetracked again...Disasterjunkie DJ chooses an upbeat little ditty from their GRRR! album to serenade you on your way to and from your next field assignment. I'm sure you'll find great comfort in the title "Doom and Gloom" and its opening lyrics:

"I had a dream last night that I was piloting a plane...
And all the passengers were drunk and insane..."

Sounds like the average UNHAS or ECHO flight doesn't it? So sit back, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Washing in Wilderness 2 empty and gleaming like a new recruit in the field....oops a bit beyond the pail!

I've recently returned from the other side of the world where I used this little gem for my washing.

Sounds like a relic from the Cold War doesn't it? Anyone would think Maggie Thatcher has returned... I suppose it is declaring a war of sorts, the "war on stains". And the claim that it is outstanding in cold makes me wonder what it is doing in the tropics.... I wonder if they use it in Siberia

I'd be interested to hear from you if you have used any unusual-sounding washing powder or soap while on your travels.....yes I know, I need to get out more!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Cooking in Crisis - 3 The Art of Subversive Cake-baking

If you are reading this you have probably experienced the pain and frustration of being on a dysfunctional team either at home in an HQ environment or in a remote location somewhere in the field. The humanitarian team.... probably the most dysfunctional family in the world, well one of them anyway. No doubt you can clearly recall the inflated egos and insecurities, the abundant emergency elephants-in-rooms and concurrent pussyfooting around them as well as the exaggerated control-freakery that plays out in a drama worthy of a Shakespearean tragicomedy.

Well, in the spirit of capacity development, allow me to let you in on a secret. I stumbled upon a simple tool that can help to bring a smile to the face of the most hardened micro-manager and lift the spirits of downtrodden comrades... subversive cake-baking. Subversive because it is a cunning yet subtle way to change an atmosphere and move things along towards a shared goal with minimum casualties. After all you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar...

Yes believe it or not cupcakes and coordination go hand in hand. Tray bakes and team building were made for each other. Gateau and gung ho is a match made in heaven. 

Go on try it. Suss out your colleagues favourite flavours and plan your culinary attacks to coincide with the stickiest of team meetings. Not only will you have the advantage of the element of surprise, the consequential sugar rush will conclude business faster than you can say fondant fancy. Fancy that? 

And team mealtimes like this...

...will be a thing of the past and you can look forward to this instead:

So put your pinnie, get whipping and you'll be cooking with gas in no time!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Blonde Bombshell in Crisis or case of mistaken identity?

Dear readers,

The Blonde Bombshell in Crises is back on the blog after a bit of a break, having been pootling around in the paradise of Papua New Guinea for a few months.

I felt the urgent need to resume this blog. Why now? Well, dear readers, I feel compelled to clear up some confusion regarding a certain blonde bombshell mentioned in an article in the Metro news on Sunday 3rd February 2013. The title reads "Rush-hour crush goes in search of charity worker who caught blonde bombshell's eye" and you can read the article by clicking on the title.

Apparently the metro blonde bombshell wrote "To the guy in the City Year red jacket at Old Street. You're tall, not so dark, but still handsome. This tall, blonde, cougar wants you all to herself." 

As a consequence, several men volunteering for City Year, thought they fitted that description and were obviously up for some cougar lovin' and here is their response:


 A friend of mine notified me of this article by text. Is someone pretending to me moi? Or is it just an unfortunate coincidence? I say 'unfortunate' coincidence because my reputation is at stake. As much as I love reading about urban love stories (a guilty pleasure, I know, but it does help to alleviate stress), I wish to put the record straight and tell you in no uncertain terms that the blonde bombshell of metro-land is not me but a clear case of mistaken identity.

You'll just have to trust me on that. But knowing that you humanitarians and charity workers sometimes have the tendency to slip into cynicism now and again, (and it is understandable after all you have been through), I state my case as follows:

1. Old Street is not my work or playground. My travels take me beyond the London underground, as many of you can testify to....and the last time I checked Old Street had not suffered a conflict or natural disaster crisis.

2. Daaahhhlings I do not need to advertise in the Metro. Why would I? (I am happily spoken for...)

3. Sweeties I am but a kitten, not a cougar! Fluffily gamboling through the meadows of life. I thought that was obvious.......prrrrrrrrrrr. Predation on unsuspecting young things is not my forte.

I'm sure that clears things up!

To the blonde bombshell in metro-land I sincerely wish you all the best in tracking down your guy and may you live happily ever after.

To metro readers, do try and match them up by Valentine's Day, what a coup that would be (of the non-military-revolution kind).

To the City Year guys, keep up the good work and if you fancy some pre-dates with other blonde bombshells then give Humanitarian Dating a whirl.

Its the humane way to find the person of your dreams...