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.