10 December 2007

Work update

Work is going okay. On the micro level it’s going quite well. I have the time and motivation to coach a couple of guys to do some project management. Also we finished a project quite successfully which I was quite pleased with. We also held a seminar and got some agreement from some government people for some actions relating to collecting statistics and some guy from one of the UN agencies in Bangkok came to speak and initiated some good discussion.

On the macro level, our management system is a bit weak at the moment. Some people have left the organisation that probably needs to be replaced. We have been successful in getting some new volunteers and a small bit of funding in the past few weeks. But we really need much more funding to go on. In Australia a non- profit organisation could probably apply for government grants or do fundraising from the public. This is not so in Laos. There are few Lao non- profit organisations and this is likely to be one of the reasons. The government and public do not have the resources to support non- profit organisations. Foreign aid is really the only source funding, which is a challenge. I’m guess it’s good challenge for me- it wouldn’t be so fun for me if we got more reliable funding like the international NGOs and UN agencies do.

Sometimes I think this aid work is an odd thing. I only ever thought of coming here as working for an organisation that happens to be in a least developed country, not that I would be doing aid work. People have asked me to stay, but I can’t really imagine doing development work as a career. I love doing it as a volunteer where I am paid not so much and have the luxury of working one- on- one with people helping develop their skills. I hope to do this again in my lifetime but with bigger and better skills. I couldn’t do development work an environment where most of the time the work needs to be done and it means that it would be quicker for me to do it than to develop the skills for someone else to do. I’ve heard that the Netherlands are quite set in the way they deliver aid. They say they are not allowed to implement anything- they are only allowed to give advice. I think this is an interesting thought.

I also couldn’t imagine being paid over 10 times a local person to be doing the same job, or negotiate the best salary possible in my own interests. They have a system here where if a local person and an expatriate were going for the same job the expatriate go the job they would be paid about 5 to 10 times more. I suppose the low wage encourages the employer to hire the local person. But I would be uncomfortable with that gap with others working in an office. Some argue that the expatriate might have financial commitments in their own country and in the future, but I’m not sure I feel comfortable with this argument.

Another funny thing about aid is the amount of work that is repeated. In the field I work in, there is far less cooperation than I would have expected. There are so many agencies working here. There are different versions of the same agency working here eg Lao Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, Australian Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Netherlands Red Cross and French Red Cross down the same alleyway in Vientiane. There is Save the Children Norway and Save the Children Australia. I’m pretty sure there are two Oxfams here also. Surely this can’t be the most efficient model? From how I see it is that because there is no money in this business, people are all trying to gain recognition, they want to believe they have made the most difference, trying to be heroes. I suppose the more recognition they get the more funding they could get. I suppose in developed countries these services would be provided or supported by the government where funding is more reliable and hence while there is overlap, there is probably not so much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dear t-lao
i have just overflown your comments on the non-cooperation between organisations, in particular the red cross.
as a member of swiss red cross, allow me to explain how the cooperation between the different red cross organisations works very briefly:
lao red cross is the only red cross society in Laos and is based on a prime minister decree. the other red cross societies you mention (i.e. Swiss, French, Danish etc) are in Laos on invitation of the Lao Red Cross and assist in its development. LRC has apointed their partners to different provinces. and all work along the different strategies of LRC (development strategy, health strategy, disaster management etc).
i agree with you that coordination can always be imporved and is most of the time far from being perfect. but to say that the different red crosses work without such coordination is missleading.
for more general information you can consult the home page of the international federation of red cross and red crescent societies www.ifrc.org or the international committee of red cross www.icrc.org

best regards,