The arse-end of nowhere

30 May

This post is no longer available on this blog.

This post is now part of J.’s book, Letters Left Unsent, available on Amazon (click the image below to visit the Amazon purchase page).

 

8 Responses to “The arse-end of nowhere”

  1. Anonymous 30 May, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    la la la I can’t hear you la la la

  2. angelica 30 May, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    I knew them as “shit holes” but same paradigm applies.

  3. John Rougeux 30 May, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Well put. I’ve not worked for an NGO, but have spent some of time in places that could be considered the “arse-end” of nowhere. I wonder how people who live there would describe those places?

  4. Carol Jean Gallo 30 May, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Yeah, I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable with “shithole,” because even if it’s not the nicest place to be for you it’s still someone else’s home. Arse-end of nowhere is better; in a Douglas Adams-esque way highlights the isolation of these places.

    A nice post (as usual). Resonant with a lot of thinking I have done for the past few years, and continue to do, about the whole international aid paradigm and practice and what can/should/must change and whether “development” is a very good word or concept to be using. It’s why I’m increasingly reading and writing and incorporating anthropology into my research.

    The image you create of the NGO reality as parallel to the arse-end of nowhere realities is an interesting one; I hadn’t really looked at it from that angle before. In each environment you’re doing what you have to do to get by and tentatively take the next step…. An anthropologist should do a study of Western NGO culture.

    (If you still haven’t picked up a copy of The Selfish Altruist, you should– I think a lot of what Vaux says would really hit home for you.)

  5. solemu 2 June, 2011 at 7:43 pm #

    Common sense at its best!

  6. Just another desk officer in HQ A-EON 6 June, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    YES. Oh yes, so true and so maddening and so sad. Here’s a classic example where HQ arse-end of nowhere (A-EON) mentality makes work in the real A-EON even harder: One of our disaster relief projects is at a stand-still. Why? We managed to pull strings and get approval from the local health department and government, we figured out how to procure and truck in several tons of rations through flooded and generally terrible roads, and we worked out a system to ensure that the food was reaching thousands of families suffering from recent disasters. What we can NOT figure out, is how to convince our finance department to let the program buy firewood without receipts in the communities so that the women receiving the rations will actually be able to cook the food.

    Come on people. Yes, receipts are good. Yes, in principal I support legal transactions and paying taxes. But needless to say, this is happening in the arse-end of nowhere, where formal accounting practices are scarce…How has this problem not been resolved and why am I even hearing about it at a desk in HQ?

    I don’t blame either side for this (programs or finance). It’s way bigger than that. How have we arrived at this point where following the rules and protecting our NGO’s reputation requires as much patience and tenacity as getting food to hungry people in a remote and hostile corner of the world? Why do we create or tolerate the inflexibility and barriers to making progress?

    Is it an unavoidable function of size? Just too many cooks in the kitchen to maintain any level of trust or shared vision of what we’re trying to do and how we should go about doing so? Perhaps if there were smaller NGOs and a fewer actors in the humanitarian community (and less stories of rampant corruption and wacky programs), we’d be able to maintain more flexibility.

    Or is it just this organization?
    There’s gotta be a better way…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Volkswagen « Tales From the Hood - 5 June, 2011

    […] deserved, withdrawn or perhaps never granted. Salaries not high enough. More frequent travel to the arse-ends of nowhere than to life-saving meetings in the humanitarian capitals. Putting up with all manner of annoyance […]

  2. Volkswagen | Fragile States dot com - 6 June, 2011

    […] deserved, withdrawn or perhaps never granted. Salaries not high enough. More frequent travel to the arse-ends of nowhere than to life-saving meetings in the humanitarian capitals. Putting up with all manner of annoyance […]

Pearls of wisdom

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: