Friday, January 28, 2011

NGO Jargon

The Economist has a nice little article on how the language of aid has already crept its way into the vocabulary of South Sudan.

All the favourite words of NGO-speak are now aired in the makeshift corridors and canteens of Juba, the fledgling capital. Top of the list are “empowerment”, “capacity-building” and “stakeholder” (not someone actually carrying a stake). “Governance”, “civil society”, “facilitators” and “disadvantaged” follow fast behind. British NGOs have a fondness for “focal groups”. Americans like anything that leads to “inclusion”, especially of the “excluded”.
Its funny because its true. When interacting with the local population you can't help but notice the proficiency that the most seemingly uneducated individual has in the processes of aid and development.

Its sad because its true. The problem (if it is in fact a problem) is that they view the aid industry as a profit making machine, and so to familiarise oneself with how the system works translates into knowing how to benefit the most from it. Whether its through gaining employment or straight up just receiving free shit, one needs to know the language to be able to understand when opportunities arise and how to benefit.

Now I don't have the numbers to be able to determine how much the aid industry actually indirectly sustains the population here (i.e. not through the actual provision of aid), but it feels like it would be quite significant. Cue Roving Bandit to tell us all about how it would be far more efficient and simple to just hand out cash.

Still, nothing like seeing the joy in an old ladies face as she tells you about how she has been the beneficiary of all sorts of interventions and now has mad capacity......

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