Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Copenhagen, contracts, corruption

and a few other things are whirling around in my mind. I am still on the borrowed lap top - somewhat more difficult to use as the keys are more sensitive and I keep making errors - but I want to raise something I have been thinking about.
I have a friend who runs a refugee 'camp' in East Africa. She is African herself but under no illusions about the way her country is run. Put simply, it is corrupt. Corruption is part of their culture. It is the way things are done. You pay people a little extra to get the service you want, you give them some of the goods to ensure that things get through, you provide certain services etc etc. There is corruption in our culture as well. I do not deny it. I do not think it is as overt or as widespread but it is there. There is waste, particularly government funded waste - some of which is corrupt and some of it careless. There is however more accountability as well - not enough perhaps but there is some.
But there are major problems in Africa and much more gets wasted. Now billions of dollars have been pledged to help Africa and elsewhere overcome the problems of climate change. What is going to happen to this money? How will it be spent? Who will spend it? Who will supervise? How much of it will, like so much aid mone, be wasted?
I think our approach is wrong. I saw a brief news item a couple of nights ago. An army colonel in Mali had the local men digging out the silt that was preventing a waterway feeding into a lake. When the water flows food can be grown. He was saying they were fighting a losing battle against the encroaching sand - but he thought the battle could be won with the provision of some heavy earthnoving equipment.
It sounded like a positive project. It looked as if it really did have potential. Is it the sort of thing likely to be funded? Probably not. Governments want big projects, not small projects. They want to run marathons before they have taken the first step.

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