These days, it seems that there is a lot of chattering about such words, from a certain class of people. Great importance is placed in them, policies are written about them, jobs and whole careers are being created to study, implement, monitor, evaluate and report on them.
Of course, before all this Re-Packaging, Re-Branding, Re-Marketing and Re-Investment, we just had the good old fashioned ‘Equal Opportunities’ principle. The basic premise of which, was that you had to treat everyone equally and fairly, regardless of sex/race/creed/nose length/or whatever.
Which was great, that is the way that it should be; the same rules should apply to everyone equally, regardless of gender, belief structure, sexual orientation or ethnicity.
A level playing field, with no favoured or disavowed players.
However, now with a mini industry being created out of such things, anyone who does not conform to being ‘actively proactive in the activities of Inclusion’ is under suspicion.
Any infraction, or suspected infraction, of not championing certain types of people before and above other types of people and you are under the microscope.
Every comment is analysed, every sentence is removed from its original context and dissected for any trace of evidence that can be used against you.
Anything said in humour – guilty
Anything not in line with the current views of the organisation – guilty
Anything that Dr Weird Beard does not personally like – guilty
Anything said that the most extreme and radical of the Uber Politically Correct gets upset about – well, forget guilty, just go straight to Sentencing
With all of this, the NGO Powers That Be get their panties in a bunch. Unbeknown to the intended victim, they converse and conspire, they circle their wagons and decide on courses of action. Everywhere from the Phnom Penh Programme Office to Topaz to Cafe Java to the London HQ, the cry can be heard – ‘Burn the Witch.’
The Perils of life as a volunteer in Cambodia
Since I joined the Cambodia program as a volunteer professional over two years ago, there have been a number of large changes made to the operation.
Shortly after my arrival a new Country director was appointed. Cambodia is his first role with the organisation, as such he is keen to make his mark and many subsequent changes have happened:
1 The number of volunteers has increased from around 20 to over 80.
2 The number of staff (i.e. non-volunteers) within the programme office has tripled.
3 There is currently an attempt by the Country Director to reduce the volunteer living allowance, thus reducing the per capita cost of the overall operation, (he considers US$350 a month too high for volunteers to live on).
4 A host of new, NGO-trendy, in vogue policies and initiatives have been set up; Inclusion for women, Gender Mainstreaming, Khmer national volunteers program, et cetera.
5 Working Groups and Committees have been set up for such areas as Inclusion, Corruption, Allowance, Team Working, et cetera
6 More and more reports are being written, more and more workshops are being held.
To my mind, the driving force behind all of these changes is not a desire to build the capacity of Cambodia, but a desire to build the curriculum vitae of the Country Director.
Back in the private sector I employed several people like this over the years; we called it empire building and I had little tolerance for it then.
Last year when a fellow volunteer and I clashed strongly over our differing political perspectives and differing ideas for assisting Cambodia we dealt with the matter in very different ways; I suggested that we just forget about it, shut up and not discuss it any further. She, however, went crying to the Country Director and complained that I was a sexist and I was harassing her politically.
This resulted in my being summoned by the Country Director for a disciplinary hearing over breaching some vague catchall contractual clause concerning ?the need to be sensitive to the needs of others at all times?.
She is a self-proclaimed radical feminist who believes that Aid money for condoms should be halted and redirected to teaching Khmer women Karate. She also believes in women only communities where men are only allowed to enter during daylight hours, if they are employees.
I am a free market capitalist who believes that there should be investment in Khmer businesses and industry, to create jobs, employment and income for people, rather than have them so dependant on foreign aid money.
I believe in equal rights; she believes in special rights.
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Spanish; Tapas and Bodega
389 E1 Sisowath Quay (entrance on Street 184)
The Riverfront, Phnom Penh
Tel: 023 224 394
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