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#194 Knowing the job’s almost done

December 19, 2012

Submitted by Ladyhawke

The job’s almost done!

When family and friends from home ask the EAW what s/he does at work, it can be difficult for the EAW to explain. What does a Decent Jobs Focal Point or Private Sector Development Advisor actually do? By contrast, working in the bush vaccinating children or building wells raises few eyebrows and even attracts warm praise from “civilians” back home.

Regardless of whether the EAW has a “real” job or nebulous one, today’s EAW is seeing worrying signs that her services may not be required for that much longer – in short, the job’s done.

Aside from picking up the pieces from civil wars (a declining phenomena), the EAW no longer feels needed. Developing countries are getting rich. The growth may be inequitable but the visible signs of wealth are disconcerting for the EAW. No EAW wants people she works with to stay poor, but what is there left for the EAW to do?

When a 55-year EAW started out in the business, she felt needed. China and India were still rural and poor, Africa was a basket case of mercenaries and hunger and Latin America oppressed by US-backed nut jobs in uniform and sunglasses. All this has changed.

Democracy is spreading and most developing countries have near double digit growth rates. Rural aid projects in the BRICS are a distant memory. These countries have their own overseas aid programmes for goodness sake! The world for where the EAW is needed has shrunk.

In the few countries left where the EAW can find a posting, the writing is on the wall. Signs of progress (and doom for the EAW) are everywhere:.

  • Taking a break from her East Africa: Lessons Learnt Health Strategy meeting in the Hilton, the EAW sees a private sector meeting (pharma, telecoms) taking place – there is no visible sign of donor involvement to facilitate (let alone facipulate) this meeting.
  • The EAW can earn Skyteam frequent flyer miles on the national airline
  • The counterpart in the Ministry has an iPhone (the EAW has an old Nokia so she can be ‘on the same level’ as the locals)

The EAW doesn’t begrudge these signs of progress. They came about thanks to her industry’s success, of course. But the choice for the EAW is clear. Adapt to the changing aid “market” or die. The market for aid now demands projects that focus on cross cutting issues like governance, climate change, and women’s rights.

The new EAWs on the block have the skills and buzzwords to cope. If the older EAW is smart she will rope in the help of the new intern just out of Yale to learn the new lexicon of development. New proposals will hook nicely to “climate resilience”, “gender mainstreaming” “youth empowerment” (or whatever).

This may not help the EAW explain her new job to family back home in depressed Philly or Paris, but it should be just about enough to hold out until retirement.

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