Articles

100 Things Cluster Coordinators need to know before they die

100 Things Cluster Coordinators need to know before they die

Efforts to improve humanitarian performance are being compromised by a widespread misperception of what effective coordination entails. Not to frighten the horses, but professional Cluster Coordinators need to have 148 separate skills to do their job properly. This is where you find out what they are. q3rgt3gt4 4rgt3t5g4 Click here to download full article (.doc) Click here for Powerpoints. (.pptx)

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Smokin’ fruit

Smokin’ fruit

This article could also be called, ‘How to make free money and extend your life’. But it isn’t. It’s about grapefruits. Not really. It’s about smoking and grapefruits. How weird is that?! It’s also about those twenty Virginia killin’ sticks. All lined up in two neat rows, clean and invitin’ like yet nowhere to go. All that glossy gold packaging telling you how sophisticated, how cool, you are. All those movies showing sultry film stars lighting up immediately after wasting twenty baddies with nothing but a ripped vest two sizes too small and a pump-action shotgun. Or after some turgid love scene with an ‘ass double’. What...

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How to tell if you work for the UN

How to tell if you work for the UN

These are the top twenty or so indicators that tell you if you work for the United Nations. None of the scenarios are made up; they all reflect everyday situations. If you recognise yourself in more than five, you’ve been in the aid business too long and should consider taking a break. 1. You’ve just come out of a pre-meeting at 8 o’clock in the evening, having spent the last three hours discussing terms of reference for a task team whose job will be to spend the next six weeks coming up with recommendations on whether or not an ‘evaluability’ study is required to assess whether or not what your office does is ready to be evaluated. 2. It’s midnight, and you...

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Unpronounceable Identity Crisis

Unpronounceable Identity Crisis

The Kyrgyz – that’s pronounced ‘Keer-Geez’ with a hard ‘g’ – are experiencing something of a identity crisis. Like my Alzheimer-suffering Aunt, they don’t know who they are half the time. Partly, this is because, after over eighty years as part of the failed Soviet experiment, the Kyrgyz think, act, and speak like Russians. The confusion starts on landing, Taxiing to the terminal, large blue neon letters glare through the darkness to spell out ‘Welcome to Manas International Airport’. It’s not until disembarked and jostling in the un-refereed rugby scrum that surrounds the lone consular official at the visa desk that it becomes clear we have not...

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Time to professionalise Cluster coordination

Time to professionalise Cluster coordination

Coordination costs. Poor coordination costs lives. Yet efforts to improve humanitarian performance through the humanitarian reform agenda are compromised by a widespread misperception among donors, UN agencies and NGOs of what effective coordination actually entails. As a result, relatively junior and minimally trained coordinators continue to be mobilised with insufficient information management, technical, and secretariat support to do their jobs effectively. Systemic failures of accountability compromise the role still further. This is the inevitable consequence of a general misunderstanding of how important the coordination function is to improved humanitarian...

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Haiti Earthquake 2010: WASH Cluster Coordinator Lessons Learned

Haiti Earthquake 2010: WASH Cluster Coordinator Lessons Learned

This paper comprises a series of observations and recommendations made by the WASH Cluster Coordinator[2] in Haiti during the earthquake response of 2010. It is a personal reflection which neither represents nor endorses the views of UNICEF as Global Cluster Lead Agency for WASH nor any members of the WASH Cluster per se. It is intended as a constructive contribution to the debate now taking place between Global Cluster Lead Agencies, OCHA, and the IASC over how best to resolve the challenges still facing implementation of the Cluster Approach following findings of the IASC’s Phase Two evaluation, and from which it takes its frame of reference. It is informed by direct...

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Haiti: All The King’s Men

Haiti: All The King’s Men

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But all the King’s horses. And all the King’s men, Couldn’t put Humpty together again.   More than a year after a 7.0 earthquake razed Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, killing many of the “King’s Men” – the civil servants who knew best how to put it back together again – the country remains in Humpty-Dumpty like pieces. If it was not what aid-speak refers to as a “failing state” before, it is certainly unencumbered by any pretensions otherwise now. Humanitarian aid operations saved countless thousands in the earthquake’s immediate aftermath, and continues to sustain hundreds of...

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How to tell a country by the airport it keeps

How to tell a country by the airport it keeps

Not for the first time, I find myself standing outside the arrivals hall sneaking a quick post-flight cigarette with other anti-social furtives waiting for a colleague to collect his baggage off the carousel wondering whether,if you can tell a country’s moral values by its advertising hoardings, can you tell the country itself by its airports? This time, it’s Nairobi. As a ‘disaster risk adviser’ for the UN, I attend conferences and workshops the world over, so I get to see a lot of airports and a lot of countries. It’s one of the reasons I do the job, I suppose; to travel … but preferably not in an aircraft chartered by the UN as, being contracted to...

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Merkava

Merkava

A new award-winning film called ‘Lebanon’ is out. Directed by Samuel Maoz, it portrays twenty four hours of toil, sweat, and fear in the life of an Israeli tank crew during the Lebanese war of 1982-83. Here, James Shepherd-Barron, himself once a tank commander in the British military, recounts his brush with one such crew while he was ‘Operations Officer’ for the British contingent of the international peace-keeping force in Beirut. Tanks, like ships, are always female. Like ships, they have names, which crews paint discreetly yet lovingly in black camouflage paint on the turret, and which, as with ships, it is bad luck to change. This one was called,...

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