Working in Fragile States, as seen from Australia and New Zealand

I’m currently nearing the end of my three weeks in Australia and New Zealand. These trips typically involve several meetings a day with government officials, politicians, NGOs and journalists. The to and fro produces a churn of topics and ideas, out of which emerge some themes, but you never know in advance which ones are […]

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World order on developmental see-saw

This piece (not my title btw) appeared on Tuesday in Wellington’s newspaper the Dominion Post, as I wrapped up three weeks’ intensive ranting in Australia and New Zealand. Bloodbaths in Syria and Egypt; banking crises and austerity; the rise of the “emerging powers” and the apparently unstoppable decline – perhaps even disintegration – of Europe: the […]

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This will make your day. Especially if you are a humanitarian with fantasies of being the subject of a rock anthem.

I really should be writing something more intelligent, but this video has destroyed any hope of that. Jan Egeland, a Norwegian Labour party politician, was the United Nations Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator from 2003-2006. He is currently Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. But most importantly, he is the subject of this […]

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Why is football such a successful (and replicable) institution?

My visit to Australia and New Zealand has been full of discussion of fragile states – how might durable, effective, accountable institutions emerge in the Pacific islands that are the focus of much of the aid (and thinking) here? I’ll need time to process those conversations, but in the meantime, here’s a more immediate question, […]

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A few impressions of an intense two weeks in Australia

Off to New Zealand tonight, after a great two weeks in Australia. More detailed analysis to follow on various issues, but here are a few hurried snapshots. First up was teaching a 3 day module on How Change Happens with Chris Roche, to 14 students in Murdoch University’s development studies Masters programme. The students were […]

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How does Europe’s crisis look through the eyes of an international aid agency?

Back in 1942, during World War Two, Oxfam came into existence to lobby the British Government to ease the allied blockade of Nazi-occupied Greece. 70 years and a European miracle later, might we be once again about to send aid teams to Athens? I’m sitting in Australia as I write this, and it feels like […]

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How are the emerging donors (from China to Azerbaijan) changing the aid business?

Oxfam’s ‘BRICSAMIT’ group (BRICS + Mexico, Indonesia, Turkey) is now up and running and doing some innovative thinking about the role of the emerging powers, including their role as donors. Here Russia/CIS regional researcher Daria Ukhova (right) explores recent developments. While the eyes of many international aid observers are currently on the BRICS bank (already […]

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If high staff turnover is unavoidable, how should we redesign aid work to cope?

One of the implicit assumptions that often underlies programme design is that the people who initially come up with an idea and turn it into a project or programme then stick around and implement it. The reality is often very different – high levels of staff turnover are almost universal in both NGOs and aid […]

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Are wages the fly in the Fairtrade ointment?

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Fairtrade Foundation, (Oxfam was one of its founders) and there will be lots of well-merited celebrations. The growth of fair-trade has been phenomenal. In the UK total sales of Fairtrade products have soared from £63m in 2002, to £1530m last year, growing at double digit rates […]

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Speed reading rocks, so why don’t we all learn it?

The best day’s training I ever did was a speed reading course, offered by DFID (I had a short stint there about ten years ago). It helps me every day – when was the last time you could say that about a training course? The first part of the course covered what you normally think of […]

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