Archive | September, 2013

On civil society and advocacy

12 Sep

The way human rights and civil society advocacy works at this moment is flawed. We start from the wrong idea that we are obviously right therefore people should support and follow us.

We are arrogant and cocky in our righteousness and we become easily disappointed in the indifference or slower than expected reaction of the world that surrounds us. We justify our failures and intellectual laziness by claiming the much higher moral grounds that are at the basis of our ideas.

We rationalize obvious failures as success and we often refuse or avoid thinking critically about ourselves. We struggle or encourage lip-service within our small world while we are devastatingly critical towards many. We developed a language that is as meaningless and stiff as the language of the bureaucracies we are supposed to challenge and force to reform.  We actively discourage criticism, diversity of opinions and encourage and reward sycophants. We are most of the time a reflection of the systems we mainly argue against (working against these systems is a completely different story and a much rarer occurrence).  Our leadership in many cases is a strident reflection of the type of leadership we criticize.

Only after we accept, recognize and expose our own failures we will be able to keep in check our stupidity, arrogance and sociopathic tendencies. Reform will be the next step.

Our advocacy ignores some basic needs people have in order to feel comfortable – competence, autonomy and empathy.

We believe that do to the fact we think/ imagine we are competent everybody should trust blindly our competence. We do very little if anything to build our audience competency in a way that makes sense and only accidentally we try to do it in a way that is empathic.

We rarely think about the need people have for feeling independent/self-deciding. We try to impose not to convince and “lure” people into our way of thinking.

We assume people should trust us unconditionally while we do not even trust ourselves and we seem rarely able or interested to understand what triggers the attitudes and convictions that we try to change.

We disregard that without building trust, showing understanding for the difficulties that come with change and offering hope for improvements the chances to have enough followers is practically zero.

We are rigid and stuck in our own discourse. Often unprofessional. Many times what we do is in contradiction to what we argue for. Our advocacy fails because is dissonant with our own selves. We behave like we suffer of situational blindness ignoring the many cases when we are wrong.

We are no better than our societies. We could and need to be better. That requires courage and painful reforms. The main characteristics of the European Civil Society leader needs to change:  Lip-service disguised as diplomatic language, Dignitary like life-style rationalized as a need for efficient advocacy and proper dialogue with the decision makers in governments and intergovernmental- institutions and Project dependency should not be the pillars of the civil society.  Unfortunately they are.

There are many exceptional people involved in the civil society. But most of them end up making dangerous compromises or adapting altogether to the wrong institutional culture and not working on reforming the many things that are wrong.

This text is a manifesto. It is meant to generate debate.  It is based on my 11 years experience, failures and working within and with the European civil society mostly Roma civil society). I have been part of a number of boards including of some of the largest European NGOs[1]. During the last  years I resigned from all of them.


[1] European Network Against Racism

Football Against Racism in Europe

MtM – an Open Society Institute board

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Despre oportunitati MAE si Administratia Prezidentiala

9 Sep

O nişă europeană potrivită

Diplomaţia românească ar putea să propună şi să obţină înfiinţarea la Bucureşti a unei Agenţii Europene pentru Drepturile Copiilor, Inovare şi Incluziune Socială. Propunerea n-ar fi un alt eşec.

În 2009, România a încercat să fie gazda Agenţiei Europene de Cooperare a Autorităţilor de Reglementare în Domeniul Energiei. A fost un eşec major, dar aşteptat, al diplomaţiei româneşti. Reacţiile întârziate, lipsa de colaborare şi coordonare între euro-parlamentarii românii, şeful Afacerilor Europene, MAE, Administraţia Prezidenţială şi Delegaţia României de la Bruxelles sunt câteva dintre motivele invocate. Lipsa de expertiză şi legitimitate, scandalurile cu „băieţii deştepţi” de pe piaţa energetică românească, proasta colaborare şi dezinteresul societăţii civile sunt şi ele motive clare pentru nereuşita spectaculoasă din 2009.

Faptul că MAE şi Administraţia Prezidenţială continuă să identifice sau sa foloseasca foarte slab nişele diplomatice care ar putea pune România într-o poziţie de leadership la nivelul Uniunii Europene rămâne problema principală. În plus, serviciile diplomatice româneşti au dovedit în mod repetat că nu sunt capabile să identifice şi să pregatească răspunsurile la crizele care pot afecta în mod negativ imaginea României.

În MAE sunt mulţi oameni excepţionali. Sunt greu impresionabil, însă toţi miniştrii de externe români pe care i-am întâlnit (cei au avut un mandat mai lung de trei luni în ultimii zece ani) sunt intelectuali cu mult peste media de inteligenţă şi de cultură a diplomatului european. Şi totuşi, cum se poate justifica impactul slab pe care îl are diplomaţia românească la nivel european, în ciuda resurselor umane – cel puţin la nivel de management superior – care sunt mult peste medie?

Răspunsurile din interior sunt predictibile. „Sistemul, cum este acum, este prost gândit şi are nevoie de reformă. Pilele şi ineficenţa sunt strâns legate de activitatea funcţionarului public din Ministerul de Externe. Deciziile importante în minister sunt foarte rar bazate pe gândire strategică şi experienţă. Reacţii pripite, presiunea şi loialitatea politică, o cultură birocratică disfuncţională care descurajează activ gândirea critică şi ascunde veştile proaste. Demotivare şi dezinteres, din cauza faptului că sistemul ignoră meritocraţia şi promovează oamenii în funcţie de vârstă.”

Sigur, toate acestea sunt probleme valide şi soluţionarea lor nu e deloc simplă. Schimbarea cred că poate veni de la identificarea corectă a nişelor pentru diplomaţia de la Bucureşti.

Propunere în aşteptare

 Avem probleme uriaşe în a gestiona problematica incluziunii romilor şi suntem întodeauna surprinşi de ceea ce se întâmplă. Scandalurile care izbucnesc periodic sunt lovituri serioase de imagine – acuzaţi fiind, răspundem defensiv şi cel mai adesea incoerent, dacă nu complet aiurea. Negocierile pentru Shengen au fost continuu afectate de aceste scandaluri.

Putem relativ uşor să transformăm ceea ce acum este o vulnerabilitate stridentă într-un domeniu de expertiză al României. Putem să devenim la nivel european lideri pe partea de minorităţi şi incluziune socială, mai ales în condiţiile în care Guvernul de la Budapesta – care s-a poziţionat întodeauna senzaţional şi a dominat discuţia pe minorităţi în UE – are acum mari probleme de credibilitate atât în Europa, cât şi în relaţiile cu SUA.

România ar putea, de asemenea, să controleze nişa de drepturi ale copiilor şi discuţiile despre reforma instituţională a sistemului de plasament al copiilor vulnerabili la nivelul UE. Experienţa României în aceast domeniu este greu de ignorant şi dovedeşte că putem să transformăm o sursă de scandal într-un succes recunoscut internaţional. Cele două nişe pot fi uşor corelate, iar diplomaţia românească ar putea să propună şi să obţină înfiinţarea unei Agenţii Europene pentru Drepturile Copiilor, Inovare şi Incluziune Socială la Bucureşti. Am putea în acest fel să devenim ţinta predilectă a fondurilor europene pentru copii, incluziune şi inovare socială şi să promovăm numeroasele exemple foarte bune implementate în ţară cât şi expertiza românească în aceste domenii.

Propunerea are toate şansele să nu fie un alt eşec. În locul scandalurilor cu „băieţi deştepţi” din energie, România are mulţi experţi recunoscuţi la nivel internaţional în aceste domenii. Marile puteri europene (Germania, Franţa, Marea Britanie, Italia, Spania, dar şi Olanda, Suedia, Danemarca, Belgia) îşi doresc o oprire a fluxului de romi din regiune (Bulgaria, România, Ungaria) şi au probleme mari în a stopa traficul de persoane, în special cel de minori.

Toate ţările din vestul Europei îşi doresc ca incluziunea şi inovarea socială să se întâmple în ţările de origine a migranţilor şi să evite astfel costurile mult mai mari ale incluziunii migranţilor săraci. O asemenea de iniţiativă ar aduce aproape societatea civilă şi ar îmbunătăţi dialogul social. Va fi în mod automat susţinută de toţi jucătorii importanţi, care au toate motivele să îşi dorească rezolvarea acestor probleme.

Şi ar fi un câştig important pentru imaginea României – şi un motiv de mândrie pentru diplomaţia de la Bucureşti. Mai departe, ar putea deschide multe oportunităţi pentru nevoia de reformă instituţională şi promovare a unor oameni noi şi energici într-un sistem care are mare nevoie să se reinventeze.

On superheroes, Martin Luther King and future – Albania

3 Sep

In the next months I will publish a series of eight countries articles on children with no future. Children from the ghettos and slums I know. First one is about Albania.

 We don’t need superheroes. No Martin Luther Kings or any other charismatic super-leader you might think of. That need is just a way for bureaucrats, racists, dishonest intellectuals and opportunists to rationalize maintaining the existing status quo. An excuse for some well intended people to justify their own failures. A trap.

 We just need enough ordinary people with the courage to say things as they are and with the determination to push for change. We are wasting huge amounts of money on irrelevant bureaucracies and faking actions while the very few people that do work at the grassroots are viewed as eccentrics, exceptions or stupid idealists. We put far too much effort into rationalizing our existing comfortable paradigm. With far less energy, we could change the lives of many children in ghettos.

 Fancy rhetoric and glossy reports about good projects, positive practices or policies addressing the most vulnerable will not save these children from the hellish future they have in front of them. By the time we have a serious crisis (and we will) that will force bureaucrats to react, it will be too late for this generation of children. 

Albania

January 2005 

He is Elvis. They just demolished his house and he looks at what is left. His house was illegally built He is eight years old but looks like a four year old. He has a strong, scary cough his parents didn’t take him to the hospital. No money for that – not enough money to survive – garbage recycling and begging bring just enough to feed the alcohol addiction of his already broken 26 years old father. 

Tuberculosis was then and remains now a serious threat among vulnerable children in Albania. Elvis ate from what he managed to beg and sometimes from garbage bins. His pet was a rat. His mother wished they would manage to migrate to Greece or Italy– begging was rumored to be a good business there.

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Summer 2013

There is lots of garbage- mainly plastic- that waits to be sorted.  The temperature is well over 35 Celsius. There are at least 20 children under six years old running around. 

Some older children help their mothers with sorting the garbage. The toilets are just holes in the ground. It stinks.

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garbage recycling, toxic pound and huts – ghetto Albania

In a hut a woman complains that her children have no papers. They were born in Greece. It costs a lot to register them in Albania she complains. The husband is drunk. Domestic violence is rife and affects mainly women and children. Theft and prostitution are the other alternative to garbage work. There is no water tap close by. The lake is used for washing.

The children here are the third generation of beggars. You start as a beggar- you end up sorting garbage. The stages in between are many times theft, prostitution, prison, selling prostitutes, robbery.

A truck full of construction waste comes and dumps its load ten meters from the huts. There is lots of dust. Two children none of them older than 3 years old start playing with the waste. They are fast covered in the white dust that makes me cough. Most probably the dust is toxic.  None of the children here goes to school. Even if there will be transportation available for them there is no much chance they could stay in school. Abject poverty translates in no amenities whatsoever – the result I know it from my own experience– you stink. Children and teachers are not particularly happy with very poor and stinky children. When you are Roma the chances to be openly hated are even higher.

There is a boy that sorts garbage near by. He looks like 4-5 years old but probably is closer to 9 considering his dexterity in sorting rubbish. Parents are out together with 2 other siblings to collect garbage. He wears two different shoes a sandal and a sport shoe. The sport shoe is for the wrong foot – it should be on his left. He wears some dirty trousers and nothing else. He is severely bitten by mosquitos – the lake is near by. His body is drenched in sweat as he moves fast sorting garbage.

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After some 10- 15 minutes he stops. He goes to his hut, gets a piece of cheese and some cucumber and sits down in front of the shack as he most probably saw his father doing. It is a sad view and makes me feel like shit. His chances to end up, hurt, addicted, in prison or as a male prostitute are exceptionally high while chances to get and education and manage to escape the ghetto are exceptionally small.

In the winter of 2005 Fatmir – 6 years old was digging out a piece of scrap metal to help him survive. He was living in a shack with his family of 7. His sister was sick. She was begging with his youngest brother on the streets of Tirana. There were over 100 people living in shacks – in the middle of Tirana.

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The poverty nowadays is so abject that there are cases when shark loans will force the families to “rent” a child to them in order to recover the money. Some of the most productive criminal networks take children to beg to Pristina – the capital of Kosovo – the more powerful Euro and the massive presence of intergovernmental institutions there means better business for the gangs that use children for begging. A few years ago during the time the presence of international security forces was high there used to be a massive flux of underage prostitutes recruited from ghettoes such as this one here.

On August 5,2013 the mayoralty of Tirana decided to destroy the huts to force these people move. At that moment only 37 families were still there – close to 100 children. The video of women wailing and children watching the bulldozers destroying their homes is heart wrecking.

The children there are pushed even further into criminality. A criminality that will cost the state hundreds of times more than needed to address their situation and offer those children the possibility of a normal future.

Piles of garbage, adults watching powerless as their houses were destroyed, children that do not understand what is going on, solidly caught in the horrible cycle of living from garbage, an angry teenager sitting on a mattress watching the destruction of what used to be his neighborhood – these is what is left of the settlement.

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Demolition of a Roma settlement – Tirana August 2013

I wonder if Elvis or Fatmir were among them. They could very well be here –angry teenagers with a hellish future in front of them. 

In Albania there are a few exceptional people that are trying to change the situation I am honored to know some of them. That work with children nobody else wants to work with.  We just need to empower them. Sign this petition: http://www.childpact.org/sign-our-petition/ . If you already did – thank you.