Overheard

After a mostly sleepless and short night on the plane to Charles de Gaulle I am waiting for my colleague who is flying in from Los Angeles. The waiting at CDG is usually not that bad as I have access to the AF lounge where the catering is quite good.

I ran into a colleague from another organization that we sometimes collaborate and sometimes compete with. It was more than a decade that we worked together in Lesotho. She had not heard about MSH’s layoffs, that was clear when she asked about one of my colleagues who was laid off several years ago. Her organization is also experiencing tightening budgets and everyone is tense. And she hadn’t even read the questions that Trump’s transition team had asked USAID about development support to Africa. Although the questions per se are not bad and could have been asked by anyone serious about development bang for the buck, there is clear undertone that does not omen well (why would we spent $$ on people in Africa when we have kids in the US who need our support, something like that). At least he has poor children in the US on his radar; that, all by itself, is news.

We are all wondering whether he will re-instate the Mexico City policy (aka the gag rule). Reagan invented it, Clinton repealed it, Bush re-instated it, Obama repealed it. This policy has serious consequences for poor women living in Africa, Asia and Latin America: less reproductive health care, less access to family planning, more unwanted babies and botched abortions. And if you sketch this out as a series of causal relationships, then eventually you end up with more young men who will try their luck in Europe. Everything is connected to everything.

I can’t help but eavesdrop on a gentleman sitting at a desk behind me. He talks loud, too loud, on the phone.  He speaks English with a thick Arab accent about a strategic planning consultancy in Dubai. And so, even though I am only hearing half the conversation I learn something about Dubai’s future (vision: ‘’Dubai, happiest city in the world”) and the consultant’s approach (smart governance, smart infrastructure and a few other smarts). All the key words in the strategic planning lexicon are there: communication strategy, input from key stakeholders, strategic this and strategic that.  Compared to other places in the region, Dubai is probably already the happiest place in the world if you are an Arab and have money. For the people who are building the city (Pakistani, Bangladeshi) it is more likely to be the unhappiest place in the world. I wonder if he is including them in his stakeholder groups.

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