Superior to Thou
July 14, 2007

I have been meaning to blog about this for a while: the aid worker holier-than-thou my-work-is-more-relevant-than-yours BS is really getting to me. Aid workers/development workers/whatever they are called can be such utter snobs with each other. So many of them love to ignore emails from fellow aid workers, even co-workers, hold new arrivals in the country in contempt, sneer at anyone who hasn't been in the country as long as they have, and roll their eyes or even made out-and-out rude comments regarding an observation you might make. Their comments for everything another aid worker says are: Too many aid workers also like to ask "gotcha" questions about your work ("but how many left-handed green-eyed women between 18 and 25 were affected by that, and what do you mean you don't have that information RIGHT NOW?"), even if you work at the same agency! This I'm-so-superior-to-you, competitive attitude is silly and goes against everything aid/development workers should be about.

You would think aid workers would be these really open, supportive, *nice* people who would see all other aid and development workers, particularly co-workers, as part of one big team, and always be looking for ways to integrate their work together and build on each other's lessons and achievements. You would think they would see that all different development players - local NGOs, international NGOs, the UN, international donors, private sector organizations, even military PRTs (provincial reconstruction teams) - as part of the same effort, even if they have different philosophies and approaches. But I'm sorry to say that many aid workers can be the most clique-ish, uncooperative people you have ever met in your life.

I'm not saying aid workers can't challenge each other and be critical. But to come from a place of superiority and exclusivity when talking with fellow development workers is just incredibly *stupid*.

Ofcourse, you know I am NOT talking about my office mate. And I'm not talking about *all* of the international folks I work with or that I encounter. But some days, I think at least half of the international folks even at my own department match the aforementioned description.

I will NOT be that kind of development worker. If you call me with a request, I'll do my best to fulfill that request, no matter who you are or what agency you are calling me from. I'll answer your emails *most* of the time. I'll always look at whatever you are working on with an eye to how it relates to what I'm trying to do. And if you are new to the country, I'll try to give you helpful advice on what you might need to know, and not assume that I'm somehow superior because I've been here longer.

I get comments all the time from other UN staff and outside NGOs, telling me, "Wow, you were the FIRST person to respond to that request. I sent it to several people and no one else has responded." And that's a standard that's very important to me. Not to make me look good, because I want to make a difference here, and cooperating with others is going to make my efforts to a heck of a lot farther.

And this is the attitude that always makes me feel like an outsider at the UN...


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Comments are welcomed, and motivate me o keep writing --
without comments, I start o think I'm talking o cyberair.

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