Welcome! This blog documents my experience as a Nancy Germeshausen Klavans Cultural Bridge Fellow with the Liberian Ministry of Gender and Development during my studies at the Harvard Kennedy School.

The views expressed are solely my own and are written to share experiences, introduce issues, and initiate conversation. Thank you for reading!

Monday, June 11, 2007

KSG Delegation joins UN Drive

I live with six other students from the Kennedy School who are working with various government ministries and offices (Finance, Health, Agriculture, Office of the President). The diversity of our assignments provides for quite engaging discussions over the dinner table, that is until we digress into deep conversations on our love and hate of Oprah.

A driver transports us to and from work everyday. There are a few main drivable streets in Monrovia, and they are packed with yellow taxis and an unending number of UN and non-profit SUVs. Even more congested than Monrovia’s main drag, UN Drive, are the “shared” taxis, which squash in as many people as possible (think of the ultimate Where’s Waldo challenge within the back of a yellow taxi). For a country that doesn’t have a public transportation system, the overcrowding of taxis is a positive sign. People are moving – they are getting things done and out on the streets. The demand for transport is high and rising; hopefully the appropriate infrastructure will come soon.

The ride to work showcases government offices, destroyed buildings that will be the future homes of government offices (thanks to the support of the Chinese), every Christian church imaginable, and an unbelievable number of acronym “ex-patriot” institutions. You name it, its here: UN, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UN[fill in other letters here], IMF, WB, WHO, CRS, USAID, MERLIN, CCF, IRC, etc. The international presence, made apparent by marked vehicles and buildings, is overwhelming.

The drive down UN Drive raises questions as to the long-term effects of such an international presence: Is Liberia facing a new form of colonialism by international institutions, donors, and non-profits? Would Liberia face a chance at establishing long-lasting peace without such a strong UN presence? Are international institutions assisting in a manner that will build Liberia’s capacity, or are they creating dependencies that will result in unsustainable progress?

These questions will undoubtedly inspire lots of reflection during my time here. Of one thing I am certain: Liberia is rebuilding and the internationals here are taking notice.

No comments: