Wednesday, February 11, 2015

International Development Issues

It is sometimes discouraging to write of the frustrating side of development, the side we don't want to see or we don't like to say exists. But it's there, and we often are forced to grit out teeth and deal with it.

In all of my international work, I have seen it over and over. It really isn't a huge part of development, or even that significant to most people. But for me, it drives me crazy. It's this issues of per diem. Many wouldn't even think of this as an issue, and others don't even know it exists. But it does, and it's not unique to a specific country - it exists in every country when I have worked.

Here is the scenario: some donor or development organization has organized a training. The topic of the training doesn't matter, it could be on the impacts of water and sanitation, or it could be a training on disaster risk reduction. Local community organizers are invited. Local government is invited. Community members are asked to come. The training is fantastic. People are enthusiastic, engaged, participating and learning. The two day training is coming to a close. A door opens in the back of the room, a bit of shuffling, and slowly participants are called to the back to receive their payment.

Wait, payment? Wasn't this a training? Didn't they earn a certificate on Disaster Risk Reduction and Adaptation in their community? What are they being paid for? There are a lot of reasons, and reasonable reasons, for per diem. Maybe participants traveled all morning by bus to attend. Transportation costs and food costs should (?) be included. What irks me are the local participants. Those who are getting their salary, a day off work, a certificate, AND a bonus wad of cash?

The system has been put in use for a lot of reasons: incentives for people in refugee camps to attend training, the above mentioned reimbursements, etc. But I have found its dreadfully abused. Participants (and sadly this is often government staff) arrive in the morning, sign in to the training (a critical step in the per diem process) and disappear for the remainder of the training. I saw them leave! I know they weren't in the training because I looked for them. And yet, at 4 o'clock on the last day of the training, there they are, waiting, demanding their money. I have actually argued with "participants" who claim they attended and hold out their open palm. I have also had participants get angry with me, stating it wasn't enough, or refusing to leave until they received their money.

It makes me mad. Really mad. And sad. Have you ever been paid to attend a college class, or paid to obtain a certificate? In my experience, no. I have to pay. Pay for the registration, hotel, transportation, all of it. Yes, there are many scenarios where per diem for participants makes sense, but I think it's a painfully flawed system, and we need to work towards removing this expectation from the system.

No comments:

Post a Comment